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State Librarian Hazel Byrnes

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On this date in 1964 the Bismarck Tribune announced that beloved North Dakota State Librarian Hazel Webster Byrnes was resigning to take a job in California. Born in 1886 in Iowa, she graduated from Iowa State Teachers College in 1910 and earned her Master’s Degree in adult education from Columbia University. She married Frank Lloyd Byrnes in 1912. After working for teachers colleges in Nebraska and Iowa she became the first librarian at Mayville State College in 1924. Her husband farmed in Petersburg.

Hazel became the director of the State Library in 1948. She implemented many popular programs, including the first bookmobile in the state, books-by-mail for rural areas, and library training for school librarians. She attended library association meetings around the country and even went to the International Federation of Library Associations in Rome with 34 other state librarians. It was on her return from Rome that she learned about a job opportunity with the National Retired Teachers Association in Long Beach, California. Hazel was so popular as State Librarian that 150 people attended her going-away dinner.

While Hazel’s new job in California was an administrative position, she soon organized a library at the Institute of Lifetime Learning. The Institute was a part of the National Retired Teachers association and the American Association of Retired Persons.

Hazel Byrnes was active in many groups and societies. She was a member of the American Association of University Women, the Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Delta Kappa Gamma, National League of American Pen Women, Zonta Club, Business and Professional Women’s Club, Order of the Eastern Star, and the PEO Sisterhood. That’s the Philanthropic Educational Organization, which still today is providing educational opportunities for female students worldwide. Byrnes also wrote numerous articles. Many were library-related, but she also wrote about Theodore Roosevelt’s time in North Dakota.

Hazel moved back to Petersburg, North Dakota in 1971 to care for her husband, and moved to Mayville after he died in 1973. Hazel Webster Byrnes died in 1980 at the age of 94.

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa


Author Unknown, “Former State Library Director Back at Site of First Library Job,” The Bismarck Tribune, February 7, 1974, pg. 6.

Author Unknown, “Hazel Byrnes” The Bismarck Tribune, November 28, 1980, pg. 23.

Author Unknown, “Mrs. Byrnes is Honored Guest at Farewell Dinner,” The Bismarck Tribune, January 11, 1965, pg. 5.

Author Unknown, “Mrs. Byrnes Resigns State Library Post, The Bismarck Tribune, December 31, 1964, pg. 1.

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