This article explores the professionalization of public librarianship during the Progressive Era. Using the Los Angeles Public Library (lapl) as a case study, it examines the library's gradual adoption of professional standards in the 1890s and the establishment of city-controlled civil service rules in 1902. lapl's experience illustrates the challenges involved in implementing new, often controversial, civil service policies and the impact that these personnel changes had on women library employees. The article also considers women librarians' response to changing workplace expectations and the ways in which they negotiated their new professional identity.

“Library Blaze Leaps High,” declared the Los Angeles Times in its April 6, 1909, exposé of the turmoil at the Los Angeles Public Library (lapl). Based on an open letter penned by disgruntled employee Julia Blandy, the Times's article reviewed her bitter complaints over the library's internal conflicts and mismanagement. Blandy directed much of her criticism at head librarian Charles Lummis, whom she accused of both misappropriating library funds and privileging select library staff. Only Lummis's personal favorites, fumed Blandy, were given sufficient operating funds to run their departments. Other departments, including her own branch libraries, had to “eke out a sad existence and starve.”1

Blandy's angry diatribe stemmed from the last of a series of controversies that embroiled the lapl between 1898 and 1909. Newspaper articles bearing headlines such as “Attendants Disciplined” (1898), “Strife Stirs the Library” (1903), and “Library Quarrel Becomes Serious” (1908) chronicled librarians' frustrations over changing personnel policies and the effect these changes were having on their work assignments and salaries.2 The library's periodic labor disputes were also shaped by the evolving Progressive Movement which, between 1890 and 1920, inspired a diverse coalition of reform groups to redress the social and political ills brought about by rapid industrialization, urbanization, and immigration. The city's librarians were particularly impacted by the movement's determination to curb the power of big business in politics and government and experienced directly reformers' success in professionalizing city and state agencies through newly instituted civil service commissions.3

During this same period, library leaders throughout the nation were endeavoring to establish librarianship as a distinct profession and redefine standards as to who was qualified to administer the nation's burgeoning library systems. To this end, the American Library Association (ala), along with state and regional professional groups, engaged in ongoing and sometimes heated debates over the values, education, technical expertise, and personal characteristics that should characterize the modern librarian. Articles on librarianship as a career for women, the pros and cons of library schools versus in-house training, and “What It Means to Be a Librarian” regularly appeared in popular magazines and library journals, further disseminating fundamental changes occurring in the field.4

Numerous studies of librarianship's professionalization during the Progressive Era document library leaders' success in standardizing professional practice and raising the expectation that libraries be administered by qualified personnel. Jane Rosenberg, for example, examined the work of Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam, who turned his “patronage-dominated staff into a force of scholars, administrators, and library professionals.” Appointed in 1899, over the next decade Putnam not only imposed new employment procedures to reduce patronage-driven hiring, he also raised educational requirements for library staff and recruited library school graduates.5 My own study of the California State Library similarly focused on the achievements of State Librarian James Gillis, who between 1899 and 1917 expanded and professionalized state library operations, instituted civil service for library employees, and in 1914 established a school to prepare librarians to work in the state's burgeoning county library system.6

These studies generally assume Progressivism's positive impact on professionalization without delving into the issues librarians confronted as they attempted to articulate the emerging field. Yet creating and implementing new professional standards was quite contentious and certain components were not universally supported. One of the few, but important, studies to consider the challenges of professionalization is Wayne Wiegand's The Politics of an Emerging Profession, which examined the American Library Association's “sometimes tempestuous” formative years. Focusing on the changing demographics of the organization's executive board between 1876 and 1917 and their struggle “to accommodate shifting pressures and power groups within the world of librarianship,” Wiegand analyzes the debates within ala over how the profession should be organized and defined. This included among other things the standardization of professional education, the personal characteristics required of a librarian, and the role of women in libraries.7

The adoption of civil service in libraries—another key component of professionalization—also has been largely ignored by historians. Yet this, too, caused considerable contention within the field. For example, in her article on the Library of Congress, Rosenberg noted that Librarian Putnam did not institute civil service, despite the fact he served under Theodore Roosevelt, a major figure in the Progressive Movement. “Civil service examinations did not evaluate the technical knowledge or, especially, the personal qualities that he considered essential for library work,” Rosenberg explained, nor did it “provide much protection.”8 John Kaiser, who has written one of the few articles on civil service in libraries, found that other influential librarians, including John Cotton Dana and Arthur Bostwick, similarly opposed civil service, although C. C. Williamson “was one of its earliest and most eloquent advocates.”9 Much of the controversy revolved around the type of civil service system a library adopted and the location of administrative power. As Library Journal editor Helen Haines explained in 1906, “When the library civil service is the library's own instrument, planned to meet its needs and responsive to those needs, it is at once a safeguard and an assurance of library efficiency.” However, she cautioned, when a library's civil service is part of “a general municipal machine … the efficiency of the library is likely to be hampered by many vexatious and undesirable restrictions.”10

Arguably the richest and most provocative historical literature on professionalization considers the role feminization played in the development of the field. In Dee Garrison's pioneering 1979 book Apostles of Culture, she argued that women's predominance in the workforce and their “conventional ideals of feminine behavior” adversely affected key areas of librarianship (particularly professional ethics, library school curriculum, and professional authority and autonomy) and encouraged the development of a bureaucratic authority structure that limited women's advancement within libraries.11 Although rejecting Garrison's intimation that women were at fault for the field's incomplete professionalization, Suzanne Hildenbrand agreed that librarianship, like other feminized professions, was built on both masculinization and gender segregation, which ultimately relegated women to lower- and middle-level positions within library organizations.12

In contrast, other historians present a more positive picture of women and professionalization. In their view, women librarians drew upon prevailing gender stereotypes and Progressive ideals to carve out important positions for themselves within their institutions and within the profession as a whole. Jacalyn Eddy, for example, explored women librarians' pioneering work in children's services, a specialization that provided women “with an especially acceptable point of entry into professional authority.”13 In a similar vein, Mary Niles Maack examined the careers of the first generation of library school graduates who, between 1890 and 1920, were “stimulated” by the work of Progressive reformers and “imbued with the missionary spirit” fostered by library educators. According to Niles Maack, these librarians transcended “confining stereotypes of womanhood without rejecting traditional gender roles or family responsibilities.” They were not universally reduced to subordinate positions within library bureaucracies, she contends, but “shared equally with their male colleagues in redefining librarianship [and] creating a new professional paradigm.”14

With its extensive documentary record, the Los Angeles Public Library provides a unique opportunity to explore many of the questions posed by professionalization and contribute to historians' ongoing discussion of the roles played by women. What impact did the Progressive Movement have on professionalization, and how did civic and library leaders use Progressive rhetoric to promote institutional change? Who had the authority to establish new professional standards, and what personal and professional ideals did these standards embody? How did prevailing gender stereotypes influence the profession's new employment requirements and its evolving authority structure? And, perhaps most important, how did women librarians experience professionalization, and how did they respond? As the following study seeks to demonstrate, lapl's librarians possessed a strong professional identity and resented personnel changes that, in their view, failed to reward training and experience and undermined rather than advanced their work. Indeed, when library administrators adopted major new personnel policies, impassioned disputes erupted among the librarians as they fought to protect their professional authority and exert some control over the workplace. These disputes often turned into public scandals, with each side claiming to represent Progressive ideals.

