Mae Maxine Benne, retired University of Washington professor of library science, passed away recently at Horizon House in Seattle at the age of 93. Mae taught children’s literature, storytelling and children’s library service at the UW library school from 1965 to 1988 to future school and public librarians who were inspired to carry on Mae’s fundamental belief in the power of the written word and the right of children to have access to information and the freedom to learn.
She found she loved library work as a high school librarian in Oberlin, Kansas, and enrolled at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where she earned her degree in library science. Her first job in public libraries was at Yakima Valley Regional Library as a children’s librarian. She next became the head of the Southfield Library in Wayne County outside of Detroit. Mae missed Washington state and when offered the job as coordinator of children’s services in the newly formed North Central Regional Library in Wenatchee, she accepted.
In 1965, Mae became the children’s specialist at the library school at the University of Washington. She attended the University of Chicago in 1970-71 with a federal scholarship to improve teaching. When Mae returned to the UW, she was assigned the position of acting assistant director of the library school and later served as interim director. In 1976, she returned to full-time teaching and embarked on a sabbatical, with the objective of identifying the role and function of the central children’s department in 29 metropolitan libraries in the U.S. and two in Canada.
In the following years, she revised the three core courses for children’s librarians and taught storytelling and young adult literature. Active in several professional organizations, including the Pacific NW Library Association, the Washington Library Association, and the American Library Association, Mae served as chair on the 1986 Caldecott Committee.
Mae retired in 1988, leaving a legacy of excellence in providing library service to young people.
A memorial will be held at Horizon House in the Sky Lounge, 900 University St. in Seattle, on May 14, 2017, from 2 to 4 p.m.
Gifts in her memory may be made to the Mae Benne Endowed Scholarship. This scholarship was established by Mae’s lifelong friend Ursula Meyer to honor Mae Benne’s extraordinary career and dedication to the field of librarianship. Mae herself made gifts to grow this endowment to provide scholarships to MLIS students who plan to work in public libraries.