Director fostered merger of libraries


Robert D. Franklin, director of the former Toledo Public Library in the 1950s and '60s as it prepared to merge into a system that eventually would encompass Lucas County, died Dec. 11 in a nursing home in Jefferson, N.C., family members said. He was 94, and had been paralyzed since suffering a stroke in 1987.

Mr. Franklin was library director from 1955-69, during which the library's collection topped the 1-million volume mark. Library holdings had amounted to 427,000 when he joined the system as assistant director in 1946.

As director, Mr. Franklin oversaw the addition of three new branches: Sanger, Point Place, and Heatherdowns.

He also prepared the library for its consolidation with the Lucas County and Sylvania systems, which happened in November, 1969, after years of delay. After the merger, he headed the Main library downtown and Lewis Naylor, former Cuyahoga County Library director, ran the new system.

Mr. Franklin resigned in 1971 to direct the Charlottesville-Albermarle County Public Library in Virginia. He retired two years later.

Mr. Franklin was a well-known figure during his years in Toledo. He wrote and illustrated a biweekly library newsletter, “The Tee-Pee” (for Toledo Public), and was a popular public speaker known for his fine voice.

For 20 years, he had a program on WSPD Radio in which he talked with writers and about books, his son, Robert McFarland Franklin, said. “He was highly verbal and a little vain about his voice, as he was very much into elocution. If he wasn't talking about a book on the show, he was talking about interesting people,” his son said.

Mr. Franklin and his wife, the former Mary Mac, were married for 64 years. Mrs. Franklin died in 1999.

A Memphis native, he attended the former Southwestern University there and graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He received a master's degree from Columbia University's school of library service and worked for the New York Public Library, the U.S. Merchant Marine Library Association, and the Shelby County Libraries in Tennessee.

A special pleasure of his was reading aloud to his wife as she made hooked rugs. “He read novels out loud, mostly mysteries,” his son said.

After his stroke, Mr. Franklin was cared for by his daughter, Linda, in her home in Charlottesville, Va. He moved to North Carolina, near the home of his son, in October.

Surviving are his daughter, Linda Franklin; son, Robert, and three grandchildren.

A private service was held in Jefferson, N.C. The family requests tributes to the Toledo Area Humane Society.