04 May 2009

Alma Jacobs Memorial Plaza

The new plaza under construction at the Great Falls Public Library will be dedicated at 11 a.m. 20 June 2009. The plaza will honor the memory and accomplishments of Alma Smith Jacobs, Director of the Great Falls Public Library from 1954 to 1973 and Montana State Librarian from 1973 to 1981. The plaza will be named:

"The Alma Jacobs Memorial Plaza
Honoring an Exceptional Librarian and Community Leader

Alma Smith Jacobs
Exceptional Librarian, Community Leader, and Member of Union Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church

In a few words, let me present to you Alma Smith Jacobs, an exceptional woman. Alma was a kind, caring, talented woman who, at a time when Great Falls was segregated in many ways, rose to the top of her profession with regional and national recognition. Born in Lewistown in 1916, she moved with her family to Great Falls in 1922, and graduated from Great Falls High School in 1934. In the segregated days of the 1930s, Alma graduated from Talladega College with a B. A. and Columbia University with a B.S. in Library Science. Returning to Great Falls, she became Catalog Librarian at the Great Falls Public Library, and eight years later in 1954, Alma Jacobs was selected as Chief Librarian.

For the next three decades, Alma provided outstanding leadership for the Library, the Great Falls community, and the state of Montana. When you enter the Great Falls Public Library, you are in the House that Alma built! Through her leadership and perseverance and the help of many in the community, this Library was built. In addition Alma became a driving force in the development of the rural library service program throughout Montana. During these years Alma was highly respected in her profession, serving as President of the Montana Library Association, President of the Pacific Northwest Library Association, and on the Executive Board of the American Library Association. Alma capped her professional career, serving as Montana State Librarian from 1973 to 1981.

Alma was a highly respected community leader in her quiet and unassuming way, leading the charge for racial equality and desegregation in Great Falls and Montana. In the words of her longtime friend, Dorothy Bohn, “There’s nobody in Great Falls more responsible than Alma is for the integration of (the city).” Bohn and Jacobs spoke on the radio together to raise awareness of civil rights issues, and Alma served on human rights organizations including the Federation for Colored Women’s Clubs, the Great Falls Interracial Council, and the Montana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

Alma Smith Jacobs was an inspiration to the Great Falls Public Library, the Great Falls Community, and the state of Montana. This outstanding leader will be honored by naming the new Plaza “The Alma Jacobs Memorial Plaza.”

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