Disagreements among lapl employees did not occur in a vacuum, but reflected wider political tensions within Los Angeles (la). Beginning in 1895 with the formation of the Direct Legislation League, the city experienced a vigorous Progressive Movement dedicated to eliminating special interests' control (mainly by the Southern Pacific Railroad) of government agencies. In 1902 municipal reformers under the leadership of socialist millionaire Dr. John Randolph Haynes convinced la voters to amend the city charter to establish civil service for municipal employees; the following year the electorate approved the recall of government officials as well. Building on this momentum, and notwithstanding that the Southern Pacific–backed Democrat Arthur C. Harper was elected mayor, Progressives made a strong showing in the 1906 city election.

The turning point for la Progressivism came in 1909 when reformers accused Mayor Harper of political corruption and initiated the nation's first mayoral recall. Following Harper's March resignation, la voters chose Progressive George Alexander to succeed him. Then, in December's regular election, voters not only reconfirmed Alexander as mayor, but also elected nonpartisan candidates to fill all but one of the city council seats, most city offices, and the entire schoolboard. Over the next few years, la's Progressive government continued to improve the city's infrastructure, including modernizing the fire and police departments, expanding the city's parks, and establishing a public utilities commission to regulate water, gas, electric, and telephone services.15

LAPL and the Beginnings of Progressive Reform

Founded in 1872 as the Los Angles Library Association, lapl became a tax-supported public library in 1878. The library was administered by the mayor and city council until 1889 when a new city charter created a board of library commissioners (whose members were referred to as “directors” or “trustees”). Appointed by the mayor, library board members served four-year, rotating terms and were drawn from la's elite, primarily lawyers, doctors, businessmen, and educators. In fact, between 1889 and 1910, only one woman served on the board—prominent clubwoman and social activist Caroline Severance. The board divided itself into separate committees through which they oversaw library operations and approved policies and actions proposed by the head librarian. The librarian was officially designated “Clerk of the Board.”

In 1880 the lapl hired its first woman librarian, Mary Foy, an eighteen-year-old high school graduate and neighbor of Mayor John Toberman. Over the next twenty-five years, seven women served as head librarian, with only the final two, Harriet Wadleigh (1897–1900) and Mary Jones (1900–1905) having library experience. The others were hired based on their personal connections within la's government and the current board. These librarians also served “at the pleasure of the board” and could be—and were—replaced at the board's discretion.16

Setting the stage for lapl's Progressive Movement was its dramatic growth at the turn of the century. In 1890 the library occupied several rooms in city hall and was managed by a head librarian, two assistant librarians, and five attendants. It then housed nearly 18,000 books and had an annual circulation of 119,833. Ten years later, lapl employed a head and an assistant librarian, along with nine department “principals” and twenty attendants. This enlarged staff managed 60,000 books and a 609,638 annual circulation. In addition, the library maintained several branches and delivery stations and oversaw the city's school libraries. By 1910 lapl had two administrators, fourteen department heads, nineteen assistant department heads, and thirty-one attendants. Its main library and thirteen branches collectively managed 147,338 books and boasted a 742,289 annual circulation, which was among the nation's highest.17

The library's dramatic expansion was indicative of the city's burgeoning reform movement and the Progressives' drive to amplify and professionalize government agencies. Thus, along with physical growth, the library's administrative structure and lines of authority also underwent significant change, as key individuals competed to define and control the meaning of “professional” work. Indeed, lapl was a pioneer in professionalization, having adopted civil service for library employees in 1890, twelve years before civil service's citywide implementation.

The library's original in-house civil service rules stipulated that, in order to assess a candidate's qualifications, all appointments had to be based on a written exam plus a personal interview with the library's directors. Save for a statement in lapl's 1890 annual report that selected applicants demonstrate “some promise of fitness, and capacity for the work required,” these “qualifications” were as yet undefined.18 The following year Librarian Tessa Kelso convinced the board that the library's new hires needed formal preparation, and in November 1891 she opened the nation's first public library-based training program.

The July 1892 Library Journal detailed the lapl's groundbreaking program. Applicants were to be “young women not under seventeen years of age, and actual residents of the city.” In addition, candidates should possess “education, quick, intelligent thinking, tact, address, patience, and a knowledge of general business forms.” (Interestingly, the program prospectus stated that training in library economy is “a good preparatory school for almost any profession.”) The formal application, which candidates submitted in their own handwriting, considered personal and family background, including how long the applicant had resided in Los Angeles, her schooling and employment history, whether or not she lived with her parents, and her father's occupation. Although not stated, it was assumed that all applicants would be unmarried. Those deemed most promising were interviewed by the board and directed to compose an essay on “The Uses of a Public Library.”19

More an apprentice program than a school, the original six students worked three unremunerated hours daily alongside librarians in each department. After six months, they took a final exam based on questions “used by the Library School for elementary work.” Those receiving scores of 70 percent or higher were placed on the library's substitute list and offered jobs as they became available. The training program, according to the Library Journal, benefited the library in a number of ways. It provided the library with unpaid staff and created a pool of potential employees with “systematic training.” Requiring that all new hires be training school graduates also curtailed library employment gained through “solicitation or influence” and protected the board from the “annoyance of office-seekers.”20

lapl's training program remained relatively stable for the next seven years, preparing more than seventy young women for library work. Over the years, however, entrance requirements focused less on personal background and more on general knowledge, while the coursework became more rigorous. By 1895 applicants were “required to have been residents of the state for one year, of the county for ninety days, and of the city for thirty days.”21 Three years later, they not only had to be high school graduates, they also had to demonstrate knowledge of “general history and literature, as well as current events.” At the interview, the library board asked applicants, among other things, to list Ralph Waldo Emerson's writings, name the officers of the US Cabinet, discuss two important sculptors, and explain settlement work. Once accepted, trainees worked four hours daily (still without pay) and wrote a thesis as a capstone to their education. By that time the program had expanded to two terms, the first covering lapl library practices (specifically classification, cataloging, bibliography, and reference) and the second introducing professional methods used elsewhere. Department heads now gave formal lectures as well as supervised hands-on work.22

During this early Progressive period, in addition to expanding its in-house training program, the library board endeavored to stabilize the workforce and limit outside interference in personnel decisions. In 1891 lapl's organizational structure was relatively flat, with all employees working nine hours daily on either the day or night shift.23 Reflecting the library's expanding staff and increasing specialization, in 1894 the board adopted a multilevel classification system based on years of employment, starting at ten dollars per month for beginning attendants and rising annually by five dollars to the top range of fifty dollars monthly (the head librarian's salary). The board also abolished its policy of reappointing the staff yearly, which, in making librarians less vulnerable to political influence, embodied “the meaning and effect” of the city's increasingly Progressive charter.24

LAPL Adopts the Merit System

Drawing upon an emergent Progressive ethos, the library board devoted most of the 1890s to raising standards for library employment and instituting new personnel policies to render library jobs more secure. The lapl's first major staff restructuring occurred in 1897 when the board abandoned its employee classification based on tenure and reorganized library personnel according to the “merit system.” The board divided the library into nine departments with each having its own administrator. The board then reduced its multilevel classification system to four classes (A–D), with pay ranges established for each class. To implement this new system, all librarians (except for head librarian Harriet Wadleigh, and assistant librarian Celia Gleason) took a competitive exam, the results of which the board used to assign individuals to a given class and appoint department heads. Thereafter, attendants desiring to advance to a higher class (and salary level) did so via examination.25

The board introduced their new merit-based criteria in the Los Angeles Times: “The highest class is to include those who have served at least one year in the library and have a reading knowledge of German and French or Spanish, and of general literature, science and art. In the next two classes, no knowledge of foreign languages will be required and a less degree of general preparation. The lowest class is to consist of those having acquirements about equal to a high-school education, with the addition of a knowledge of library work.”26 The board claimed that these new standards “brought about a more just and desirable status” among employees and “made prominent the idea that promotion will depend mainly on their own efforts.”27

