The passing of a great librarian

>Thomas Randolph Adams
May 22, 1921-December 1, 2008

I am saddened to note the passing of Tom Adams. A former president of the Bibliographical Society of America, Tom held curatorial positions at the University of Pennsylvania (1948-55) and Williams College (1955-57) before becoming the Librarian of the John Carter Brown Library in 1957—a post which he held until 1982. His seminal bibliographies of English maritime books and of British and American pamphlets of the American Revolution are pillars of scholarship, and his service to rare book librarianship for over half-century during its transition from antiquarianism to professionalism was exemplary. He was to receive the John Carter Brown Library Medal this coming Saturday, an event which will now be held as a memorial to his life and career.

Tom’s wife of 57 years, Virginia (“Po”) Matzke Adams, was actually the first special collections librarian of the Providence Public Library (1968-1979). If there is any organization to these special collections, it is because of Po–I am trying to emulate her example. Tom’s father, Randolph Greenfield Adams (1892-1951), was a renowned librarian-scholar as well, who headed the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan from 1923 until his death, and also penned the now famous (and then controversial) article, “Librarians as Enemies of Books.”

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