Friday, November 9, 2012


Very little is known about the life of Anne or (Ann) Gibson except for the nine years she worked as a librarian in New York City.

Anne Gibson was born in Virginia and came to New York to live with her sister.  Their father was a physician.

Gibson was the head librarian of the St. Agnes Free Library from 1893 until 1901 when it consolidated with NYPL.  She served as head of NYPL’s St. Agnes Branch until 1902 when she took a leave of absence and never returned.

Anne L. Gibson was the aunt of Edwin White Gaillard who headed the Webster Free Library and then worked for NYPL.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


The annual reports of NYPL’s Branch Librarians are filled with descriptions of the latest ethnic change in their communities, and those observations were used to develop services and book collections for the new residents. 

Casindania Eaton used an earthquake-related metaphor to describe the librarians’ close scrutiny of new ethnic groups arriving in their neighborhoods, either through immigration or internal migration.  In her 1948 annual report for the Muhlenberg Branch in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, she wrote: “Chelsea does not change rapidly, but the Library, like a seismograph, is extremely sensitive, recording and responding to various undulations.” 

Eaton earned her BA in Library Science from Simmons College in 1929 and held three library positions in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania before joining NYPL in 1941.

Soon after her hiring, Eaton became an active officer of Local 111 of the United Public Workers Union, CIO.  Between 1943-1949 she served as chairman of the Union’s negotiating committee (bargaining on behalf of the maintenance workers and not librarians), President of the Professional and Clerical Council, Vice President of the Union, Chairman of the Organizing Committee, and Financial Secretary.

During this same time period, Eaton was promoted to be the Branch Librarian at the Muhlenberg Branch, one of NYPL’s busiest branches.  When Muhlenberg was closed for renovation in 1955, Eaton was transferred to head the Parkchester Branch.  In 1958 she was promoted to Coordinator of all Manhattan branches, a position she held until her retirement in 1972.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Edna Dixon had no known work experience prior to entering NYPL in 1906 at the age of 25.  She got her first library training in 1907 at the Summer Course offered by the New York State Library School.  She was promoted to be a First Assistant in 1910 and later took a leave of absence to attend the NYPL Library School, earning her two-year degree in 1917.  In 1921 Dixon was promoted to be the Branch Librarian at the Kingsbridge Branch and in 1923 transferred to head the Fort Washington Branch.

Dixon was a keen observer of the impact of World War II on both the adults and children in the Fort Washington neighborhood.

Her 1941 annual report recorded a drop in circulation but an influx of Jewish refugees who wanted books in English and never wanted to hear German spoken again.  The attack on Pearl Harbor, she feared, found the Library,  “peering into an opaque future.”

As the nation mobilized for war, Dixon commented that both men and women were using the Library less.  Men were being mobilized for military service, while many women were working in defence industries.  Whether intended or not, in 1942 Dixon pointed out the Library’s role in developing future Rosie-the-Riveters when she wrote, “The number of women who borrow technical books for their own use steadily increases as more and more women enter the war trades.”

Dixon worried about the impact of the war on children.  In 1942 she argued that children’s rooms “need to grow up a bit”.  She did not think that imaginative literature should be dropped but felt that “books of reality” were more appropriate to help children through war time.  The following year she was more explicit about the transformation of children’s reading interests.  “The children have suddenly outgrown the children’s room. … Their tastes may have matured … [and they] are unhappy if they cannot get books that stretch their minds.”

Edna Dixon retired in 1946, almost exactly one year after the end of the war.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

THERESA L. BLUMBERG (1876?-1927)

I have written several posts about the Library’s allowing aged and infirm librarians to continue working since they had no pensions to support themselves during retirement.  Theresa Blumberg was another example of this paternalistic approach when she became sick in her early forties, and the Library arranged to pay for her medical care and hospitalization.

Blumberg was born in Russia and came to the US in the mid-1880s.

She began working at the East Broadway Branch of the Aguilar Free Library Society (AFLS) in 1894.  She remained there when the AFLS consolidated with NYPL in March 1903.  Around the same time, Blumberg resigned to become the Librarian at the University Settlement House on the Lower East Side.  In January 1904 that library was also absorbed by NYPL, and Blumberg remained in charge until it was replaced by the new Rivington Street Branch in June 1905.  She also served as head of the Jackson Square and Tremont branches until 1917 when she was put on sick leave.

In 1914, the Library’s doctor suspected that Theresa Blumberg had tuberculosis.  In 1915, the Library excused her for an excess of 459 hours sick leave, and two years later her illness forced her to enter a sanitarium.  Blumberg’s brother was able to give her $800, and the Library put her on half pay ($60/month) with the money coming from by the Draper Fund, which the Director could draw upon to aid employees in need of assistance.

Blumberg was well enough to return to NYPL in 1919.  A year later she was made Acting Branch Librarian of the Bloomingdale Branch and then headed the Fort Washington Branch, 1921-1923. 

In 1923 Blumberg again became ill with TB.  Her brother also had TB and no longer had financial resources to assist her.  She was placed in a sanitarium at Saranac Lake at a cost was $125/month.  This was initially paid by contributions from Trustees and others formerly associated with the AFLS.  In 1924 the Draper Fund was again tapped to pay her expenses.

Theresa Blumberg never returned to work and died in June 1927.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

ANNA L. BURNS (1875-????)

After a rapid rise at NYPL, Anna Burns was appointed to one of the most prestigious assignments in the Circulation Department but resigned after only eight years at the Library.

Burns was born in New York and lived most of her life in Brooklyn.  She graduated from Packer Institute (a girls school in Brooklyn Heights) in 1894 and received a certificate from the Pratt Institute Library School in 1908.

Upon graduating from Pratt, Burns was appointed to a position at the Tompkins Square Branch.  Within months she was promoted to First Assistant at the branch.  In 1909 she took a leave of absence for unknown reasons, but she returned in February 1910 as head of the Hudson Park Branch.  In April 1911 Burns was tapped to head the Central Circulation Branch a month before it opened in the NYPL Central Building on Fifth Avenue.  This was regarded as the Library’s most important circulation unit, serving not only office workers and businessmen in midtown Manhattan but also authors and publishers.  It also was unusual in having a more male clientele than the neighborhood branches.  After registering 1,800 new users during the first two days of being open, Burns reported to the Director, Dr. John Shaw Billings, “The overwhelming predominance of men could not fail to be significant.”

In 1916 Burns resigned from NYPL, and the details of her employment history become less certain.  In 1918 she was named librarian at the Haskell & Sells accounting firm in NYC, and she worked there until at least 1927.  By 1934, Burns was heading a branch of the Queens Borough Public Library and retired from QBPL in 1941.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

REBECCA BLUMBERG (dates unknown)

Very little is known about Rebecca Blumberg.  In December 1892, she began working as an assistant in the Aguilar Free Library Society.  In 1902 she was promoted to be in charge of Aguilar’s 110th Street Branch and held that position until March 1903 when Aguilar was absorbed by NYPL.

After consolidation, Blumberg continued as head of NYPL’s Aguilar Branch, and she apparently resigned in December 1904.

The 1900 US Census has an entry for the family of Herman and Hanna Bloomberg, immigrants from Poland, who lived on East 82nd Street in Manhattan.  The family includes two daughters working as librarians —Rebecca born in 1876 and Sadie born in 1878.  It is possible that Rebecca Bloomberg is the same person as Rebecca Blumberg who was working for the Aguilar Free Library Society.