The first sign of dissension over the imposition of the library's in-house civil service exam was a Los Angeles Herald report on the Current Topics Club's December 1897 meeting. Several “local matters” were discussed by the popular women's group, including “the school board scandal” and “the proposed examination of library employees.” Many of the attendants criticized the planned exam, which they felt was politically motivated and failed to either recognize or reward previous experience. The real intent behind the exam, the Herald claimed in a subsequent article, was not to uphold the merit system, but “to furnish an excuse for removing some of the employees so that others can be appointed in their places to satisfy political pressure.” The attendants also objected to the board's exempting the head and assistant librarian from the exam, which showed undue favoritism. This latter claim was buttressed by rumors that a new assistant librarian was being chosen from outside the lapl, which ultimately materialized in February 1899 when the board hired Nebraska librarian Mary Jones.28

The librarians' resentments became public in late December 1897 when an anonymous letter published in the Herald accused the board of “inexcusable partiality” in exempting certain employees from civil service rules. Although the directors responded that they gave exams to all employees (except for the head and assistant librarians) “without fear or favor,” a few days later the Herald continued its diatribe on behalf of the staff. Denouncing the board's “sham civil service examination,” the paper declared: “In the name of the people of Los Angeles: Hands off! You shall not do this despicable thing. For years the public library has been the one municipal institution that has been kept free from political influences and you shall not use it for your selfish purposes now.”29

News reports again featured the unhappy attendants when, on June 17, 1898, the board censured three popular librarians—Florence Thornburg, May Keach, and Anna Beckley—for insubordination. As the Los Angeles Times reported: “The trouble had its origin in the civil service examinations which the board compelled each attendant to pass last January, from which there was a general changing among the employees of the department.”30 Since then, the workplace had been roiled by a “coterie” of “aggrieved” employees criticizing the way this new policy was being implemented. The simmering tensions came to a head on June 14 with the death of Corrine Wise, a library employee since 1891. Wise was described in her obituary as “one of the best-known and most popular attendants at the Public Library,” and many of her coworkers believed that the exam's pressure and her humiliation at scoring poorly had hastened their colleague's death. Due to caring for her ailing mother, Wise had been unable to prepare properly for the exam. She subsequently contracted the scarlet fever that had killed her mother and died herself some months later.31 Angry comments about the board's handling of the Wise situation were leaked to the local press, with Thornburg, Keach, and Beckley identified as the guilty parties. Believing their attacks were “pernicious,” “unfounded,” and “presumably willful,” the library board suspended Thornburg for ninety-days and Keach for thirty days. They also reprimanded Beckley for being indiscreet and gossiping among other employees. The suspended Thornburg, however, remained “defiant,” declaring that she “did not think it was any of the Board's business what she had done so long as she had performed her duties.”32

LAPL under the Los Angeles Civil Service Commission

Less than five years later, lapl librarians faced another major reorganization when, in January 1903, the City of Los Angeles instituted civil service for municipal employees. The first Civil Service Commission for la was comprised of five men: Henry O'Melveny (attorney); John Randolph Haynes (physician); David W. Edelman (physician); Frank W. King (businessman); and H. S. McKee (banker). The commissioners established two-member standing committees to oversee the personnel activities of individual departments. This included creating, administering, and grading the department's civil service exam or designating a surrogate “expert in the line of duties involved.” Dr. Edelman chaired the library department committee from 1903 to 1905 and 1906 to 1909, assisted by different commissioners each year. Son of la's first rabbi, Abraham Wolf Edelman, and director of Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, Dr. Edelman was serving on lapl's board when appointed to the commission.33

On June 27, 1903, the commission held its first library-based civil service exam, which all current employees (excluding the head librarian Mary Jones, first assistant Celia Gleason, and second assistant Nora Miller) had to pass to retain their jobs. Administered by Miss Fossler (most likely University of California librarian Anna Fossler), the exam's eleven questions covered such topics as patron registration, lost books, and sorting mail, as well as more professional areas dealing with card catalogs, reference books, and nonfiction reading. Beyond grading the exams, the commission evaluated the employee's spelling, penmanship, deportment, temperament, and experience. Based on the resulting test scores, the commission created eligibility lists that the library board used to reclassify staff members and select new department heads.34

According to the press, the Civil Service Commission's imposition of new citywide civil service rules upset the library's board by granting the commission power over personnel matters. Board member Isidore Dockweiler, reported the Los Angeles Times, “thought the civil-service rules would hamper the board in the administration of the library” and that the directors should have the authority to place employees in specific positions as needed.35 Dockweiler's solution, which he presented to the commission in May 1903, was to put all attendants other than department heads into one class, thus eliminating the need for civil service exams when moving an individual from one position to another. This change, Dockweiler argued, was necessary for the well-being of the library and “to conserve the morale of the staff.”36

Apparently Dockweiler convinced the commission of the advisability of this new structure, for the board officially adopted it at its January 27, 1904, meeting. Replacing the department-based system established in 1897, this new structure created three general classes. First-class principals supervised departments requiring a high level of professional expertise (accessions, cataloguing, classification, reference, and school), while second-class principals ran the accounting, binding, fiction, mail, juvenile, and registry departments. All other staff members were grouped together as “general attendants” and could be assigned as needed to different departments and branches. Each classification had salary ranges established, with automatic five-dollar pay raises awarded yearly. Promotion to a higher class and salary range was based on competitive exam.37

“The library girls are rampant, and are on the verge of going on a rampage,” the Los Angeles Herald warned its readers in April 1903, “and it is all over the application of civil service rules to the library.” Thus began the next major controversy that engulfed the library in the wake of the adoption of citywide civil service and the impending staff reorganization. As stated by the Herald, the librarians believed that civil service “robbed them of the time and trials that they have spent in the training classes.” They also resented the fact that under the commission's new employment rules “anyone who has ever served in any library,” regardless of where they resided, could take the civil service exam and, based on her score, be given a current employee's job. The librarians' anxieties were intensified when a number of experienced attendants failed the first exam. They complained so bitterly about the exam's unfairness (particularly its failure to credit them for past lapl experience) that the Civil Service Commission allowed them to take a second exam. Unfortunately, this makeup exam was so difficult that “only one candidate passed the ordeal out of nearly a score of exceptionally bright applicants.” A third and final exam was administered in December 1903, with all but one attendant earning a passing score.38

Coincident with the first round of city-run civil service exams was a heated dispute between head librarian Mary Jones and second assistant librarian Nora Miller. An 1892 graduate of the New York State Library School and former director of the University of Nebraska library, Jones was appointed lapl head librarian in May 1900.39 Tensions between Jones and Miller began in June the following year when, over Jones's objections, the board established a new second assistant librarian position. According to the Los Angeles Herald, the board created the job specifically for Miller as a favor to la mayor Meredith Snyder, who was “warm political friends” with Miller's family.40

Library attendants were equally angry over Miller's appointment because, unlike department heads, Miller was not required to take a civil service exam to earn this position. The librarians' ill-feelings became public when in February 1903 Miller filed a formal complaint against Jones with the board, charging her with “unladylike” behavior and mismanaging the library. According to Miller, Jones not only disregarded her as an administrator, but also burdened her with the bulk of the library's work. “Never once during the two years that I have been Assistant Librarian,” Miller bitterly complained, “has she consulted me in regard to a single matter, or allowed me to make any suggestion as to the conduct of the library.” Miller further criticized Jones for not consulting with department heads and treating other staff members in an “uncivil, unjust, and unladylike manner.”41

