In Memoriam: Alleen Thompson

Alleen Thompson, whose 1982 induction into the SLA Hall of Fame punctuated a career that included creating two libraries from the ground up and serving in the Women’s Naval Reserves (WAVES) during World War II, died on November 13.

Alleen majored in geology at Colby College in Maine and later earned her master’s degree in library science from Simmons College in Boston. She was working in the Engineering Library at Penn State University when she enlisted in the WAVES, which were created in 1942 to free up male U.S. military personnel for sea duty. She served at Naval Air Stations in Florida and Hawaii, attaining the rank of lieutenant by war’s end.

Settling in California after the war, Alleen accepted a library position in Berkeley with the state’s Department of Public Health. In the mid-1950s, General Electric hired her to create a library to support a nuclear power plant the company was building. The resulting library housed thousands of books, magazines, and journals on atomic science, many of them containing classified information. Allen stayed on with GE as head of the library in the company’s Atomic Power Equipment Department in San Jose, Calif.

All the while, Alleen was active in SLA, serving as president of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter in 1954-55 and as secretary-treasurer of the Public Utilities Section. She also served a three-year term on the SLA Board of Directors from 1957-60.

In 1965, Alleen became the first president of SLA from the West coast. In a tribute to Alleen published that year in SLA’s journal, Special Libraries, Elizabeth Roth, chief librarian at the Standard Oil Company of California, wrote:

“In Alleen are combined the high standards of a New England education and the rough experience of mastering several western libraries. You can’t show her a library problem that can’t be identified, attacked, and licked. Eastern skeptic and Western pragmatist, she admires wit and aggressiveness, especially in special librarians.”

In recognition of her many accomplishments, including starting a library in Korea in the early 1970s, Alleen was inducted into SLA’s Hall of Fame in 1982. Membership in the Hall of Fame is accorded to SLA members in good standing who are at or near the end of their active professional career to recognize service and contributions to the association. Hall of Fame recognition also is granted for lengthy distinguished service to an SLA chapter or division that has contributed to the success of the association.

After retiring, Alleen moved back across the country to Maine, where she reconnected with college friends and participated in events and programs at Colby College. She also traveled extensively, visiting more than 40 countries prior to her death.

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