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Olive Brumbaugh – Orlando’s Librarian 1923-1943

The Duties of the Head Librarian

The duties of the “librarian” enumerated in Article IX of the library’s Articles of Incorporation (pp. 3-4) indicate that, in addition to serving as a librarian, the person hired as head librarian oversaw all departments and actually performed the duties of a director.

Olive Brumbaugh is Hired

The April 17, 1923 Minutes of the meetings of the library board of directors state:

“An application for position of librarian was received from Miss Olive Brumbaugh librarian of the Public Library of Frankfort, Indiana.” It was decided that a wire (telegram via Western Union) be “sent to Miss Brumbaugh asking for references, age, photo and salary expected.”

The board called a special meeting on April 19th to address the hiring of a librarian. The board’s secretary recorded the following about that meeting:

“Letter received from a relation of Miss Brumbaugh, recommending her and enclosing photograph, both of which were very satisfactory. Miss Stelle having wired that she could not accept the second offer of the Board it was decided to send a wire again to Miss Brumbaugh hoping for a  favorable reply from her by tomorrow afternoon when a special meeting was called at the home of Mrs. Warlow.”

The board received a glowing referral from the Marvin S. Hufford, secretary of the library board in Frankfort, Indiana, on the same day, and decided immediately to offer Miss Brumbaugh the position of head librarian.

At a special meeting of the library board on April 20th, it was decided to make an offer:

“Favorable letter having been received in regard to Miss Brumbaugh, it was moved by Mrs. Warlow, seconded by Mrs. Taylor that Miss Brumbaugh be made an offer of  $2000 a year as librarian to begin work as soon as  possible”.

The work begins

According to a timeline history of the library, Olive Brumbaugh relocated to Orlando and was on duty by May 1, 1923. This excerpt from the 1942 Annual Report provides additional information on the task she faced upon arrival:

In the summer of 1923, the newly created library board found itself in need of an experienced librarian to organize and administer the newly established Public Library, the nucleus of which was the private library of Captain Charles L. Albertson. After considerable search and investigation, Miss Brumbaugh, the librarian of Frankfort, Indiana, where she had served for ten years, was employed as librarian of the Albertson Public Library. Beginning her service as librarian in May, 1923, Miss Brumbaugh was confronted with the Herculean task of converting the large collection of books from a private library into a well organized public library. In her first annual report, she showed that she had classified and catalogued 21,190 books.

According to the minutes of the special board meeting conducted on May 16, 1923, Miss Brumbaugh was already at work cataloging the Albertson books with her new assistants Eliza Wright and Claudine Wallace.

A special meeting of the Library Board was held with Mrs. Jamieson to discuss business with the new librarian, Miss Brumbaugh. All members present. The library building not being ready for occupancy temporary quarters in the old High School building had been secured by the President [Sexton Johnson], and Miss Brumbaugh and assistants having begun the work of cataloguing, necessary furniture was required. Moved, seconded and carried, “That the Board sanction the purchase of such items as have been already selected and that Miss Brumbaugh be authorized to purchase such other furniture and supplies as are needed to carry on the work and that bills be presented to the Board each month for same.”

The “Librarian’s Report and Survey of the Year’s Work ending December 1, 1924”, included in the 1924 Annual Report (pages 14-17) gives the complete overview of everything Olive Brumbaugh and her staff accomplished during the previous year.

Monthly reports and board minutes from 1923-1931 and annual reports chronicle the challenges faced and the successes and accomplishments realized while Olive Brumbaugh was librarian of the Albertson Public Library.

The above photograph shows Olive Brumbaugh (far right) with her staff standing on the sidewalk in front of the Albertson Public Library published in the January 31, 1926 Sunday Reporter Star, p.2. The staff were not identified in the article, but the 1926 Annual Report gives a complete list of all staff, including when they were hired and when they departed during the year. When perusing the staff list, remember that in the 1920s it was proper for married staff to be listed by their husband’s initials. Example: Claudine Wallace is listed as Mrs. F. R. Wallace.

ABOVE: January 31, 1926 Sunday Reporter Star. VIEW larger image.