Perhaps most galling to Miller was that she had been in the lapl's first training class and had worked her way up from night attendant to department head. “I continued this work from year to year,” she stated in her formal complaint, “being promoted from time to time in the regular order, never having been promoted over the head of any other employee in the library, but always gaining the different positions under the civil-service rules by means of examinations and time of service.” By comparison, Miller continued, first assistant Celia Gleason (who was hired in 1890 before civil service was instituted) “has never taken any examinations, and it is the fixed belief of all those who have worked with her for years that she would fail utterly if subjected to the examinations to which all others now connected to the library have submitted.”42

Most staff members, however, came to the head librarian's defense. “That there has been misconduct on the part of Miss Jones seems to be a surprise to a fair majority of the young women working under her,” the Herald reported, and many came forward to refute Miller's accusations. During the board's investigation, several department heads testified that on occasion Jones spoke in an “abrupt” and “hurtful” manner, but they maintained that she was not “unladylike” in her interactions with staff. When Jones was interrogated about the charges, she “denied that she treated Miss Miller unfairly or that she gave her more or harder work to do than was required of Miss Gleason.” She did admit to consulting with Gleason on administrative matters, explaining that “Miss Miller was lacking in executive ability, while Miss Gleason was an able administrator.”43

After a month-long hearing, the library board, with the exception of Dockweiler, exonerated Jones of all charges, using the opportunity of their final report to remind the library's staff that “both loyalty to, and faithful cooperation with, the librarian are essential to the welfare of the institution and should henceforth be expected of them by the board of the directors.”44 Over the next two years, however, the board grew increasingly disenchanted with Jones's management style and the continued in-fighting among her staff. Moreover, the library was becoming so large and complex that they concluded that a man should be at its helm. If Miss Jones were “occupying the position of first or second assistant librarian,” Dockweiler would later explain to the Los Angeles City Council, “I believe she could be of considerable service in the library, acting under a forceful and energetic librarian.”45 But when asked to resign in June 1905, Jones refused, igniting a lengthy debate among city leaders, women's clubs, and librarians nationwide over the legality of her dismissal.

In late January 1906 the Los Angeles City Council finally intervened and conducted a four-week investigation to determine the legitimacy of Jones's firing. After eight separate hearings that produced over 500 pages of transcripts, the council upheld Jones's termination, an outcome predicted by Susan B. Anthony.46 During the controversy, the famed suffragist had attended a library board meeting in support of Jones and then spoke of the library dispute at a women's rights rally the following day: “Here is a position, some man wants it…. Of course, the man will win because there's only men to settle it.”47

Charles Lummis “Reforms” the Library

The energetic librarian who replaced Mary Jones was local author and journalist Charles Fletcher Lummis. Officially assuming the position on August 1, 1905, Lummis was eager to reinvent lapl along Progressive lines and transform it into a research center. As the new librarian opined in his first annual report, “While many public libraries drift on as mere amusement centers … the first function of any library is not entertainment but instruction.” To this end, Lummis spent thousands of dollars to develop the library's California and western history collection and expanded its reference department significantly. He also established a Department of Reading, Study, and Research to support the information needs of teachers, professionals, merchants and “other men of affairs” and show them that the library “has goods they need in their business.” Determined to expand the library's facilities, Lummis moved the library to two different buildings, reorganized the branches, and established deposit stations in factories, department stores, schools, and parks. At the main library, he implemented new registration and recordkeeping systems in an effort to bring “modern business methods” into the library. Finally, Lummis hired Pearl Gleason to replace him as the “clerk” to the board.48

Committed to professionalizing the library's workforce, Lummis devoted much of his creative energy to reimagining what a librarian should be. He dismissed current educational programs as “technique run mad” and endeavored to make lapl's training program more rigorous.49 To this end, Lummis lengthened the trainees' workday to five hours and expanded the program to seven months. He also added a “college system of conditions” and a “culture exam,” which required more coursework and exams in California and western history and, to a lesser degree, art and literature. Lummis similarly increased the difficulty of the program's entrance exam, boasting that Harvard freshmen would have trouble passing it. “In my judgment the public is entitled to find agreeable attendants in a public library—persons who are well and look well; who are courteous, active and attractive,” he explained in his 1907 annual report. “But after it passes the rural stage, a public library can no longer subsist upon even the most winsome High School girls as a Staff…. We need now college women, Normal School graduates, or others who have gone beyond the public-school stage—as this public has.”50

Lummis sought to improve the existing staff by implementing a true merit system in the library's personnel policies. In October 1905, he raised monthly salaries by five to ten dollars so librarians' pay would be commensurate with local teachers. At the same time, and with the board's approval, he redesigned salary classifications and created new assistant department head positions. He ended the practice of moving staff members to different departments so that a librarian could gain expertise in a given position. To improve the library's professional culture, Lummis organized weekly lectures by resident and visiting experts and offered a German class. He also secured funding and/or released time for librarians to attend professional conferences and obtain advanced training in eastern universities and libraries. To reinforce this new sense of professionalism, in September 1906 Lummis, again with the board's approval, established the “Library Senate,” which was comprised of top-ranking employees, to advise the librarian, the board, and on occasion the Civil Service Commission, on library policy.51

Lummis endeavored to mitigate what he saw as the library's parochial recruitment policies that required Los Angeles residency for employment. To this end, he convinced both the library board and the Civil Service Commission to allow graduates of other training programs or individuals with work experience in other libraries to apply for lapl positions.52 Regardless of prior experience, however, outside applicants still had to pass both the civil service exam and Lummis's culture exam. “We are willing to receive the certificate of any responsible library that a young woman knows the Dewey classification and the methods of cataloging, etc.,” he explained, “but neither college diploma nor any other formula is accepted as to the intellectual qualifications of the candidate. It has been our experience that many who have been librarians of considerable libraries in the East, and who know all the tabs of literary routine, are miserably ignorant of literature, history, and art.”53

Lummis then vigorously recruited librarians from eastern institutions, hiring them on emergency appointments until they passed the required civil service exam. Within two years, he had recruited eleven librarians from outside Los Angeles, including two from San Francisco displaced by the 1906 earthquake. Lummis was also determined to hire male librarians, though lapl's poor salaries discouraged most men from applying. He was only able to employ one male librarian during his time in office, and unfortunately that individual died two years later.54

Two of Lummis's most prized—and controversial—recruits were Charles Joshua Ketcham Jones and Julia Blandy. A retired Unitarian minister with a law degree, C.J.K. Jones had served on lapl's board between 1903 and 1904 before Lummis appointed him (on an emergency basis) as director of study and research. This was a new position specifically created for Jones, which Lummis envisioned would provide advanced research support beyond the capability of the librarians. As he rhapsodized in his 1905 annual report, Jones's “profound erudition and ripe judgment,” rendered the minister a “living encyclopedia” able to assist scholars in locating whatever information they needed.55 As the first male employee hired by the library, save for Lummis, the board paid Jones $150 a month, $50 more than the highest-paid woman employee.

