We have a ghost at our offices and her name is Marcia. It’s actually Marcia Crocker Noyes. Marcia was the librarian at MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society where I work, and when our current offices were built in 1909, an apartment was built for her on the top floor. In essence, a penthouse!
Marcia started her library career at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore and then took a position at MedChi in 1896, when MedChi was located in a building several blocks from our current location. She was in her mid-20’s when she started and the library had about 7,000 outdated volumes.
In 1889, Sir William Osler, one of the founding physicians at the newly opened Johns Hopkins Medical School, arrived in Baltimore and set to work with Marcia to revive MedChi’s library. He was a noted bibliophile and had a large personal collection of books on various topics. Sir William and Marcia worked to create a library, and when our building was erected in 1909, a large four-story stacks library was created that was renown in the world’s medical community.
Her apartment, on the top of our building, was a lovely four room flat, with lots of light, big windows, a working fireplace and a view out over the city. She kept a vegetable garden in what is now our parking lot. Her apartment was considered the first penthouse in Baltimore!
Marcia worked diligently to create a state of the art library and at her death, 50 years after she arrived, the number of volumes totaled more than 65,000! She was well-known in the emerging field of medical library sciences, and in fact, the highest award for a medical librarian is named for her. She became become the first woman and first non-physician President of the of Medical Librarians Association in 1933.
In her 50th year of service to MedChi, a large party was given in her honour. The doctors knew she was dying and pushed to have it earlier in the year, although her anniversary was in November. She was still living in the apartment on the top floor, and working in the library, although an elevator and a dumbwaiter had been added to make things easier for her.
She died in her apartment in November of 1946, 50 years after she arrived. Her funeral was held in Osler Hall, named for her dear friend, Sir William Osler, and 60 doctors were honoured to act as pallbearers.She’s still here in spirit, if not more. There are documented cases of her being seen in Osler Hall, and odd things happen in our buildilng. In her old offices, you can hear someone typing on the keyboard, even when no one’s there. If she doesn’t like the song on the iPod, she changes it to a new tune. As I approached our old elevator the other week, the door magically opened – no one was around and I hadn’t heard it arrive. When we did our tour of our building on October 30th, I was talking about Marcia and all that she did, when suddenly, the lights dimmed, flickered and went out. There was no one near the switch, and you couldn’t dim the light-bank even if you tried. We think that it was Marcia letting us know that she was there. Wheels squeak in the stacks, and you can hear muffled footsteps. Things turn up, even though they were NOT there before… like the painting I found a few weeks ago!
There is much to be admired about this woman who worked so hard for us, who was beloved by all – her employees stayed with her for years – and who did much to advance library science. She was the Google of her day, being available to doctors 24/7 for 50 years. She’s a benign presence here and still a revered figure in her chosen field.