Celebrating The Rakow’s First Librarian

This week, April 10-16, we are celebrating National Library Week at the Rakow Research Library. Read more about the Rakow Library and its collections on our blog.

Catherine Mack, Courtesy of the Corning Incorporated <br /> Department of Archives & Records Management, Corning, NY.

Catherine Mack, Courtesy of the Corning Incorporated
Department of Archives & Records Management, Corning, NY.

Catherine Deneen Mack was not your stereotypical librarian. While she probably spent some time sitting behind a desk (maybe even reading), she also traveled around Europe to view glass exhibitions, spoke with museum and library directors, and studied and purchased rare books to establish The Corning Museum of Glass Library. Her contributions to the Rakow Research Library, the Corning Glass Works Technical Library, and New York State library history have left a lasting impact.

When Mack was appointed as the first librarian at The Corning Museum of Glass in 1951, she already had a strong technical background in glass. While still in high school, she began working at Corning Glass Works as a finisher in the Pyrex department. She then moved on to work in the laboratory under Dr. Eugene Sullivan, Dr. William C. Taylor, and Dr. J.T. Littleton, who were all leaders in the field of glass research. Mack said that she grew up in the laboratory and attributed her technical knowledge of glass to on-the-job experience. Like many in Corning, Mack came from a glassmaking family. Her maternal grandfather was one of the famed Haselbauer brothers, who were known for their copper wheel engraving skills. T.G. Hawkes brought him from Bohemia to Corning in 1880. Continuing the tradition, Mack’s father Charles Deneen worked for J. Hoare & Company as a glass cutter.

In 1932, Mack was hired as the librarian for the Corning Glass Works Technical Library. The collection was originally assembled by Dr. Sullivan when the Corning Glass Works laboratory was organized in 1908. When The Corning Museum of Glass opened, Mack was one of only a handful of staff members hired to run the Museum. As the librarian, she was asked to establish and organize the collection. She worked with Arthur A. Houghton, Jr., founder of the Museum and strong advocate for the Library, to recommend and purchase titles. She also traveled to inspect rare items before their purchase, and documented and organized the Library. The collection they built focused on pre-1900 materials related to the art and techniques of glassmaking. Materials after that date were held by the Corning Glass Works Technical Library, where Mack still worked.


Mack standing with a past president of the Antiquarian Book Sellers Association of America, from ‘Five Thousand Years of Glassmaking: Corning Library Tells the Story.’ By Robert L. Edwards, December 1953, page 395. Courtesy of the Corning Incorporated Department of Archives & Records Management, Corning, NY.

Mack was very active in the library profession. After attending the University of Buffalo’s library science program in 1927, she helped organize the Western New York Chapter of the Special Library Association. She was elected President of the Chapter in 1957, and was also the leader of a group of ‘glass librarians’ within the Special Library Association. While President of the Chapter, Mack was invited to the Governor’s Commission to examine reference and research library resources in New York State. The group’s recommendations resulted in bills presented to the state assembly and senate; these bills led to the forming of the Empire State Library Network. The Network is responsible for ensuring equal access to information for all New Yorkers and the sharing of library resources throughout the state. Mack’s professional contributions truly made an impact on New York State library history.

Catherine Deneen Mack served as The Corning Museum of Glass librarian from 1951 until 1953. She became consultant to the Library in 1954 and turned her full attention back to her role as librarian for Corning Glass Works, providing advice and assistance to The Corning Museum of Glass Library when needed. As we celebrate National Library Week, we remember the significant contributions she made in establishing and organizing the collection of the Rakow Research Library at The Corning Museum of Glass and for her achievements in service to the library profession.

Today, the Rakow Research Library is world’s most comprehensive collection of materials on the art and history of glass and glassmaking. We help researchers in Corning and around the world with their glass questions and projects, and hold regular exhibitions. Our new exhibition, Revealing the Invisible: The History of Glass and the Microscope, opens April 23rd.

The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9am to 5pm every day. We encourage everyone to explore our collections in person or online. If you have questions or need help with your research, please use our Ask a Glass Question service.

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