If Jones possessed the right academic credentials, Julia Blandy had the requisite professional ones. From a well-do-to family in Zanesville, Ohio, Blandy was an 1897 graduate of the Drexel Institute Library School and worked as a cataloger at both the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress before moving to Los Angeles in 1906. After a few months at lapl, Lummis recommended to the board that Blandy be placed in charge of the library's branches. “I am giving you one of the finest opportunities in the library,” Lummis wrote to Blandy upon her new assignment. “I expect you to take these unsystematized neglected branches; to acquaint yourself with their conditions and their needs and to propose a systematic remedy for present conditions.”56 Lummis also “procured an arrangement with the Civil Service Commission,” which, he bragged to Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam, gave Blandy “a better chance of promotion than has ever been possible in this city hitherto.” This “agreement” waived the civil service rule that librarians had to have been employed for at least six months before being promoted.57

Not surprisingly, these wholesale changes in the library's staffing and special treatment given to Jones and Blandy caused friction between Lummis and the civil service commissioners. As time went on, Lummis peppered his correspondence with complaints about civil service's negative impact. “The Civil Service Commission, like a labor union, levels things down to the capacity of the incompetent,” he bemoaned to a prospective employee in March 1908. He complained to another a few days later that, while civil service “may work on street cleaners and janitors, it is not conducive to the progress of a school or library.” Lummis had little use for the civil service exam, dismissing it as a simple test “given to see if our high school girls have learned the proper amount of library technique in the seven months course of our training class.”58 Lummis was particularly critical of the commission's handling of the staff reorganization that he had implemented a month after he had assumed office. Although the library board asked the commission to approve Lummis's new classification system in September 1905, the commission did not schedule the requisite exams until June 1907 and took another five weeks to grade them.59

Disgusted with what he perceived as civil service interference, Lummis conducted a survey of US libraries in December 1907 to determine their experience with civil service, the results of which he published in that year's annual report. Analyzing his colleagues' responses Lummis came up with an unsurprising conclusion: “The experience of American cities is overwhelmingly in favor of entrusting the merit system in their schools and public libraries to internal management by competent persons, and not to a municipal commission whose rules, alike for all departments, put an educational department like the library upon the Procrustean bed which is made to fit the police department, sewer department or park laborers and other political and non-educational functions of the city.” Lummis supported this conclusion with a series of negative comments regarding civil service from other library directors, concluding with a list of the major libraries not burdened with commission oversight.60

LAPL Librarians Fight Back

Initially, the city's librarians responded positively to Lummis's initiatives for their financial and professional advancement. As Lummis proudly noted in his 1905 annual report, his salary increase “paid for itself twice over.” “Not only has the discipline of the staff been greatly improved within a few months,” he continued, “its ambition, and therefore its effectiveness, have grown by a still larger ratio.”61 Attendants appreciated the weekday seminars, and when reference department head Anna Beckley offered half-hour lectures on the library's expanding historical collection, nearly half the staff attended. Librarians also were enthusiastic about the Library Senate and used their employee association to advise the board on various library matters, including the development of the new classification system. Several librarians took advantage of Lummis's offer of sabbaticals, although this program did not go into effect until 1908. But during its first year, Inez Greene took a year's leave to study at Bryn Mawr, Grace Pinney spent six months in the Department of Documents in Washington, DC, and Laura Hillis left for four months to attend the University of California, Berkeley.62

However, ongoing battles with the Civil Service Commission and the internal strife caused by the library's conflicted and overlapping authority structure (that involved not only the head librarian but also the library board and Civil Service Commission) dissipated much of the goodwill Lummis's early gestures had generated. Ironically, the librarians were able to use one of Lummis's innovations—the Library Senate—to voice their complaints. In October 1906, for example, the senate submitted a petition to the Civil Service Commission to protest its belated approval of the library's classification system and failure to conduct the required exam. Given that these librarians had successfully performed their new jobs, albeit unofficially, for over a year, the senate asked the commission to make these appointments permanent based on the librarians' “past efficient service.”63 The commission not only denied their request, it waited eight more months before administering the exam. Fortunately for staff morale, everyone passed.

Librarians were particularly unhappy with the commission's support of Lummis's plan to hire individuals who had not completed lapl's training program. The main targets of their outrage were the two outsiders Lummis had recruited and exuberantly promoted, C.J.K. Jones and Julia Blandy. The librarians initially focused their wrath on Jones, whose position they found not only unnecessary but insulting. Their ill-will was exacerbated when the board put Jones in charge of the library during Lummis's numerous absences. As the Graphic explained in an article on the women's frustrations, “Without seeking to belittle his erudition, be it real or assumed, his pompous attitude and domineering ways are not calculated to inspire respectful deference on the part of his fellow-workers, who do not appear to be impressed by his averred superiority, official or mental.”64 Determined to put Jones in his place, the librarians refused to send patrons to him for research assistance or order the books he requested. They also ignored his directives, leading Jones to demand that Lummis do something about their insolence and insubordination.65

A more serious conflict arose in June 1906 when Jones failed his civil service exam. When several weeks later the commission scheduled a second exam, librarian Mary Williams decided to compete for the director of study and research position. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Pratt Institute's library training program, Williams was an outsider herself. However, she had worked in libraries in the Midwest before securing an emergency appointment in lapl's reference department, which apparently earned her colleagues' respect. The competition was widely covered in the local press, with Williams portrayed as the “plucky” protest candidate defending the library against the “masculine invasion.”66

In the end, Jones received 82.68 points on the exam and Williams 71.74 points, thus earning Jones the position. But as soon as the results were announced, the Los Angeles Record reported that Jones was not only friendly with the individual who designed and graded the exam—Colorado librarian Joseph Daniels—but that Jones and Daniels had discussed the exam before it was given. “It is even rumored,” the Record claimed, “that Daniels was entertained at Lummis' residence” at which time the three men strategized to ensure Jones's success.67 Although correspondence between Lummis and Daniels before and after the exam suggests that no collusion took place, Daniels clearly assumed that the job was Jones's and that he would support Lummis in this appointment. “I believe that when a man is responsible for the conduct and success of anything,” Daniels reassured lapl's librarian, “he should have no obstacles placed in the way of organization of the library force as he thinks best.”68

Failing to displace Jones through official channels, lapl librarians resorted to discrediting him in the workplace. In July 1906, for instance, someone posted a fake memorandum purportedly from Lummis stating that “since this public always has been and probably always will be in a state of mental and moral undiscipline,” their access to library's bookshelves was revoked. The memo further advised that anyone doing research must consult with Dr. C. J. K. Jones, “the living encyclopedia.”69 In response to such indignities, Jones began keeping a “Journal of Grievances” in which he recorded the librarians' various infractions and the ways in which they flaunted his authority. Maintained for over a year and a half, Jones observed numerous misdeeds: too much noise in workroom; arriving late to work; leaving the building during work hours; and receiving personal phone calls and visitors. Jones also documented the librarians' disrespectful behavior toward him, such as making faces and writing insulting limericks. Most scandalous was Jones's report that he found an empty whiskey flask in the workroom, leading him to conclude, “Discipline gone to the dogs.”70

While Jones represented the invasion of a nonlibrarian, Julia Blandy was an outsider who failed to understand or respect lapl's longstanding traditions and practices. Thus when in March 1907 Lummis appointed her to head lapl's branches, the librarians revolted. Not only had Blandy failed to work the length of time required for promotion, she had not passed a civil service exam to earn it. To make matters worse, the promotion included a pay raise, which also required a competitive exam. In protest, the Library Senate sent the library board a petition signed by all but two attendants (who were on vacation) denouncing this unfair personnel action. “The attendants who have put in their time at the library are anxious to have the benefit of any advances which may happen along,” the Los Angeles Times reported, “and they do not relish having some eastern library attendant come in and secure a position ahead of them.” Twenty members of the Library Senate also appeared before the Civil Service Commission to argue that Blandy's appointment not only “set a bad precedent” but was also “disheartening to faithful employees.” Although sympathetic, a divided commission ruled that it must honor the promises Lummis made when offering Blandy the position. “You young women should be charitable,” one of the commissioners chided, and “exercise the golden rule.” The commission did require Blandy to take a civil service exam, which was administered several months later. And although five other attendants earned higher scores on the same exam, the library board confirmed Blandy's appointment based on her on-the-job experience, a criteria the Civil Service Commission had only the previous year rejected.71

