Tuesday, December 6, 2011
LUCIE BARBARA BOHMERT (1866-1941)
Lucie (also spelled Lucy) Bohmert is an example of the paternalism of the NYPL administration which was reluctant to force out those “undependable and erratic” librarians who lacked a pension plan to provide support in their old age.
Bohmert’s father was born in Germany, and Lucie Bohmert’s library career started in 1891 at the Ottendorfer Branch, which served a German neighborhood, of the New York Free Circulating Library. In 1899 Bohmert became head of the NYFCL 34th Street Branch. After the 1901 consolidation of the NYFCL into NYPL, Bohmert remained in place until 1908 when she became head of the St. Gabriel’s Park Branch, the new Carnegie building that replaced the 34th Street site. In 1918 she returned to the Ottendorfer Branch and served as Branch Librarian for 16 years.
In 1934, Franklin Hopper, Chief of the Circulation Department, reported that Bohmert “never has been equal to the position of branch librarian and for the past few years she has been becoming more and more undependable and erratic.” This is a remarkable assessment of someone who had been serving as a Branch Librarian for 35 years.
Later that year the financial hardships caused by the Great Depression forced the Library “to release Miss Bohmert of her responsibility.” In fact, she was one of only a dozen staff members who were put on furlough during the Depression. Even then the Library found private funds to create a small allowance equal to about one-third of Bohmert’s former salary.
It is notable that it took the exigencies of the Great Depression to remove an aging librarian who was regarded as ineffective. It would be three more years before the New York City librarians won a pension plan that provided them with a safety net.