A new honor for pioneering alumna Clara Stanton Jones
On October 19, the Detroit Public Library will recognize the late Clara Stanton Jones (ABLS ’38) for her years of service and the contributions she made to the library and her community by renaming a room in her honor.
Jones was the executive director of the Detroit Public Library from 1970 until her retirement in 1978. She spent 34 years at the institution and was the first woman and first African-American executive director at the library, as well as the first African-American to lead a major public library system in the United States.
She was also named the first African-American president of the American Library Association in 1976 and succeeded in bringing the organization’s annual meeting to Detroit in 1977.
Jones served as the associate librarian of Southern University before moving to Detroit in 1944 to accept a position at the Detroit Public Library. During her time in Detroit, Jones helped develop branch libraries and created outreach programs to give access to citizens who never used libraries. Many Detroiters had come from the South and were used to institutions like libraries being reserved for whites only.
To empower the community by using the library, she spoke at churches, schools and community centers. She used the media to tell the story of what the library could do for Detroiters.
In 1971, Jones was selected as an alumna-in-residence of the University of Michigan School of Library Science, and in 1975, she was honored by the university with the Alumni Athena Award for “excellence in her profession, altruistic and humanitarian accomplishments, and public and community service.”
Jones was appointed in 1978 by President Carter to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, where she served until 1982. She was made an Honorary Member of ALA in 1983. In 1990, she was one of the first recipients of the Trailblazer Award from the Black Caucus of the ALA, the highest honor given by the group.
In 2007, her children established the Albert D. and Clara Stanton Jones Scholarship at the University of Michigan School of Information in honor of Jones and her husband.
Jones grew up in St. Louis and received a bachelor’s degree in English and history from Spelman College in Atlanta before coming to Ann Arbor, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in library science in 1938. She also worked in libraries at Dillard University in addition to the positions she held at Southern University and the Detroit Public Library. After her retirement, Jones and her husband moved to California, where she resided until she passed away in 2012 at the age of 99.