Helen W. Dalrymple, the Library’s senior public affairs specialist and editor of the Library of Congress Information Bulletin from 2002 until her retirement from the Library of Congress in 2005, died on Feb. 13 at age 68.
Dalrymple, whose federal career spanned 44 years, was an expert on the internal workings of the Library—its policies, programs and activities—and she was a principal liaison with the media and congressional, academic and library communities.
A native of Massachusetts, Dalrymple earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and French at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Upon her graduation in 1961, she moved to Washington, D.C., and launched her Capitol Hill career in the U.S. Senate office of Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts.
Following the senator’s retirement in 1967, Dalrymple joined the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in the Library of Congress as a social science analyst in the American National Government and General Research Division. She wrote background papers for members of Congress on various topics dealing with American government, District of Columbia government, special advisory commissions and presidential appointments.
In 1977, she joined the newly established Office of Planning and Development in the Office of the Librarian, where she worked on a major reorganization plan for the Library.
During the 1980s, Dalrymple worked independently as a consultant to the Library and co-authored several books about the Library. In partnership with Charles A. Goodrum, former assistant director of CRS, she compiled “Treasures of the Library of Congress,” which was published by Harry N. Abrams Inc. in 1980. They revised and updated the volume for Abrams in 1991. Abrams published another of their works, “Advertising in America, the First 200 Years,” in 1990, for which they once again drew upon the vast resources of the Library.
In 1985, Dalrymple joined the Library’s Public Affairs Office, where she helped manage the office and its production of Library promotional materials, including press releases, brochures, calendars, in-depth articles and several newsletters. In March 2002, she became editor of the Library of Congress Information Bulletin, in addition to her other assignments.
Over the years, Library managers and staff, as well as reporters, came to rely upon her encyclopedic knowledge of the Library, its history, mission and resources. In publicizing the Library’s major exhibitions and acquisitions, she delved deeply into the historical significance of the items and then connected Library curators with reporters for stories in The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio and other outlets.
Known for paying attention to details and accuracy, she often was called upon to brief Librarian of Congress James H. Billington for interviews and speeches. A trusted voice of the Library, she answered reporters’ questions as honestly and fully as she could, but with discretion.
In a letter that accompanied the Library’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, presented to Dalrymple on Oct. 28, 2005, Billington wrote, “As the senior public affairs specialist, your judgment, discretion, integrity and good sense were often tested as controversial issues asserted themselves. Your cool-headedness and strong moral compass always served the best interests of the staff as individuals and the Library of Congress as an institution.”
The Librarian continued: “I often refer to the Library’s staff as its greatest strength. You exemplified this characterization throughout your career by bringing to each assignment clear judgment and a deep loyalty to support the Library’s mission. Your legacy is an example to others and sets the standard by which the Library of Congress will measure itself in the future.”