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Published: Sunday, 3/19/2006

UT librarian was rare books scholar

Lucille Emch, 96, a longtime University of Toledo librarian and rare books scholar whose planning led to the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections at UT's Carlson Library, died Monday in Sunset Village, Sylvania.

The cause of death was not known. She had a stroke about seven years ago, her niece, Sue Emch McKeand, said.

Miss Emch's 50-year tenure was the longest of any UT employee when she retired in June, 1979, as UT rare books librarian and professor of library administration. In retirement, she had a rare books consulting business at her former Alvison Road home.

At UT, construction of the Canaday Center - named for the late industrialist who was president for 39 years of the Friends of the University of Toledo Libraries - was funded by his daughter, Doreen Canaday Spitzer.

It was Miss Emch who wanted to make sure UT recognized Mr. Canaday's contributions and spoke with Mrs. Spitzer, said Barbara Floyd, director of the Canaday Center and university archivist.

Miss Emch helped design the center, which holds rare books, manuscripts, and UT's archives, after traveling to other special collections departments.

"She was the vision for the center," Ms. Floyd said. "Without Lucille, there would be no Canaday Center. The love of the word and the beauty of the printed book were so important to her, and she wanted to make sure that the university had a facility where those ideals could be represented."

Miss Emch was a senior at UT in 1929 when she began working in the library, She received her bachelor's degrees from UT and the University of Michigan and a master's degree from UT.

In her library career, she'd stacked, repaired, and cataloged. But of her job as rare books librarian, "this is the best, the cherry on the sundae," Miss Emch told The Blade in 1979.

Her interest in rare books led her to the libraries of Europe, including the Vatican Library and the Bodleian Library at Oxford University in England.

"Places that women weren't allowed in, Lucille somehow managed to get in," Ms. Floyd said. "She was a remarkable woman."

Some found her difficult, but "if she was strong and opinionated, it was because she had to be" as a pioneering woman at the university, Ms. Floyd said.

Miss Emch grew up on Vance Street, the daughter of Martha and Albert Emch, who was a city councilman. There are no immediate survivors.

Memorial services will be scheduled later this year, her niece said. Arrangements are by the Blanchard-Strabler Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to a charity of the donor's choice.

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