Audree C. Malkin (B.A. ’47; MLS ’47) sees herself as a true Bruin. In addition to graduating from the university in 1947 with a B.A. in Music and a Master’s degree in Library Sciences, Audree had a long and rewarding career in the UCLA libraries, first as a cataloguer in the business library, and later as Head Librarian of the School of Theater, Film and Television’s special collections.
Audree’s daughter, Vicki, with whom Audree now lives, feels as if she grew up on campus, having regularly visited her mother at work as a child. She, too, attended UCLA, majoring in Mass Communication, and now has her own talent management and film production company, Covington International. “We are proud to be a Bruin family,” Audree affirms.
Born in what she describes as “cold, windy Chicago” in 1926, Audree attended public school there until she was sixteen, when she and her mother moved to Los Angeles. “My father passed away when I was nine, so it was just my mother and me,” she explains. Soon after their move, Audree enrolled at UCLA as a freshman in the fall of 1942.
“I remember how green the campus was in those days,” Audree reflects. “There weren’t as many buildings, and Westwood was just a small town with a big market and little shops.”
Although she says it took her awhile to adjust to life in Southern California, Audree soon made friends and became an active member of campus life, attending daily parties and dances and “having lots of fun.” Audree remembers there being students on campus from all over the country and the world in the 1940s, and she made friends with many of the international students. There were also Navy men stationed on campus, with whom Audree would sometimes go to dances or on dates. “I don’t remember studying much,” Audree admits. “It was an economically depressed time, but we still managed to enjoy ourselves.”
As her father had been a doctor, Audree considered joining the medical profession and originally declared biology as her major. After a day of dissecting caterpillars in her chemistry class, however, she switched her major to music, which she says she enjoyed much better. Audree had played the piano since her father bought her a baby Grand when she was six years old, and she loves the instrument to this day. Although she does not play as frequently today, Audree could often be found playing piano at UCLA, while studying for the music history courses that dominated the music curriculum. “She is a beautiful pianist and composer,” Vicki says with pride of her mother.
In addition to her musical talent, Audree was an exceptional dancer and performed in numerous dance troupes while at UCLA. Audree’s artistic talents did not go unnoticed. She composed music with the renowned dancer and choreographer Lester Horton, who awarded Audree a scholarship to support her studies. Studying modern and exotic dance with Dr. Horton, Carmen De Lavallade, and the Devi Dja Balinese Dance Troupe for many years, Audree was even featured on the cover of UCLA’s Library Journal in one of her dance costumes.
To earn money while she was a student, Audree worked at the music library, where she developed an interest in cataloguing. Deciding to pursue a Master’s degree in Library Science over a decade before UCLA had its own Graduate School in the field, she took cataloguing classes on the top floor of Powell Library and graduated in the spring of 1947, receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Music and her Master’s in Library Science.
Upon her graduation, Audree took a job as the Assistant Librarian in the Business library, supporting the head librarian, Ms. Charlotte Georgie. Audree supported Ms. Georgie and the business library for nearly a decade. During this time, Ms. Georgie became a close family friend, taking Vicki to see films like West Side Story and The Sound of Music. When the position of Head Librarian opened up at the Theater Arts Library, Audree jumped at the opportunity. “Nobody could contradict me as head librarian,” she laughs. Audree’s passion for the film and entertainment industry was also an important selling point, and she was very proud to be able to assist the University in growing its wonderful collection of scripts, photographs, and other industry materials.
In the 1950s and ‘60s when Audree started there, the Theater Arts Library was located in the basement of today’s Charles E. Young Research Library and had very few books. Audree smiles as she remembers the incredulous reaction of a young man who came in one day in search of a book for a class. When Audree informed him that the library had no books, he exclaimed in disbelief, “No books?! How can a library have no books?!” In fact, the job itself was rather untraditional, as much of Audree’s main responsibilities consisted of negotiating with actors and other notables of the entertainment industry to acquire their collections for the University. She assisted UCLA in acquiring some of the treasures of the collection, including oversized films of Marilyn Monroe and the original drafted screenplay of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
A favorite memory for Audree is of being on the set of Ben Hur in the late 1950s, waiting to meet with Charlton Heston to ask him to give his movie script to UCLA at the conclusion of the shoot. Adamant that he not give the annotated script to another university or collection, Audree went to the studio repeatedly, waiting to meet with Heston directly to make her plea. After becoming an extra on the set, she eventually met Heston, who agreed to donate his script to UCLA, where it is still housed today.
Another important aspect of Audree’s work was cataloguing the history and evolution of the industry for current and future students and researchers. Every day, Audree perused the newspapers and magazines, clipping columns and relevant articles and organizing them in folders that she then catalogued for the archives. Her daughter Vicki remembers her mother’s personal investment in the library and is proud of her mother’s substantial contributions to the collection.
Audree remembers the late 1960s and early ‘70s as an active and volatile time on campus, as students responded to the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Along with many students, faculty, and staff, she attended a talk given by Angela Davis, political advocate and former leader of the U.S. Communist Party and the Black Panthers. In May of 1970, in response to the shootings at Kent State, Audree remembers the lock down enforced at UCLA to protect the buildings from student protests and possible rioting.
“We barricaded the research library to protect all of the books,” she says. “Then [the other librarians and I] all stood [at the entrance], on guard.”
While the day passed without another incident, Audree remembers it as a tense time.
After nearly forty years of working for the UCLA libraries, Audree retired in 1986. “UCLA threw me a lovely retirement party,” she remembers, and it was difficult for her to say goodbye after so many years at the University. “UCLA was my life. I had to work and it provided me with a very pleasant job that was relevant for me and my interests. I enjoyed working with different types of people from all over the world.”
She now lives with her daughter, Vicki, and her granddaughters, Aubrie and Sydney. She continues to play the piano, although not as often as she used to, and enjoys spending time with her family.
Reflecting on her career and the library profession today, Audree contemplates how the use of electronic and digital media has changed the role and value of cataloguers. At UCLA, she says, she learned to value tangible media and physical libraries as “repositories of human culture and knowledge.” While she says that she didn’t see the full value of her work and of cataloguing skills at the start of her career,
“Building a collection from the bottom up and seeing it grow was very rewarding.” Says her daughter Vicki, “The Theater Film and Television archive has become a very important collection for UCLA and the greater Los Angeles Community. I am very proud of my mother for starting such an important collection and helping to grow it to what it is today.”