The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—How many of us know what a bibliotherapist is? I confess that I had no idea until I read a little pamphlet, which came to me the other day, about Dr. Sadie T. Delaney of Tuskegee, Ala.

Mrs. Delaney has achieved state, national, and international recognition for her work as a librarian, but more especially as a bibliotherapist. She has been the chief librarian at the Veterans Hospital in Tuskegee.

She was born in Rochester, N.Y., in 1889, attended the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., High School, the College of the City of New York, and received her library training in the New York Public Library system.

Now I hope you are wondering, as I did, what bibliotherapy is. The term is taken from "biblio," meaning book, and "therapy," meaning treatment, and Mrs. Delaney describes her work as the "treatment of a patient through selected reading." It requires the librarian not only to read every book in her library but to be familiar with the case history of every person for whom she selects a book.

Each patient receives the same individual attention as that given to him by his physicians and psychiatrists. Mrs. Delaney hesitated when she was asked to go into the South and undertake this work in a veterans' hospital, where it had never before been done.

She arrived in Tuskegee January 1, 1924 and on January 3 the library was opened. She had only 200 books and a table, but in two weeks' time she moved to more adequate quarters with reading tables, chairs and an office of her own.

She gathered flowers, plants, wall maps and posters, and within a few weeks she began to carry her books to the wards so that the patients who were confined to their beds could begin to read.

By January 15 she had begun to collect a medical library for the use of the doctors and nurses. At the end of the first year she had 4,000 volumes in the hospital library and about 85 volumes in the medical library.

She then had 500 patients and about 300 employes to serve, but by 1925 the number of patients had gone up to 1,000 and the reading had increased proportionately. A year later she started a special library binding service to give patients vocational experience, and in 1930 she organized a disabled veterans' literary club which became the nucleus of the active literary press club that exists today.

In 1934 she started a department for the blind. She learned Braille herself, and little by little she started one project after another to give her patients new interests and broaden their outlook on the world. As a result, the Veterans Hospital Library of Tuskegee has the highest circulation per patient of any library in that area.

Mrs. Delaney has received many honors and has deserved them all. But I am sure that what she treasures most is the knowledge that she has helped countless individuals.

E. R.

(Copyright, 1957, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 18, 1957

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.