Sunday, May 29, 2011


Alice O’Connor was a much beloved children’s librarian at NYPL and her connections to the profession originated in childhood.  She grew up in Hartford CT and as a child was a member of the Agassiz Club, a children’s book group organized by Caroline Hewins, one of the pioneering children’s librarians in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.      

O’Connor was a member of the first class of the NYPL Library School and received her two-year degree in 1913.  She worked as a children’s librarian in four NYPL branches, 1913-1923.

O’Connor took a leave of absence in 1920-1921 to work with the American Committee for Devastated France.  There she organized and directed a new children’s library in Soissons, France.

Two years after her return to NYPL Alice O’Connor was appointed Branch Librarian at the Seward Park Branch but had to resign the following year to return to Hartford to care for her ailing mother.   She did resume her career by becoming the head librarian of the Farmington (CT) Public Library, 1924-1928.

Alice K. O’Connor died in Hartford at the age of 42 after a serious illness. 


Today would be Charlotte Hubach’s 119th birthday.  Charlotte Hubach was born in Brooklyn NY of German parents.  She graduated from Girls High School in Brooklyn but had no college education.   

Hubach received her library training in the Brooklyn Public Library Training Class in 1911 and worked at BPL until 1919.  Hubach spent the following eight years working in special libraries.

Hubach entered NYPL in 1928 as First Assistant at the St. George Branch, 1928-1933, but she spent the rest of her career at two branches—Yorkville and Ottendorfer--in German neighborhoods.  She was Acting Branch Librarian at Ottendorfer, 1933-1948 and Branch Librarian there until her retirement in 1957.

Given her German background, the outbreak of war in Europe caused Hubach a range of emotions between optimism and despair.  In 1939 she was optimistic that the refugees from Europe provided “a wonderful opportunity here as librarians to sell America and the idea of a democratic state to these bewildered people.”  In her 1941 annual report, written the day that Germany declared war on the US, she described the war as “a bitter personal blow”.  Yet at war’s end, she rejoiced at the interaction with one former user who returned to the branch after serving in the Army.  He “paid us a high tribute when he said, ‘while I froze in my foxhole in Germany I often thought of the three nicest, friendliest places I knew—Home, Nick’s Poolroom, and the Library!’”

The young veteran had brought Hubach’s optimism to the fore again.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Pauline Leipziger started working as a librarian at the Aguilar Free Library Society in 1889 and became head librarian of the AFLS in 1892.  She held that position until NYPL absorbed the AFLS in 1903. 

Pauline Leipziger’s position within NYPL was a subject of negotiation in 1903 upon consolidation and again upon her retirement in 1917.

The Leipziger family had been heavily involved in the AFLS, and its loss of independence was difficult for them, especially for Pauline’s brother, Henry M. Leipziger, who had been an officer of the AFLS since 1886.  Commenting on the consolidation, Jacob Schiff wrote to Henry Leipziger, “I can well imagine with how much of a pang you are surrendering your cherished child, the Aguilar Free Library, to the care of others.”  Henry Leipziger also sought to assure the proper care of his sister by NYPL.  He sought to solidify his sister’s position.

Usually upon consolidation, the heads of the free library branches became the head librarian of the corresponding NYPL branch.  The AFLS insisted that Pauline Leipziger remain in charge of all four AFLS branches, and this was accommodated by giving her the title of Inspector of the Aguilar branches.  The Library’s Director, John Shaw Billings, however, ended the arrangement within months.  In 1904 she was named Branch Librarian at the 58th Street Branch and served there until her retirement in 1917.

Pauline Leipziger’s retirement from the Library also had to be negotiated.  Starting in 1912, Leipziger missed significant time due to illness and the Library’s Medical Officer described her as suffering “general debility and weariness” in 1914. As her condition worsened, and as she cared for a dying brother, it became a difficult situation for both Leipziger and the Library.  Finally in 1917, after some negotiation, NYPL offered her a retirement allowance and she agreed to resign her position. 

