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California Library Hall of Fame: Essae Martha Culver
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California Library Hall of Fame

Essae Martha Culver (1882-1973)

Born in Emporia, Kansas, Essae Martha Culver attended Pomona College, where she worked in the library during the early 1900s. After going to library school in Albany, NY, she joined the Oregon State Library before returning to California in 1912. She served as county librarian in Glenn and then Butte counties. It was in Butte that she demonstrated her pioneering spirit by inviting rural school districts to join the library and by traveling around the county, by any means necessary, in an attempt to bring library services to everyone. From here, she went on to work briefly at the California State Library’s library school and was Merced County librarian. In 1925, Culver was hired to direct a project, funded by the Carnegie Corporation, to establish public libraries in rural Louisiana. This led to her becoming executive secretary of the then-fledgling Louisiana Library Commission and, later, the first state librarian of Louisiana, a position she held for 37 years. She was also instrumental in instituting the library school at Louisiana State University (LSU). In 1940, Culver was elected president of the American Library Association and, in 1959, received an honorary doctorate from LSU, the first ever given to a woman.


Essae Martha Culver was inducted into the California Library of Fame in 2013. For more information on Essae Martha Culver, please see: 

  • “Essae Martha Culver (1882-1973)” in Know LA: Encyclopedia of Louisiana.

  • Jumonville, Florence M. “The Role of the State in the Organization of Statewide Library Service: Essae M. Culver, Louisiana’s First State Librarian.” Library Trends 53 (Spring 2004): 853-76.

Photo credit: Boynton Collection, Special Collections, Honnold/Mudd Library of The Claremont Colleges