Safeguarding the Collections: Virginia Wright, a memorial

Virginia Wright (1932 – 2022)

Virginia (Jinny) Wright joined the Rakow Library staff in 1969 and during her 30+ years of service was a tireless advocate for library collections, facilities, staff, and services. She was one of the first Museum staff members onsite after the flood of 1972 submerged most of the library collections and was instrumental in applying new conservation practices to the salvage of the water-logged materials.

Librarian Virginia Wright (left), book conservator Carolyn Horton, and museum director Paul Perrot talk about book restoration, 1972.

Jinny’s professional knowledge and passion for her work were critical in the planning process for the library’s new home as part of the Museum’s 1980 expansion. Memos and other planning documents reveal her concern that the new library design accommodate the needs of the people who would be using the library (staff and patrons) as well as incorporate best practices for preserving the collection. In one proposed design for microfilm viewing stations, Jinny noted that the workstation was too tall and that patrons with bifocals would be unable to see the screen well. Her attention to details both small and large reflected her commitment to excellence and her desire to ensure the Rakow Library was a world-class institution, welcoming and accessible to people around the globe.

Librarian Virginia Wright separates frozen books after the 1972 flood. (CMGL 128221)

Former Rakow Reference Librarian Beth Hylen notes that Jinny was a dedicated librarian who strove to give back to the wider library field. For example, it was important to Jinny that the lessons we learned from our flood recovery program were shared with other institutions facing similar water-based disasters. Jinny was a creative problem-solver as well. “When the Birkerts building windows leaked from condensation, she placed little Pyrex teapots in every library window to catch drips! Then she documented the leaks and eventually was successful in getting the problem repaired. That was typical of her inventiveness and persistence,” said Beth.

Gail Bardhan, another Rakow colleague, remembers Jinny as an inspiring mentor whose commitment to excellence encouraged others to go the extra mile. “Jinny’s boundless energy,” said Gail, “also extended to her community and family.” Indeed, Jinny volunteered time and effort to preserving the historic architecture of downtown Corning and was a regular volunteer at the Corning Painted Post Historical Society.

Jinny retired in 1998, leaving behind a lasting mark on the collections, staff, and patrons of the Rakow Library. We are grateful for all she accomplished during her lifetime, here at the Museum, in the library profession, and in the Corning community.

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As manager of the Rakow Library’s public services team, Regan Brumagen coordinates reference, instruction, and outreach for the library and provides leadership in the assessment of user needs and services. Before joining the Museum staff in 2004, Brumagen worked as a reference librarian and instruction coordinator at several academic libraries. She received an M.A. in English and an M.L.S Library Science from the University of Kentucky. Currently, Regan is a member of several American Library Association divisions and has served on numerous committees for these divisions during her career.

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