Now in charge of the branches, Blandy began sending Lummis reports on their disarray and the librarians' incompetence. At the Pico Branch, for example, Miss Turner kept the “shelves in utmost disorder,” left the door unlocked all night, and made numerous errors in collecting and recording fines. “I have talked to Miss Turner on all these points,” Blandy wrote to her supervisor, but “she has made no change in her way of working, and I have asked for her removal from branch work.”72 Much of this “incompetence” derived from the librarians' refusal to cooperate with Blandy or implement changes she proposed based on methods she had learned in previous jobs. First Assistant Librarian Celia Gleason was Blandy's particular nemesis, refusing to give her monthly branch statistics and failing to make the scheduling changes Blandy requested. After two months as department head, Blandy complained to Lummis, “I am still without a set of keys.”73 Lummis instructed Blandy to “keep an account by exact date of any obstruction offered you in the discharge of your duties.”74 And like Jones's Journal of Grievances, Blandy began her own “Journal of Obstructions,” as local newspapers styled it, to chronicle the ways in which her colleagues interfered with her work. These charges included tampering with branch records, failing to follow her cataloging instructions, and refusing to purchase books and supplies that she requested. Blandy also wrote that the attendants spent too much time in the staff room talking with one another rather than doing the work they were hired to do.75

Fed up with Lummis and the library board's refusal to address her criticisms, on November 10, 1908, Blandy filed a grievance with the Civil Service Commission. Her complaint focused on four individuals—Celia Gleason, Anna Madison, Florence Turner, and Margaret Bloomer—whom she variously charged with “systematic and unremitting interference with the work of my department,” “incompetency,” “insubordination,” “abuse of authority,” and tampering with branch library records.76 The commission held a series of hearings between December 1908 and February 1909 during which Blandy contended that she was the victim of “organized malice and an unconcealed purpose to get her out,” reading from her Journal of Obstructions to prove her point. Testifying in support of Blandy, Jones read at length from his Journal of Grievances as well, causing the Library Journal to declare that he “out-Pepys Pepys.” Lummis also spoke at the hearings, declaring that Blandy and Jones had “arrogated” authority that was not rightly theirs and that the accused librarians' were simply following his orders. When several department heads were questioned, they maintained that neither Blandy nor Jones understood the workings of the library and that experienced staff would not make changes to library procedures that they felt were misguided. A “bevy” of young women librarians attended these hearings as well and, according to the Times, applauded when witnesses defended their honor.77

On February 23, 1909, the Civil Service Commission rendered its decision on Blandy's claims against Gleason. While the commission commended both Blandy and Gleason for their commitment to bettering the institution, they found that the evidence did not “sustain the charges” against Gleason. Instead, the commission determined that Lummis caused the library's personnel problems by failing to provide needed direction and resolve internal disputes. Several days later the commission similarly ruled that the evidence did not prove that Anna Madison was insubordinate for refusing to “depart from the established system of cataloging” as Blandy had instructed.78 At this point Blandy dropped her complaints against the other two librarians, having realized that her campaign had failed. Besides, the Los Angeles Herald explained, Blandy was really “hitting at the library board and the librarian more than at the members of the staff,” but she could not lodge a complaint because they were not under the Civil Service Commission's authority.79

The library board quickly attempted to defuse the situation by asking for Blandy's resignation. But even this final action was complicated by civil service as the commission, not the board, had the power to fire city employees. Rather than initiating another embarrassing trial, on April 6, 1909, based on the city attorney's advice the board abolished the head of branches position and instructed the board's clerk to inform Blandy—who had continued promoting her cause through a series of library exposés in the newspapers—that her services were no longer required. Jones resigned the following January, and the board similarly abolished his position. In March 1910 Lummis resigned as well.80


For more than a decade, lapl librarians, the library board, and, after 1902, the Civil Service Commission endeavored to establish meaningful criteria for modern librarianship and restructure the library's employment practices to meet evolving professional and governmental ideals. From establishing one of the nation's earliest library-training programs and implementing in-house civil service rules to experimenting with different appointment, salary, and promotion policies, lapl was in the forefront of the movement to standardize library employment. Adroitly linking professionalization and Progressivism, library administrators touted lapl's evolving merit system, its unbiased competitive exams, the efficiency of its professionally trained and experienced workforce, and the defeat of political influence.

lapl's professionalization, however, is not simply another example of the positive impact of the Progressive Movement on librarianship; it illustrates evolving gender and class attitudes within the profession as well. In the 1890s lapl based its employee recruitment on middle-class female traits such as deportment, local residence, and family background. Over the next decade, these requirements became more rigorous and education-driven, so that by 1905 new employees not only had to complete a professional training course and several years of college, they also were expected to pass a “culture exam” to demonstrate what amounted to a classical education. Yet despite these expanding educational requirements, la's librarians were still expected to possess the traditional traits of the female librarian.

Ironically, as lapl's professional requirements became better articulated and salaries and promotions based on merit not personal connections, the library's top administrative positions were increasingly excluded from these new guidelines. Moreover, by 1905 not only were library decision-makers—which included the head librarian, director of study and research, library board, and Civil Service Commission—entirely male, none of them were professional librarians. When these male authorities disciplined library staff, it was often for stereotypically female misdemeanors such as gossip, willfulness, insubordination, and unladylike behavior.

Thus, for lapl's female employees professionalization both positively and negatively impacted their careers. Most librarians cooperated with and benefited from rising professional standards, enjoying more secure jobs, higher salaries, and regular promotions. As the workplace became increasingly stratified, they had the chance to become department heads and develop professional specializations. Yet they disagreed with fundamental ideas behind many of the new policies, particularly the assumption that an objective exam could determine a candidate's qualifications or outweigh years of training and experience. Rendered relatively powerless within the library's increasingly gender-segregated authority structure, when the librarians felt that an administrator or coworker disregarded the library's ingrained work culture or long-standing institutional practices, they resorted to ostracizing that individual and making their case in the press.

Journalists avidly covered these internal clashes, usually depicting them as women's spats. But when considered through a sociological lens, these so-called library wars can be seen as a mechanism for librarians to deal with changes that threatened not only their work culture but their professional identity. In a classic study of the sociology of deviance, Kai Erikson analyzed a series of crime waves in Puritan New England to understand the role deviants play within a community. According to Erikson, a deviant “violates rules of conduct which the rest of the community holds in high respect; and when these people come together to express their outrage over the offense and to bear witness against the offender, they develop a tighter bond of solidarity than existed earlier.” Erikson argued that deviance is not a fixed property, but is constantly adjusting as a society evolves. During times of radical change, a community may experience a “boundary crisis” in which deviancy and social norms must be reestablished. In Erikson's view, a boundary crisis “is in large part a contest for the mind of the community,” or, to use Emile Durkheim's term, their collective conscience. “When people meet at a boundary to argue about the ‘soul’ of their community,” Erikson observed, “they are in effect acknowledging that it has one. And when the group is threatened from without, that ‘soul’ is likely to become evident in no uncertain terms.”81

One might argue, then, that lapl's community of women librarians endured a prolonged boundary crisis as a byproduct of professionalization. As they adjusted to rising professional expectations, the librarians negotiated among themselves and with their superiors how these changes would be implemented. Their most effective weapon was to focus on internal deviants—such as Nora Miller, C.J.K. Jones, and Julia Blandy—and members of the library board who appeared to ignore the community's values and practices. By closing ranks against these deviants, librarians were able to reassert their professional identity and regain some control.

