Monday, August 29, 2011


Anna M. Wallace was one of a dozen Catholics who headed an NYPL branch, 1901-1950.

Anna Wallace had no higher education and no formal library training, but she and her sister Agnes were among a small group of volunteers who helped organize the Cathedral Free Library in 1887-1888.  Agnes became head librarian for the CFL, which eventually grew to have five branches.  Anna was promoted to head the Amsterdam Avenue Branch in 1902.  The CFL consolidated with NYPL as of January 1, 1905.

Upon consolidation, Agnes left to become a public school teacher.  Anna continued to head the Amsterdam Avenue Branch until 1907 when it was replaced by a new Carnegie building and renamed Hamilton Grange.  Anna headed the Hamilton Grange Branch until her death in 1920.

Mary L. Wallace, niece of Anna and Agnes, joined NYPL in 1909 and initially worked under Anna Wallace at Hamilton Grange.  She was promoted to Branch Librarian in 1941.

Today would be Anna Wallace’s 153rd birthday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Elizabeth Foote received a BA in 1888 from Syracuse University and was the only NYPL Branch Librarian to earn a college degree prior to 1900.  She received her library degree in 1892 from the NY State Library School.  Beginning in 1891, she worked as a cataloger or organizer at seven public libraries in upstate New York and one academic library (Colgate University).   

In 1897 Melvil Dewey recommended Foote to Dr. John Shaw Billings, NYPL’s first Director, and she was hired as a Cataloger.  When the Circulation Department was formed in 1901 she became head of the Library’s Training Class.  Foote’s position at NYPL changed when Edwin Anderson became Assistant Director in 1908.  He was known for building strong library staffs and advised Billings that Foote was not the best person to attract good candidates to the Training Class.  She was finally moved out of that position in 1911 when the NYPL opened its own Library School.   At that time she was appointed Branch Librarian at the 125th Street Branch.

Foote liked working with foreign populations and was interested in the issue of Americanization of immigrants.  Nonetheless, she rejected a transfer to the Seward Park Branch, which served a largely Jewish population, since she felt that she could not “understand the foreign language or the foreign character” of that community.

This lack of understanding perhaps had its roots in her religious beliefs.  Foote, whose father was a Methodist minister, was active in summer evangelical campaigns in NYC.  She also wrote three pamphlets on church libraries: The Librarian of the Sunday School (1897), Strengthening the Sunday School Library (1903), and The Church Library (1931). 

In 1916 Foote was put in charge of the Aguilar branch which ironically had been the headquarters of the Aguilar Free Library, a Jewish-run library until it consolidated with NYPL in 1903.  In 1920 she was transferred out of Aguilar on the grounds that the conditions in the branch “have been exceedingly unsatisfactory.” 

A few months later E.L. Foote resigned from NYPL and became the head librarian at the Drew Theological Seminary in New Jersey.  That lasted only two years until she resigned in the midst of a dispute over her authority to run the library. 

Foote returned to the Syracuse area and received an MA from Syracuse University in 1924.  She continued to live in Syracuse and remained be active in religious undertakings. 

Today would be the 145th birthday of Elizabeth L. Foote.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Frances L. Westover (also known as Helen Westover) graduated from the Lewis Institute in 1903.  This Chicago school was regarded as one of the first junior colleges in the US, and it merged with the Armour Institute in 1940 to create today’s Illinois Institute of Technology.

It’s not clear what she did during the next few years, but she was working for the Chatham (NY) Public Library in 1909-1910.

Frances Westover entered NYPL in 1910 and was quickly promoted to First Assistant the following year.  In 1919 she was promoted to Branch Librarian at Staten Island’s Tottenville Branch, which was regarded as a minor branch in the NYPL system.  Starting in 1924, Westover spent her time working with the ethnic populations on Manhattan’s Lower East Side as the Branch Librarian of the Tompkins Square (1924-1927) and Seward Park branches (1927-1946).

After her retirement in 1946 she moved upstate to Spencertown NY where she lived for the rest of her life.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Dorothy L. Hull is another Branch Librarian whose career combined both teaching and librarianship.

In 1914 she received an AB in English and Music from Mount Holyoke College, following in the footsteps of her mother who had graduated from there in 1880.

