Betty Jean Boulware

[ Age 58 ] Former head of Enoch Pratt Free Library neighborhood services worked in libraries for more than 30 years

February 09, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Dr. Betty Jean Boulware, former chief of the Enoch Pratt Free Library's neighborhood services division, who earlier in her career had been a branch manager and district supervisor, died Feb. 2 of respiratory failure at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Hamilton resident was 58.

She was born Betty Jean Shearin in Henderson, N.C. At age 7, she moved with her family to a Wolfe Street rowhouse in East Baltimore.

While attending Dunbar High School, from which she graduated in 1966, she fell in love with a classmate, Henry Ernest Boulware Jr., whom she married in 1974. He survives.

After earning a bachelor's degree in sociology from Hampton Institute and University in Hampton, Va., in 1971, she returned to Baltimore and went to work at the Pratt as a children's librarian.

From 1973 to 1979, she was a library center supervisor, and in 1980, earned a master's degree in library science from the University of Maryland, College Park. In 2001, she earned a doctorate of humane letters from Maryland Theological Seminary and College.

During the 1980s, she was assistant and then branch manager at the Pratt's branch at North and Pennsylvania avenues.

Dr. Boulware realized that library functions had broadened from the days when they were repositories of books and where all activities were conducted in an atmosphere of leaden silence. In 2002, she told The Sun that libraries are no longer "the shhhh library," which is "more in keeping with the times."

In the '90s, while at the Pennsylvania and North branch, Dr. Boulware put that theory into practice when she told The Sun in an interview that she recognized the branch and its staff had become surrogate parents for working parents who worried about leaving their children home alone after school.

Children were welcomed into the library, where they could complete homework, read, use the computer or just relax until they were sure a parent would be home.

"A lot of our youngsters are here because the library is a safe place," Dr. Boulware told The Sun in 1995. "We don't encourage people to drop their kids off here because they need a babysitting service, but we know, for some people, it's the only alternative."

While Dr. Boulware and her staff happily helped them complete homework assignments, they also expected a measure of discipline from their young charges.

"Disruptive behavior is not tolerated because it makes an uninviting environment for everyone, and children respect that," she said. "They will give us the blues one day, and we'll put them out, but they'll be back tomorrow and follow the rules."

Dr. Boulware was promoted to a district supervisor during the late 1990s and was named chief of the library's neighborhood service division in 2001, a job she held until retiring in 2006.

"She was much loved and respected and was always the consummate professional," said Dr. Carla D. Hayden, the Pratt's executive director. "She touched so many in the system."

Dr. Hayden credited Dr. Boulware with making the Pennsylvania Avenue branch "a showplace" and initiating many innovative programs for young people and teenagers.

"She kept the branch spotless, and she said the people who came there were her `company.' A maintenance worker the other day was telling me that `Miss Betty would go around picking up pieces of paper,' and then she started to cry," Dr. Hayden said.

"A lot of folks who pass this way never leave a mark, but not Betty," Hayden said. "She'll be part of the Pratt family and its lore for years to come. We are really going to miss her."

Dr. Boulware was very service-oriented, said Jacqueline N. Purnell, assistant chief of neighborhood services.

"One of the things she wanted was to make sure that when patrons came in, they got the information they came for, not tomorrow but today," Mrs. Purnell said.

Dr. Boulware was a member of the American Library Association and received many awards for her work at the time of her retirement, family members said.

"She could always be found with a book or paper in hand, reading the latest novel or scratching her thoughts on paper," said a daughter, Kellie Marie Boulware of Hamilton. "She loved to take photographs of family at reunions and church events. An avid organizer, she liked and maintained order but loved to laugh and spend time with family and friends."

She also liked collecting and wearing fashionable lapel pins.

Dr. Boulware was an active member of Gospel Faith Baptist Church, where her husband is pastor.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the church, 2900 E. Fayette St.

Also surviving are another daughter, Natalie Jenee Boulware of Hamilton; her father, George W. Powell of Portsmouth, Va.; five brothers, John Shearin Jr. of Baltimore, Robert Shearin of San Antonio, Alfred Shearin of Germany, James Powell of Garrisonville, Va., and Phillip Powell of Landover; and five sisters, Carrie Hubbard of Baltimore, Lillie Camphor of Richmond, Va., Julienne Powell of Woodbridge, Va., Cora Shearin of Portsmouth, Va., and Celestine Rouse of Chesapeake, Va.

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