Arthur Monke, former head librarian of Hawthorne-Longfellow Library (H-L Library) from 1968 to 1992, died after a long illness on Wednesday of last week at the age of 84. In his time at the College, Monke oversaw renovations to H-L Library, the design and creation of the underground tunnel between H-L Library and Hubbard Hall, construction of Hatch Science Library, and the early implementation of computer technology in the library system.
In an interview with the Orient, President Barry Mills said he remembered Monke working in the library during his time as a student, and said that since Monke's death, the College has received correspondences from many people who admired Monke.
"He was a very important player in the library world here in Maine, and lots of real sincere expressions of admiration and condolence have been given to the College," said Mills.
Professor of Psychology Emeritus Al Fuchs, who was the Dean of Faculty from 1975 until 1991, was well-acquainted with Monke and his work.
"He accomplished a lot for the College in a very quiet way, very unassuming," said Fuchs.
Despite this humble nature, Mills explained in an e-mail to the faculty that the library's reputation "as one of the most distinguished undergraduate libraries in the United States" comes from the dedicated work of librarians like Monke.
"Bowdoin's library has been the soul and center of learning on our campus for two centuries," he wrote. "This distinction comes in large part because of librarians who, through the decades, have managed this resource, assisted and inspired our students, faculty, and visitors, and nourished learning within its walls. Art Monke was one of these people."
According to Mills's e-mail, Monke was born on March 30, 1925, in Regent, N.D. During World War II, Monke served in the European Theater as an artilleryman with the U.S. Army.
In 1950, Monke earned his undergraduate degree from Gustavus Adophus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota, before continuing to Columbia University for his master's degree in library science.
By the time he came to Bowdoin as assistant librarian in 1963, Monke had previously served as a school librarian in Winthrop, Minn. and South Fallsburg, N.Y., and a reference librarian at Colgate University, according to Mills's e-mail. He then assumed the role of acting librarian in the 1966-67 academic year before being appointed head librarian in 1968.
Jytte Monke, Art's wife, said that Monke was "very impressed with the quality of the library," and that he felt fortunate to work there. The Monkes moved to a home across the street from campus in 1963, just as the College was building its new library.
Monke's colleague, Associate Librarian for Public Services Judy Montgomery, said that Monke valued both the traditional aspects of libraries, as well as the modern possibilities afforded by technology for moving forward.
"He was both a person who loved and valued books and reading, but also really saw the potential of computers," she said.
According to Montgomery, Monke was one of the first people on campus to have a personal computer, and his realization of the potential of technology laid the groundwork for much of the library's current services, including the automated card catalog.
"He realized that the potential of an automated library catalog was enormous, and so he really focused the efforts of the library on taking all of that content and...reentering it, recataloging in digital form," she said.
Fuchs said that Monke also worked to expand the Special Collections.
"He really cared about collections and worked well with a number of donors who...would be helpful in acquiring things for the library," said Fuchs.
According to Montgomery, Monke also "worked on designing and creating the underground connection between H-L Library and Hubbard Hall," which had been previously closed off and used for the storage of high-security materials. Fuchs added that Monke was "very actively involved in the planning of Hatch."
Adding to the sense of change that characterized much of Monke's time at the College, the school transitioned from all-male to coed several years after Monke arrived.
"I think he really enjoyed the interaction with the students and seeing the College develop," said Jytte Monke. "It was all-male when we came here in 1963, and it was a big deal when women were accepted. It really changed the atmosphere."
In addition to being a devoted librarian, Monke's colleagues also remember Monke as an avid sailor.
"He loved sailing and he used to keep his boat right down on Mere Point, and escape out and go sailing when he could," said Montgomery.
According to Fuchs, Monke also loved baseball, politics and being quietly involved in local issues. Monke also volunteered at a local food bank and taught people to read.
"[He was] very quiet, very patient, and just a genuinely nice man," said Fuchs. "A gentle man, as well as a gentleman."
Despite his invaluable work to introduce computers to the library system and expand Bowdoin's collection, Jytte Monke said her husband was modest about his time at the College.
"He was a very easygoing guy, I think he got along well with everybody. He was not one to pat himself on the back too much," she said. "He was just a really good guy."
"He was very beloved by the staff," added Montgomery. "In several situations, he created opportunities for some people that they would never have had in life, by taking chances on people—maybe to bring them into the library—and that in some ways transformed their life. And all of a sudden they came into be a part of this very intellectual life, and a library really thrives on that intellectual life. So he really cared about people, and that was very important."
Monke is survived by his wife, Jytte, of 58 years; a daughter, Kirsten Monke of Harpswell; two sisters, Edna Mittelsteadt of Janesville, Minn. and Norma Pommeranz of Faribault, Minn.; a brother, Leonard Monke of Clitherall, Minn.; and two grandchildren. A son, Eric, and daughter, Ingrid, predeceased him.
No memorial service is planned at this time.
Photograph courtesy of George J. Mitchell Department of Special
Collections & Archives.