Monday, July 12, 2010

12 July 1907: "In a Neat and Appreciated Manner"

On this day in 1907, the Athens Banner ran a story on its front page that the previous morning, the University of Georgia class of 1907 had presented Miss Sarah Frierson, the Assistant Librarian at the University, with "a handsome silver butter dish."

The story noted that "all of the graduates of the University of Georgia appreciate the interest taken in them by Miss Frierson and the way in which she looks after their every need when seeking after information in the library."

Sarah Frierson was the first woman staff member at the University of Georgia. She was hired to run the library in 1887; until then, the library had been run by volunteers from faculty. The library had, in the past, simply moved to whatever room might be available on campus for the purpose. By the time Miss Frierson was appointed by the Trustees, at the age of 49, the library had somewhat settled into a single large room on the 2nd floor of what is now the Hamilton-Holmes Academic Building. Rather than a modern cataloging system, books were arranged by subject in alcoves around the room.

Miss Frierson loved the University and the students. Besides her basic duties of helping them find the book they needed to pursue their studies, she also lent a sympathetic ear, attended sporting events and debates, chaperoned dances, played organ in the Chapel for Vespers services, and assisted with commencement exercises. She wore a red and black ribbon pinned to her dress "in support of the students." The students, in turn, gave her the nickname "Miss Puss," and would often tease her affectionately, and provide her, as in 1907, with tokens of appreciation.

Also an avid gardener, Miss Frierson added plants to the library window spaces, and planted a climbing red rose bush outside the Academic Building, where students could cut roses to give their sweethearts. She also planted and tended flower beds on an otherwise plain campus.

In 1905, as part of the funding gift from George Foster Peabody for a new, less flammable library, the University of Georgia hired its first professional librarian. Miss Frierson, however, was understood to remain at the library as his assistant. In 1910, the year she retired, the Pandora was dedicated to her:

Miss Sarah Adeline Frierson, than whom the University has never had a more faithful servant or one who has won a warmer place in the hearts of all whom she has touched.
Despite retiring from her library work, she continued to care for the flowers she'd planted on campus, assist with commencement week activities, and chaperone social occasions. When she died in 1912, alumni gave a blanket of flowers to cover her casket, and she was buried wearing a red and black ribbon over her breast. Sarah "Miss Puss" Frierson is buried in Oconee Hill Cemetery.

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