Monday, November 5, 2012
EDNA ADELIA DIXON (1881-1966)
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.