Sunday, September 11, 2011


Frederick Goodell started working as a page in the Detroit Public Library in 1902.  In 1906 he was head of reference but left to attend the University of Michigan.  He dropped out of college during his first year due to health issues.  Goodell returned to DPL in 1907 but resigned in 1912 to attend the NYPL Library School. 

In 1913, as Goodell entered his second year of library school, he was appointed to be the First Assistant at the Hamilton Fish Park Branch and was soon promoted to Branch Librarian.  He later headed the Seward Park and Epiphany Branches.  He resigned in 1916 to return to Detroit.

Goodell’s short tenure at NYPL illustrates some of the gender tensions faced by the library profession and NYPL in the early twentieth century. 

When Goodell applied for admission to the NYPL Library School, two of his reference letters were from administrators at the Detroit Public Library and both commented on gender issues.  One, by a woman, pointedly described Goodell as “manly” while a second from the male Assistant Librarian recommended him to NYPL because he “would profit considerably from some hard professional training and at least temporary removal from the feminine friendliness of our staff.”  

Indeed, Goodell did “profit” from working at NYPL.  He was promoted quicker and was paid more than most of the female Branch Librarians.   At the start of the his second year in library school he was hired at the First Assistant level and the following month was promoted to Branch Librarian.  His rise was exceptionally rapid as was the increase in his salary—in a short period of time it went from $75 to $110/month, higher than 80% of the women Branch Librarians.  Keyes D. Metcalf’s memoir Random Recollections of an Anachronism  (Readex, 1980; page 130) cited this as an example of how women were discriminated against in the NYPL Circulation Department.

After leaving NYPL Goodell worked for the ALA Library War Service, 1917-1920.  He then enrolled in the University of Detroit Law School and graduated in 1924.  Goodell practiced law in Detroit for the next 38 years.  In 1962-1965 he served as Librarian/Administrator of the Detroit Bar Association and wrote a column about the library’s holdings for the Association’s newsletter. 

Today would be Frederick Goodell’s 126th birthday.

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