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Isadore Mudge

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Isadore Mudge (March 14, 1875 – May 16 1957)



Best known for her career and accomplishments as a reference librarian, Isadore Gilbert Mudge was born in Brooklyn, New York to Alfred Mudge, a lawyer, and Mary Gilbert Ten Brook. Her academic accomplishments include graduating from Adelphi Academy in 1893, making Phi Beta Kappa as a junior at Cornell University and then graduating with a degree in Philosophy in 1897. Mudge credits George Lincoln Burr, a Professor of Medieval History at Cornell University during her time there, with influencing her to become a reference librarian and so she went on to graduate, with distinction, from the New York State Library School in Albany, New York in 1900. She then went on into a long career – most notably at Columbia University – in which she formulated a new outlook for reference librarianship.


Throughout her career, Mudge emphasized the need for a well-maintained reference collection as well as the importance of a well-informed and professional reference librarian – what would come to be known as the “Mudge Method.” Her views and methods have been implemented on a global scale and are considered to have raised the standards of the profession. Her accomplishments were honored in 1958 with the establishment of a scholarship in her name (now known as the Isadore Gilbert Mudge-R.R. Bowker Scholarship) by the American Library Association.


After a long life and successful career, Mudge is considered “the most influential reference librarian in the history of American librarianship” (Richardson). She died on May 16, 1957 in Lutherville Maryland.



Major Contributions


Essential resources for a reference desk:__

-- Dictionary

-- Encyclopedia

-- Atlas

-- Biographical dictionary

-- Book of quotations

-- Handbook of statistics

-- State or government manual

__Mudge Method*: “material, mind, and method”

-- Material – know which references to turn to for various subjects

-- Mind – good memory, high intelligence, and strong perseverance

-- Method – answering reference questions via clarification and classification

-- Also known as the “Hutchins Heuristic” since Mudge’s methods were

published by Margaret Hutchins in __Library Quarterly__, January 1937

* as described by John V. Richardson

Guide to Reference Books – a comprehensive bibliography of reference tools.


Primary Source Material


Selected Bibliography

  • Mudge, I. (1936). Guide to reference books. Chicago : American Library Association.
  • Mudge, I. (1923) New guide to the study and use of reference books. Chicago : American Library Association.
  • Mudge, I. & Sears, M.E. (1924). George Eliot dictionary: the characters and scenes of the novels, stories, and poems alphabetically arranged. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company.
  • Mudge, I. & Sears, M.E. (1910). Thackeray dictionary: the characters and scenes of the novels, stories, and poems alphabetically arranged. New York : Dutton.


Relevant Links & Topics





Emma Mejia

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