Thursday, June 30, 2011

MARY HUNT DANA (1913-1984)

So far in June, I have profiled two librarians (Edith Rees and Adele C. Martin who were active in the Library Employees Union and also served as head of an NYPL branch. Mary H. Dana not only followed that pattern (she was Treasurer of the LEU, 1947-1948, and headed three branches) but she also became an important administrator in the NYPL Circulation Department.

Mary Dana was born in Maine and graduated from the Westbrook Junior College in Portland, in 1936.  She worked at the Portland Public Library, 1939-1941.  She then moved south to attend the New Jersey College of Women (now Douglass College) where she received her library degree in 1942. 

Dana joined NYPL in 1942 and served as head of the Mott Haven (1948-1953), West Farms (1953-1958), and Grand Concourse (1958-1961) branches.  She then became an administrator heading up the Book Order and Processing Office, 1962-1963, and was promoted to Assistant Chief of the Circulation Department in 1963, a position she held until her retirement at the end of 1975.    Dana then returned to Maine.

Dana’s name lives on in the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series at Douglass College.  In 1987 Nelle Smither (1909-????) a professor of English at Douglass endowed the lecture series in honor of her friend.  Dana and Smither were roommates in New York City 1948-1954 and twice travelled to Europe together during that time period.   

Friday, June 24, 2011


Myrtle L. Reynolds earned her BA from Barnard College in 1927 and began substituting at NYPL.  In 1929 she received her library degree from the School of Library Service at Columbia and obtained a regular appointment at NYPL soon thereafter.

Reynolds was promoted to be Branch Librarian of the Hunt’s Point Branch in 1939 and served there until 1947. 

Like most of the librarians at NYPL, Myrtle Reynolds was concerned about the impact of World War II on the Library and on the community.   Even before America entered the war, the events in Europe loomed in the minds of staff and patrons alike.  In her 1940 annual report for Hunt’s Point, Reynolds recorded typical scenes in the branch and concluded that a “warm consolation was afforded that bears comparison with ‘a port in a storm.’”  A year later, writing just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Reynolds wrote that “freedom is challenged” and concluded that the Library also “must turn militant.”  She noted the fact that users were switching from recreational reading to technical books and warned that librarians must “be consciously vigilant lest the creative literary aspects fade too far from the picture.” 

In 1946 Reynolds happily reported that for the returning veterans “the library card appears to be a mark of citizenship.”  Yet she was also aware that difficult times were not over, cautioning that : “The problems of post war adjustment, racial tensions and general living uncertainties make for an unsettled, feeling-the-way neighborhood situation.”

In 1947-1948 Reynolds headed the Veteran’s Center, a special office suggested by Mayor LaGuardia to meet the needs of returning service men and women. 

Reynolds transferred to be Branch Librarian at the Riverside Branch in 1948 and served there until she retired in 1966. 

Today would have been Myrtle Reynolds 105th birthday.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

EDITH REES (1905-2003)

Edith Rees had a 35 year career at NYPL and was another of the active unionists who also served as the head of a branch of the Library.

Rees earned a BA from Wellesley College in 1925.  She entered NYPL as a substitute right out of college and specialized as a children’s librarian.  Rees received her BS in librarianship from Columbia University in 1933. 

Edith Rees served as Branch Librarian at the Washington Heights (1943-1948), George Bruce (1948-1951), Inwood (1951-1959), and Donnell (1959-1960) branches.  She retired in 1960. 

Shortly before being promoted to Branch Librarian, Rees served as President of the Library Employees Union, Local 251 of the State, County and Municipal Workers.  During her time as president of Local 251, NYPL struggled to secure adequate budget funds from the City of New York.  The Union was supportive of the Library’s budget requests but also asked for additions to that request.

The Local had been founded in 1940 but in 1942 it had to merge into a larger Citywide Local 111 since so many union members had left for military service.  Local 251 was the progenitor of today’s Local 1930, AFSCME, which represents the NYPL staff. 

In 2006, the Public Employees Press published by District Council 37, representing AFSCME locals in New York City, ran a profile on Rees’ contributions to library unionization. 

Today would have been Edith Rees 106th birthday.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Marjorie C. Burbank graduated from Rye Seminary in 1912.  She entered the NYPL Library School in 1914 and received her certificate in 1915.  She then started work as a Cataloger at NYPL.  She continued to take the advanced courses in the Library School and earned her two-year degree in 1917. 

In the 1920s Burbank worked as a children’s librarian in the branches and for most of the 1930s she served as Anne Carroll Moore’s assistant in the Office of Work with Children.  Burbank was promoted to Branch Librarian at the Melrose Branch, 1939-1946, and then held the same position at the High Bridge Branch, 1946-1954.  She retired in 1954.

