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Herbert Putnam (September 20, 1861-August 14, 1955), Librarian of Congress, 1899-1939

Born in New York City, Putnam graduated from Harvard University in 1883, studied law at Columbia University, and was admitted to the bar in 1886. He worked as librarian at the Minneapolis Athenarum from 1884 to 1887 and at the Minneapolis Public Library from 1887 to 1891. He practiced law in Boston for a time and then became librarian at the Boston Public Library in 1895. He was elected president of the American Library Association in 1898 and again in 1904.

Upon the death of John Russell Young after only a brief year and a half in the post, President William McKinley made Putnam his second appointment to the office of Librarian of Congress in 1899. The ALA urged McKinley to appoint Putnam, who was the first professional librarian to hold the prestigious post. Putnam served forty years and presided over significant changes to the Library of Congress. At the time of his appointment, the Library was still little more than a research library for the government. Under Putnam's stewardship, the Library grew into a world renowned institution, increasing and reorganizing its holdings and forming links to other libraries in the United States. One of his most important contributions is the widely used Library of Congress Classification System, based on the work of Charles Ammi Cutter and the Library's own holdings, which he developed when the Dewey Decimal System proved inadequate for the Library's expansive collection.

When Putnam was ready to retire, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the post of Librarian Emeritus for him.

Sources include: http://www.loc.gov/loc/legacy/librs.html, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/feb03.html

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