After the crisis of 1909, it appears that the lapl regained its equilibrium and the internal disputes subsided. Much of the credit goes to the new head librarian, Everett Perry. A graduate of the New York State Library School and former director of the St. Louis Public Library and assistant director of the New York Public Library, Perry reconciled many of the conflicts accompanying professionalization and masculinization that had been roiling the library since the mid-1890s. Under Perry's direction, lapl's relationship with the Civil Service Commission was reconsidered and the most controversial practices abandoned. The city charter was amended in March 1911, allowing the library board to dismiss incompetent employees. The commission also agreed to let the librarian with the board's approval appoint department heads based on performance rather than a competitive exam. In his 1910–11 annual report, Perry predicted that soon all promotions would be handled in a similar manner “as it has been shown by the experience of some eastern libraries to be the most satisfactory manner of adjusting salaries.”82 Ironically, although lapl librarians had bitterly fought the importation of eastern methods and personnel, they ultimately provided the guidance and authority the library community needed to adapt to Progressive, professional reform.



For Blandy's original letter, see “Miss Blandy Strikes Back at Her Critics,” Los Angeles Express, April 5, 1909.


“Attendants Disciplined,” Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1898; “Strife Stirs the Library,” Los Angeles Times, February 24, 1903; “Library Quarrel Becomes Serious,” Los Angeles Herald, December 23, 1908.


For a useful overview of the Progressive Movement, see Eric Rauchway, “Progressive Movement,” in Dictionary of American History, 3rd ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003), http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=csusj&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3401803415&it=r&asid=15fbb6d54426c9c9f4b0c2b2211f2bab (accessed October 5, 2016).


See, for example, Herbert Putnam, “What It Means to Be a Librarian,” Ladies Home Journal 17 (February 1900): 22; Melvil Dewey, “Library Employment vs. the Library Profession,” Library Notes 1 (1886): 50–51; and Mary Wright Plummer, “The Pros and Cons of Training for Librarianship,” Public Libraries 8 (1903): 208–20. For an overview of different models of professionalization as they apply to librarianship, see Monica Anne Coffey, “The Evolution of Librarianship into a Profession (PhD diss., Saint Louis University, 1990), and Michael F. Winter, “The Professionalization of Librarianship,” University of Illinois, Graduate School of Library and Information Science Occasional Papers, no. 160 (July 1983), http://hdl.handle.net/2142/3901.


Jane A. Rosenberg, “Patronage and Professionals: The Transformation of the Library of Congress Staff, 1890–1907,” Libraries and Culture 26, no. 2 (Spring 1991): 263.


Debra Gold Hansen, “Depoliticizing the California State Library: The Political and Professional Transformation of James Gillis, 1899–1917,” Information and Culture 48, no. 1 (2013): 68–90.


Wayne A. Wiegand, The Politics of an Emerging Profession: The American Library Association, 1876–1917 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986), ix, x.


Rosenberg, “Patronage and Professionals,” 259.


John Boynton Kaiser, “Civil Service and Libraries,” Library Trends 3 (July 1954): 85. Kaiser includes a chronological list of reports on civil service in libraries at the end of his article.


Helen E. Haines, “The Effect of Civil Service Methods upon Library Efficiency,” Library Journal 31 (October 1906): 699–704.


Dee Garrison, Apostles of Culture: The Public Librarian and American Society, 1876–1920 (1979; repr., Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), 189. For an incisive overview of the impact of Garrison's book on the historiography of women in libraries, see Christine Pawley's foreword to the 2003 reissue.


Suzanne Hildenbrand, “Ambiguous Authority and Aborted Ambition: Gender, Professionalism, and the Rise and Fall of the Welfare State,” Library Trends 34 (Fall 1985): 185–98. For Hildenbrand's critique of Garrison's interpretive framework, see “Revision Versus Reality: Women in the History of the Public Library Movement, 1876–1920,” in The Status of Women in Librarianship: Historical, Sociological, and Economic Issues, ed. Kathleen M. Heim (New York: Neal-Schuman, 1983), 7–27.


Jacalyn Eddy, “We Have Become Too Tender-Hearted: The Language of Gender in the Public Library, 1880–1920,” American Studies 42, no. 3 (Fall 2001): 163.


Mary Niles Maack, “Gender, Culture, and the Transformation of American Librarianship, 1890–1920,” Libraries and Culture 33, no. 1 (Winter 1998): 51–61.


For more in-depth analysis of Los Angeles' Progressive Movement, see Martin J. Schiesl, “Progressive Reform in Los Angeles Under Mayor Alexander, 1909–1913,” California Historical Quarterly 54, no. 1 (Spring 1975): 37–56; Mark H. Stevens, “The Road to Reform: Los Angeles' Municipal Elections of 1909: Part I,” Southern California Quarterly 86, no. 3 (Fall 2004): 197–239; and Stevens, “The Road to Reform: Los Angeles' Municipal Elections of 1909: Part II,” Southern California Quarterly 86, no. 4 (Winter 2004): 325–68.


Debra Gold Hansen, Karen F. Gracy, and Sheri D. Irvin, “At the Pleasure of the Board: Women Librarians and the Los Angeles Public Library, 1880–1905,” Libraries and Culture 34, no. 4 (Fall 1999): 311–46. For an overview of lapl's librarians between 1880 and 1905, see Danelle Moon, “Librarianship in California: The Irrepressible Expansionists,” in Encyclopedia of Women in the American West, ed. Gordon Bakken and Brenda Farrington (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2003), 186–87.


Personnel and collection data comes from the following reports: Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors, Annual Report … 1890 (Los Angeles: Times-Mirror Printing and Binding House, 1890), [1], 21–22; Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors, Twelfth Annual Report (Los Angeles: McBride Press, 1901), [1], 6, 11; and Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors, Twenty-Second Annual Report (Los Angeles: n.p., 1910), 4–5, 7, 14.


lapl, Annual Report … 1890, 15.


“The Los Angeles Public Library Training-Class,” Library Journal 17 (July 1892): 234–35. The question of married women working in the library was still unresolved in 1908 when then-librarian Charles Lummis asked the library board to allow a recently married librarian to remain on the staff. The board filed the motion without taking action. Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors Meeting Minutes, November 5, 1908, lapl Board of Commissioners Office, Los Angeles Public Library (hereafter cited as lapl Directors Meeting Minutes).


“Los Angeles Public Library Training-Class,” 235–36.


Jerry Finley Cao, “The Los Angeles Public Library: Origins and Development, 1872–1910” (PhD diss., University of Southern California, 1977), 154.


Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors, Annual Report … 1897 (Los Angeles: n.p., 1897), 15–16; Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors, Annual Report … 1898 (Los Angeles: n.p., 1898), 15–16.


Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors, Annual Report … 1891 (Los Angeles: Evening Express Co., 1891), 21.


Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors, Sixth Annual Report (Los Angeles: n.p., 1894), 6, 22.


lapl, Annual Report … 1898, 4–5.


“Library Directors: Plans Proposed for a Set of Civil Service Rules,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 1897.


lapl, Annual Report … 1898, 5.


“Current Topics Club,” Los Angeles Herald, December 19, 1897; “Hands Off!” Los Angeles Herald, January 5, 1898.


