Sunday, July 31, 2011


Mary A. Saleski worked as a librarian for 21 years and as a college professor for 27 years.

Saleski was born in Germany and came to the US in 1881.  She graduated from Wesleyan University in 1900 with a BA in Classics and earned an MA from Columbia University in 1918.  In addition, Saleski received a doctorate from Leipzig University (in Germany) in 1929. 

After her graduation from Wesleyan University, Mary Saleski joined the New York Free Circulating Library in 1900.  She became an NYPL staff member in 1901 with the consolidation of the NYFCL.  Saleski took a leave of absence in 1902 to attend New York State Library School.  She returned to NYPL in 1904 as BL at the Tottenville Branch, and then headed the Aguilar, 125th Street, and Epiphany Branches. 

Saleski resigned from NYPL in 1921 and worked as a college professor at St. Lawrence University in New York and Bethany College in West Virginia.

Today would be Mark Saleski’s 133rd birthday.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Ruth A. Hill earned both a BA in Literature in 1928 and an MA in English in 1929 from Pembroke College (now part of Brown University).

Hill became a high school teacher for a year after graduation and then worked for two years at St. Dunstan’s College of Sacred Music.  In 1934 she joined the Providence (RI) Public Library Training Class and worked there until 1937.

At some point in the 1930s Ruth Hill married Oscar Helmut Hartenau (1905-1986) a banker who graduated from Brown University the same year that she graduated from Pembroke. 

She entered NYPL in 1937 and received her library degree from Columbia University in 1940.   In 1946 Ruth Hartenau was promoted to be the Branch Librarian at NYPL’s 58th Street Branch.  Hartenau resigned from NYPL in 1947 and I know little about her life after that point. 

Today would be Ruth H. Hartenau’s 104th birthday.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Augusta Markowitz was born in Hungary 130 years ago today and came to the US in 1885.  She became a naturalized citizen in 1891. 

Markowitz started library work in 1897 as a substitute in the Aguilar Free Library Society and became an NYPL staff member in 1903 when the AFLS merged with NYPL.  At NYPL she served as First Assistant at Avenue C (which had been one of the four AFLS branches) and Tompkins Square (the name of the new Carnegie building which replaced the Avenue C Branch). 

Markowitz was promoted to Branch Librarian in 1908 and headed the Hamilton Fish Park Branch (1908-1913) and the Woodstock Branch (1913-1944).   The latter served a Hungarian community during most of Markowitz’s tenure.

Augusta Markowitz was noted for building up the Hungarian collections at NYPL and also operated the non-commercial Hungarian Book Service, 1928-1948, which represented Hungarian publishers and produced annotated lists of new Hungarian books to help US libraries serve their Hungarian users.

In 1934 the Hungarian government gave Markowitz its Red Cross Award of Merit for her work promoting Hungarian literature.


In 1948, Ralph A. Beals, NYPL Director, sought to end the tradition that all NYPL children’s librarians were women, and he asked the Dean of the Pratt library school to recommend a man to work in that specialty.  The Dean thought of Howard F. Rickert, who had been employed at NYPL since graduating from Pratt in 1939.  The Dean wrote to Beals that Rickert “was not much of a student, but he has a marvelous manner in dealing with people.  Also he is devoted to NYPL, and I believe he would respond to the challenge this particular job would present.”

At the time Rickert was a First Assistant, and his previous work had been in adult services.  For whatever reason he did not become a children’s librarian. 

In May 1950 Howard Rickert was promoted to Branch Librarian.  This made him only the second man to head an NYPL branch since 1916.  Robert S. Ake had been the first in 1948.   Rickert went on to head three branches before he retired from NYPL in 1969.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

AMY VALENTINE (1873-1963)

The 1900 US Census lists Amy Valentine’s mother and father as farmers in Dutchess County, NY.  It did not list any employment for Amy, who at the time was 27 years old.

In 1902 Valentine’s father died and four months afterward she entered the NYPL Training Class and began working at NYPL.   Although she passed the exam to become a Branch Librarian in 1905, there was a long delay before she achieved that rank.  Valentine spent 25 years as a First Assistant at the Harlem and George Bruce Branches.  She was finally appointed to Branch Librarian at the Jackson Square Branch in 1930 and served there until she retired in 1941.

Today would be Amy Valentine’s 138th birthday.

Monday, July 25, 2011


On this day, 13 years after the end of the Civil War, Mary D. Pretlow was born on a Virginia plantation that had been owned by her family for more than 200 years.   When she died 81 years later, Pretlow was credited with many accomplishments including the desegregation of the public libraries in Norfolk, Virginia.

Pretlow left Virginia in the 1890s and joined the Riverside Branch of the New York Free Circulating Library in 1898.  She became an NYPL staff member when the NYFCL consolidated with NYPL in 1901.  In 1903 she was promoted to Branch Librarian and headed the Bond Street and Hudson Park Branches.  Pretlow went to the St. Louis Public Library in 1910 and for seven years headed two of its branches.

In 1917 Pretlow returned to Virginia as head of the Norfolk Public Library.  Over the next 30 years she supervised the opening of six new branches in the city.  One of them was the Blyden Branch (1921) which was the first municipally-supported library in Virginia to serve African-Americans.  Pretlow continued to promote service to African-American users and by the time of her retirement in 1947 all of the Norfolk Public Library buildings were open to users of all races. 

In 1961 Norfolk re-named one of its branches in honor of Mary Pretlow.


Margaret Wehler was one of the few NYPL Branch Librarians to be awarded a honorary degree by her college.

Wehler, an English major, was the valedictorian of the Class of 1918 at Hood College in Maryland.  After graduation she worked as a high school teacher in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. 

