Women key to Edwards AFB Technical Library Development

This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of the FAFLRT Federal Librarian Newsletter by Lance D. Wiscamb, Technical Information Flight Chief, Edwards Air Force Base.

Women library directors from the earliest days of the Edwards Air Force Base Technical Research Library have provided strong mission-essential support to the scientists, engineers, and military assigned to the base — both onsite and at remote locations throughout the nation.

Strong female leadership began when Rose Kraft came to the then fledgling Air Force Flight Test Center Technical Library in 1954. Her transfer to the young library ushered in a period of growth to meet the specialized information requirements of the scientists and engineers at Edwards Air Force Base. The library’s holdings and manpower slots, both civilian and military, grew under her direction establishing the library as a heavily utilized resource. By 1956 the reputation for research excellence was so well known that Philip F. Fahey, Jr., chief of the Test Engineering Branch, Rocket Engine Test Laboratory, the predecessor of today’s AFRL Rocket Propulsion Division, requested that a branch library be established for them. Under Kraft’s able leadership, the branch was up and running by 1 April 1957. Kraft departed in 1958, and Myrtle C. Jones became the next library director.

Under her guidance, the policies for growth continued with the establishment of a field library at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. Myrtle left in October of 1969 and the assistant library director, Jean E. Dickinson took over.

Dickinson introduced many new innovative ideas during her tenure including the use of Singer Business Machines to improve staff checkout, inventory control, and patron access to the collection.  While continuing to represent AFFTC on a national scale within the library arena, Dickinson served as the chairperson of the Military Librarians Division in 1980-1981.

Margaret O’Drobinak Brautigam, the director from 1985-1991, oversaw a wide range of changes and improvements.

Early on, she received the AFSC Morale, Welfare and Recreation Special/Technical Librarian of the Year for 1986 for her new initiatives, achieved program accomplishments and management of a program of notable scope including the installation of moveable shelving to meet the expanding collection space requirements.

She continued to implement improvements with the planning and opening of a newly constructed free-standing branch library at the AFRL Rocket Lab, which opened on June 20, 1990 when AFFTC Commander Maj. Gen. John P. Schoeppner, Jr. visited the site. The new building represented another link in the bridge of cooperation between the center and the lab. Margaret O’Drobinak Brautigam left AFFTC in 1991 for a position at the Defense Technical Information Center.

Jolaine B. Furgeson Lamb took over as the chief librarian and oversaw the completion of the transition from a paper catalog system to a fully automated catalog computer system.

With her retirement in 2005, her successor Marie L. Nelson continued to actively represent AFFTC within the library realm serving as the secretary of the Federal and Armed Forces Libraries Roundtable within the American Library Association from 2004-2006. In addition, she worked closely with the USAF Test Pilot School Program to establish the AFFTC Technical Library as the TPS library of record to meet the accreditation requirements of the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges for the degree of Master of Science in Flight Test Engineering before her departure in 2009. Jennie C. Paton continues the strong tradition of female librarians at Edwards AFB, serving as the Rocket Lab’s branch librarian since 2001.

With a name change in 2012, the AFFTC Technical Library became the Edwards AFB Technical Research Library continuing to provide full reference and research services from its location on Edwards AFB, CA.

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