Miriam Ruth Gutman Braverman (1920-2002) was a socialist, writer, activist librarian and longstanding member of the Progressive Librarians Guild, a founder of ALA's Social Responsibilities Round Table, and a proponent of the social responsibilities perspective. Miriam's spirit of activism and faith in the power of people's collective efforts toward social justice is what the Miriam Braverman Award is intended to foster in future generations of librarians.
Miriam belonged to a Russian immigrant family, grew up on the Jersey shore in Perth Amboy and, after attending a women's college in New Jersey, moved to New York City where she began her life as an activist. She and her husband Harry Braverman, author of Labor and Monopoly Capital (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974), were involved in the socialist movement in the 1940s and '50s, during which time Miriam worked in a variety of jobs before going to library school at Pratt Institute.
As a librarian in the 1960s, Miriam was involved in civil rights movement activities that included setting up libraries in the Freedom Schools of Mississippi. As a new librarian at Brooklyn Public Library in 1964, she worked with young people, and in 1979 published the book Youth, Society and the Public Library (Chicago: American Library Association). She was an activist within the American Library Association, helping to establish the Social Responsibilities Round Table, and a proponent of the social responsibilities perspective in "The Speaker" fight (a controversial film made by ALA on intellectual freedom issues).
She earned her doctorate at Columbia University, where she taught at the School of Library Services until 1982. A study she conducted that year led to the establishment of the Langston Hughes Library and Cultural Center in Queens, and in 1999 she was most happy to attend the opening of the library's new facility.
Miriam was active in labor and anti-war movements, and followed the development of the Labor Party with great interest. In the last year of her life, Miriam was enthusiastic to join PLG's Coordinating Committee.
Miriam's spirit of activism and faith in the power of people's collective efforts toward social justice is what the
Miriam Braverman Award is intended to foster in future generations of librarians.
For further information about Miriam's life and activism, see John Berry's "On the Picket Line with Miriam," Library Journal 127 no.19 (2002): 8.
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