Ruth Freitag, Librarian to the Stars, Dies at 96

“These bibliographies would take months and even years to do,” mentioned Jennifer Harbster, head of the science reference part at the Library of Congress. “It wasn’t like you just found a title and put it in your bibliography. She would annotate it all.”

She additionally compiled bibliographies on general-interest matters, together with presidential inaugurations and whether or not a brand new decade or century is taken into account to start in the yr ending in zero or the yr ending in 1. Ms. Freitag, together with different authoritative sources, firmly believed that they start on the 1 — that the 21st century, for instance, began in 2001, not 2000, regardless of the many celebrations to the opposite.

As the third millennium loomed, she assembled a pamphlet, “Battle of the Centuries” (1995), with energetic quotations about the dispute over the ages.

“Bibliographic work may sound dull at first,” she instructed an inner Library of Congress publication, The Gazette, in 1990, “but it can really grow on you, to the extent of becoming a vice.”

Ms. Freitag spoke a number of languages and knew all the correct accents to place on phrases — “all the unusual ones for whatever language she was writing in,” mentioned Brenda Corbin, the former head librarian at the Naval Observatory. When computer systems first got here alongside, Ms. Corbin mentioned, Ms. Freitag “wasn’t happy” that they didn’t have accent marks, which meant that she couldn’t write accurately. “She was meticulous.”

Ms. Freitag typically helped researchers with their writing.

“She was one hell of a copy editor,” mentioned Mark Littmann, the former longtime director of the Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake City, who researched a few of his fashionable astronomy works (together with “Planets Beyond” and “Totality: Eclipses of the Sun”) at the Library of Congress.

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