In the 1930s when she worked closely with Anne Carroll Moore, another children’s librarian in the office was Margaret McElderry (1912-2011), who later became a famous children’s book editor.  Apparently there was both a “sisterly” and a competitive relationship between Burbank and McElderry.  McElderry described Marjorie Burbank as “a very good and caring librarian and reader, but she also had this wonderful nuttiness.”  One example of that “nuttiness” was that Burbank brought jelly beans to the office every Easter and could hold a jelly bean on her finger tips, slap the heel of that palm with her other hand, and flip the jelly bean into her mouth.  Margaret McElderry tried but had difficulty replicating Burbank’s trick.  For the relationship between Burbank and McElderry see Betsy Hearne, “Margaret K. McElderry and theProfessional Matriarchy of Children’s Books.”

June 17th would be Marjorie Burbank’s 118th birthday,

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Phyllis Osteen was born in Missouri on June 16, 1904.

She earned a BA from the University of Arkansas in 1926 and then became a teacher at Highland Manor in Tarrytown NY, 1927-1928.

Osteen entered the NYPL Training Class in 1928 and was soon given a full-time position at the Library.  She went on to get her formal library training from Columbia’s School of Library Service in 1932. 

Osteen worked in the branch system for 19 years.  Between 1928 and 1933 she worked at Central Circulation and two other branches and then transferred to the Extension Division to take charge of the Bronx Bookmobile.  Following that she served as the Assistant Branch Librarian at several branches before being promoted to Branch Librarian at the Woodstock Branch 1946-1947.

Osteen’s most important contribution at NYPL came in 1947 when she joined the Library’s newly created Personnel Office which handled personnel issues for both the Circulation and Reference Departments of NYPL.  Between 1945 and 1954 she published five articles in professional journals on personnel issues, several of the articles were frequently cited in bibliographies. 

 n 1953 Osteen resigned from NYPL and moved to Colorado where she finished her career in the Jefferson County and Greeley Public Libraries. 


Mary C. Hatch was a children’s librarian and author who recalled that she got her start by telling stories to her five younger sisters.  Hatch is also the only Mormon, as far as I can determine, among those who became Branch Librarians, 1901-1950.

Mary Hatch received her BA from the University of Utah in 1937.  The following year she got her library degree from Columbia University, and in 1940 she earned an MA in English, also from Columbia.

Hatch entered NYPL in 1938 after getting her library degree.  She was promoted to Branch Librarian in 1945 and headed the Epiphany Branch (1945-1947) and the 58th Street Branch (1947-1955).  She subsequently headed the Readers’ Adviser’s Office (1956-1962) and then the Central Circulation Branch (1962-1967).  Her final position was as Coordinator of the Mid-Manhattan Branch.  Mid-Manhattan was a replacement for Central Circulation and was located in a former department store building, across Fifth Avenue from NYPL’s Central Building.  Hatch held that position until her death in 1970.

Hatch was also an author and editor.  She edited NYPL’s Branch Library Book News for five years and published several short plays, two books of Danish folk tales, and Rosamunda (Warne, 1946), a children’s picture book illustrated by her husband, Edgun Valdemar Wulff (1913-2000).

Today would have been Hatch’s 101st birthday.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Edwin W. Gaillard was the first man to head an NYPL branch and the first head of the Library’s work with schools.  He was also, most likely, the only person to serve as NYPL’s Special Investigator after having been arrested for attempted burglary
In 1896, at the age of 24, Gaillard was arrested for attempted burglary.  The story in the New York Herald (June 2, 1896, page 5) described him as “intelligent, fairly good looking, well dressed and evidently of a respectable family.”  The newspaper reported Gaillard’s claim that he “was only playing burglar” after having bragged to his brothers that “it could be done in a walk”. 

Although he had no training as a librarian, a year after his arrest Edwin Gaillard became head librarian of the Webster Free Library Society, which served the Czech √©migr√© community on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.  As librarian, Gaillard worked with that community and also developed programs in conjunction with neighborhood schools.  Late in his life Gaillard was awarded the Order of the White Lion by the Czechoslovak government in recognition of his public service at the Webster Library.

Once Webster consolidated with NYPL in 1904, Gaillard remained as head of the Webster Branch and thus became the first man to head an NYPL branch.  He gave up that position in 1906 to develop NYPL’s work with schools program, which Phyllis Dain has called the first such department in the nation.  In that position, he clashed with Anne Carroll Moore, NYPL’s famous children’s librarian, and in 1913 Gaillard was moved to a newly created position as Special Investigator for the Library.  In this role, he was regarded “as conspicuously successful” for aggressively investigating thefts and mutilations of books.  This was an unusual success story for someone once arrested for attempted burglary.

Gaillard died at the age of 56 of a kidney disorder.

Monday, June 13, 2011

ISABEL JACKSON (1902-1977)

Isabel Jackson was born on June 13, 1902 in New York City

At age 20 she became a General Assistant at the Brooklyn Public Library. 

She received her certificate from the Pratt Institute Library School in 1925.

After graduating from Pratt, Jackson entered NYPL as the Acting First Assistant at the Tompkins Square Branch, a position that was made permanent in 1926.  For two years, 1927-1929, she served as First Assistant at Seward Park.

