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Clara Stanton Jones

Clara Stanton Jones (1913-2012) was an American librarian and public servant who made significant contributions to the field of librarianship and worked towards promoting diversity and equity in library services. She was born on May 30, 1913, in St. Louis, Missouri.

Clara Stanton Jones, director of the Detroit Public Library, greeting officials from McGraw-Hill Dodge/Sweet Division. Label on back: “Library Director Clara S. Jones (far right) greets officials of McGraw-Hill’s Dodge/Sweet division, sponsors of a reception held at Main Library, June 20, 1971, for the American Institute of Architects.”

Jones began her career in library services in the 1930s and held various positions in public libraries. She became the first African-American to serve as the director of a major public library system in the United States when she was appointed as the director of the Detroit Public Library in 1970. During her tenure, she implemented numerous reforms and initiatives to improve library services for underserved communities.

Cicely Tyson, Coretta Scott King, Clara Stanton Jones, and Donald Stewart at Commencement 1984

Under Jones’s leadership, the Detroit Public Library expanded its collections, increased access to library resources in neighborhoods, and created programs targeting the needs of diverse populations. She was a vocal advocate for social justice and diversity within libraries, working to ensure that libraries served as inclusive spaces that welcomed all members of the community.

Clara Stanton Jones, director of the Detroit Public Library, and other librarians posing with copies of the catalog for the new Public Safety Collection. Label on back: “Cooperating library systems share a new Public Safety Collection. Holding copies of a catalog to the collection which will be made available to police and fire agencies are, left to right: Leo Dinnan, Director, Wayne Oakland Federated Library System; Glenford Leonard, Public Safety Programs Manager, SEMCOG; Mrs. Mary Jane Bravic, representative of William Slemmer, Director, Library Network of Macomb; Mrs. Clara S. Jones, Director, Detroit Associated Libraries System; Lawrence Davenport, Director, Washtenaw Area Library System.”

In recognition of her contributions to the field, Jones received numerous awards and honors throughout her career. She was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, and she held leadership roles in various library organizations, including the American Library Association.

Jones retired from the Detroit Public Library in 1978 but continued to be actively involved in library advocacy and community work. She passed away on October 7, 2012, leaving behind a lasting legacy as a trailblazer and advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in library services.

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