Elizabeth Howard West, archivist and librarian, one of seven children of Mary Robertson (Waddell) and James Durham West, was born on March 27, 1893, in Pototoc, Mississippi. She received both B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Texas, where she majored in history. She taught in rural Mississippi and in Bryan and Austin, Texas. In 1906 she moved to Washington, D.C., to take a position in the Library of Congress, first in the catalog division and later in the manuscript division, where she was responsible for compiling the Calendar of the Papers of Martin Van Buren and the Calendar of the New Mexico Papers (incomplete). In 1911 Miss West became archivist at the Texas State Library, a position she held until 1915. From 1915 to 1918 she was librarian of the Carnegie Library in San Antonio, her first administrative position. Through her library bulletins, improved reading lists, services to special groups, and newspaper articles about the library, and through series of lectures sponsored by the library she improved the quality of library service. In 1918 she returned to Austin as state librarian and became the first woman in Texas to head a department in state government. She gave the library new direction and worked for reduced political control of the library as well as for tenure and higher salaries for library personnel. She also stimulated the growth of county libraries and inaugurated in Texas the state library service to the blind. In 1925 Miss West became librarian at Texas Tech, where she continued to place emphasis on service. She was responsible for compiling such library holdings as the British Museum Catalogue of the Printed Books and Encyclopedia Universal Europea-Americana (both publications of the Carnegie Endowment for World Peace), for gathering records of West Texas ranches, and for assembling important papers connected with the James Bowie estate. Granted a leave of absence, Miss West spent 1930 to 1932 in Spain as research assistant for the Library of Congress. In 1942 she became librarian emeritus of Texas Tech. She died in Pensacola, Florida, on January 4, 1948. She was an active member of many organizations, and her published works included catalogs of manuscript collections, translations (mainly from the Spanish), and contributions to the Dictionary of American Biography, the Dictionary of American History, the Handbook of Texas Libraries, and many periodicals and newspapers.
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Goldia Ann Hester, Elizabeth Howard West, Texas Librarian (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1965).
Museums, Libraries, and Archives
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Dorman H. Winfrey,
“West, Elizabeth Howard,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 09, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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