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Julia Asplund had a lively concern for all social legislation but her greatest efforts through 50 active years in New Mexico were devoted to her determined fight to bring library service to all New Mexicans.
The first trained librarian in the territory, she came to Albuquerque in 1903 to organize the Territorial University's library. In 1905 she resigned her position to marry Rupert Franz Asplund, a fellow faculty member. Their only daughter was born in 1906. In 1907 she became a member of the Albuquerque Public Library Commission but two years later the Asplunds moved to Santa Fe.
Beginning in 1909, she surveyed school libraries for the State Department of Education. Five counties in the state reported no libraries; holdings of other counties ranged from one to 2100 books. Only two counties had more than 1000 books. She then began her efforts to establish a system of free traveling libraries.
When the State Federation of Women's Clubs was organized in 1911, she became a member of its library extension committee, continuing until 1929, except for the two years she was federation president, 1914-1916.
Finally, in 1929, a bill was passed to establish a state library agency, with the librarian serving also as librarian of the Museum of New Mexico. Total appropriation for the first year was $2000. Who but Julia would undertake to establish a library at a salary of $1500, with no books and no money for books or assistance? Out of her salary, the first year she spent $618 for assistance and supplies and squeezed a trifle more than $100 for books from the $500 contingency fund. Other books came as gifts, and somehow she managed to circulate 2000 books that year.
The 1941 Legislature finally established a State Library Commission after much urging by Julia and others. She served as commission chairman from July, 1941, through June, 1954. During those 13 years the legislative appropriation grew from $8000 to nearly $100,000. Also, the commission established library standards and a certification system throughout the state. In 1949, Julia received an American Library Association Citation of Merit.
Not a single-minded person, she worked, individually and through the Santa Fe Woman's Club and the State Federation of Women's Clubs, for social welfare legislation, especially measures affecting women and children. She was instrumental in securing creation of a reform school for girls in 1919 and was chairman of the first Girls Welfare Board.
The first woman regent of the University of New Mexico, Julia served in 1921 - 1923, and typically, persuaded her colleagues to defer plans for an engineering building and to build a library instead.
Julia was an energetic leader in New Mexico efforts to obtain passage of the women's suffrage amendment.
- Ann Burleson Honea, "Julia Brown Asplund, New Mexico Librarian, 1875-1958" Austin, Tex., 1967; Thesis (MLS), University of Texas.
- Mildred A. Barrett, "Development of Library Extension in New Mexico" Rochester, N.Y., University of Rochester Press for the Assoc. of College and Research Libraries, 1958. (ACRL Microcard Series, no. 97 in Zimmerman library, UNM); Thesis (MLS), Western Reserve University.
- Julia Brown Asplund, "School Libraries in New Mexico," New Mexico Journal of Education, VI, Sept. 15, 1909, p. 15-16.
- Julia Brown Asplund, "New Mexico State Library Extension Service, First Annual Report," El Palacio XXIX, Oct. 10, 1930, p. 213-219.
- "This Issue...is Dedicated...to Julia Brown Asplund," New Mexico Library Bulletin, 23, July 1954, cover.
- News clippings, New Mexico State Library, Santa Fe, archives of the New Mexico State Federation of Women's Clubs.
History | Women's History
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American Association of University Women-New Mexico. "Julia Brown Asplund." (1976). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nm_women_aauw/1