Maverick Librarian Marvin Scilken Dies at ALA Midwinter

Maverick Librarian Marvin Scilken
Dies at ALA Midwinter

Indefatigible librarian and library advocate Marvin H. Scilken, who was serving his 20th year as an ALA Council member, died of an apparent heart attack early on the morning of February 3 in Philadelphia. At the time of his death, Scilken, 72, was attending ALA’s 1999 Midwinter Meeting.

Founder and editor of The U*N*A*B*A*S*H*E*D L*I*B*R*A*R*I*A*N, Scilken was director of the Orange (N.J.) Public Library from 1964 until his retirement in 1993, a 1992-93 petition candidate for the ALA presidency, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times’ letters to the editor. His 1966 testimony before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Anti-Trust and Monopoly on alleged price fixing of library books triggered more than 1,000 lawsuits and individual libraries’ recovery of millions of dollars. Three decades later, Scilken spearheaded a successful campaign to stop Bell Atlantic from charging libraries for other phone companies’ directories.

At a memorial during the February 3 Council session, ALA President Ann Symons called Scilken “our conscience,” adding that “he never hesitated to puncture our complacency.”

Posted February 8, 1999.