Howard Wright Hubbard, retired public relations director for the Enoch Pratt Free Library, died of multiple organ failure Friday at the Edenwald retirement community. The former Homeland resident was 94.
Born in Baltimore, she was the daughter of Joseph K. Hubbard, who owned a hardware business, and Katherine Wright, a homemaker. In a 1968 article in The Baltimore Sun, Miss Hubbard explained that she was named for Howard Place, her father's Virginia birthplace.
She attended the Calvert School and was a 1937 Girls' Latin School graduate.
"[Novelist] F. Scott Fitzgerald's daughter was a classmate of Howard and invited her to their home for dinner. Howard remembered that Zelda [his wife] sat through the entire meal with her head down, not uttering a single word. Mr. Fitzgerald was a charming host, Howard recalled," said Averil J. Kadis, a retired Pratt public relations chief who succeeded her.
While in high school, Miss Hubbard volunteered at the Pratt's exhibits department and worked with Kate Coplan, chief of public relations.
She took college-level courses at Western High School and attended what is now Towson University. The Pratt Library's director, Joseph Wheeler, recruited her to its training class in 1939. She later earned a bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University and a master's degree from the University of Chicago School of Library Science.
After receiving her training, she was assigned to the Govans branch library, where she served from 1940 to 1943. She moved to the central library, where she worked in the Maryland Room from 1943 to 1953. She was then executive assistant to the library's director before she left and joined the staff of the American Library Association in Washington.
"She was elegant, efficient and somewhat self-effacing," said former state Sen. Julian L. Lapides, who is her attorney. "She was always promoting the Pratt Library and not herself."
In late 1963, she was named the Pratt's chief of public relations, a post she held from 1964 until her retirement in 1983.
"Above all, Howard Hubbard was a lady in the finest sense of the word. She had an old-fashioned gentility with a thoroughly modern, highly intelligent mind. It was a privilege to work with her and to learn from her," said Ms. Kadis, who lives in Washington.
Friends said Miss Hubbard brought a sophisticated style of public relations to the library system. They also said she was highly organized and regularly lunched on a cheese sandwich, one she made in advance for each day of the week.
"She had a gracious stability. She was approachable, kind and generous as she helped staff work through the public relations process," said Wesley Wilson, chief of the central library. "She mixed comfortably well with all the Pratt staff. She won their respect and she respected them."
In a 1959 Sun article, Miss Hubbard said one of the fundamentals of librarianship was being able to learn tactfully what a patron wanted to know.
"Strangely enough, people often unconsciously confuse the issue by the way they phrase their question, and that makes it difficult for us to help them," she said.
She said that international events, such as the death and subsequent election of a pope, caused a rash of calls to the library.
"When I worked in the Maryland Room, I helped brides select wedding dates months in advance by consulting the Hagerstown Almanac for a good weather forecast," she said in 1959. "There are many questions about wedding etiquette, but we had one query about whether it is proper to wear tails with kilts for a formal occasion. It took some digging, but we discovered it is not."
Miss Hubbard worked with a staff of artists and designers to decorate the library's 12 showcase windows along the 400 block of Cathedral St. She worked with the local authors whose books the windows promoted. She also arranged dozens of displays to promote local events, such as FlowerMart or the old City Fair.
In 1968, she was named Woman of the Year by the Women's Advertising Club of Baltimore.
"Miss Hubbard spreads her knowledge far and wide," said a 1968 Sun article. "She sailed her own course — a course that led the Enoch Pratt Library to even greater fame not only in the library world but also among the library users. ... These windows serve as heralds of activities within the city. Many a passerby has learned of some cultural or historical event through them."
The Morning Sun Newsletter
Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the baltimoresun.com.