Tuesday, April 24, 2018
News Roundup

Mary Lou Harkness built USF's library from nothing to the digital age

TAMPA — Friends and family describe Mary Lou Harkness as more reserved than gregarious. She knew where she stood and why, and didn't need to beat you over the head about it.

At the same time, she was a crusader on social issues, whether civil rights in the 1960s or the treatment of women in the 1990s by the Taliban.

But most of her impact was felt behind the scenes, building up the library of the University of South Florida from 1958 to 1991. Mrs. Harkness, the fourth person hired by a fledgling university and its library director for 20 years, died May 13 after a stroke. She was 88.

Mrs. Harkness was named head librarian in 1967, the first woman to hold the post. She soon learned to master the job's daunting political challenges.

"Every field wants all of the books they think they should have," said Marjorie Broward, 89, a retried librarian and friend of Mrs. Harkness' since graduate school. "So within the library system, there is always some tension for how you provide for all of the different academic fields at the same time."

Accordingly, Mrs. Harkness made regular trips to Tallahassee, where she met with legislators to secure revenue.

Mrs. Harkness was born Mary Lou Barker in Denby, S.D., in 1925. She spent part of her childhood on a South Dakota Indian reservation for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, where her father had a general store.

After graduating from Nebraska Weslyan University, she earned a master's in library science from the University of Michigan.

She was hired in 1958 by John S. Allen, USF's first president. She met Don Harkness, an American studies professor, two years later while playing bridge. He liked her martinis (Beefeater's, straight up, with a twist). They married — her first marriage, his second.

"As a couple they cut a wide swath through USF," said Kristine Somerville, Mrs. Harkness' stepdaughter. "They were there five nights a week — either at a lecture, a social event fundraiser or a basketball game."

Mrs. Harkness would influence both of her stepdaughters, Kristine, who was then a teenager, and Judy, who was older.

"All I cared about was the latest hairstyle or boyfriend," Somerville said. "Watching her spend time and treasure on things that mattered and impacted the world was the best education you could give a growing-up person."

Over time, the child-sized library she had helped start grew to adulthood. By 1987, USF owned more than 800,000 volumes, plus substantial microfilm and government documents. The library was also on its way to replacing card catalogs with computers.

Mrs. Harkness stepped down as head librarian in 1987, returning after a break to a position as university librarian. She retired in 1991, the same year her husband died. She traveled with girlfriends to faraway places like Namibia and Iceland.

She also worked on the campaigns of former state Sen. Betty Castor (who was also USF's first female president), and former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. She remained active in the Athena Society, the Centre and the USF Women's Club. If Mrs. Harkness' mind slowed a bit in recent years, her wit did not. From time to time, family members had to remind her where she was living.

"She didn't remember what had happened to Dad, and I told her he had died," said Judy Groleau, her other stepdaughter. "She said, 'Well, that was pretty rude!' "

Her stepdaughters knew she was fading the last couple of weeks.

"I said goodbye," said Somerville. "I told her, 'Dad will be waiting for you with a martini, to take you to heaven.' "

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

Comments
Days before graduation, crash kills Lakewood High senior, injures two others

Days before graduation, crash kills Lakewood High senior, injures two others

ST. PETERSBURG — A Lakewood High School student was killed and two others were injured when their car struck a tree just outside the campus on Tuesday afternoon, according to police.All three boys involved in the crash were 18 and seniors, officials ...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Study ranks Florida No. 8 for most aggressive drivers

Study ranks Florida No. 8 for most aggressive drivers

If you’ve ever complained about other motorists on the road, you may have been justified. The Sunshine State ranked No. 8 on GasBuddy.com’s list of states with the most aggressive drivers."Our findings indicate that states with densely populated citi...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
First curbside delivery, now Amazon leaves packages with no one in the car

First curbside delivery, now Amazon leaves packages with no one in the car

Amazon is taking the growing curb-side delivery trend a step further — now shoppers don’t even have to be inside their cars to get their items.The online retailer announced Tuesday it has begun delivering packages to newer cars with OnStar service in...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

For months, NFL fans have wondered what the Bucs might do with the No. 7 pick in Thursday's draft, producing a wide range of answers, each with passionate support from some of their fans.But as draft nears, and as the interest level in a talented gro...
Updated: 28 minutes ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Top places to hang with your dog in Tampa Bay, from breweries to baseball games

Top places to hang with your dog in Tampa Bay, from breweries to baseball games

Dogs are more welcome in public than ever these days. Bars and restaurants are making themselves more pet-friendly, and you can find weekly "yappy hours" happening at spots all over Tampa Bay. Add to that a healthy number of dog-approved events and ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Column: Republicans gutted the mortgage interest deduction. Democrats should finish it off.

Column: Republicans gutted the mortgage interest deduction. Democrats should finish it off.

One of the most remarkable things about the tax bill Republicans passed last year was how it took a rotary saw to the mortgage interest deduction. The benefit for homeowners was once considered a politically untouchable upper-middle-class entitlement...
Updated: 1 hour ago
HomeTeam 25: Baseball rankings for Tampa Bay

HomeTeam 25: Baseball rankings for Tampa Bay

1. Calvary Christian (23-0)This week: Today at Jesuit, Friday vs. St. PetersburgThe buzz: The Warriors are ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today. The win streak is now 53 games. Venice was a big threat last week, but ace Nolan Hudi held the Indians...
Updated: 1 hour ago
USF extends Mark Harlan’s contract

USF extends Mark Harlan’s contract

As expected, USF athletic director Mark Harlan has signed a contract extension that will keep him at the school through the 2020-21 school year.Harlan recently entered the final year of the original five-year deal he signed in March 2014 that paid hi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing Cobb, weather permitting

For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing Cobb, weather permitting

The Rays are set to get their first look at an old friend tonight, as Alex Cobb will be on the mound for the Orioles, weather permitting.Heavy rain is forecast for the Baltimore area, though Orioles officials seem confident there will be a window for...
Updated: 1 hour ago