Remembering Alma Webster

I just heard through a listserv that Alma Webster, a school librarian and activist for the deaf and hearing impaired, for children and youth and anyone else who wanted to learn, has passed away. She sounds like a librarian and activist I would have liked to have met, partly because my life thus far has been touched by many people with hearing impairments, and also because she seems like such a really strong woman who never let obstacles get in her way, so below is a short tribute.

Alma’s story is pretty incredible to me. She was one of six children and lost her hearing as a child. Despite this, she managed to obtain a masters degree in library science at the University of Toronto, when few girls completed their high school education. She would have had to work more than twice as hard as her colleagues to keep up in school and she still succeeded. In her career she was so successful that she was named one of the 100 legends in public library service of all time. Funny enough, purple was her favourite colour, one of my favourites too, and the favourite colour of many of my librarian friends!

Webster “helped promote something known as CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation), where a stenographer types in the words as a speech is being presented to a group. The words are then instantly projected onto a screen, so that the hard of hearing can follow the speech.” (Edmonton Journal, 17 April 2007) CART is now being used universally and this is a legacy that Webster leaves behind.

Thank you to Alma Webster for devoting so much to libraries and librarianship and for being a role model for future librarians like me.


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