Reuben Aldridge Guild (1822-1899), librarian of the University from 1848 to 1893, was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, on May 4, 1822, one of a family of eleven children. He was brought up as a Unitarian, but in April 1840 he was baptized by the Reverend Baron Stow and received as a member of the Baldwin Place Baptist Church in Boston. In that year he left his job as a clerk, intending to begin to study for the ministry. He studied at Day’s Academy in Wrentham, Massachusetts, where one of his teachers was Charles Coffin Jewett, and also at the Worcester County Manual Labor High School, which became Worcester Academy. During his years of preparatory study he taught school in Wrentham and Sterling, Massachusetts. On his graduation from Brown in 1847, he became assistant librarian, and in March 1848 succeeded his former teacher, Charles Coffin Jewett, as librarian. That position he held until 1893, and his obituary notes that he was absent on only three occasions. These were a convalescence from a sprained ankle suffered from a fall from a ladder in the library in 1857, a few days of absence when his son died in 1876, and a visit to England and Scotland in 1877 when he attended the International Conference of Librarians in London.
He was instrumental with Charles B. Norton in calling the first librarians’ convention, which met in New York in September of 1853. He was one of a committee of three, which petitioned Congress for preparation of a librarian’s manual. His major accomplishment was the planning of the “New Library” and the arrangement, classifying and cataloguing of the books in that library, doing most of the work himself. He was the historian of Brown University, keeping scrapbooks of clippings about the University beginning in 1851, and publishing The Life, Times and Correspondence of James Manning, and the Early History of Brown University in 1864, History of Brown University with Illustrative Documents in 1867, and The Early History of Brown University in 1897. This last named work was to have been the first of a two volume set, the second to be an update of his 1867 History. The unpublished manuscript of the second volume is in the University Archives. He spent his time after his retirement in 1893 in writing. He died in Providence on May 13, 1899, at the age of 77.