Tag Archives: Librarians

The Elizabeth Jamison Hodges Papers Are Now Available

A draft of a title page of Hodges’ book, The Three Princes of Serendip, which can be found in the Elizabeth Jamison Hodges Papers in the Cambridge Room.

We are pleased to announce that the Elizabeth Jamison Hodges Papers, 1908-1999 are now available for research.

Elizabeth Jamison Hodges was born in Atlanta, Ga. in 1908 to William Lemmon Hodges and Elizabeth Jamison Hodges (1884-1980), the oldest of three children. Schooled in the Boston and New York areas, she graduated from Radcliffe College (A.B. 1931) and Simmons College (B.S. 1937). She was a librarian at the Boston Public Library (1937-1941), the Detroit Public Library (1941-1943), and at public libraries in Arlington, Watertown, Leominster, and Belmont, Mass. After World War II, following in her father’s footsteps (who was a major in the army), she was the Command Librarian for the Third Army in Germany, establishing libraries for American occupation troops. In the 1960s she travelled to Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) to collect material for two of her children’s books: The Three Princes of Serendip (New York 1964, illustrated by Joan Berg) and Serendipity Tales (New York, 1966, illustrated by June Atkin Corwin). She published two other children’s books: A Song for Gilgamesh (New York, 1971, illustrated by David Omar White), and Free as a Frog (New York, 1971, illustrated by Paul Giovanopoulos). She was also a New York Times Children’s book reviewer. She taught creative writing at the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement for 20 years. She died on October 21, 1999 in New London, NH.


Continue reading


One of CPL’s Black History Month pioneers

The Cambridge Public Library is offering an excellent lineup of events – lectures, author visits, poetry readings, panel discussions, movies, and book displays – for Black History Month. Our social media accounts will also be buzzing this month with facts, quotes, photos, and other content related to black history and culture. Follow @cambridgepl on Twitter, and pay particular attention to the hashtag #blackhistorymonth, to learn more.

One of the originators of African American cultural programming at the Cambridge Public Library coinciding with the nationwide observances then known as Black History Week, as well as our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrations, was librarian Jerome T. Lewis. Lewis was the Associate Director of the Cambridge Public Library from 1970 until his death in 1976. He was a native son, having grown up in Cambridge and graduated from Ridge Technical High School, where he was a dedicated scholar and a track and field star, in 1941. (He was also the grandson of George Washington Lewis, the steward of Harvard University’s Porcellian Club for 45 years, whose portrait still hangs in that most exclusive of Cambridge enclaves.)

Profile of "Athlete of the Issue" Jerome Lewis from the Rindge Register high school newspaper, June 18, 1941 issue

Profile of “Athlete of the Issue” Jerome Lewis, from the Rindge Register high school newspaper, June 18, 1941 issue

After graduating from Colby College with a degree in history and government, he worked in the libraries of Harvard from 1946 to 1959. He earned a degree in library science from Simmons College in 1949. Upon leaving Harvard, he held leadership positions in the Newton Free Library and the library of Bryant & Stratton, a Boston business college, before returning to Cambridge in 1970. In addition to his library work, he was active in a number of community groups and was appointed a member of Cambridge’s Civic Unity Committee.

Shortly before his death from cancer at the age of 54, Lewis created the Jerome T. Lewis Scholarship Fund, to provide funds annually to two Cambridge public high school students on the basis of their contributions to the black community. He is also the namesake of the Lewis Room at the Central Square Branch. It was dedicated, appropriately enough, during Black History Week celebrations in February 1977.

Cover of the program for the dedication of the Jerome T. Lewis Memorial Room at the Central Square Branch of the Cambridge Public Library, February 13, 1977

Cover of the program for the dedication of the Jerome T. Lewis Memorial Room at the Central Square Branch of the Cambridge Public Library, February 13, 1977

The First 50 Years of Librarians at the CPL


From the Cambridge Public Library Annual Report, 1908.

The photograph of Caroline Frances Orne, the CPL’s first librarian, is a real treasurer.  It’s the only one we have!  Click on the image to enlarge.

Fashion in the Rare Book Stacks!

The Wall Street Journal just did a great, short piece on the fashion the New York Public Library’s staff.  We love the photos that prominently feature fashionable librarians in the stacks – especially the rare books stacks.  Even though Cambridge doesn’t have the fashion credibility that NYC does, we did debut the Puritan look for the fall/winter season of 1640 and our very own librarian Almira Haywood (1838-1894) did high Victorian style exceptionally well.   We think the WSJ should definitely feature the CPL staff in their next fashion round-up.

**Thanks to CPL reference librarian Liz S. for the link!**

Almira Hayward, the Librarian who Died on the Job

Almira L. Hayward, circa 1880s, the second librarian of the Cambridge Public Library

Almira Leach Hayward began her tenure as Librarian of the Cambridge Public Library in 1874.  It ended in 1894 with her untimely death due to a fall which happened right in the Library, but more about that later.  She was actually not the first librarian.  That honor going to Caroline F. Orne, who served from 1857-1874.  Ms. Hayward was born in Weston, Mass in August of 1838 and was a graduate of Wheaton Seminary.  In her earlier life, she taught school in Cambridge at the Shepard and Putnam Schools and also out of state.  She was elected City Librarian in June of 1874.  Almira was, as one might say, “from the old school” of librarianship.  As a result of this philosophy, she didn’t get along too well with the Trustees of the Library and often disagreed with some of their decisions and ideas.  For example, she did not approve of the library being open on Sunday.  She apparently was afraid that, “it may lead to disorder and misuse of the books.”   In the book, History of the Cambridge Public Library, published in 1908, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, one of the Library Trustees at that time, tells of how she would very smugly report to him every Monday morning about the low attendance on those first few Sunday openings.  He also tells us that, “there was another point from which she shrank—the giving of immediate access to books, even of reference books.”   When the Trustees made the decision to place a very moderate number of books for free access in the reading room, he says, “Miss Hayward came to me with, I fear, a little gentle triumph and showed me a large and valuable illustrated medical book in which whole pages had been taken out, torn out by some medical student, without detection.”

Coming from a teaching background, Almira had a lot to offer the library.  In fact, she was very concerned with the needs of children.  In 1894, a new wing, which featured a children’s reading room, was added to the library.   Higginson credited this addition to her efforts and stated, “The plan of an addition to the building, with special reference to the needs of the children, was largely hers.”  In an odd way, you could say that this accomplishment led to her death.  On the morning of October 11, 1894, Almira was busy rearranging books in the reference room, a job which had to be done as a result of the addition.  A ventilator grate had been left open in the floor in order that the iron work might be cleaned.   Being preoccupied with her task, she inadvertently stepped into the opening and fell to the basement below, hitting her head on the asphalt and fracturing her skull.  She never regained consciousness and died right in the library with a volume of the Atlantic Monthly under her arm.  What a way for a librarian to go!  Or as Higginson put it, “She died literally in harness, as she always wished to die; and her name will be forever associated with the most important formative period of her beloved institution.”

This article was generously written by Susan Ciccone, Reference Librarian and history specialist at the Cambridge Public Library.