Today would have been Pauline Leipziger’s 153rd birthday.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Sarah M. Miller graduated from Elmira College in 1932 and got her BS in library science from Columbia University in 1933.  In 1940, Galvan married Fernando F. Galvan (ca. 1915-1983), who was a journalist.
Sarah Miller started at NYPL in 1934 and worked as a substitute until 1936.  At NYPL she worked primarily as a School & Reference Librarian with a specialty in Latin American literature.  Drawing upon these two specialties, she authored a 1942 bibliography, Background Readings on Latin America: A Reading List for High School Students.  Sarah M. Galvan served as head of the Kingsbridge Branch, 1944-1947.  She resigned in 1947 when her husband became a Latin American correspondent for the Voice of America. 

Sarah M. Galvan died in Alexandria VA in 1996.

RAE STOCKHAM (1883-1971)

Rae Stockham was one of the NYPL librarians who had an important career in an academic library prior to coming to NYPL.  See my previous post on NYPL librarians who also worked in academic libraries.
Stockham was born in Iowa and graduated from Drake University in 1907.  After teaching high school for a year she became an assistant in the Drake University Library in 1908.  She left Iowa to get a certificate from the New York State Library School.  She returned to Drake to be head librarian in 1910 and left again in 1920 to finish her BLS at the NY State Library School.    

Stockham started at NYPL in 1921.  She served as branch Librarian of the Tremont Branch, 1924-1944, and George Bruce Branch, 1944-1948.  After her retirement in 1948 she also worked as a cataloger at the Latin American Institute and as a librarian at the New York Society Library and returned to Iowa in 1957.

May 25th would be the 128th birthday of Rae Stockham.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Ellen FitzSimons was perhaps destined to be a successful librarian.  She was named after and inspired by her aunt, Ellen Milliken FitzSimons (1867-1953), who was the first female librarian in South Carolina. 

Before coming to New York, FitzSimons worked for two years at the Kennedy Free Library in Spartanburg SC.  She did not have a college degree but received her BA from New York University while working at NYPL.  Likewise, her certificate from Columbia’s School of Library Service came while FitzSimons was working at NYPL.

Ellen FitzSimons was unusual in that she spent her entire NYPL career working at a single branch--Central Circulation.   This unit was not in a residential neighborhood but was located in the Library’s landmark Central Building on Fifth Avenue.  It was the largest branch and served users from all parts of the City as well as the many office workers and businesses located in midtown Manhattan.  Central Circulation was also noted for its service to the many authors who used its collections. 

Ellen FitzSimons started working in Central Circulation in 1932 as a substitute.  She became the head librarian in 1949 and held that position until she retired in 1962.  Perhaps due to her Southern roots, FitzSimons was described as “folksy” and was said to have a small town manner.  Indeed, her retirement plan was to sit on the porch of her family farm in Hendersonville NC.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Regina Anderson Andrews was the first of three African-American women who headed an NYPL branch before 1950. 
Regina Anderson was born in Chicago and attended both the University of Illinois and Wilberforce University.  She obtained library experience at the Hyde Park High School, the Chicago Public Library, Wilberforce University, and the Zenia (OH) Public Library.

She came to NYC in 1923 and was soon hired to be a substitute at the 135th Street Branch in Harlem.  By 1920 the neighborhood around 135th Street had become predominantly African-American, and NYPL installed Ernestine Rose, who was white, to head the 135th Street Branch.  Rose’s mandate was to create an inter-racial staff and serve the growing African-American community.  Andrews was probably the fifth librarian of color hired by Rose.  Until 1924, this was also the only branch were librarians of color were allowed to work.    

In 1926, Regina Anderson married William T. Andrews, Jr., a Harlem lawyer and political leader.

Regina Andrews became NYPL’s first African-American to be promoted to First Assistant in 1930, at the Rivington Street Branch.  She was finally appointed Branch Librarian at the 115th Street Branch in 1938 after W.E.B. DuBois interceded on her behalf with Library administrators.