In 1922 Wehler went to France and earned a “diplome d'etudes” from the Sorbonne in 1923.  On her return to the US, she served as the head of the French Department at Sullins College in Bristol VA, 1923-1926.

In 1929 Wehler entered Columbia’s School of Library Service and began working at NYPL.  She spent most of her career in the Central Circulation Branch, serving as its head 1941-1943 and again 1945-1947.  In 1943-1945 and 1947-1949 Wehler served as Acting Supervisor of Branches.  In 1949 her position was made permanent, and in 1954 it was renamed as Assistant Chief of the Circulation Department.  Wehler retired in 1956.

In 1954 Hood College awarded Wehler an honorary Doctor of Letters degree for her work as a noted library administrator and distinguished alumna. 

Today would be Margaret Wehler’s 113th birthday.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


While there were some librarians who headed an NYPL branch and later served in the administrative offices of the Circulation Department (CD), Dorothy Goodrich did the reverse.  She worked in CD Administration for 18 years before being assigned to head a branch.

Dorothy Goodrich was born in Brantford Canada but grew up in Massachusetts, where her father was a professor of German at Williams College.  She was partially educated in Germany while her father studied there, 1901-1903.  She graduated from Williamstown (MA) High School upon her return and apparently did not attend college.

Goodrich took the one-year course at the NYPL Library School in 1912-1913 and then took a position at the Ferguson Library in Stamford CT.

In 1915 Goodrich returned to NYPL as an assistant and finished the second year of the NYPL Library School in 1916.  For one year she served as First Assistant at the Yorkville Branch and then transferred to become Secretary to the Chief of the Circulation Department.  In 1928 she was promoted to Executive Assistant for the CD, a position she held until 1935.  After 18 years working in CD administration, Goodrich was promoted to head the George Bruce Branch, a position she held until her retirement in 1944. 

Today would be the 127th birthday of Dorothy A. Goodrich.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

ZAIDEE C. GRIFFIN (1866-1948)

Zaidee Griffin was the long-time head of NYPL’s Webster Branch during the period that the branch flourished as a community center for the Czech and Slovak population in its Upper East Side neighborhood. In fact, Webster was often referred to as the “Bohemian Branch.”

Griffin studied librarianship at the 1901 Amherst Summer School of Library Economy.  In the Fall she entered the NYPL Training Class and joined the Webster Free Library Society in 1902 where she worked with teachers in the neighborhood.   Griffin became an NYPL staff member in 1904 when the Webster Free Library consolidated with NYPL.  Soon thereafter, Griffin took a leave of absence to attend Pratt Institute and returned to NYPL in 1905 after getting her library degree.  In 1906 she was appointed as Branch Librarian of the Webster Branch and served there until be retirement in 1939.   She lived in the Webster neighborhood on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and worked closely with the Czech community. 

Griffin’s appointment to head Webster came just a week after the branch’s new Carnegie-funded building opened.   The third floor contained the Czechoslovak Department which started with a collection of 1500 volumes, half of them donated by cultural organizations in the neighborhood.  The library, under Griffin’s leadership, often hosted meetings by Bohemian clubs and English-language classes provided by the YMCA.  Aside from its book collection, the branch also sponsored lectures, concerts, and exhibits and other services for the Czech population throughout New York City. 


Dorothy L. Cobb worked at NYPL for 44 years but twice her career at the Library languished.

Cobb graduated from the Savage School for Physical Education in 1921, apparently with the intention of becoming a physical education teacher.  While she studied at the Savage School, she started working for NYPL as a part-time substitute and then accepted a Grade 1 (entry level) position at the Library upon her graduation.  She remained in this entry level position for six years until she earned her library degree from Pratt Institute and was appointed to be head of the Columbia Sub-Branch.    In 1928, Cobb became the first head of the Bronx Bookmobile.  In 1930 she was promoted to be the First Assistant at the George Bruce Branch, but her career languished for the second time due to the limited promotional opportunities resulting from City budget cuts during the Depression. 

Cobb was finally promoted to Branch Librarian at the 125th Street Branch in 1941—she had been acting head since 1938.  She transferred to High Bridge in 1943 and then to St. Agnes in 1946.  She retired from the latter branch in 1965.

While the typical NYPL librarian changed apartments frequently, Dorothy Cobb lived at 110 Morningside Drive for at least 74 years, 1920-1994.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


While June had the birthdays of three women who were active unionists and also served as Branch Librarians, July’s first birthday has a different distinction.  July 2nd would be the 135th birthday of Charlotte H. Meade who was listed in the New York City Social Register during her entire 43 year career as a librarian.  Both Meade’s father and her mother’s father were Rear Admirals in the US Navy and the 1910 US census listed her mother (a widow) as having “her own income”  but no occupation.

Late in 1898, a year after her father Richard Worsam Meade III had died, Meade wrote to John Shaw Billings, Director of NYPL, and asked for a position in the Reference Department but was told there were no openings.  Instead she joined the New York Free Circulating Library in 1899 and was there in 1901 when it consolidated with NYPL.

Charlotte Meade was First Assistant at the George Bruce and St. Agnes branches before being promoted to Branch Librarian at the Aguilar Branch.  After two years at Aguilar she took a leave of absence for unknown reasons.  She returned to NYPL in 1911 and served as First Assistant at the St. George and 96th Street branches.  She was then promoted again to be Branch Librarian at St. George, 1912-1917, and then transferred as Branch Librarian at St. Agnes where she served until her retirement in 1941.

Meade was one of the half dozen early NYPL librarians who had articles published in the professional literature.  In September 1904 Library Journal published an extract from Meade’s promotion thesis which focused the reading choices of children of different ethnic groups.