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Alene Biederman Cisney ’62

A consummate librarian and activist, Alene was born to Albert and Marguerite Biederman. Albert was a colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, and the family lived in a variety of locations in the United States and Europe as Alene was growing up. Eventually the family settled in the Pacific Northwest, and she began her undergraduate career at Reed when she was 17. She got a kick out of harmlessly sneaking into various college buildings with her friends after hours and the campus-sponsored folk dances. She studied calligraphy under Prof. Lloyd Reynolds [English 1929–69], and earned her BA in English literature, writing a thesis titled, “Themes and Images in Julius Caesar: Sickness, Fire, Spirits, and the Countenance.” Alice left campus with an enduring love of arts and sign making—a talent she employed for the rest of her life.

At loose ends after college, she worked as a calligrapher and continued to take classes for fun at the University of Washington, where she had a part-time job. During this time a human resources representative at the Seattle Public Library changed her life with the observation that one who so clearly loved learning and spending time in the library might be well suited to a career as a professional librarian. Alene enrolled in the university’s masters in librarianship program, where she was introduced to both her vocational calling and her husband, fellow student Eric Cisney. The two were married in August of 1966, the great romance of their graduating class.

Alene went on to work for 10 years as a cataloger at Seattle University, simultaneously earning a second BA in French and helping to illustrate a local edition of the famous Marchand Method French immersion textbook, La Famille Dupont.

When her daughter was born in 1976, Alene took a hiatus, returning in the early 1980s to serve for many years as manager of the Manchester branch of the Kitsap Regional Library and then as a reference librarian at the Port Orchard branch. She passed on her love of learning to generations of library patrons as well as to her daughter, who followed in her parents’ professional footsteps. Upon retiring, Alene shifted her focus from serving individuals through the library to serving future generations through political activism. Passionate about a range of social issues, she wrote essays and made signs and banners to provide clear and persuasive support for the candidates and causes she believed in.

She is survived by her husband, Eric; daughter, Anne; granddaughter, Kehdrin; sister, Ann Thorson; and many devoted pets.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2016

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