Skip to main content

Film crew in Batavia for documentary on the 'Queen of Modern Libraries in China'

Unless you're a serious local history buff, the name Miss Mary Elizabeth Wood may be unfamiliar.

In China, however, especially among those who appreciate the country's public library system, Miss Wood is revered.

Her fame has brought a Chinese film crew to Batavia this week as part of their effort to create a documentary chronicling the life of the "Queen of Modern Libraries in China."

Born in Elba in 1861, Wood became the first librarian of the Richmond Memorial Library in 1889, a position she held for 10 years. The only daughter of Edward Farmer Wood and Mary Jane (Humphrey) Wood, who had seven boys, Miss Wood took a trip to China to visit her youngest brother Robert in 1899.

On that trip, she learned there was no public education system and residents had little access to all the wisdom contained in the world's books, even ones in their own language.

Wood decided to stay in Wuchang, where she eventually made 3,000 books available for borrowing at the building known as the Octagonal Pavilion.

Soon, she traveled back to the U.S. for a year of study, her first actual courses in library science, having gotten as far as she did before then on her strength as "a great reader."

While on the trip, she raised funds and secured book donations that enabled her to open in 1910 the Boone Library in Wuchang.

By the 1920s, Wood was lobbying Congress for funds to advance library science in China and through the grants received and with the help of two of her Chinese prodigies, Wood established the first school for library science in China.

Following her death of an illness in China in 1931, her body was returned to Batavia and she is buried in the Batavia Cemetery.

These pictures were taken while the film crew prepared to interview Kathy Facer, Richmond's reference and technology librarian.

Here's the Wikipedia entry on Mary Elizabeth Wood, which contains greater detail on her life and work.

Cheng Huanwen, professor and university librarian, School of Information Management, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.

Delbert Best
MrBest's picture
Joined: Apr 15 2014

China ....Go Home

barb king
Barb King's picture
Joined: Jan 29 2010

I would invite all Delberts to go away.

Phyllis Seager
Phyllis Seager's picture
Joined: Feb 13 2014

Delbert don't be a jerk. I found this extremely interesting and am proud that such a wonderful donation to the education of the Chinese people originated here in Genesee Co.

Delbert Best
MrBest's picture
Joined: Apr 15 2014

The Chinese are laughing at us as well as the rest of the world .i have nothing against nice people I'm just depressed our transparent administration is running our country into te dirt I. guess it's the only way I can show my displeasure for the way everything is headed .just blowing off steam

david spaulding
chunky's picture
Joined: Sep 12 2011

Delbert , watch out.. in public opinion you could be labeled a racist and there for banned for life from something you own.

Bea McManis
Bea's picture
Joined: May 4 2009

A great story with historical reference to Batavia is greeted with a negative first comment. It seems to be the thing to do. The Batavian isn't the site you want to reference when telling friends about an event, whether it be a wedding, the filming of a documentary, the relocation of a veterans' monument or the opening of a new business. The negative comments reflect on us and we appear to be a very unfriendly community.

Dave Olsen
daveo's picture
Joined: Oct 12 2008

I had never heard of Miss Mary Elizabeth Wood before. It's a great story and I'm glad to welcome the film crew here from China. Thanks for covering this Howard, I enjoyed reading it.

Debbie Paine
debpaine's picture
Joined: May 27 2008

Ditto Dave Olsen.

I'd like to blame it on the dismal weather - but to hijack such a great story with local roots in order to slam "our transparent administration" - well, there are plenty of news outlet sites and blogs where it would be much more appropriate to do that.

Bea McManis
Bea's picture
Joined: May 4 2009

Miss Mary Elizabeth Wood began her career in 1889. 1889! Long before any of us were on this earth. The attempt to make the filming of this documentary a political football failed. I agree withDebbie, find another outlet.

Brenda Gill
1902manhattan's picture
Joined: Jun 21 2008

I actually learned about Miss Wood along with other notable Batavians on a class field trip to Batavia cemetery when one of my children attended JK. I can clearly remember visiting Miss Wood's grave along with going inside the Richmond mausoleum but can't for the life of me remember which child's field trip it was.
It's always nice when someone's efforts are re-recognized no matter how much time has lapsed.

JT Hunt
JTH's picture
Joined: Dec 23 2008

They should stop up to Albion's library. Its quaint and open on Sundays. Thats progressive, like here in LexVegas. Printouts used to be only 5 cents a page, so if you gotta print war n peace, there ya go

Premium Drupal Themes