Alma Smith Jacobs was the first African American to serve as Montana State Librarian. She served as Head Librarian at the Great Falls Public Library from 1954–1973, and in 1973 was named Montana State Librarian, serving until 1981.
Jacobs was born in Lewiston, Montana on November 21, 1916, to Martin Luther and Emma Smith. She moved with her family to Great Falls, Montana in 1923. She received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Talladega College in Alabama in 1938 and later served as the bookmobile librarian traveling throughout the south.
In 1942, she received a bachelor’s degree in library science from Columbia University and became Assistant Librarian at Talladega College.
Jacobs returned to Great Falls in 1946, to serve as Catalog Librarian at the Great Falls Public Library, and in 1954, she was promoted to Head Librarian serving until 1973. Jacobs was the driving force behind the construction of the city’s modern library in 1967, and the expansion and development of the rural library service program throughout Montana.
She became the first African-American president of the Montana Library Association, the first African-American president of the Pacific Northwest Library Association, and the first Montanan to serve on the Executive Board of the American Library Association. In addition to her work on behalf of libraries, Jacobs was a leader in civil rights activities throughout the state of Montana. Alma Smith died on December 18, 1997, at the age of 81.
The city officially proclaimed the week of June 16 to 22, 2009, Alma Jacobs Week, and during that week the Alma Jacobs Plaza at the Great Falls library was dedicated in her memory.