Woolard, Wylma, C.: Germany: 1952 – 1959

School Libraries for American Dependents Schools

After two years as a Special Services Librarian (1950-1952) Heidelberg Military Post, Germany, I became Chief Librarian for the Dependent Schools, stationed at their offices in Karlsruhe, Germany. This move from Special Services to Dependent Schools was not without conflict between the two services. In 1951, I was invited by Sarita Davis from the University of Michigan to apply for her job as librarian with the Dependent School System. Special Services refused to release me and recommended another for the job.

In September of 1952, my two-year contract ended with Special Services, and I was again invited to apply for the job with the School System. I signed the contract with a proviso that I be permitted a month’s leave in the States in December. Even though Special Services owed me return passage to the States, they balked. A letter to General Handy, Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe, secured passage for me to the States, but that letter made my reputation with Special Services hit bottom. All was not yet over. While on leave, I was caught in the personnel freeze of 1953. My return to Europe was delayed until April. Thus, my first flight ever was a flight over the Atlantic from Boston to Frankfurt, Germany.

As we understand school libraries or media centers today, there were not such in American schools in Germany, France or Italy. At the elementary level, books were transported by the Superintendent from one school to another in his area. On a rotation basis, shelved wooden cases containing a hundred or so titles (each case having different titles) were placed in the principal’s office or another area designated as the library. High schools were required by the North Central Accreditation Association (NCA) to have libraries. And, they did! These were managed” by local nationals under the supervision of the principal or a teacher. In 1954, Heidelberg American High School became the first school to have a qualified (or degree’d) librarian. She was Georgia Ranking with a degree in Library Sciences from University of Kentucky. As soon as possible thereafter all high schools were assigned degree’d librarians. Too, large elementary schools as in Frankfurt, Heidelberg and Munich recognized the need for trained librarians. This freed librarians, who had been assigned to the superintendent’s office, to work with smaller schools where nationals “managed” the library.

When the move was made from the Fiat Building in downtown area of Karlsruhe to the barracks near Paul Revere Village, a library depot was established. Staff was hired and all technical processing was accomplished there, with all 120 schools receiving materials ready for circulation.

With continued growth and emphasis on preparing students to reenter stateside schools, more personnel became necessary in the Library Division of the Headquarters Office. First was the appointment of an American trained secretary to replace the German national. About the same time a degree’d librarian was placed in charge of the Library Depot – again replacing a German national. And a third librarian was added to the Library staff to select and order material for our unique situation in Europe.

By 1957, we were comparable to stateside school systems staff-wise and material-wise. In fact, North Central Accreditation Association considered our libraries to be sufficiently strong to accuse us of transferring a model library from one high school to another just a step ahead of them.

In December of 1959, I left DEG to become an Educational Consultant with Field Enterprises Educational Corporation.

Copyright 2004 American Overseas Schools Historical Society