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Honoring Our Past

Henry R. Viets, a Boston physician, wrote an interesting statement when he was named chairman of the newly formed Friends of the Armed Forces Medical Library in 1952. He stated:

In spite of its great prestige built up so carefully over more than a hundred years, and served by so many distinguished librarians, the Library is not a fully stabilized structure. Indeed, in recent years it has shown considerable instability, ominous forces shaking its fabric and threatening to upset the fundamental concept on which its life depends as a national medical library. [1]

He continued to describe the Armed Forces Medical Library as “malnourished by a watershed milk of budgetary parsimony.” This is Viets at his best, using choice words to outline the way he planned to serve as chair.

Viets made clear that he would not be willing to preside over any group that was just another library association, of which “there are a Gods plenty already.” Librarians, like their medical colleagues, were plagues with a “plethora of Societies.” If you enjoy reading such an author as Viets, you must read the entire piece, “Letting Substance into the Texture.”

Viets was a true bookman. He never married and called books his children. With his leadership, I imagine the meetings of the Friends were delightful. He said, “Let our meetings be quiet ones, with as good a measure of healthy hilarity as may naturally arise among people who are interested in books and the institutions which care for them, and the often charmingly irrational people who minister to them” [1].


  1. Viets HR. Letting substance into the texture. Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1953 Apr;41(2):125–9.

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