Many of us were saddened with the news last week that James Stewart, former director of the Victoria Public Library, TLA President, and TSLAC Commissioner, had died. Those of us who had the privilege to know James over many years, respected and appreciated him as a unique and powerful presence in Texas libraries, and the source of huge energy, creativity, and fun. Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz was responsible many years ago with organizing the TLA archives, which are now a part of the TSLAC collection. I asked Gloria to comment on one particular holding of that archive of which James was particularly proud.
Here is Gloria’s James story:
James Stewart knew a thing or two about having fun and supporting creative expression. In his long and significant career, James made Texas libraries and librarians all the better for his energy and skill. I have many great memories of James.
As many of you know, James and company created the Doo-Wop Interest Group (which is now the Intergalactic Dance Club Round Table) back in 1996 to “bring enlightenment and to restore pitch, harmony, and majesty to TLA.” The initial petition to create the interest group was written on a bar napkin – a prized archival document that James and Steve Brown protected like the Magna Carta. I, a young archivist at the time, was tasked with organizing TLA’s files. I received several helpful calls from said pair to ensure that that the serviette was appropriately preserved. After several assurances on my part that the thing was safe, I finally had to produce the document…napkin…to verify its safekeeping.
This round of good-natured back-and-forth was my introduction to an incredible librarian who supported me and the members of TLA. James enveloped me in the folds of the Doo-Wop trust and stood ready to help in any way he could. Thank you, James, for rushing up to Austin so many times to attend hearings or anything else TLA needed!
It is with great respect that I celebrate James and herein show proof that the Doo-Wop petition is safely preserved at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. There are many signatories – look to see all the names you recognize. I’ll note that two state librarians (current and former) must have also been at the bar that evening.
— Gloria Meraz