Joesph P. Breedlove portrait
Centennial Spotlights

Joseph P. Breedlove

The sprawling Duke library system – with more than eight and a half million current holdings – was once a simple operation in need of a good cataloguing.

Enter Joseph Breedlove.

The Oxford, NC native graduated from Trinity College in 1898 and was quickly hired as its librarian, where he would work during college’s transition to Duke University and long after. He was Trinity College’s second full-time librarian, after the first served just a year. When he took over, the library had about 10,000 volumes, many of which had been donated to the college by the Columbian and Hesperian literary societies in 1887.

To properly sort the collection, Breedlove went to Amherst College in 1900 to take classes in library technology taught by William Isaac Fletcher, a pioneer in the field.

He would serve Duke’s library for 48 years – from 1898 to 1939 and then from 1943 to 1946; his leadership included the very important years during with Duke transitioned from college to university. In retirement, he completed a history of the library, Duke University Library, 1840–1940: a Brief Account with Reminiscences, published by the Friends of the Duke University Library in 1955.

Breedlove was one of the founders of the North Carolina Library Association and was its president in 1911 and 1912. He was an honorary member of the board of stewards of the Duke Memorial Methodist Church. He was a member of Kappa Alpha Fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa, the Faculty Club of Duke University, and Omicron Delta Kappa and “9019” honorary fraternities.

He was twice married: in 1905 to Bessie Bassett, who died in 1912, and in 1917 to Lucille Aiken. He had one daughter by his first marriage and a son and a daughter by his second marriage.

Appropriately, his papers are held at Duke libraries.