Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Walter Lewis Brown, Buffalo Librarian

Walter Lewis Brown (1861-1931) played a significant role in the development of the Buffalo Public Library, now the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. Today (January 4) is the 150th anniversary of his birth. Brown served as President of the American Library Association in 1916-1917 when ALA, like the rest of America, was preparing for war. He is included in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978) which has an entry written by Paul M. Rooney. When I write these significant birthday posts for the blog, it is always nice to have a piece of related ephemera to display.  That has been easy with Brown and the Buffalo Public Library since I have a number of such items in my collection.  The bookplate shown here includes the information that the Young Men's Association of Buffalo, a subscription library, which preceded the Buffalo Public Library was established in 1836. According to Rooney, Brown began his library career in 1877 at the age of 16 by working at the Young Men's Association Library.  After a 5 year stint with the Association Library, he worked for a local bookseller.  He rejoined the library in 1897, now called the Buffalo Library.  In that same year the library transitioned to a free public library under the name Buffalo Public Library. This is also reflected on the bookplate. Initially Brown served as the vice-librarian under Henry Livingston Elmendorf. I'm familiar with Elmendorf because he married Theresa West, Librarian of the Milwaukee Public Library and the first woman President of the American Library Association.  When Henry Elmendorf died in 1906, Brown became Librarian, a post he held until his death in 1931. Brown served as President of the New York Library Association in 1906.  Theresa West Elmendorf became vice-librarian under Brown.  A nice history of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library is located HERE.

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