SARAH K. VANN, PH.D
May 15, 1916 to May 25, 2012
LIBRARY SCHOLAR INTERNATIONAL, PHILANTHROPIST, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST
Dr. Sarah K. Vann died of natural causes at Hi’olani Care Center of Kahala Nui. She was 96 years old and had lived a life of intellectual pursuits, international travel, and information and library studies. Her librarianship took her from her home state of Georgia to New York, the Philippines, and Hawaii, where she taught Library Information Studies at UH Manoa in the 1970′s and 1980′s.
Born and raised in Georgia, Sarah Katherine Vann attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned her bachelor’s in library science in 1939. Inspired to teach, Dr. Vann enrolled at the University of Michigan and was granted her master’s in Library Science in 1944. From 1945-1960, Dr. Vann taught at the Carnegie Library School, Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh. In 1958, Dr. Vann received her Ph.D. in library science from the prestigious University of Chicago Graduate Library School. In 1961, the American Library Association published her respected dissertation, “Training for Librarianship before 1923″, which focused on the Dewey to Williamson period of library school education. She also wrote “The Williamson Report” in 1971 and edited “Melville Dewey: “His Enduring Presence in Librarianship in 1979.
After the Carnegie Library School closed in 1960, Dr. Vann joined the Columbia School of Library Service as a visiting associate professor. Invited by the Rockefeller Foundation to serve as a consultant to the president of the University of the Philippines, Dr. Vann helped to establish the Institute of Library Science there in 1961. After completing this assignment, Sarah spent two years as an associate professor of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Texas at Austin. Selected by the Melvil Dewey Office and the International Relations Committee of the A.L.A., Sarah traveled around the world conducting a field survey of the Dewey Decimal Classification System Use Abroad. The work of surveyors like Dr. Vann had an enormous impact on the seventeenth edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification and Relative Index in 1967.
Upon her return to the United States, Dr. Vann helped to establish the School for Information and Library Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo. At Buffalo, Dr. Vann experimented with the curricula and introduced one of the first library school courses on intellectual freedom. In 1969, Sarah joined the faculty of the newly opened Graduate School of Library Studies at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. She taught at UHM for 17 years before retiring in 1986. Actively involved in the American Library Association and other professional associations through her career, Dr. Vann then turned her attention to community organizations, while being honored as a Fulbright Scholar. She became president of the American Association of University Women, Honolulu Branch; president of the Pan Pacific and Southeast Asia Women’s Association; president of the Honolulu Media Council; and president of the Friends of the East West Center.
Dr. Vann’s achievements have been recognized numerous times: Scarecrow Press Award, 1962; Distinguished Alumni award from Georgia College, 1966 and the University of Michigan in 1976; Hayes-Fulbright Award, 1972; Melvil Dewey Medal, 1982; Beta Phi Mu Award, 1987. Although Dr. Vann appreciated these honors, she was most proud of her 40 year teaching career, which she considered her most enduring contribution to the field of librarianship. Of extreme importance to her was endowing scholarships that focused on continuing education for students and strengthening communities in Honolulu.
Sarah K. Vann was eternally grateful to Dr. Michael Barham and his St. Clements Episcopal parishioners who visited her weekly at Hi’olani Care Center for their spiritual and compassionate nurturing. Dr. Barnham will officiate at her private interment at St. Andrews Cathedral.