Saturday, December 10, 2011

IRMA HORAK ERATH (1890-1953)

Irma Horak was born in the United States of parents from Germany, and she married William Erath, a German-born chemist, in 1923.  She maintained the connection to Germany by making at least six trips to that country with either her mother or her husband between the two world wars.

Horak joined the NYPL Training Class in 1903 when she was 18.  By 1911 she was promoted to be a Branch Librarian and over the next 35 years headed five branches.  She worked primarily at Staten Island branches, where she lived.  Erath retired in 1946 as head of the St. George Branch, the most important library center on the island.

The Branch Librarians were given a fair amount of autonomy and that may account for the fact that in the late 1920s and early 1930s Irma Erath negotiated directly with the Staten Island Borough President on the location, design and funding of the proposed West New Brighton Branch.  Her authority to deal directly with a political leader was probably reinforced by that fact that Erath was not just a librarian but was also a resident of the borough who was active in at least seven Staten Island civic organizations. 

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