John R McKenna (Librarian 1957-1964)

John Redmond McKenna (1917-1975) was born in Ottawa, Canada. He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force 1942-1945 before attending Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, from which he graduated in 1947. McKenna received his degree in library science from McGill University, Montreal in 1948. He married Constance DuClos in August 1954. They had one daughter, Anne Marie.

Students in Spa - Miller - 1950s

Students eating in the Spa, 1950s. The Spa was located on the ground floor of Miller Library. Librarian McKenna advocated for removal of the Spa in order to enhance the library’s sense of academic purpose.

McKenna worked as a reference assistant at the University of Maine 1948-1949 and as head of readers’ services and assistant librarian at Bowdoin College, 1949-1957. In August, 1957, he replaced James Humphry III as college librarian at Colby. He directed the Colby College Summer School Library Science Workshop and served as 1959 president of the Maine Library Association. He was elected treasurer and president of the New England Library Association.

McKenna’s tenure as college librarian at Colby occurred during a period of significant development in Miller Library and the Mayflower Hill campus. Completion of the Lovejoy and Administrative buildings allowed for renovation of library spaces and improvement in services within Miller. McKenna resigned in 1964 to accept a position as college librarian at Middlebury College. He died suddenly in September 1975 in Middlebury, Vermont, age 58.


Librarian McKenna supported the activities and collections of the Treasure Room in important ways. He served as secretary-treasurer of the Colby Library Associates during his tenure as Librarian and contributed articles to the Colby Library Quarterly. He managed subscriptions for the CLQ and acted as business manager for the Colby College Press. He shared Curator Carl Weber’s concerns about proper stewardship for the collections, advocating that the administration uphold its promises to donors Margaret Perry and Susan N Pulsifer by constructing dedicated rooms for the Perry and Pulsifer personal libraries.

Works consulted:

Annual Report of the Librarian, 1957-1964. Colby College Special Collections.

Colby Library Quarterly. Waterville, ME: Colby College Library. Print and web.

John R McKenna file. Colbiana Collection. Colby College Special Collections.