by Mike Maloney
Dr. Frank Foster was a Presbyterian minister and educator. Before coming to Cincinnati, he had run a missionary school in the North Carolina mountains and had been a professor of education at the University of Maine. He married Mary Corre, a Cincinnati educator and civic leader, in 1963 when they were both in their sixties. Together they worked on various civic causes such as integrating the school board and its staff. I met them when I was a graduate student at Xavier in 1966. Dr. Foster and Mary followed my career and intervened in it in important ways. They introduced me to the Woman’s City Club so that I would have some connection to Cincinnati society and civic leaders. Dr. Foster worked with me to organize two conferences at Xavier University which helped develop the ideas that led to forming an Appalachian organization. As he began to approach a less active life, he turned over his Appalachian class at Xavier to me along with his Appalachian book collection. When he died suddenly in 1973, his books became the foundation for the Urban Appalachian Council’s library which was named after him.
The purpose of the Frank Foster Memorial Library was to provide urban Appalachians with information on their history and culture and to provide access to that information for scholars, activists and the community at large. For more than 40 years, the books and papers provided visible evidence that we had a heritage and that we were careful to respect it.
John Bealle, who attended Cultural Committee meetings in the room where the library was housed, reflected on his first encounter with the collection:
I remember attending meetings in the room that housed that library. The first time I saw it, I’m sure my mouth was agape at the sight of those books–most everything ever published on Appalachia. But the feeling of awe was not so much about the library itself, but about the intellectual depth of the organization that housed and created it. Who were these people who could be so unassuming, yet possess this kind of inquiring spirit?
When the Urban Appalachian Council closed its doors in 2014 the collection was put in storage. The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition is now deciding whether to put a catalog of the collection on line and send the physical collection to the Berea College Archives to be kept or disposed of (if duplicate) or to find a way to keep all or part of the physical collection in Cincinnati. If we set up the physical library again we would need a space, volunteer staff, and a way to promote the use of it and to add new material such as the work of the UACC Research Committee and the Southern Appalachian Writers’ Cooperative (SAWC). What do you think UACC should do?