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California Library Hall of Fame: Clara Breed
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California Library Hall of Fame

Clara Breed (1909-1994)

Born in Iowa, Clara Breed attended high school and college in Southern California before receiving her MLS from Case Western Reserve. After library school, she was immediately hired by the San Diego Public Library (SDPL), where she spent a total of 42 years, including 25 years as city librarian. During that time, she oversaw the construction of a new central library, added multiple new branches, and launched the Serra Cooperative Library System. She also chaired the Newbery-Caldecott committee in the 1940s, and served as president of the Public Library Association, 1962-63. In 1955, she was named San Diego’s Woman of the Year. Miss Breed is perhaps best known, however, for her personal actions and professional advocacy on behalf of Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. Her 1943 articles in The Horn Book and Library Journal were a call to action for library colleagues to lend whatever resources could be spared to improve incarcerated readers’ access to books and basic education. Breed herself maintained an active correspondence with dozens of Japanese American children, sending them books, personal items, and messages of support and encouragement. Their letters back to her—hundreds of which have been collected and digitized by the Japanese American National Museum—offer a child’s-eye view of the internment experience and are a testament to Breed’s remarkable integrity, public spirit, and devotion to her diverse library community.

Clara Breed was inducted into the California Library Hall of Fame in 2014. For more information about her, please see:

  •  Joanne Oppenheim, Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference (Scholastic, 2006)

  • “Clara Breed,” Wikipedia

    Photo image from Pomona College Magazine Online