Andrews also served as Branch Librarian at the Washington Heights Branch, 1948-1966.  There she was noted for developing Family Night, a program which encouraged family groups to attend discussions at the Library.  As Andrews wrote in ALA’s Top of the News (Vol. 10, pages 31-33) “It is our way in the Library of saying, ‘Come, meet your neighbor, and talk over with him those problems of living, working and playing together which, when frankly approached, will help to establish a well integrated community.’”

Regina Andrews is also remembered for her connection to the Harlem Renaissance.  She opened her home to artists, writers and intellectuals.  She also had her own role in the intellectual ferment as a playwright, actor, and supporter of the Harlem theater movement.

Prof. Ethelene Whitmire is writing a full biography of Regina Andrews, and I recommend her blog on Andrews. 

Today would be Regina Andrews 110th birthday.


Corinne Doughty (also listed as E. Corinne) was one a small group of volunteers who began working in November 1887 to create the Cathedral Free Circulating Library.  The group also included her cousin, Leonora Hinsdale, Anna Wallace, and Mary O’Meara all of whom eventually became NYPL Branch Librarians.  Except for a stint at the Aguilar Free Library Society, 1897-1900, Corinne Doughty volunteered or worked for the Cathedral Free Library from its opening in 1888 until it consolidated with NYPL in 1905.

Between 1907 and her death in 1933, she headed the Epiphany, West 40th Street and Columbus Branches of NYPL.

For much of her adult life Douyghty lived with Leonora Hinsdale, her cousin, and for several decades Mary Griffin, also a librarian at NYPL, was part of the household.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Irene Patjens was born Irene L. Johnson on May15th in Michigan, and her name was changed when her mother married her second husband, Henry (or Heinrich) Patjens.
Patjens received her BS in Library Science from the University of Washington in 1928.  For the next three years she worked as a children’s librarian at the Deschutes County Public Library in Bend, Oregon.

In 1931, Irene Patjens came to NYPL as a substitute in the Central Children’s Room.  By 1940 she has risen to be the First Assistant at the Mott Haven Branch.  Starting in 1944, she served as the Branch Librarian at Woodstock, 125th Street and 96th Street branches.  She retired in 1963.

In 1932, Irene L. Patjens married T.E.R. Singer (1902-1966) who was also a librarian.  Over the next 31 years at NYPL she used both her maiden and her married name, although Patjens was most commonly used. 

Today would be Irene Patjens 105th birthday.

Monday, May 16, 2011


In a previous post on marital status, I identified three patterns in the first decade of the NYPL Circulation Department (CD):  the one married man stayed employed, single women quit NYPL to be married, and the only married women to head branches were widows.

The second decade saw a continuation of these patterns but also one significant change regarding marital status.      

Starting in 1913, NYPL wanted to install men as Branch Librarians and three were hired.  All three were married while working for NYPL.  Although this experiment was regarded as a failure and the three men had left NYPL by 1917, the initial pattern of married male librarians was confirmed. 

Likewise, at least two women, and probably three, resigned as branch heads at the time they got married. 

But, 1913 also saw one significant change.  Ida Lowther Molnar, who had been a Branch Librarian for eight years, was married that year.  She not only remained employed but NYPL selected her to be the first Branch Librarian at the newly opened Melrose Branch.  Two years later Gertrude Foster Hamilton also married and remained as a Branch Librarian.  Alison Baigrie Alessios, who had been a Branch Librarian since 1911, married in 1916 and stayed employed.  

Given the few married women librarians, one must ask whether the Library discouraged married women from being the head of a branch.  Little direct evidence has been found so far.  Alison Alessios, however, was concerned enough about this being the case that she had asked the Chief of the CD about it before she was married and even after being reassured had an intermediary inquire again on her behalf.  The Library’s reply in both instances was that it did not discriminate against married librarians.

t also is possible that the Branch Librarians themselves preferred other single women in the role.  The Branch Librarians were at the apex of their autonomy in terms of choosing which librarians would be hired or promoted.  More analysis will be required to determine if this was a factor.

