June 26, 2009 —
Like many a library patron, bookmobile service to her small Missouri town was the beginning of Kay Rader’s love affair with libraries. Her passion for books and libraries propelled the Library Center’s recently hired reference department manager to a cosmopolitan career of working in libraries all over the world—from a long career in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, to interesting and productive years in Mogadishu, Somalia, and Paris, France.
Her last overseas gig was as director of the American Library in Paris, founded in 1920 by the American Library Association to provide the services of an American public library and a research center for students of American history and culture.
From 1994 until 2001, she lived in Paris and always felt at home there. Rader grew up in Conway, an hour or so from here near Rader, a community of “three houses and one church” named after her family who immigrated from Alsace-Lorraine.
In Paris, she met many “writers, eccentric expatriates and interesting people” such as Pamela Harriman, William Styron, Gregory Peck and Gore Vidal. “Many were guests of honor at fundraising events,” she said.
The Americans who were instrumental in founding the library included Charles Seeger in memory of his son, Alan, who was killed at the Somme. “I spent a day with his grandson, Pete Seeger, at his home on the Hudson in New York,” she said. “He talked about his grandfather’s involvement with the library and about his Uncle Alan, the World War I poet who wrote ‘I have a rendezvous with death,’ and gave the library a beautiful bust of Alan Seeger. Many of the books in the core collection in Paris have bookplates dedicated to Alan Seeger.”
During her stint in Africa from 1982-1986, she managed a United Nations- and U.S.-funded project to establish a library in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in Mogadishu, Somalia and worked with Somali librarians to establish the Somali Association of Libraries.
A graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor of arts degree in English literature and a master’s degree in library science, Rader was named in 1998 International Alumnus of the Year by the University of Maryland and Alumnus of the Year by the college’s library and information science school.
For the past seven years, she worked at the St. Louis County Library, and was ready to come home to be closer to family: “The transition from Paris to St. Louis to Springfield was a good one.”
“We are so happy to have Kay with us,” said Library Center Manager Lorraine Sandstrom. “Her breadth of experience in combination with her unique background and extensive reference experience benefits both the Library Center and the entire Springfield-Greene County Library District.”
“I really love public library service,” said Rader. Her other interests are classical music, jazz and the blues, film history and, as you would expect, travel.
Find this article at