Olive Brumbaugh continued to lead her staff and guide the library through the difficult times before and after what would later be known as the “Great Depression.” She agreed to reduce her own pay during the financial crisis necessitating the library board to reduce the annual budget by 25 percent.

American Library Association and the Florida Library Association

The minutes of the library board from 1923-1930 indicate that Olive Brumbaugh attended the annual ALA conferences and many of the conferences of the newly formed Florida Library Association.

The undated clipping below is on the inside front cover of the 1923-1930 minutes book, and features head librarian Olive Brumbaugh in her stylish attire in the center. The board minutes from April 1928 indicate that Olive Brumbaugh served as president of the Florida Library Association from 1927-1928, so this photo is just before she was made president of the association in April 1927.

Caption: Mrs. Ann Van Ness Brown, Sanford, president of the Florida Library Association, now in convention in Miami, Miss Olive Brumbaugh, Orlando, and Miss Frances Gates, Tampa, are leaders among Florida librarians. Miss Gates is slated to be nominated for vice president of the association and Miss Brumbaugh is expected to be nominated for president Friday afternoon. – Daily News Photos.

Olive Brumbaugh attended the ALA conference in New Haven, Connecticut in June 1931. She penned a lengthy and interesting personal account of not only the conference but of her visit with friends in New York, and sightseeing after the conference.

Regarding her visit to New York:

After all New York is New York, and if I had my way I’d certainly be a New Yorker. It may be better to be a big duck in a little pond but I like more room and New York is just my size. I’ve made up my mind I’m going to live there some time. I don’t know when or in what capacity, but that doesn’t seem to matter…Bob Fulnam and Ben Frazer from Natches, Mississippi, took Edith and me to a couple of speakeasies. We went to one in the Village called “The Annex,” where we sat on beer kegs and had some kind of liquor and bread and cheese. Then we went to one where the ritzy people go on Park Avenue. That must have cost Bob and Ben a week’s salary, but they didn’t seem to mind.

Regarding the historical sites she visited:

After the meeting I took a few days and went on to Boston. Boston with its memories of Paul Revere, Bunker Hill, the Boston Tea Party, the Old North Church, Lexington, Concord, and Plymouth, is no longer mythical but has become a reality. I visited Paul Revere’s house, John Hancock’s house, the home of Longfellow and his two daughters at Cambridge, and Lowell’s house at Cambridge.I went to Salem and saw “The House of Seven Gables” where Nathaniel Hawthorne was an habitual visitor, and sat in the chair and at the desk where the story was written. I went to Gloucester and would have liked to stay there a long time. I loved the water beating on the rocks. At Marblehead I saw Willard’s famous painting “The Spirit of ’76” in the original where it hangs in Abbott Hall. At Lexington I saw the Hancock-Clarke house, built in 1698. John Hancock and Samuel Adams were staying there April 18, 1775, when Paul Revere rode into town giving warning of the approach of the British. In Lexington I also saw the Minute-Man Monument, and the Munroe Tavern built in 1695. At Concord I saw the house where Ralph Waldo Emerson lived and died, the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau and the Alcotts are buried. I stood on the Old North Bridge where the Revolutionary War was truly inaugurated.

Olive Brumbaugh spoke at the 1936 Florida Library Association convention in Jacksonville, March 26-27, 1936. A letter from the president of the association commended her on a recent gift of $4000 received from a library patron, part of which was used to create a garden on the east side of the building at the new entrance to the Children’s Department.

ABOVE: From the front cover of the March 1936 Florida Library Bulletin. 

Olive Brumbaugh’s brief bio under “Who’s Who on the Program” (referring to the upcoming F.L.A. convention), states:

Olive Brumbaugh – Former librarian in Indiana. Came to Florida in 1924 [1923] to organize the Orlando Public Library, which is now one of the finest libraries in the South. Past President of the F.L.A., and has held committee memberships in the ALA, and other library activities.

Melville “Melvil” Dewey

Olive Brumbaugh developed an association with Melville “Melvil” Dewey through her leadership in the Florida Library Association and membership in the ALA. There are several letters discussing possible meetings.