Jackson then served as Branch Librarian at three busy branches:  Morrisania, 1929-1941; St. Agnes, 1941-1946; and Fordham, 1946-1953.  In 1954 she was named to be the first Borough Coordinator overseeing all the branches in the Bronx.  She held this position until 1961 when she retired from NYPL after 36 years.

At her retirement from NYPL she was hailed as “a remarkable and utterly devoted librarian, a book lady and a leader.”

Isabel Jackson retired to Vermont, where she had a farm, and died there in 1977.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Beulah Taylor was born 111 years ago on June 12th in Charleston SC.

Beulah Taylor graduated from Hollins College with a degree in English in 1924.  She then became a volunteer at the Charleston (SC) Library Society and was soon hired as an Assistant.  She left the public library to become an Assistant Librarian at the College of Charleston, 1927-1935.

While at the College, she took a leave of absence to get her BS from Columbia’s School of Library Service in 1932.

In 1936, Beulah (also known as Bee) Taylor married George Edward Sheetz and entered NYPL as Grade 3 assistant at the Seward Park Branch on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. 

Beulah T. Sheetz was promoted to be Branch Librarian at Epiphany in 1948-1949, then went back to Seward Park as Branch Librarian 1950-1954, and then returned to Epiphany until she retired in 1959.

After her retirement, she moved back to Charleston and once again worked at the Charleston Library Society until 1975.


Adele C. Martin was one of several NYPL librarians who were active in union activities and also served as a Branch Librarian.

Martin took the High School Teacher Course at the New Jersey State Normal School and then entered Wellesley College.  She received her BA from Wellesley in 1915.

Her career in librarianship began in 1920 when she started as a substitute at NYPL and also became a part-time student in the NYPL Library School.  She received her certificate in 1923 and was named First Assistant in the Extension Division.

Adele C. Martin remained in Extension for only a few months before she resigned to become an Assistant Librarian at the Hampton Institute Library, 1923-1924.  Martin then moved to the Westerly (RI) Public Library and gained more administrative experience working there until 1929. 

Martin was re-instated at NYPL in 1929 and became the Acting Branch Librarian at the now defunct Jackson Square Branch.  

Adele Martin headed the Muhlenberg Branch, 1930-1946.   This branch was just south of NYC’s garment district, and Martin worked closely with the nearby Needle Trades High School and with several textile unions.  Martin was a member of the NYPL Library Workers Union, Local 111, and wrote a report in 1943 suggesting opportunities for NYPL to work with trade unions.  Martin was also active in the Library Union Round Table of ALA. 

Martin also served as Chairman of the Metropolitan Library Council.  As she wrote in a 1941 issue of News and Views (a MLC newsletter) the group’s purpose was to unite library staff and users to “face the questions of the day which have a direct bearing upon library services, e.g., censorship, state and federal aid for libraries, tenure, unionization, etc.”

During the same period, Martin was also a member of the Progressive Librarians Council, a national group that was active during 1939-1944.  The PLC was alleged to be a Communist Party (USA) front group by the US government.

In 1947 Martin became the Branch Librarian at the busy Tremont Branch in the Bronx, and she retired in 1953.

Today would be Adele C. Martin’s 118th birthday.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Mildred E. Van Deusen studied Economics, Sociology and History at Mt. Holyoke College and received her BA in 1920.  She married Carl E. Mathews (1896-195?) in 1922 and entered library work in 1926 at the South Manchester (CT) Public Library.

Mildred E. Mathews entered the NYPL Training Class in 1929 and soon was appointed to an entry-level position in NYPL’s Circulation Department.  She also graduated from Columbia University’s School of Library Service in 1931.

Mildred Mathews early work at NYPL was as a Reference & School specialist.  In 1933 her supervisor at the Hunt’s Point Branch praised Mathews’ reference work as “a rare combination of personal poise and charm with professional competency.”  Mathews importance at NYPL, however,  was not as a reference specialist, but instead she made her mark in adult education and adult services.

Mildred V.D. Mathews was promoted to Branch Librarian at the Hamilton Grange Branch in 1936 and later headed the Yorkville Branch, 1944-1945.  In 1945-1946, Mathews served as head of the Reader’s Advisers Office. 

In 1946 Mathews became the first head of NYPL’s newly organized Office of Adult Services.  This was a significant new approach at NYPL.  Work with children and with schools had been systematized since 1906, but NYPL had never had a specialty focused on adults.  In 1945, the Chief of the Circulation Department reported that adult services “has always been an obvious weak spot in our organization”.  Mathews was chosen to organize the Adult Services unit in 1946 and held that position until her retirement in 1953. 

Soon after her retirement, Mathews and her husband took a freighter trip around the world.  When they returned they retired to Maine.  Mathews did resume library work at the School of Nursing Library at the Maine Medical Center, 1958-1970.

Today would be the 113th birthday of Mildred Mathews.