Tuesday, April 26, 2011
ELIZABETH ROBINSON EDWARDS (1907-1990)
Elizabeth R. Edwards received her BA from Chattanooga University in 1927 and then entered the apprentice program at Chattanooga Public Library (CPL). She came to NYC in 1928 to attend Columbia’s library school and returned to CPL as Head Cataloger 1929-1930. She then came back to New York City and joined the Queens Borough Public Library 1930-1931 and joined to NYPL in 1931. Edwards worked primarily in the NYPL Extension Division before serving as Branch Librarian of the Kingsbridge Branch, 1943-1944.
Elizabeth Edwards’ major impact on librarianship occurred in the two positions she held after she left NYPL.
First, Edwards left NYPL in 1944 because she was tapped by the federal government to organize the library in Oak Ridge TN. The population of Oak Ridge grew from 3,000 in 1942 to about 75,000 in 1945 after the US government chose the town as the secret home of the Manhattan Project. The thousands of newcomers were literate adults who demanded a well-stocked library. Edwards flourished as the first librarian serving “a most unusual and exciting community”.
Second, when Edwards left Oak Ridge at war’s end she returned home to Chattanooga to be the head librarian of the CPL, a position she held for 20 years. Edwards’ obituary noted among her accomplishments that she “presided over the desegregation of the library’s facilities”. Beginning in 1949, African-American high school students and adults were admitted to the Library and children’s services were integrated the following year.
Today would be Elizabeth (Libby) Edwards’ 104th birthday.