Upon learning that Melville “Melvil” Dewey would be in Florida on his 75th birthday, she invited him to attend a special dinner in his honor as part of the Florida Library Association meeting in Orlando on December 11, 1926.  At the library board meeting on December 7, 1926, “Miss Brumbaugh announced that Mr. Melville Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System of cataloging, is spending the winter in Sebring and that she had learned that this meeting [District Library meeting in Orlando] is to take place on his seventy fifth birthday and that she had extended a cordial invitation to him to be present.”

Articles published in the Orlando Sentinel and Sanford Herald confirm that Melville Dewey attended the luncheon given in his honor at the Yellowstone Tea House.

ABOVE: Excerpt from article published in the Orlando Sentinel on December 12, 1926, page 10A.

Dewey invited Olive to spend the weekend with his wife and he at Lake Placid in 1928. She was one of many invitees to the celebration of his 80th birthday in Lake Placid, Florida in 1931 and represented the Florida Library Association at the event.

Letters to the Editor

There are many letters to the editor of the local newspaper and actual letters received by Olive Brumbaugh and board members extolling the virtues of the director and the Albertson library for its collection and its staff. This is but one letter to the editor of the Orlando Morning Sentinel published on April 4, 1934. It begins:

As Director of the Chautauqua (New York) School for Librarians, former State Library Organizer of Ohio, Utah, and North Dakota, and a librarian of wide experience, who has been visiting Orlando for the last week, I would like to express my pleasure in seeking the progress of the Albertson Public Library, since I visited it ten years ago when the Library was first opened to the public.

Testimonial of Appreciation

Olive Brumbaugh notified the board on November 10, 1942 that she was resigning her position to marry William G. Morris of Key West. At the request of the board, she remained until January 15, 1943 – almost 20 years after she accepted the position of librarian in April 1923.

In appreciation for her years of service and the loss felt by the board and the community she served, the board included a Testimonial of Appreciation of Olive Brumbaugh Morris in the 1942 Annual Report of the Albertson Public Library. The two-page testimonial expresses completely the board’s deep appreciation of her skills and accomplishments as librarian, and their great regret on her leaving.

They summed up their appreciation in the last two paragraphs:

During her twenty-year residence in Orlando, Miss Brumbaugh endeared herself to the people by her interest in the civic life of the community. Her fine personality enriched the social and intellectual life of Orlando. Through her untiring effort to interest young and old in the library and its resources, she has developed a large number of library patrons in the City Beautiful. We wish to express our appreciation of Miss Olive Brumbaugh for twenty years of the most devoted, loyal, able and enthusiastic service to the Albertson Public Library.

Peruse additional items of interest under IMAGES and DOCUMENTS.


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Olive Brumbaugh

Olive Brumbaugh circa 1926

Staff list from 1926 Annual Report

1926 Annual Report lists all staff including any who were hired or departed during the year.

1926 - Albertson Public Library Staff

January 31, 1926 Sunday Reporter Star, p.2 - photo of staff of the Albertson Public Library.

Sunday Reporter Star, January 31, 1926

Sunday Reporter Star, January 31, 1926

January 31, 1926 Sunday Reporter Star, p.2

January 31, 1926 Sunday Reporter Star, p.2

Olive Brumbaugh

The undated clipping below is on the inside front cover of the 1923-1930 minutes book, and features head librarian Olive Brumbaugh in...

Florida Library Association Leaders

The undated clipping below is on the inside front cover of the 1923-1930 minutes book, and features head librarian Olive Brumbaugh in...

Olive Brumbaugh

Olive Brumbaugh

Rollins College job offer to Olive Brumbaugh March 11, 1927

Rollins College job offer to Olive Brumbaugh March 11, 1927, which she turned down.

Quest Society invitation to Melvil Dewey's Birthday

Letter from the Quest Society dated November 1, 1931, inviting librarians to attend the 80th birthday celebration for Melville "Melvil" Dewey.

Letter from Florida Library Association dated November 9, 1931.

