John Berthel, Hopkins chief librarian

December 11, 1992|By Staff Report

Watching over the words and thoughts of humanity was th lifetime work of John H. Berthel, who was to be remembered at 4 p.m. today at the place he directed -- the Milton S. Eisenhower Library on the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus.

Mr. Berthel, 78, who presided over the establishment of the central library system at Homewood, died Nov. 4 of cancer at the Stella Maris Hospice.

Mr. Berthel was credited with bringing together under the single and very large roof of the Eisenhower Library, which opened in 1964, the books and other reference materials that had been kept in separate departmental libraries.

He served as librarian at Homewood from 1954 until his retirement in 1974 -- two years after having been given the new title of University Librarian. During Mr. Berthel's 20 years at Homewood, the university's library collection more than doubled size.

He came to Hopkins from Columbia University, where he had taught and been associated with the library since 1936.

He had been Nicholas Murray Butler Librarian at Columbia, in charge of the library that houses its main collection, since 1948.

The courses he taught included Contemporary Civilization in the West at Columbia College and Social Science Literature in the Columbia School of Library Service.

Of the function of libraries, Mr. Berthel once said: "It seems in an age that gives some evidence of having lost an interest in history that libraries have a responsibility for maintaining this record of human experience in a form that people can use and in which they can find the importance of relationships and the relativity of things."

"I know of no other agencies that perform this function. And, nTC because it's such a pluralistic collection of ideas, because there has been no censorship in libraries as to what we collect, most of the thoughts that man has developed are here, readily available to the reflective mind."

The Washington, Pa., native was a graduate of Columbia College, earned a master's degree in political science from the university and also did graduate work at its Library Service School.

Mr. Berthel was a member of the American Library Association, the American Association of University Professors and the Baltimore Bibliophiles.

His wife, the former Elizabeth Edwards, died in 1982. He is survived by a daughter, Deborah G. Berthel of New York City.

An Honor With Books Fund has been established in Mr. Berthel's memory at the Eisenhower Library. Tomorrow's memorial service will be conducted in the library's Garrett Room.

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