Thursday, January 18, 2007


An immigrant child, born in France of Armenian parents, survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, Sylva Natalie Manoogian arrived in the United States through Ellis Island in December 1946. She was nine years old. She has been married to the same man, Khachig Evan Manoogian, for 45 years. They have three sons: Antranig, 44; Vahan, 42; and Ara, 41.

Sylva’s introduction to American life was through the public library, which became her permanent haunt. Convinced by her father’s assertion that, “for every language you master, you become another person,” she studied English assiduously by reading books she borrowed from her neighborhood branch library in Belmont, MA, and waited for the transformation. Her father’s advice proved prophetic, as all through elementary and high schools, university, and independently, she has studied Armenian, French, Latin, Greek, and subsequently, Russian, German, and Spanish. She claims fluency in Armenian (Western, Eastern, and Classical), French, and Spanish, and varying degrees of proficiency in the others. She is now studying Arabic and Hebrew>

During her undergraduate years at Radcliffe College (1955-1959), she worked as a student assistant at Harvard University’s Widener Library, re-cataloging the Armenian language collection, which would support the curriculum of a newly established Armenian Studies Chair. This, together with her passion for languages and literature, set the path for her future career in the field of library and information science. Her global linkages as a library professional began in 1964 at the Los Angeles Public Library, where she promoted from intermittent clerk to clerk-typist, librarian trainee (while attending the University of Southern California’s Library School, 1965-1969), children’s librarian (Arroyo Seco Regional Library), senior librarian (El Sereno Branch), and finally, principal librarian (Central Library, International Languages Dept. Manager, and Northeast Area Manager), until her retirement in April 1999, after 35 years of active Los Angeles City service.

As “La Jubilada,” her preferred moniker, Sylva has been devoting her time as consultant to Armenian library projects worldwide and writing the definitive biography of her illustrious father, Shahan Natalie, internationally known as an Armenian author, journalist, publisher, and community activist. She continues to work at Los Angeles Public Library’s Central and branch libraries as a substitute part-time reference librarian. She also works “at will” at Glendale Public Library, with responsibility for Armenian language collection development for a culturally diverse community with a large concentration of Armenians from all parts of the world.

Back in academia after 36 years as a practitioner, Sylva became a full-time doctoral student at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies in 2003, with the aim is of “Armenizing” the field of Information Studies. She is currently engaged in very challenging research, including a qualitative sociological study on “Armenian-ness,” and a comparative study of Armenian and Chinese diasporas, the latter together with her doctoral advisor and mentor, Dr. Clara M. Chu.

As the author of numerous articles on international librarianship and Armenian culture and heritage, her most recent publications include: a review of Vartan Gregorian’s Road to Home: My Life and Times, which appeared in Library Quarterly (Vol. 74, 2004); Libraries of Armenian Jerusalem, part of the Hebrew University Armenian Studies Series The Armenians in Jerusalem and the Holy Land (Peeters 2002); an English translation of one of her father’s books, The Turks and Us (Punik Press, 2001). She has completed an English translation of Archbishop Torkom Manoogian’s The Genius of Komitas in His Divine Liturgy, to be published by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and on a bio-bibliography of Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935), the father of Armenian music, to commemorate the 135th anniversary of his birth. She is preparing an article on Armenian libraries, to be included in the forthcoming edition of the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science.

In 2001 and 2002, she was a member of an American Library Association delegation, participating with representatives of the library associations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia in two South Caucasus library workshops, “Strengthening Library Associations in the South Caucasus,” (Tbilisi, Georgia, May 2001), and “Libraries in a Civil Society: Improving Access to Information through University Libraries,” (Yerevan, Armenia, September 2002). In October 2003, she was invited to participate in, and deliver the keynote address at the 70th anniversary jubilee of the Khnko Aper National Children’s Library of Armenia. As a result, she initiated a study regarding the feasibility of establishing an Information Studies Center at the American University of Armenia, a project currently in the developmental stages. Since September 2003, she was appointed to head a local/regional project, the establishment of a library and library network for the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America, headquartered in Burbank, CA.

As the Library Project Director for the revitalization, virtualization, and internationalization of the Calouste Gulbenkian Library of the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem, Sylva has visited the Holy City on a voluntary basis twenty two times since 1992, accompanied on several of the trips by her husband, the Project Engineer and Manager, and several U.S. library colleagues. She spent four months (October to December 2005) in the Holy City. During these trips, she stayed and conducted research in the St. James Armenian Orthodox Monastery, working on her doctoral dissertation, The Evolution and Endurance of Monastic Libraries in the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Sylva has been an active member of the American and California Library Associations since 1968, and was accorded honorary lifetime membership in the Library Association of Armenia for championing its establishment in 1994. She joined ALISE and ASIST in 2004.

For her contributions to multilingual and international library services, Sylva has been accorded several prestigious awards, among them, the American Library Association’s Leonard Wertheimer Award (1993); a Woman of Achievement Award at the First Armenian International Women’s Association Conference (London, 1994); the Hakob Meghapart Medal from the National Library of Armenia (Yerevan, 1994); the Susan B. Anthony Award (Hollywood business and Professional Women, March 1995). In November 1995, the California Library Association recognized her multicultural and international accomplishments as an outstanding librarian. Most recently (June 2006) she received the American Library Association’s John Ames Humphry/OCLC/Forest Press Award, in recognition of her significant contributions to international librarianship.

As an active member of the Southern California Armenian community and a familiar face in the Armenian world, Sylva is deeply rooted in her Armenian heritage, proud of being an American citizen, and sensitive to cultural diversity and international understanding. She always enjoys the challenge of new encounters and experiences. She can be described as energetic, persistent, approachable, and possesses good organizational, administrative, and motivational skills. When asked to synthesize the significance of her commitment to her professional life, she says, “I feel blessed and privileged to be able to share my knowledge and experience, particularly with my library colleagues in Armenia, and hopefully to inspire future generations of Armenians to perpetuate the noble tradition of libraries, begun by our ancestors since the creation of the Armenian alphabet 1600 years ago.”



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