We can say that through 1920, of the 70 women librarians who had headed a branch only the three mentioned above were married while in NYPL’s employ, but all four of the male Branch Librarians in that period were married.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Anita M. Allen received her BS in Library Science from Simmons College in 1915. She then worked in the Simmons College Library, 1915-1918.  At some point during this period, she also was a library organizer in Maine.

Anita Allen joined NYPL in 1918 as an Assistant Branch Librarian in the Extension Division on Staten Island and the following year was promoted to Branch Librarian of the St. George Branch.  In 1925 she resigned this position to marry Clarence Russell Irwin (1893-1963) and they had a son, Fred Allen Irwin, in 1929.  At this point I lose track of the family. 

The NYPL Archives, however, does have one more trace of Anita A. Irwin as a librarian.  In 1946, the ALA Personnel Department circulated a list of registered job seekers looking for work in the New York City area.   That list was sent to NYPL, and Anita Irwin is among the job seekers.  At that time she was working at the US Naval Hospital Library in St. Albans, Queens, NY.

Today would be Anita Allen Irwin’s 108th birthday.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Edith Vermeule joined NYPL in 1905, one year out of high school, and worked her way up to be First Assistant at the Seward Park Branch.  She resigned in 1917 to attend the Pratt Institute library school.  Upon her graduation in 1918, she took a series of positions around the US:  Field Secretary for Maryland Public Library Commission, 1918-1919; head of reference for the Rosenberg Library in Galveston, Texas, 1919-1921; and head of the Yesler Branch of the Seattle Public Library, 1921-1923.

Vermeule returned to NYPL in 1923 and was promoted in 1928 to head the Fordham Branch, a position she held until her retirement in 1946.

Vermeule’s well-written annual reports at Fordham often reflected on the relationship between the library and the public.  In 1941, amid what she characterized as “plunging circulation”, she worried that “our future is problematical.”  Vermeule lamented that “libraries have made no vital connection with John Public’s daily life.  One reason might be the prevailing feminine influence in the choice of books.”  She speculated that an unmarried woman, such as herself, might not be able to select books that men would find interesting.  Vermeule predicted that changes were coming to librarianship.  

Although the transition would be slow, gender changes were coming to NYPL.   For the first time since 1917, the Library had started hiring male librarians, although none of them would become head of a branch until 1949.

Today would be the 125th birthday of Edith F. Vermeule.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Julia Elizabeth True was born in Maine on May 8, 1849 and married William Augustus Durnett in 1865.  Her husband died sometime between 1870 when their daughter was born and 1880 when the census lists her as a widow.  Julia Durnett then supported herself and her daughter by working as a music teacher. 

In 1894 Durnett began a cataloger at the Aguilar Free Library Society (AFLS) the same year her daughter, Elizabeth (Bessie) Durnett Shumway, was married. 

Julia E. Durnett joined NYPL in 1903 when the AFLS was absorbed into the system.  Two years later she was promoted to head the Port Richmond Branch on Staten Island and worked there until her retirement in 1917 at the age of 69. 

Elizabeth D. Shumway, who became a widow in 1899, became an NYPL librarian in 1906 and for a short time followed her mother as head of the Port Richmond Branch.  She resigned to become a librarian in Pelham and later Buffalo, NY.  Julia Durnett lived with her daughter in retirement and died Buffalo in 1929. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Margaret Markovics came to the United States from Hungary with her mother at the age of six. 

She first studied librarianship at Washington Irving High School, where the instructor was Louise P. Fritz, a former NYPL Branch Librarian.  Markovics was appointed to Grade D, an entry level position, at NYPL upon her high school graduation in 1917.  She later took extension classes at Hunter College and received her certificate from the NYPL Library School in 1922.

