Born in Washington, DC, in 1906, Lawrence Clark Powell moved with his family to South Pasadena in 1911. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Occidental College in 1928, a doctorate from the University of Dijon in 1932, and a certificate in librarianship from the University of California at Berkeley in 1937.
Powell joined the UCLA library staff in 1938, as a junior assistant in the acquisitions department, and in 1944 became UCLA’s second University Librarian. He headed the University Library from 1944 to 1961 and was director of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library from 1944 until his retirement in 1966. Powell also was founding Dean of the School of Library Service (now part of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies) from 1959 until 1966.
Of his work for the libraries, Powell wrote: "I saw the University Library’s stock of 285,000 volumes increase to 2,000,000, the Clark Memorial Library transformed from a bookish mausoleum to a center of biblio-scholarly activity, a staff of 35 grow to 300, a library school come into being, and UCLA become known internationally as a dynamic place of books and learning."
During Powell’s retirement, he continued to write fiction, nonfiction, autobiography, and bibliographic works, as he had throughout his long career; examples of his work in these genres are on display in this exhibit.
Powell was passionately devoted, in both his personal and professional life, to the world of books. He wrote extensively on the experience of reading in a variety of books and articles intended for general audiences, while also producing significant studies on the poet Robinson Jeffers and the literature of California and the West. Although widely known for his books on books, Powell also produced novels, a play, and works on music. In his books on Mozart and Haydn, Powell combined his lifelong love of music, his deep commitment to the written word, and his desire to share these enthusiasms with others. His play, Susanna’s secret, or the lost Mozart letters, also reflects Powell’s fascination with that composer’s life and work.
The portraits and ephemera included in this exhibit also demonstrate the central position that books and reading occupied in the life of Lawrence Clark Powell. As Doyce B. Nunis, Jr. wrote of Powell in the Zamorano Club newsletter, "He was...a highly gifted wordsmith, an omnivorous reader, a dedicated librarian, a brilliant administrator and teacher, and, above all, a bookman’s bookman."
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Last update: 6/5/02