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Joseph "Perry" Danton, former dean of library science, dies at age 94
20 November 2002

By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations

Berkeley - Joseph Periam "Perry" Danton, professor emeritus and former dean of the University of California, Berkeley's School of Librarianship, died at an Oakland hospital on Nov. 12 following a brief illness. He was 94.

Danton was born in Palo Alto, Calif., on July 5, 1908. After spending his early years in Beijing, China, where his parents were educators, he studied at the University of Leipzig from 1925 to 1926.

He graduated magna cum laude with a BA in German from Oberlin College in 1928. Danton earned a BS in library science from Columbia University in1929, an MA in German from Williams College in 1930 and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1935.

After serving with the New York Public Library, the Williams College Library, and with the American Library Association from 1928 to 1935, he continued as librarian and associate professor of bibliography at Colby College and Temple University.

During World War II, he served in air combat intelligence for the United States Navy from 1942-1945, earning the rank of lieutenant commander.

He was a visiting professor at the School of Library Service at Columbia University before moving to UC Berkeley to become dean of the School of Librarianship in 1946. He served in that post until 1961.

Danton's expertise included academic and research libraries, library administration, the history of libraries, selection and collection development, comparative and international librarianship, and education for librarianship.

While he was dean, the number of faculty and students at the school grew dramatically and the school's programs underwent expansion and specialization. The graduate certificate was replaced in 1947 with a bachelor of library science degree and in 1955 with a master of library science degree. A Ph.D. of library science was instituted in 1954.

Danton retired in 1976. He later said that he had accomplished his goals of establishing a publication series, the Ph.D. program and a summer school, as well as substantially increasing the faculty.

Longtime friend, UC Berkeley Professor Michael Buckland, said that Danton "was an unwilling retiree, caught by the mandatory retirement age." In his retirement, Danton remained active academically and his last study was published in the Library Quarterly some 65 years after his first two articles in that journal, Buckland said.

Danton's numerous publications are catalogued in "J. Periam Danton: A Bibliography" (School of Librarianship, UC Berkeley, 1976). An oral history transcript is available from The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley or online.

The librarianship department at UC Berkeley became the Graduate School of Librarianship in 1926. It changed its name to the School of Library and Information Studies in 1976, incorporating new methods to record and to manage collections, as well as helping library patrons as the use of computers, databases and online searching became more commonplace.

The school suspended admissions in 1993 as officials debated its future. It reopened as the School of Information Management & Systems (SIMS) and admitted its first graduate students in fall 1997.

Danton was a Fulbright research scholar in Goettingen, Germany, in 1960-1961, and in Vienna from 1964 to 1965. He also was a Guggenheim Fellow and a Carnegie Fellow from 1933 to 1935. In 1976, he received the Berkeley Citation, UC Berkeley's highest honor.

In 1983, he received the Beta Phi Mu Award from the American Library Association (ALA) for distinguished service to education for librarianship.

"His contributions to librarianship and library education in the United States and abroad are many and varied; his scholarship is unequaled in the library world, as his teaching reflects and his bibliography attests," read the citation.

Danton was active in the ALA, the Association of American Library Schools, the California Library Association and the International Federation of Library Associations. He served as president of the American Association of Library Schools and was treasurer of the Association of College and Reference Librarians.

Danton is survived by his son, Joseph Periam Danton Jr., of Berkeley; his daughter, Jennifer Danton Franz, of Sacramento; and grandchildren Joseph Felker Danton and Rebecca Felker Danton, both of Berkeley.

At his request, no services will be held.

Donations may be made in his memory to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 W. 20th St., New York, NY 10011.