Although she was described as one of the “best Senior Assistants” in 1922, she had a slow rise to become the head of a branch.  That delay was the result of limits that the City of New York imposed on promotions during the difficult budget years of the Great Depression and then World War Two. 

Markovics changed her name to Margaret Marks in 1941.

Margaret Marks served as acting head of the Westchester Square Branch, 1942-1948.  She was finally promoted to full Branch Librarian in 1949 at the Tompkins Square Branch and retired in 1954.

In her annual reports at Westchester Square, Marks recorded the ethos of many public librarians.  As she described it in 1943: “we never turn a reader away without putting him on the trail of his book or questions.”  Two years later she rephrased it, adding the financial consequences of the approach: “Our rule is never to allow a reader to leave without an answer to his question.  Our telephone bill tells the tale.” 

May 7th would be the 113th birthday of Margaret Markovics Marks.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

IDA MALAMUD (1898-1992)

Ida Malamud was the second Jewish librarian to be hired by NYPL and promoted to Branch Librarian. 

It is somewhat difficult to trace her early years.  On her naturalization petition, she stated that she was born in Kishinev, Russia, and entered the United States in 1903 under the name of Lisa Klein.  There is a ship passenger list that seems to confirm this.  It is likely that both her emigration to the US in August 1903 and her use of a different name were tied to the notorious April 1903 pogrom in Kishinev. 

Ida Malamud started at NYPL in 1926 and joined the NYPL Training Class a year later.  In 1931-1932 she took a leave of absence to work at the American Library in Paris and then returned to NYPL.  In 1934, Malamud began working part-time in order to attend the Pratt Institute library school and graduated from Pratt in 1935.  In 1950 she was finally promoted to be a Branch Librarian.  She retired from NYPL in 1963. 

Like other NYPL librarians, Malamud went to an academic library after leaving NYPL.  See my earlier post on this general topic .  Malamud ended her career as a reference librarian at Yeshiva University.  A co-worker at YU recalled Malamud: "I remember her fondly as a very stately and fine woman who was very helpful to the students and faculty."

Today would be the 113th birthday of Ida Malamud.


Hedwig M. Goeks was born in Germany, came to US in 1888, entered the New York Free Circulating Library in 1890 and eventually headed the Muhlenberg and Ottendorfer branches of the NYFCL.  After the NYFCL consolidated with NYPL in 1901, Goeks remained in charge of the Ottendorfer Branch (which served Manhattan’s German community).  In 1905 she was transferred to the Mott Haven Branch in the Bronx and headed that branch until 1919.  She then transferred to be Branch Librarian at the Epiphany Branch and retired in 1920. 

These job details obscure the fact that Goeks career was an example of how the Library dealt with (or avoided dealing with) difficult staff members.

In January 1919 Franklin F. Hopper became the third Chief of NYPL’s Circulation Department.   He immediately was faced with complaints from two staff members at Mott Haven who reported that Goeks “rules by a kind of arbitrary Germanic force”.  Hopper found that many assistants refused to work under her and also that Goeks had alienated many users in the neighborhood.   Hopper considered demoting her but recognized that no Branch Librarian would accept her on their staff.  Instead Goeks was transferred to be Branch Librarian at the Epiphany Branch, in a less busy neighborhood.  Within months, Hopper received a letter from six users of Epiphany complaining about Goeks and labeling her a “persona non grata”.   After some negotiation, Goeks agreed to retire with an allowance of $85 per month, reported to be the largest ever given by the Library.

Unfortunately for Goeks that was not the end of the story.  In 1932, the foundation that annually donated money to NYPL to pay for retirement allowances was forced to reduce its gift.  NYPL in turn cut Goeks allowance.  Two years later, when another Branch Librarian was becoming “more and more undependable and erratic”, NYPL cut the allowance of four retirees (including Goeks) to free up money to support this new retiree.

