gratia countryman

5

Cues for You: Etiquette for Library Staff

As a new employee of the Minneapolis Public Library in 1947, you would have been handed a welcome manual which details “in brief what you can expect of the Library and in return what it expects of you.” A few pages have been excerpted here. Even if you are not a library employee, Hennepin County or elsewhere: clear, concise advice on personal appearance, gum chewing and dealing with the public can always be helpful.

On handling books: “Books are valuable property and must be handled carefully. To stack them on top of each other at odd angles, vertically or open, is considered not only criminal neglect but also the height of inefficiency in the best library circles.”

On gossip: “Of course, there are gossips in the library staff, and like all gossips, their information is 90% unreliable.”

On taking breaks: “You are allowed a relief period of 15 minutes…You are not expected to go out and buy a fur coat or enroll for a course in Spanish on your relief period.”

On desk behavior: “Traditionally noise and disorder are out of place anywhere in the Library…prolonged visiting behind or over public desks can be interpreted by the taxpayer as a waste of his money.”

Prior to the printed manual, Gratia Countryman, the director of Minneapolis Public Library for over 30 years, found it necessary to put fingers to typewriter in order to call attention to a number of library employee oversights.

From the Desk of Gratia Countryman

Gratia Countryman was very important to the history of Hennepin County Library.  She was the director of Minneapolis Public Library for over 30 years and she founded Hennepin County Library. Her first job in the library included classifying the 30,000 volumes that made up the library’s initial collection in 1889. Within a year she was appointed head of the cataloging department.  In the photo above she is the one reading, her cataloging co-worker at the time, Louise Lynsky is also in the photo.

 “We seem to be living in a period when children must be entertained continually…it is to be deeply regretted that the home no longer takes the burden of recreation activities, but throws the burden off upon the school, the public park and playgrounds, the library…” - Gratia Countryman, 1915 Annual Report of Minneapolis Public Library, page 22.

From the Desk of Gratia Countryman

Here is the first in an ongoing series from the desk of Gratia Countryman. Gratia Countryman was very important to the history of Hennepin County Library.  She was the director of Minneapolis Public Library for over 30 years and she founded Hennepin County Library.

This is from Ms. Countryman’s annual report from the first year of her administration, 1904:

What is a library for?

A public library is the one great civic institution supported by the people which is designed for the instruction and pleasure of all people, young and old, without age limit, rich and poor, without class limit, educated and uneducated, without culture limit. Its function being to instruct and benefit, how are we going to accomplish this end? In the opinion of your librarian there is positively no limit to the things which a public library can legitimately do in carrying out its purpose, except the limitations of financial resources. It should be “all things to all men” in the world of thought, by keeping in close touch, not only with the leaders of thought, but with the rank and file of the people. This will mean many forms of activity which in the past were not connected with the idea of a library. Perhaps still in the minds of many a library is only a place where books are stored, or distributed under many objectionable restrictions. But in the larger sense, the library should be a wide-awake institution for the dissemination of ideas, where books are easily accessible and readily obtainable. It should be the center of all the activities of a city that lead to social growth, municipal reform, civic pride and good citizenship. It should have its finger on the pulse of the people, ready to second and forward any good movement. It should be the home of clubs and societies and free lecture courses. …gracious and sympathetic hospitality should be the prevailng spirit of the place, and every member of a well disciplined staff will need, not only a broad education, but the most genuine willingness to serve.

How to reach the busy men and women…how to enlist the interest of tired factory girls, how to put the workingman in touch with the art books relating to his craft and so increase the value of his labor and the dignity of his day’s work - these are some of the things which I concieve my duty to study, if I would help this public library to become what it is for.

Gratia Countryman, Librarian

From the Desk of Gratia Countryman (Banned Books Week edition)

Gratia Countryman was very important to the history of Hennepin County Library.  She was the director of Minneapolis Public Library for over 30 years and she founded Hennepin County Library.  Here is a note she sent to Florence Mettler, the head Librarian of the North Branch Library in 1935.

December 11, 1935

Dear Miss Mettler,

You asked in your Daily Happenings what to do about the Birth control magazine which is sent to you as a gift.

I see no reason whatever why it should not be out on the open magazine shelves. I went through the file after your letter came and I couldn’t find a single article which had anything about method, apparatus, or anything else that would harm children. I think it might be very valuable for adults to peruse.

You have a good many German Catholics in your region who might object to it, but they don’t have to read it and they certainly would have no right to object to other people reading it.

Yours truly,

Librarian