Oakland Tribune 1

Mabel Winifred Thomas (January 25, 1878 – April 9, 1965) was a long-time librarian at the Oakland Public Library.

Thomas was born in Grass Valley, CA, in 1878, to Stephen Thomas and Sarah Joslin (Thomas). She had two younger brothers, Willard Joslin Thomas and Arthur Penrose Thomas. As Mabel was growing up, the family spent lots of time in various mining towns, as Stephen was superintendent of the Sierra Buttes mine in Sierra City, CA.

The family moved to Oakland in 1896, and Thomas attended the University of California, Berkeley from 1897 until 1901. 1

She began working at the library in 1905, 1 and became head of the reference section in 1918. In 1921, she began assembling the “California Collection” which would eventually become the California Room in the new Main Library in 1951. That eventually grew in to the Oakland History Center.

In addition to speaking regularly to different groups on subjects relating to the library, Thomas was also a reference source for the media. When a reporter wanted to know what people were interested in, they'd talk to her. Whether the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, 3 or re-entering the workforce following WWII, Thomas knew what topics people were coming to the library to research.

Thomas retired in 1948. Although she was retired, she headed the committee to select which items would be placed in the cornerstone for the new main library. 2

Links and References

  1. Veteran Library Worker to Retire Oakland Tribune January 11, 1948
  2. Library Rites Set May 7 Oakland Tribune March 3, 1949
  3. Evolution Trial Causes Rush to Oakland Library Oakland Tribune July 29, 1925