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Rothrock Biography


MARY UTOPIA "TOPIE" ROTHROCK

September 19, 1890 – January 30, 1976
Librarian, author, editor, historian, feminist

Born in Brick Church, Giles Co, Tennessee.  Daughter of John Thomas Rothrock and Utopia Ada Herron.  Grew up and lived in Trenton, Gibson Co., Tennessee.  Graduated New York School of Library Science (NYSLS) in 1914.  Moved to Knoxville in 1916 and was hired by Calvin McClung to be Chief Librarian of the Knox County Library System at age 26.   Remained Chief Librarian until 1933.  Established the first branches of the Knoxville library system in 1919.  Persuaded Calvin McClung to donate his personal collection to the library, thus creating the McClung Collection that became the core of the East Tennessee Historical Society.  Became Supervisor of Library Service for the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933 and remained there until 1948.   Facilitated the establishment of regional libraries.  Became an advocate for audiovisual materials as library resources.  In 1949 Mary Utopia Rothrock, librarian of the Tennessee Valley Authority and former president of ALA, wrote of the role of audiovisual materials in language that is equally applicable to electronic information today.

“Audio-visual materials can never take the place of books, of course. They should not be thought of as devices for building up the circulation of books. They are useful in themselves, but not for stimulating much more reading of library books. Neither should they be used merely to divert with sound and motion. Their function is purposeful communication. Wisely used they can enrich the library's book services by supplementing them. They can take information and ideas to large numbers of people whom books are not reaching. By increasing the volume and intensity of the library's services they can multiply its community contacts and increase its effectiveness."

Became Tennessee Librarian Association (TLA) President in 1920 and was elected a second time in 1928.  Organized and founded the Southeastern Library Association (SELA) in Chattanooga in 1920 and became its first President..  Received, ALA Lippencott Award for distinguished service to the library profession (1938 – the first recipient).  Became American Llibrary Association (ALA) President in 1946-47.  

Awarded, Honorary Life Membership of the Tennessee Library Association (1956)

Author, “Carolina Traders among the Overhill Cherokees, 1690-1760.”  East Tennessee Historical Society. Publications v.1, p.19-26.  Author, Discovering Tennessee (1936, 1951).  Author, The Library in Relation to Adult Education (1937).  Author, The French Broad in Holston Country: A History of Knox County Tennessee (1946).  Mary U. Rothrock, "Wings of Thought," Library Journal 74 (March 1949): 458.   Editor, The Natural and aboriginal history of Tennessee: up to the first settlement therein by the white people in the year 1768.   by John Haywood.   F.M. Hill Books, Kingsport, 1959.

Author, This is Tennessee: a School History (with Ben Andrews, 1963).  Author, The Rothrock Family of Brick Church, TN (with nephew, John R. McKinstry of Louisville KY in 1967).  Rothrock, Mary U., ed. "Family Letters: Home Life in Carroll and Gibson Counties, Tennessee, 1868." West Tennessee Historical Society Papers 25 (1971): 107-34.  Rothrock, Mary U., ed. "Family Letters: Home Life in Gibson County, Tennessee, January-June, 1869." West Tennessee Historical Society Papers 26 (1972): 94-130.   Rothrock, Mary U., ed. "Family Letters: Home Life in Madison and Carroll Counties, Tennessee, 1864-1867." West Tennessee Historical Society Papers 23 (1969): 110-28; 24 (1970): 106-29.

Received ALA Honorary Membership highest award for lasting importance to the advancement of the whole field of library service (1976, posthumously).