After graduation, Hull moved to Baltimore to take special classes at the Peabody Conservatory of Music while also teaching piano at the Hannah More Academy in Reistertown MD.  Afterwards, she did a short teaching stint in Cuba and then became a piano teacher at the Lakewood School for Girls. 

Dorothy Hull entered NYPL in 1922 and earned her certificate in librarianship from Pratt Institute in 1925.  In 1927 Hull left NYPL to become the librarian at the Horace Mann School for Girls (a private school in the Bronx).  She returned to NYPL in 1929 and was promoted to Branch Librarian in 1932.  She was the head of four branches prior to her retirement in 1954.

In her early years at NYPL Hull was twice able to incorporate her teaching experience directly into her NYPL work.  First, her specialty before becoming a Branch Librarian was in Reference and School Work.  Second, in 1930-1932 she was detached from the Stapleton Branch to serve as the head of NYPL’s Training Class. 

Today would be Dorothy Hull’s 122nd birthday.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Regina S. Sludock received a BA from Queens College in 1942.  She immediately began work at NYPL and also entered Columbia’s School of Library Service.  She received her MLS from Columbia in 1945 and the following year was named as the Acting Branch Librarian of the Cathedral Branch.  This branch was originally part of the Catholic-run Cathedral Library Association which consolidated with NYPL in 1905.  Today the branch is known as the Terence Cardinal Cooke-Cathedral Branch. 

Sludock was promoted to Branch Librarian at Cathedral in 1948 and headed that branch until 1956.  Over the next 22 years she also headed the Library for the Blind and the Epiphany, Fordham and Kips Bay branches until her retirement in 1978.

In her 1948/49 annual report for the Cathedral Branch, Sludock wrote about a young woman who “asked for material on Communism,” after confessing “that she thought she might be one and not know it, there was so much to-do about Communism in the papers, on the radio, etc.”  The young woman wanted to learn about Communism, not just read something “for or against” it.  The Cathedral staff gave her a copy of Marx’ Communist Manifesto, and Sludock wrote that the woman “went off quite satisfied.”  After initially being pleased with this reference transaction, the NYPL librarians had second thoughts about it.  Sludock worried that “having unconsciously been a Communist in the past, our young woman became one consciously, stirred to action by the call of the Manifesto, all with the connivance of the Cathedral Branch, of all places.”

In 2010 Regina Sludock was receiving her pension from NYPL and today would be her 90th birthday. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Louise P. Fritz, whose mother was a school teacher, started her career as a teacher, then became a librarian, and finally found a position that combined the two professions.

Louise Fritz attended the New York College for the Training of Teachers (now Teachers College) in 1889-1890 and then joined the College’s faculty as an Instructor in the Model School. 

She left teaching in 1903 to enter the Pratt Institute library school and received her certificate from Pratt in 1904. 

In 1905, Fritz entered NYPL as an assistant and within four months was promoted to be First Assistant at the Harlem Branch.  In 1906 she was promoted to be Branch Librarian at the Stapleton Branch.  It is likely that these two rapid promotions were due to her educational credentials, which were rare for NYPL librarians at the time. 

Fritz took a leave of absence from NYPL in 1908 and never returned.  She went to Washington Irving High School where she became the Instructor of Library Practice.  She held that position until 1936.  At least one of her high school students, Margaret Markovics, went on to become a Branch Librarian at NYPL.

Today would be the 142nd birthday of Louise P. Fritz.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Winifred Gambrill earned her library degree in 1927 from Columbia’s School of Library Service and she entered NYPL that Fall.  Within two years she became an Acting First Assistant and in 1930 was promoted to that level permanently.  Nevertheless, the Depression slowed her rise to Branch Librarian.

Gambrill served as the Acting Branch Librarian at the Morrisania Branch in 1941-1946 before finally being promoted to be Branch Librarian at the Fort Washington Branch.   At Fort Washington, she was praised for building a wide-ranging book collection.   Her approach to librarianship was to promote reading more than group or community work.  Her annual report for 1948/49 noted that Fort Washington circulation had risen for the second year in a row and argued that “the emphasis here must be on keeping the wheels turning smoothly rather than on programs and ‘activities’.” 

Gambrill married Ralph Carruthers, the long time head of the Photographic Services Division of the NYPL Reference Department, who had been her classmate at Columbia in 1927. 

Winiftred Gamrill retired from NYPL in 1966.