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Cecil J. McHale
LSA Minutes

Cecil John McHale

Cecil John EcHale was born April 13, 1899, in Minneapolis, the son of John J. and Adelaide Brown McHale. He died November 2, 1948, from an attack of coronary thrombosis. Surviving him are his mother, his widow Elizabeth, and three children: Josiah, an intern in St. Luke's Hospital, Chicago, Sarah, a sophomore at the University of Michigan, and John, a junior at Ann Arbor High School.

Cecil McHale was educated in the public schools of Minneapolis and entered the University of Minnesota in 1917. He did his war service in the Students' Army Training Corps in 1918, and then, two years later, transferred to Carleton College, where he received his B.A. degree in 1922. He began his teaching career by teaching English and History in a Minnesota high school. In the spring of 1923 he was married to Elizabeth Anderson. The next two years he spent at Harvard University, studying English, obtaining his A.M. in 1925. He then went to the University of Arkansas for three years as Instructor in English. During this period he made up his mind to enter the field of librarianship and attended two summer sessions at the University of Michigan in the Department of Library Science before he came for a year's study in 1928-29. In 1929 he received the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Library Science and began his library work with a position at the University of North Carolina, where he was Head of the Circulation Department and Assistant Professor of Library Administration from 1929-31. From North Carolina he went to Washington, D.C., where he first took charge of the Northeastern and later the Mt. Pleasant Branch of the District of Columbia Public Library. During this time he gained a sound knowledge of public library problems and procedures in a large and progressive library system. His ability as a teacher led to his appointment in 1937 as Lecturer in Library Science at the Catholic University of America.

The reputation he won as librarian and as teacher of library science made him a logical candidate to fill a vacancy in the Department of Library Science at Michigan, and he was appointed Assistant Professor of Library Science in September, 1938. He taught courses in book selection and in library administration, both fields in which he was deeply interested. He was made Associate Professor in 1941, and in the spring of 1948 was promoted to full Professor. He identified himself early with public library affairs in the State of. Michigan, served as a member of the executive board of the Michigan Library Association, and became President of the Association in 1943.

His first service to Michigan libraries was a survey of the Port Huron Public Library in 1941, closely followed by his work as Consultant to the Michigan Municipal League, which involved a survey of the Hamtramck Public Library. Because of his success in these undertakings he was asked to make a survey of the Lansing Public Library, which resulted in one of his most important contributions to the field of library administration. Like all his writings, it was couched in a lively and vigorous style which enhanced its value; librarians recognized it, at once, as a fine pattern for the study of their own problems, and found profit in the clear and practical suggestions made.

From this time on his professional activities increased rapidly. In 1943 and 1944 he was Acting Chairman of the Department because of the absence of Rudolph Gjelsness in Mexico. He had already been on several committees of the American Library Association, and his services to Michian libraries continued. He acted as Consultant to the trustees of several libraries of Washtenaw County regarding the establishment of a County Library. In 1945-46 he was Consultant to the Monroe County Library and Special Adviser to the Kansas City Missouri Public Library. In 1943 he edited a Directory of American Library Schools for the Association of American Library Schools, and in 1947 he became Chairman of their Committee on Publications, beginning work on a new edition of the Directory. In October he began a new survey, this time of the libraries of Bay City, which he visited only a few days before his death.

Cecil McHale was a vigorous and stimulating teacher. He was especially eager to explore the theoretical backgrounds of library administration and to lead his students beyond the techniques of librarianship into the broader aspects of library service. His many years of experience and his numerous contacts with current problems gave his teaching a practicality and soundness which won the respect of his students. He knew well how to provoke and lead the clash of opinions, thus making the analysis of a difficult subject unusually vivid and educative.

Because he was interested in his students as personalities, they found constant encouragement in his advice and friendly suggestions. Particularly attractive to his students, and to all who knew him, was his sense of humor, which enlivened all his teaching. It was because of his essentially human and approachable qualities that he became such an influential representative of the University to the libraries of Michigan.

Equal to his deep interest in the field of public library service was his appreciation and love of books. He was a true bookman, and consequently, a superb teacher of book selection for libraries. An omnivorous reader, he ranged widely from the great English classics, which he reread frequently, to contemporary literature, which he knew exceptionally well. He was profoundly interested in modern politics, history, sociology and science, and his breadth of reading in those fields gave fresh substance to his teaching. Although most of his publications were concerned with library administration, some of them, in which he particularly delighted, had to do with reading for the fun of it. A lengthy chart which he made of the principal general publishers of the United States is full of shrewd, witty comments showing his wide acquaintance with today's book production. His enthusiasm for books stimulated both his students and his colleagues.

One of the most admirable features of Cecil McHale was his sense of duty to the community in which he lived. His social philosophy was basically liberal and he fought strenuously against an inertia that he deplored. There was an integrity in his thinking which rejected all dubious compromises. Soon after coming to Ann Arbor he became a member of the Ann Arbor Citizens' Council and held various offices in this organization. His interest in schools led him to membership in the Ann Arbor Citizens' School Committee, of which he became President in 1945. Particularly strong was his championship of a new public library for Ann Arbor, and he served as Chairman of the Ann Arbor Library Council from 1945 on.

The loss of the services of Cecil McHale, at the very height of his powers, is a blow to the University and to the community at large. It is especially so to his friends and colleagues, who cherish the recollection of a wise and cheerful spirit, quick to aid in any good cause and to spread his own enthusiasm for many-sided living.

Rudolph Gjelsness
Raymond Kilgour
Carleton Wells