Saturday, October 1, 2011


Isabella M. Cooper had one of the most varied careers among the NYPL Branch Librarians.  She was a librarian, bibliographer, and library educator who worked in public, special, academic and federal libraries.  She was also unusually well-educated for her time.

Cooper graduated from the Emma Willard School in Troy NY in 1894.  She then entered what is now Teachers College to study elementary education.   She received a BA from Barnard College in 1901.  Cooper entered the NYPL Training Class in 1904 and later got her BLS from the New York State Library School in 1908.  She later returned to Teachers College and got an MA in 1912-- making her the first librarian in this study to earn a Master’s degree.

Isabella Cooper worked at NYPL in 1904-1907, 1908-1909, 1916-1920, and 1921-1924.  During the last two of these periods she served as head of the Central Circulation branch.

In between these stints at NYPL, Cooper worked at the Newark Public Library (1909-1910), taught at the Simmons College library school ((1910-1913), and worked for the Brooklyn Public Library (1913-1915) and the American Committee for Devastated France (1920-1921).  She later worked for the Queens Borough Public Library, McGraw-Hill, the Works Progress Administration, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the New-York Historical Society.  As a freelancer, Cooper produced bibliographies on References to Beer and Ale (1937) and Educational Broadcasting (1942).

When Cooper left NYPL for the last time in 1924, she became the editor of the A.L.A. Catalog, the second update of ALA’s original 1904 annotated list used by librarians to select the best books.  Cooper’s 1926 edition included 10,000 titles that would be of interest to public library users looking for current fiction and non-fiction.  The ALA Catalog was probably the most significant of Cooper’s contributions to the library profession.

Today would be Isabella M. Cooper’s 137th birthday.

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