Leigh, Carma Russell 1973

Carma Russell (Zimmerman) Leigh grew up in a rural Oklahoma town with no library, yet went on to administer America's largest county library system in San Bernadino, Calif. Library innovator Carma Leigh is such a leader in the field—appointed state library director of both California and Washington—that her life and work are the subject of one California librarian's doctoral dissertation. Beginning her career in 1930 as junior circulation assistant at Berkeley Public Library, less than two years later she was appointed director of Watsonville Public Library, near Monterey. She would direct three county libraries in California, including San Bernardino, the largest in America. In 1945 she was offered the position of state librarian in Washington. She worked there six years, crafting the state’s Inter‑County Library legislation in 1946. Elected president of the Pacific Northwest Library Association in 1950, she helped draft a comprehensive report on public library service in the Pacific Northwest and how to improve it. Appointed California State Librarian in 1951 by Governor Earl Warren, she served until 1972, the first woman to direct state libraries in two states. Following a distinguished 42-year career she has remained active in library affairs. In the early 1990s, she served on the California State Library Networking Task Force. The California Library Association honored her in 1995 as its longest-standing member, and she was recognized by the American Library Association in 1996 for her legislative contributions, some of which set national public library standards during the 1950s and '60s. Chosen OCW’s “Most Popular Girl” in 1925, the year she graduated with a B.A. in history, she went on to the School of Librarianship at the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated in 1930.

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