Cataloging History: Esteemed Librarian Sees Evolution of Cooke Building

Esteemed Librarian Joyce Salmon has seen the evolution of Cooke Building through almost six decades

Among those bidding a fond farewell to Cooke Library is one of its longest-standing and most loyal allies: Joyce Salmon, who started at the School as the reference librarian in 1965 and is one of the only people to have intimately witnessed the entire life of the building.

“When Cooke Library opened it was very technologically advanced, we thought it was just marvelous,” Salmon recalls. “It was one of the best high school libraries that existed anywhere.” Despite being at the inception of the building, Salmon is not tethered to the past. “Hearing about the new plans just amazes me. I could never have envisioned what is in the plans for the building today.” 

Cooke Library holds a special place in her heart – so much so that she has faithfully volunteered every Friday since her retirement in 2003. Salmon has been an invaluable resource for Punahou; she estimates having worked with more than 10,000 students in her years on campus. 

Joyce Salmon started at Punahou as a reference librarian in 1965. Despite being present at the inception of Cooke Library, she is excited about the building’s next chapter.

She is well remembered by the students she helped with research projects and papers throughout the decades. “Before Google, there was Ms. Salmon, sitting calmly at her desk,” says Jasmine Zhang ’02. “She guided me, and countless desperate students, through our research papers. I went to see her about my AP European History paper on Queen Elizabeth I, and a lunch break later, she re-appeared with at least 20 books on the topic and advised me on how best to approach the topic. The lessons she taught me, both as a librarian and as a mentor, carried me through my college years and even through my graduate studies.”

Former student and current Punahou Dean Marguerite “Reet” Ashford-Hirano ’71 shared that “Joyce Salmon is well-known to generations of Punahou students for her dogged and indefatigable pursuit of research materials. No topic was too arcane for her; no reference too much trouble to track down. She is the reason I became a librarian.” 

Salmon is currently working weekly in the Punahou Archives writing a new publication called the “Evolution of Cooke Library,” cataloging the history of the building. The project requires her to search through hundreds of written sources like the old annual reports and issues of Ka Punahou. Salmon is a treasure trove of primary information about the history of the building and her work is much appreciated.

Even though she has seen many changes over the decades, Salmon concedes that, at its core, the mission of Cooke remains steadfast. “The technology and needs for the building have changed,” she notes. “But the students still need the same things: the support and tools to research and discover.”

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