Saturday, May 14, 2011


Edith Vermeule joined NYPL in 1905, one year out of high school, and worked her way up to be First Assistant at the Seward Park Branch.  She resigned in 1917 to attend the Pratt Institute library school.  Upon her graduation in 1918, she took a series of positions around the US:  Field Secretary for Maryland Public Library Commission, 1918-1919; head of reference for the Rosenberg Library in Galveston, Texas, 1919-1921; and head of the Yesler Branch of the Seattle Public Library, 1921-1923.

Vermeule returned to NYPL in 1923 and was promoted in 1928 to head the Fordham Branch, a position she held until her retirement in 1946.

Vermeule’s well-written annual reports at Fordham often reflected on the relationship between the library and the public.  In 1941, amid what she characterized as “plunging circulation”, she worried that “our future is problematical.”  Vermeule lamented that “libraries have made no vital connection with John Public’s daily life.  One reason might be the prevailing feminine influence in the choice of books.”  She speculated that an unmarried woman, such as herself, might not be able to select books that men would find interesting.  Vermeule predicted that changes were coming to librarianship.  

Although the transition would be slow, gender changes were coming to NYPL.   For the first time since 1917, the Library had started hiring male librarians, although none of them would become head of a branch until 1949.

Today would be the 125th birthday of Edith F. Vermeule.

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