Goeks’ career illustrates the degree to which NYPL felt an obligation to retain difficult or enfeebled librarians in the period before NYC librarians obtained guaranteed pensions.  It also illustrates the strains this paternalistic policy imposed on the Library, other staff members, and users.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Forrest B. Spaulding was one of the three men brought into the Circulation Department shortly before World War I to end the monopoly of women on the branch staff. 

Keyes Metcalf in his memoir Random Recollections of an Anachronism noted that Spaulding (a co-worker) had been expelled from several preparatory schools and had no college education.  Nonetheless, Spaulding started his library career working at the Newark Public Library, 1911-1912.   In 1912, he enrolled in the two-year program of the NYPL Library School and earned both a certificate (1913) and diploma (1914).

Forrest Spaulding joined the NYPL staff as a First Assistant at Jackson Square in 1913 and was promoted to Branch Librarian in 1914.  In 1916-1917 he headed the NYPL Traveling Library Department.  He then resigned and spent most of his career as head of the Des Moines (Iowa) Public Library. 

Among his accomplishments after leaving NYPL, Spaulding created the first Library Bill of Rights for the Des Moines Public Library (a year before ALA promulgated its own similar statement), and in 1939 he was mentioned as one of the candidates for the Librarian of Congress vacancy. 

Spaulding is one of several prolific authors in my study.  I have identified 26 articles he wrote for the professional literature, 1920-1948.  Many of his articles focused on the library profession, administration, federal libraries and federal aid to libraries.   In addition, he edited Library Logic a publication of Gaylord Brothers, 1924-1926.

On reflection, Keyes Metcalf concluded that Spaulding “was an unusually good example of how a man interested in books but with comparatively little formal education could become a very useful librarian.”

Today would be Spaulding’s 119th birthday.


Hannah Ellis was a pioneering children’s librarian before coming to NYPL.  She began her career in Wisconsin in 1900 and twice enrolled in summer courses at the University of Wisconsin library school.  In 1907 she moved to the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh as a children’s librarian and then became head of a branch which served users from 25 nations.  She also enrolled as a special student in Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library School, a pioneering school for the training of children’s librarians. 

Ellis came to NYPL in 1917 and almost immediately was appointed to head the Hamilton Fish Park Branch, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  She continued to work with children and young people but also focused on service to the foreign born.  Hannah C. Ellis retired in 1939. 

In 1920, Hannah Ellis spoke on a panel devoted to work with the foreign-born at the annual meeting of the NY Library Association.  Her words expressed the intense belief of many librarians in the importance of books, reading and libraries in American life.

Working in a library always swarming with young people, realizing that in a few years they will be the controlling influence in politics and industry makes us very serious in the matter; and the faith we have that in books may be found the wisdom and inspiration for solving many of the problems that this younger generation faces, gives us a feeling of great responsibility in our work of making the library significant during these years that are the heart of life.”

Today would be the 140th birthday of Hannah C. Ellis.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Elizabeth L. Kamenetzky applied for admission to the NYPL Library School in 1913, and the school’s records described her as being a “Russian Jewess.”   Throughout her 43 year career at NYPL, Kamenetzky worked in five different branches, and all of those branches served Jewish neighborhoods in either Manhattan or the Bronx.

Kamenetzky had been born in Vitebsk, Russia; came to the United States in about 1890; and was naturalized as a citizen in 1906.  She worked at the Newark (NJ) Public Library, 1907-1908 and received a certificate from the NJ State Normal School in 1910. 

Elizabeth Kamenetzky was one of only seven Jewish librarians to head a branch at NYPL, 1901-1950.  Five of those seven had entered NYPL in 1903 when it absorbed the Aguilar Free Library Society, a Jewish-run library system with four branches.  Kamenetzky was hired by NYPL in 1910, and when she was promoted to Branch Librarian in 1928 she became the first Jewish librarian to be both hired by NYPL and promoted to Branch Librarian.

May 2 would be the 123rd birthday of Elizabeth L. Kamenetzky.