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Dena Julia Epstein Edit Profile

Librarian , music librarian , author

Dena Julia Epstein, American librarian. Grantee American Council Learned Societies, 1970, Illinois Arts Council, 1970, National Endowment Humanities, 1971, 73; recipient Chicago Folklore prize, 1978; Francis Butler Simkins prize Southern History Association, 1979.


Epstein, Dena Julia was born on November 30, 1916 in Milwaukee. Daughter of William Samson and Hilda Rita (Satt) Polacheck.


Bachelor, University Chicago, 1937. Bachelor of Science in liberal studies, University Illinois, 1939. Master of Arts, University Illinois, 1943.


She worked as a cataloguer at the latter institution while completing her degree, and upon graduation was appointed the Senior Music Librarian at Newark Public Library. In 1946 she began working as a cataloguer and reviser for the Library of Congress music section. After spending a period as a homemaker, she returned to the University of Chicago in 1964 as the Assistant Music Librarian, in which position she served for 22 years.

Epstein served as president of the Music Library Association (MLA) from 1977 to 1979, and was awarded the association's highest citation in 1986. MLA adjudicates a research award named after Epstein. Filmmaker Jim Carrier created The Librarian and the Banjo to document Epstein's contribution to American ethnomusicology.

He noted that she "revolutionized our understanding of American music... we take for granted that African-American music is the tap root of popular American music. We owe much of that knowledge to this music librarian who set out to correct history". Epstein's papers and correspondence are held by Columbia College Chicago's Center for Black Music Research.



Member American Library Association, Music Library Association (president 1977-1978, award for distinguished service 1986), American Musicol. Society, International Folk Music Council, Sonneck Society, International Association Music Libraries, American Association of University Women.


Married Morton Batlan Epstein, October 24, 1942. Children– William Eliot, Suzanne Louise.

William Samson Polacheck

Hilda Rita (Satt) Polacheck

Morton Batlan Epstein

William Eliot Epstein

Suzanne Louise Epstein