Friday, March 25, 2011


I taught in library schools for 20 years and found that most students seemed to have a sense that they would take a public library or an academic library track.  It was rare that they crossed over the dividing line from one to the other.

As I looked at my database on those who became NYPL Branch Librarians 1901-1950, I discovered an unexpected fact.  There was a significant amount of back and forth by the Branch Librarians between NYPL and academic libraries. 

Overall, slightly more than 10% of all Branch Librarians worked in an academic library before going to NYPL, 5% took a leave of absence from NYPL to work in an academic library, and 8% worked in an academic library after leaving NYPL. 

In addition, five NYPL librarians not only worked in an academic library but made a major contribution in that position.  They were:

Rae Stockham was head librarian of Drake University for 10 years before starting at NYPL in 1921.

Gladys Young Leslie started the library at Bennington College in 1930 and headed it until 1956.

Ruth Wellman took a leave of absence from NYPL to organize the New School Library.

Mary K. Dempsey organized the Marquette University Library in 1945.

Loda May Hopkins retired from NYPL to serve as Assistant Director and then Director of the Simmons College Library.

These statistics indicate that for NYPL librarians, at least, the boundary between public and academic libraries was once much more permeable than it is today. 

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