“Library Trustees' Inconsistency,” Los Angeles Herald, December 30, 1897; “Why the Library Trustees Endorse These Examinations,” Los Angeles Herald, December 31, 1897; “Hands Off!” Los Angeles Herald, January 5, 1898.


“Attendants Disciplined,” Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1898.


“Miss Corrine Wise Dead,” Los Angeles Times, June 15, 1898; “Suspends Attendants,” Los Angeles Herald, June 17, 1898.


lapl, Annual Report … 1898, 5; “Attendants Disciplined,” Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1898.


Los Angeles Civil Service Department, Second Annual Report (Los Angeles: Southern California Printing Co., 1904), 3–4, 13. O'Melveny also served on the lapl board from 1895 to 1901 and 1907 to 1909.


Ibid., 42–43.


“Civil Service Shoe Beginning to Pinch,” Los Angeles Times, April 11, 1903.


“Library Trustees Present Revised Classification,” Los Angeles Herald, May 20, 1903.


lapl Directors Meeting Minutes, January 27, 1904; Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors, Annual Report … 1904 (Los Angeles: Southern California Printing Co., 1904), 19–20.


“Fear Civil Service,” Los Angeles Herald, April 11, 1903; “Civil Service Examinations,” Los Angeles Herald, December 28, 1903.


For more on Jones's background and her tenure at lapl, see Hansen, Gracy, and Irvin, “At the Pleasure of the Board.”


“Board Adds an Assistant,” Los Angeles Herald, June 16, 1901.


“Strife Stirs the Library,” Los Angeles Times, February 24, 1903; “Public Library ‘Slush’ Boiled Out of Mush,” Los Angeles Times, March 3, 1903; “Library Mush Served Just a Bit Cold,” Los Angeles Times, April 8, 1903. The word mush in newspaper article titles refers to Jones calling Miller a “mush of concession.”


“Public Library ‘Slush’ Boiled Out of Mush,” Los Angeles Times, March 3, 1903.


“Still More Probing,” Los Angeles Herald, March 5, 1903; “That Mush of Concession,” Los Angeles Times, March 10, 1903.


“Library Mush Served Just a Bit Cold,” Los Angeles Times, April 8, 1903.


“Library Investigation: Proceedings of the Committee of the Whole of the City Council of Los Angeles,” February 21, 1906, 502–3, typescript, City Archives and Records Center, Los Angeles, CA.




“Famous Suffragists Address the Club Women,” Los Angeles Times, July 29, 1905.


Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors, Annual Report … 1905 (Los Angeles: Baumgardt Publishing, 1906), 12, 14, 44. For an analysis of Lummis's lapl administration, see Debra Gold Hansen, “A Lion in the Hennery: Charles Fletcher Lummis and the Los Angeles Public Library, 1905–1910,” Vitae Scholasticae 19 (Spring 2000): 5–33.


Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors, Nineteenth Annual Report (Los Angeles: n.p., 1907), 76.


Ibid., 43–44.


lapl, Annual Report … 1905, 24–27; lapl, Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors, Eighteenth Annual Report (Los Angeles: Times-Mirror, 1907), 18–19; lapl, Nineteenth Annual Report, 34; Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors, Eighteenth Annual Report (Los Angeles: Times-Mirror Printing and Binding House, 1907), 18–19.


lapl Directors Meeting Minutes, May 5, 1908; Los Angeles Civil Service Department, Seventh Annual Report (Los Angeles: Franklin Printing Co., 1909), 73.


Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors, Twentieth Annual Report (Los Angeles: Commercial Printing House, 1909), 61.


Ibid., 59.


lapl, Annual Report … 1905, 14.


Charles Lummis, letter to Julia W. Blandy, March 30, 1907, MS.1.8, Los Angeles Public Library, Charles Fletcher Lummis Papers, 1888–1928, Braun Research Library Collection, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA (hereafter cited as Lummis Papers, Autry Center).


Charles Lummis, letter to Herbert Putnam, February 28, 1907, Lummis Papers, Autry Center; Los Angeles Civil Service Department, Fifth Annual Report (Los Angeles: Franklin Ptg. Co., 1907), 32.


Charles Lummis, letters to Eva St. Clair Champlin, March 10, 1908; Charles Lummis to Charles Edward Hutson, March 27, 1908; and Charles Lummis to Kathrine Rutherford, October 24, 1908, Lummis Papers, Autry Center.


lapl, Nineteenth Annual Report, 79–80.


Ibid., 99–102.


lapl, Annual Report … 1905, 26.


See lapl, Annual Report … 1905, 25; lapl, Eighteenth Annual Report, 41; lapl, Twentieth Annual Report, 59.


“Just Too Mean … Library Girls Don't Like Civil Service,” Los Angeles Herald, October 5, 1906.


“Library Joke Needs Suppressing,” Graphic, January 23, 1909.


“Jones Accuses Misses Gleason,” Los Angeles Herald, January 8, 1909.


See, for example, “Rival Enters List: That Library Examination,” Los Angeles Times, July 11, 1906, and “Man and Woman in Hot Race for Library Job,” Los Angeles Examiner, July 15, 1906.


“Examiner Was His Friend,” Los Angeles Record, July 31, 1906.


Joseph Daniels, letter to Charles Lummis, July 13, 1906. See also Charles Lummis, letter to Joseph Daniels, July 31, 1906, Lummis Papers, Autry Center.


“Library Joke,” Los Angeles Times, July 10, 1906.


“Scandal Spark Arouses Ire,” Los Angeles Times, January 8, 1909.


“Library to Be Open Shop,” Los Angeles Times, March 29, 1907; “Library Women Talk for Rights,” Los Angeles Herald, March 20, 1907; “Gets Place as Slated,” Los Angeles Herald, August 28, 1907.


Julia Blandy, memo, “Conditions at Pico Branch,” June 8, 1907 (Series 3. Personal and Professional Papers/Los Angeles Public Library). Charles F. Lummis Papers, 1877–1928, Special Collections, University of California–Irvine Library, Irvine, CA.


Julia Blandy, letter to Charles Lummis, May 9, [1907], in ibid.


Charles Lummis, letter to Julia Blandy, May 18, 1907, in ibid.


“New Puff in Teapot Gale,” Los Angeles Times, December 19, 1908.


Los Angeles Civil Service Department, Seventh Annual Report, 28–30.


“Library Skeleton Out of the Closet,” Los Angeles Times, December 16, 1908; “Los Angeles (Cal.) P. L.,” Library Journal 34 (February 1909): 79; “New Puff in Tea-Pot Gale,” Los Angeles Times, December 19, 1908.


Los Angeles Civil Service Commission, Seventh Annual Report, 28, 30.


“Library Snarl Bobs Up Again,” Los Angeles Herald, April 8, 1909.


lapl Directors Meeting Minutes, April 6, 1909, and January 4, 1910; and “Librarian Lummis Suddenly Resigns,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 1910.


Kai Erikson, Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2005), 4, 12–13, 211–12.


Los Angeles Public Library Board of Directors, Twenty-Third Annual Report (Los Angeles: n.p., 1911), 8; Los Angeles Civil Service Department, Eleventh Annual Report (Los Angeles: n.p., 1913), 19–20. ala held its 1911 annual meeting in nearby Pasadena, California, and included a session on the pros and cons of civil service in libraries. The papers were published in the meeting's proceedings: J. T. Jennings, “Municipal Civil Service as Affecting Libraries,” Bulletin of the American Library Association 5, no. 4 (July 1911): 119–27 and Jessie F. Hume, “Humors and Horrors of Municipal Civil Service,” Bulletin of the American Library Association 5, no. 4 (July 1911): 127–29.

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