Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Today would be the 121st birthday of Helen H. Morgan who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was educated in private schools.   She worked at NYPL from 1919-1954, and her experience during the 1930s was typical of many NYPL librarians.

Morgan became a librarian in 1914 at the Cincinnati Public Library, but soon left to attend the Pratt Institute Library School.   After getting her Pratt degree in 1915, she became a cataloger at the Brooklyn Museum and then returned to CPL in 1916.  Morgan came back to NYC in 1918 and worked at the Hispanic Museum and Columbia University before joining NYPL in 1919. 

Helen Morgan is an example of the hardships that the branch staff suffered during the Great Depression.  The City of New York, which provided the funds for staff salaries in the Circulation Department, put strict controls on any salary increases and also limited promotions as a cost-saving measure.  In 1927, Helen Morgan had passed the Grade 4 exam which made her eligible for promotion to Branch Librarian, but it took her 15 years to be promoted to the higher grade.  She was appointed Acting Branch Librarian at the 67th Street Branch in 1938, one of many of her generation that took on a higher job classification without any increase in pay. 

In 1942 Morgan was finally promoted to head the Jackson Square Branch and served there until her retirement in 1954. 

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