February 6, 2019
by library
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The Wray and Olkes Book Collections at the JKM LIbrary

Have you ever checked out a book and noticed it was marked with a sticker that says, “Wray”? Or what about that collection of books on the small bookshelf near the elevator on the third floor marked “Olkes Collection”? Have you ever wondered what Wray and Olkes mean?

The JKM Library has, in addition to our main circulating collection, smaller collections of books that are focused on certain topics, aimed at certain age ranges, or were donated by certain people. We give these collections of books different names in order to honor the person who donated the items or to make it clear that there is something special about the items in the collection. For example, our Curriculum Collection is comprised of books for young readers and includes picture books, middle-grade fiction and nonfiction, young adult fiction and nonfiction, and graphic novels appropriate for those age ranges. In the case of the Wray and Olkes collections, these are items donated by Professor Wendell Wray and Dr. Cheryl Olkes respectively.

Wendell Wray, a library and information science professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh, was an avid book collector. The first African-American man to graduate from the then Carnegie Institute of Technology’s library science program with a master’s degree in 1952, Wray was an influential voice in the library profession. After graduation, he went on to be one of the first African-American men to be hired by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Raised in Beltzhoover, Wray’s resume includes military service during WWII and working at the New York Public Library, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the inner city outreach program the North Manhattan Library Project. Wray returned to Pittsburgh in 1973 to take a position as a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh in the library school. He was honored the same year with the Distinguished Alumni award from Carnegie Tech. He moved to California in 1988 upon his retirement, where he spent the rest of his life until his death in 2003.

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