Jean E. Lowrie obituary

Contact: Jeanne Baron
Photo of Dr. Jean E. Lowrie.

Jean E. Lowrie

Dr. Jean E. Lowrie, a longtime head of Western Michigan University's School of Librarianship and an influential leader in librarianship and elementary education, died Nov. 9 in Florida. She was 96.

Lowrie retired from WMU in 1983 as professor emerita of librarianship following 32 years of service to the University. She is remembered by colleagues and former students around the world as a warm and caring mentor who remained a prominent figure in her field well into retirement.

A former public school teacher, Lowrie began her distinguished career in library education at WMU in 1951 as librarian for the Campus School, a training school for those studying to be teachers.

She joined what became the School of Librarianship as a faculty member in 1958 and served as head of that unit from 1963 to 1980, overseeing substantial growth in the school's programs and its pioneering courses on new kinds of media being used in libraries.

National, international leader

Lowrie was the guiding force behind the creation of the International Association of School Librarianship, which provides an international forum to promote effective school library advice for the development of school library programs and the school library profession. She served as the organization's first president from 1971 to 1977 and as its first executive secretary from 1977 to 1996.

In addition, Lowrie was elected to the executive board of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions in 1979 and also was a past president of the American Library Association and American Association of School Librarianship.

Lowrie earned numerous accolades during her career, among them the AASL's first President's Award in 1978 and selection as Michigan's Librarian of the Year in 1969.

Her off-campus activities included public service at the state and national level. For several years, she was a member of such organizations as the U.S. Government Advisory Committee on International Book and Library Programs and the National Advisory Committee for the Library of Congress' Center of the Book.

She also was active on campus as a member of WMU committees and an elected leader of the Faculty Senate, which she served from 1964 to 1966 as the organization's first president.

Worldwide respect

Several awards have been named in her honor, including an IASL leadership development grant that goes to librarianship leaders in developing nations.

At WMU, the endowed Jean E. Lowrie Children's Literature Fund supports an annual lecture series in the field of school and children's library services as well as helps purchase books and other resources specifically published for children or relevant study or research.

Another endowment in her name was created at Florida State University by a grateful former WMU student of hers and his wife. Proceeds fund scholarships and fellowships for students in FSU's School of Library and Information Studies.

The brochure that describes that endowment includes comments about Lowrie by some of her former WMU students. "Pioneers like Jean are a rare breed," one remarked while another called Lowrie's dedication to school librarianship, even in retirement, "admirable and commendable."

A third commenter, who went on to become national librarian of Iceland, summed up Lowrie's career this way: "I doubt that many people are aware of the enormous contribution Dr. Jean E. Lowrie has made to librarianship, in particular school librarianship, worldwide," the former student wrote. "She has always been untiring in developing school libraries around the world and has used her untiring imagination to point out new ways to lead the developments."

Scholarship, early career

Lowrie wrote the book "Elementary School Libraries" and numerous scholarly articles. She also edited "School Libraries: International Developments," papers presented at meetings of the World Confederation of the Teaching Profession.

She began her library career as a children's librarian for the Toledo (Ohio) Public Library. Her next position was as an elementary school librarian in the newly created school system of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a city that was established by the U.S. government in 1942 as a production site for the secret Manhattan Project.

Lowrie served in that position from 1944 to 1951, taking one year's leave to become a member of the U.S. government's teacher exchange program in Nottingham, England.

She earned a bachelor's degree from Keuka College in 1940, a bachelor's degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1941, master's degree from WMU in 1956 and doctoral degree from CWRU in 1959. She also received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Keuka College in 1973.


Services have been held in Stuart, Florida.


Visit to make a memorial guestbook entry.

Memorial gifts may be made to the First Presbyterian Church of Stuart, Fla.; the International Association of School Librarianship Margot Nilson Children's Literature Project Award; or a charity of choice.