Star librarian Ruth Freitag dies at 96
“These bibliographies would take months and even years to make,” said Jennifer Harbster, chief of the scientific reference section at the Library of Congress. “It wasn’t like you just found a title and put it in your bibliography. She would annotate everything.
She has also compiled bibliographies on topics of general interest, including presidential inaugurations and whether a new decade or a new century is supposed to begin with the year ending in zero or the year ending in 1. Ms. Freitag, along with other authoritative sources, strongly believes that they are starting on 1 – that the 21st century, for example, began in 2001, not 2000, despite many celebrations to the contrary.
As the third millennium drew near, she put together a pamphlet, “Battle of the centuries” (1995), with lively quotes from the age dispute.
“Bibliographic work may seem dull at first,” she told a Library of Congress internal publication The Gazette in 1990, “but it can really grow on you, to the point of becoming a vice.”
Ms Freitag spoke multiple languages and knew all the appropriate accents to place on words – “any unusual accents regardless of the language she wrote in,” said Brenda Corbin, former chief librarian at the Naval Observatory. When the computers first arrived, Ms. Corbin said, Ms. Freitag “wasn’t happy” that they didn’t have accent marks, which meant she couldn’t write correctly. “She was meticulous.”
Ms. Freitag has often helped researchers with their writing.
“She was one hell of a copy editor,” said Mark Littmann, the longtime former director of the Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake City, who has researched some of her popular astronomical works (including “Planets Beyond” and “Totality: Eclipses of the Sun”) at the Library of Congress.