4/12/21 - 1/3/05
John Cushman Abbott, the man who guided the establishment of library services at SIUE, died in Chicago on Jan. 3. He joined the university in 1960 as head librarian for the Southwestern Illinois Campus, with the responsibility of coordinating the two residence center libraries in Alton and East St. Louis.
As the process of acquiring properties for the new Edwardsville location moved forward, Abbott quickly set up a library technical services facility in a campus tract house on Bluff Road and a larger temporary library unit in what was known as SIUE’s Wagner Complex in Edwardsville.
Abbott participated in the planning and design of the new central library structure (Lovejoy Library), selected and supervised the library faculty and staff, and directed the acquisition of materials to support teaching and research at the new university.
Subsequent to the opening of Lovejoy Library when the campus began operation in September 1965, Abbott's title was changed to director. The University Administrative Council decentralized the SIU library structure on Jan. 21, 1971, and Abbott as director of Lovejoy Library began to report to the chancellor of SIUE.
J.C. AbbottFor 21 years, Abbott served as the key decision-maker in library matters at SIUE. He retired as director in 1981, becoming head of special collections. Upon retirement from the University In 1986, Abbott accepted the part-time role of special collections librarian. Freed from his administrative duties as director, Abbott turned his full energies to the acquisition of rare books and historical manuscripts, often at his own expense. He succeeded in fostering the establishment of a university archives within Lovejoy Library as well.
Throughout his career as a professional librarian at Lovejoy Library, Abbott promoted the acquisition of state and local history materials. Thanks largely to his efforts, Lovejoy Library today enjoys significant holdings of such materials in its rare book and university archives collections.
J.C. AbbottHe also was author and editor of several works relating to regional history and was a passionate advocate for preservation of the natural and built environments of Southwestern Illinois.
Abbott was an assistant at the Library of Congress from 1951-54 and a librarian at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, for five years before coming to SIU. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II as a second lieutenant.
Abbot earned a baccalaureate in history at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, in 1943; a master’s in history at Syracuse University in New York in 1949; a master of Library Science the following year and a doctorate in library science in 1957, both at the University of Michigan.
J.C. AbbottA memorial service will be conducted at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8, at the SIUE Religious Center. Memorials may be made to the John C. Abbott Library Endowment; make checks payable to the SIUE Foundation, SIUE, Edwardsville, IL 62026-1082. For more information, call David Cassens, (618) 650-2714.
Greg Conroy and Steve Kerber provided the information for this article.