Wednesday, July 6, 2011
ZAIDEE C. GRIFFIN (1866-1948)
Zaidee Griffin was the long-time head of NYPL’s Webster Branch during the period that the branch flourished as a community center for the Czech and Slovak population in its Upper East Side neighborhood. In fact, Webster was often referred to as the “Bohemian Branch.”
Griffin studied librarianship at the 1901 Amherst Summer School of Library Economy. In the Fall she entered the NYPL Training Class and joined the Webster Free Library Society in 1902 where she worked with teachers in the neighborhood. Griffin became an NYPL staff member in 1904 when the Webster Free Library consolidated with NYPL. Soon thereafter, Griffin took a leave of absence to attend Pratt Institute and returned to NYPL in 1905 after getting her library degree. In 1906 she was appointed as Branch Librarian of the Webster Branch and served there until be retirement in 1939. She lived in the Webster neighborhood on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and worked closely with the Czech community.
Griffin’s appointment to head Webster came just a week after the branch’s new Carnegie-funded building opened. The third floor contained the Czechoslovak Department which started with a collection of 1500 volumes, half of them donated by cultural organizations in the neighborhood. The library, under Griffin’s leadership, often hosted meetings by Bohemian clubs and English-language classes provided by the YMCA. Aside from its book collection, the branch also sponsored lectures, concerts, and exhibits and other services for the Czech population throughout New York City.