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Milton J. Ferguson
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Photo of Milton FergusonMilton James Ferguson was born in West Virginia on April 11, 1879.  His family participated in the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889, settling in Norman.  He attended the University of Oklahoma receiving an A.B. in 1901 and an A.M. in 1906. Concurrently, he spent time in New York for librarianship study. He served as librarian of the University of Oklahoma from 1902 to 1907.

According to his obituary in the New York Times, he became a librarian quite by accident: "He had wanted to be a newspaper reporter and for two years edited the university magazine, but the week of his college graduation the university librarian married and resigned. Dr. Ferguson was asked to pinch hit and filled the post for five years."1

He was one of the organizers of the Oklahoma Library Association and became its first president in 1907. Ferguson left Oklahoma for California shortly thereafter, leaving L.L. Dickerson to complete his term as Acting President.

In California, Ferguson worked as Assistant State Librarian from 1908-1917, becoming State Librarian in 1917.  He continued in that position until 1930. He was elected President of the California Library Association in 1919. He worked for the Carnegie Corporation to make library surveys in Africa toward the end of his stay in California.

His next position was as Chief Librarian of the Brooklyn Public Library where he remained until his retirement in 1949. In 1933-34 he served as President of the New York Library Association.  In 1933 New York University named him an Honorary Doctor of Letters.

He also served a term as President of the American Library Association in 1938-39, having been involved in its activities for many years. He died in Brooklyn, New York on October 23, 1954 at the age of 75.

In a profile written for the October 1954 issue of the Oklahoma Librarian, author Lee B. Spencer reflected on Ferguson's career:

Oklahoma librarians can take pride in the solid achievements marking the career of this O.U. alumnus and former member of state library forces.  The abiding regard and respect his former Oklahoma associates have for him testify to his genuineness and his sincerity.  From territorial Oklahoma to the world's greatest metropolis in this case is another classic example of Algerian success.2

A more detailed biography of Milton J. Ferguson, written by Patricia Senn Breivik, is available in George S. Bobinski, Jesse Hauk Shera, and Bohdan S. Wynar, eds., Dictionary of American Library Biography (Littleton, Colo: Libraries Unlimited, 1978), 174-176.

1“MILTON FERGUSON, LIBRARIAN, IS DEAD: Retired Chief of Brooklyn System Headed Conference on Adult Education,” New York Times (New York, N.Y., United States, New York, N.Y., 1954), 24 Oct 1954: 88.

2Spencer, Lee, "Milton James Ferguson - Builder and Spokesman," Oklahoma Librarian 4, no.4 (October 1954): 7.

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