In Memoriam: Arthur Monke, Librarian Emeritus

Arthur Monke Obituary

To Members of the Bowdoin Community,

I am very sorry to inform you of the death of Arthur Monke, the head librarian at Bowdoin’s Hawthorne-Longfellow Library from 1968-92. Art died Wednesday, January 27, in Topsham after a long illness. He was 84 years old.

Art joined the Bowdoin staff as assistant librarian in l963 when Hawthorne-Longfellow Library was under construction. As the 17th librarian in the College’s history, he followed such distinguished predecessors as John Abbot, Calvin Stowe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and George T. Little. He served as acting librarian during the l966-67 academic year and was appointed to the position of head librarian in l968. Art was elected librarian emeritus upon his retirement in 1992.

Born March 30, 1925, in Regent, N.D., where his father had homesteaded, Art grew up in North Dakota and Minnesota. He served in the European Theater as an artilleryman with the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, Art enrolled at Gustavus Adolphus College where he would earn his undergraduate degree in 1950 and where he would also meet his future wife, Jytte, an exchange student from Denmark. Art went on to earn a master of library science degree at Columbia University in 1958. He served as a school librarian in Winthrop, Minn., and South Fallsburg, N.Y., before taking a position as reference librarian at Colgate University.

At Bowdoin, Art oversaw many of the improvements to our library that are still in use today. In 1980 Art supervised the construction of the underground connector between Hawthorne-Longfellow Library and Hubbard Hall, the renovation of the Hubbard stacks, and the establishment of the Abrahamson Room on the top floor. He also oversaw the construction of the Hatch Science Library, which opened in 1991.

Art was passionate about the role of books in research and developed broad collections that deeply enhanced Bowdoin’s library. Art simultaneously recognized the potential of computer technology to transform library operations and accessibility to library collections. Under his direction, in the early 1970’s, the library became one of the first members of OCLC, the computer library service organization, which brought the first computers into the library. He oversaw the ten-year project to convert the library’s vast card catalog to machine-readable format, which culminated in the introduction of the library’s first online catalog in 1989. Under Art’s leadership, the library also introduced online interlibrary loan services and online database searching. From 1969 through 1991, Art compiled annual benchmark statistics for college libraries nationwide, a survey that was known as the “The Bowdoin Library Statistics.”

Art was a founder of the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society and served as the society’s treasurer for many years. He also served as vice president of the Maine Library Association and as president of the directors of the Brunswick Public Library Association. He was a member of the Public Relations committee of the New England Library Association, as well as a member of the American Library Association, and the American Association of University Professors.

Art is survived by his wife of 58 years, the former Jyette Petersen of Varde, Dennmark; his daughter, Kirsten Monke, of Harpswell; two sisters, Edna Mittelsteadt, of Janesville, Minn., and Norma Pommeranz, of Faribault, Minn.; his brother, Leonard Monke, of Clitherall, Minn.; and two grandchildren. Art’s son, Eric, and daughter, Ingrid, predeceased him.

No memorial service is planned at this time. The family has asked that memorial gifts be directed to the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421.

Bowdoin’s library has been the soul and center of learning on our campus for two centuries. As it has expanded from James Bowdoin III’s original gift of books to the more than one million volumes and other materials available today, this priceless resource has deservedly earned a reputation as one of the most distinguished undergraduate libraries in the United States. This distinction comes in large part because of the librarians who, through the decades, have managed this resource, assisted and inspired our students, faculty, and visitors, and nourished learning within its walls. Art Monke was one of these people. I know each of you joins me in expressing heartfelt condolences to Jyette and to the entire Monke family for Art’s long service to Bowdoin and gratitude for his lifelong contributions to knowledge and scholarship.

Sincerely yours,

Barry Mills

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