Sunday, May 22, 2011
ELLEN M. FITZSIMONS (1900-1965)
Ellen FitzSimons was perhaps destined to be a successful librarian. She was named after and inspired by her aunt, Ellen Milliken FitzSimons (1867-1953), who was the first female librarian in South Carolina.
Before coming to New York, FitzSimons worked for two years at the Kennedy Free Library in Spartanburg SC. She did not have a college degree but received her BA from New York University while working at NYPL. Likewise, her certificate from Columbia’s School of Library Service came while FitzSimons was working at NYPL.
Ellen FitzSimons was unusual in that she spent her entire NYPL career working at a single branch--Central Circulation. This unit was not in a residential neighborhood but was located in the Library’s landmark Central Building on Fifth Avenue. It was the largest branch and served users from all parts of the City as well as the many office workers and businesses located in midtown Manhattan. Central Circulation was also noted for its service to the many authors who used its collections.
Ellen FitzSimons started working in Central Circulation in 1932 as a substitute. She became the head librarian in 1949 and held that position until she retired in 1962. Perhaps due to her Southern roots, FitzSimons was described as “folksy” and was said to have a small town manner. Indeed, her retirement plan was to sit on the porch of her family farm in Hendersonville NC.