- New York Public Library. Webster Branch
- Call number
- MssArc RG8 5884
- Physical description
- 6 linear feet (15 boxes)
- Preferred Citation
Webster Branch Records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library.
- New York Public Library Archives
- Access to materials
- Advance notice required. Request access to this collection.Restrictions apply
Reports, correspondence, accession books, financial records, news clippings and administrative files documenting operations of Webster Branch of The New York Public Library.
The Webster Branch of the New York Public Library traces its origins to the Webster Free Library, founded by the East Side House settlement in 1894. Rising costs and reductions in City funds eventually forced the settlement to ask the New York Public Library to absorb the work of the library. This consolidation took effect on January 1, 1904 with the understanding that NYPL would construct a new library with funds drawn from Andrew Carnegie's gift of $5.2 million to build libraries in New York City.
NYPL identified a site a few blocks from the original library, and in January 1905 the City of New York purchased the land from Marie Alice Haag for $15,000. Babb, Cook & Willard were selected as the architects, and they designed a three-story, limestone building in the Classical Revival style. Construction costs totaled $73,763. Opening exercises for the new building, located at 78th Street and York Avenue, were held on October 24, 1906, and books began to circulate the next day.
Until World War II, the area around the Webster Branch had a large immigrant population from Central and Eastern Europe. Many of these were Bohemians (as the Czech population of the neighborhood was then called), and the branch was sometimes referred to as the "Bohemian Branch." The Webster Free Library had offered readers a small Czech language collection, and NYPL expanded this service by creating a Czechoslovak Department on the third floor of the building. The Library also hosted cultural programs for the Bohemian community, including a Slavia Club that presented lectures and musical events, and English language classes taught by YMCA staff. For many years Czech books and programs were considered the core service of the branch, and attracted users from across the city. The effort was so successful that in 1927 the Czechoslovak Consul General presented medals and decorations to four NYPL librarians for their support of the collection. After some disruptions during World War II, the Czech collection was strengthened through gifts and foreign buying trips by staff. In 1957 most foreign language collections, including Czech books, were consolidated at the new Donnell Library Center. Czech music scores were transferred at that time to the Music Library. Only a small collection of Czech books remained at the Webster Branch.
During the 1960s-1990s the social composition of the Upper East Side changed, and the Webster Branch shifted its focus to serve the library needs of a diverse user community.
Source of acquisition
Transferred from Webster Branch Library.
Compiled Jim Moske; machine readable finding aid created by FAKER.
Using the collection
LocationNew York Public Library Archives
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, New York, NY 10018-2788
Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room, Third Floor, Room 328
Access to materialsAdvance notice required. Request access to this collection.
Boxes 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 closed to research.