A Librarian’s Tribute to His Father

                          William F. Yust (1869-1947), Rollins Librarian

In May 1938, The Sandspur announced the publication of the book Fred Yust, Kansas Pioneer, written by the College Librarian, William F. Yust.   William Lyon Phelps, a well-known author and critic from Yale, had reviewed Mr. Yust’s book, calling it “a really beautiful biographical sketch of his father,” and offering the opinion that “everyone who reads this book will be filled with admiration for its hero and his children and grandchildren.”

The author, William F. Yust, was an accomplished librarian who came to Rollins from Rochester, NY, in 1931.   After earning his B.A. from Central Wesleyan College in Missouri, he taught at a country school and studied at the graduate level at the University of Chicago before receiving his Bachelor of Library Science degree from the New York State Library School in 1901.  The College’s press release announcing his appointment at Rollins goes into some detail about his founding of the Rochester public library system, which “is unlike that of most cities.  Usually a public library is started with one central library, later branches being established.  Going on the assumption that books must be distributed, made available, Rochester started with community libraries, under the plan established by Mr. Yust. . .”  Rochester’s central library was only established after the creation of ten branch institutions.

This commitment to making books accessible is illustrated in one of the most memorable passages of Mr. Yust’s book.  During the World War (as it was then called), Mr. Yust took leave from his job in Rochester to become a camp librarian for the military.   His father, a veteran of the Civil War, joined him:

“Father’s favorite place was at the loan desk and he never missed a day, tho seventy-four years of age.  He often contrasted the splendid service of the American Library Association with that received by the soldiers of ’61. In those days it was provided by the Christian Commission and was mostly of a religious character, such as hymn books, portions of scripture, tracts and religious newspapers.  But his company had a little library of real books which they had stolen in military fashion.  Of these he was custodian.  That was the school, he said, where he got his library training.”

When William Yust’s eleven-year-old son joined them, “there were three generations of us in service at the same time.”

At the time this book was published, Fred Yust had recently died at the age of 92. He had been born in Germany in 1844 and came to the United States in 1855.  “His new allegiance was cemented by five years of service in the Civil War.  He went west in a proverbial covered wagon.  As a first settler on the Kansas prairies he broke the sod and built a home, raised a family and helped to build a commonwealth.” Through hard work and the sound management of both Fred and his wife, his homestead grew to a farm of more than 1,600 acres.

His sons and daughters considered themselves fortunate to have inherited their parents’ sound constitutions, as well as their “high ideals of conduct and service.”  Each of Fred Yust’s eight children helped with this book, “their tribute to him as a Father.”

At his 80th birthday celebration, surrounded by friends and family, Fred Yust answered some questions about his life, including “What were the causes of your success?” To this he gave the following answers:

  1. “a new country full of opportunities–sometimes they came to me, sometimes I went to them;
  2. work, planned, regular, thorough;
  3. thrift and management;
  4. a wife with business judgment as good as mine or better;
  5. a whole family of good workers;
  6. square dealing;
  7. faithfulness to the best I knew in my work, my home, my neighborhood, my church;
  8. stick-to-it-ivenss.”

William F. Yust retired in 1942.  By then, three of his children had become Rollins alumni (William F. Yust, Jr.; Dorothea Yust Smith; and Augusta Yust Hume, who became the wife of fellow alumnus Warren C. Hume).   During his years as College Librarian, the number of books in the Carnegie Library more than doubled (from 31,000 to 64,000 volumes).  The Book-a-Year Program, an endowment fund for the purchase of books and other library materials, was also created, with Mr. Yust contributing the first membership in 1933.  This endowment continues to benefit our library today.

Mr. Yust received the Rollins Decoration of Honor for his service in 1944.  After his death in 1947, he was remembered as “a good colleague to his associates on the faculty at Rollins College” and “ever a helper and friend of the students.  His life brought inspiration to his many friends and lustre to every organization he served.”

~by D. Moore, Archival Specialist

Fred Yust, Kansas Pioneer, and other writings by William F. Yust are available at the Olin Library (http://bit.ly/11gP0OW).  For more information about the Book-a-Year Program, please visit http://bit.ly/14yHiVd .

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