Thomas, ex-library head, dies

Lou Thomas, a longtime library director for the Morning Advocate and State-Times who helped transform the newspapers’ libraries into a news research center, died Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark., her family reported.

She was 93.

Thomas served as library director for the two newspapers from 1954 to 1985, according to biographical information from The Advocate’s library system.

She began her career with the Morning Advocate and the now-closed State-Times in 1946, working as a secretary to the newspapers’ general manager, C.P. Liter, before taking a few years off after her two sons were born.

Liter offered Thomas the library director’s job when she returned to work in 1954, said Anne Legett, a former Capital City Press employee who worked in the library with Thomas.

Under Thomas, the libraries at the newspapers expanded from rooms for reporters’ unwanted files to a research center now integral to The Advocate’s news reporting process.

In 1985, Thomas helped convert the newspaper’s many files of printed articles into a digital format now accessible in a computer database. That database was marketed worldwide through the DataTimes information network.

Linda Lightfoot, a former executive editor of The Advocate, said Thomas always had reporters’ interests at heart.

“She would go out of her way to go and find extra things that would help you understand the subject matter,” Lightfoot said. “She really was a reporter’s dream.”

Dean Thomas, Lou Thomas’s son, said his mother had great relationships with all of her newspaper colleagues.

“She was very dedicated to her job,” he said. “I know she really loved working at The Advocate (and State-Times).”

Thomas became a member of the Special Libraries Association’s News Division in 1965 and served on its executive board from 1975 to 1979.

The Louisiana Library Association named Thomas its 1983 winner of the Lucy B. Foote Award for her contributions to the library profession.

Born in the Sabine Parish village of Fisher, Thomas received her bachelor’s degree from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston.

Thomas also was involved in a number of philanthropic efforts in her career. She was the Morning Advocate and State-Times’ United Way chairman in 1979 and was a member of the search committee for the 1989 Golden Deeds award recipient.

“She was just a wonderful person who had interests beyond the newspaper,” Lightfoot said.

Funeral arrangements are pending, Dean Thomas said.