Letter from Florida Library Association dated November 9, 1931, to Olive Brumbaugh asking that she represent the organization at Melvil Dewey's 80th...

1935 Letter from the Aviation Department of Orlando

Letter thanking Olive Brumbaugh from the director of the Aviation Department of Orlando, E. C. Nilson.

Florida Library Bulletin, March 1936

From the front cover of the March 1936 Florida Library Bulletin promoting the upcoming convention in Jacksonville. See the entire booklet under...

Testimonial of Appreciation 1942

1942 Annual Report included a Testimonial of Appreciation of Olive Brumbaugh Morris.

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1924 Annual Report

The 1924 Annual Report tells the story of how the librarian came to be hired and all the work accomplished during the first year.

Sunday Reporter Star, January 31, 1926.

Sunday Reporter Star, January 31, 1926.

Melville Dewey December 1926

Librarian Olive Brumbaugh invited Melvil Dewey to the District Library conference held in Orlando on December 10, 1926. Mr. Dewey attended a dinner held in honor of his 75th birthday with 50 delegates and guests in attendance.

April 13, 1928 letter to Olive Brumbaugh from the board

April 13, 1928 letter to Olive Brumbaugh from the board, notifying her that her pay was being increased by $300 per month and she would have two months vacation each summer.

June 1931

Olive Brumbaugh responds to board measures to cut costs.

June 1931 ALA Conference

Olive Brumbaugh's personal account of her visit with friends up north and her experiences at the ALA conference in June 1931.

Newspaper Clippings Financial Crisis 1931

Newspaper clippings about the cost cutting measures due to the financial crisis and letters to the Editor in response.

Letter to the editor, April 4, 1934.

Letter to the editor of the Orlando Sentinel dated April 4, 1934.

Letter in support of Olive Brumbaugh, May 11, 1933.

Apparently, someone tried to claim that Olive Brumbaugh was not competent to run the library. Many residents and visitors wrote in her support. This is a letter written May 11, 1933.

Florida Library Association conference March 1936

Letter to Olive Brumbaugh from president of the Florida Library Association commenting with amazement on the $4000 gift to the APL and on the garden outside the new entrance to the Children's Department. Also, thanking her for agreeing to speak at the upcoming conference in March 1936.

APL 10th Anniversary

Olive Brumbaugh's writing for publication in the local newspaper on the 10th Anniversary of the opening of the Albertson Public Library ten years prior on November 8, 1923.

April 26, 1931 Letter from Edward P. Moses.

Letter from Edward P. Moses of Tampa concerning the bill before the Florida Legislature regarding providing library services to unincorporated sections of counties dated April 26, 1931.

Newspaper clipping 1930s - New York publisher

Newspaper clipping referencing letter to edition in a Delaware County, New York newspaper, praising the services of the staff at the Albertson Public Library under the direction of Olive Brumbaugh.

Orlando newspaper article mentioning Brumbaugh

Orlando newspaper article mentioning the APL as "one of the finest in the South," and Olive Brumbaugh, "Orlando Proves to be a Popular Hoosier Resort."

Article for the newspaper on the 7th anniversary

Article published November 7, 1930, penned by Olive Brumbaugh on the occasion of the 7th anniversary of the opening of the Albertson Public Library, entitled "A Business That Grows and Grows."

April 8, 1929 letter from Gov. Carlton's office

April 8, 1929 letter from Gov. Carlton's office acknowledging that he would be happy to meet with Miss Brumbaugh when she was next in Tallahassee.

Letter to Brumbaugh regarding Capt. Albertson

During the financial crunch in 1930, Captain Albertson sent an inquiry to the Buffalo Public Library asking about number of hours staff were required to work per week. They responded to Olive Brumbaugh with humor.

Letter to the Editor April 9, 1930

Letter to the Editor, April 9, 1930, on the virtues of the Albertson library and the Rollins College library.

Letter from genealogy patron

Interesting letter from Genealogy patron describing the location of a book from which they needed information and a map showing exactly where to find it.

1942 Annual Report

1942 Annual Report includes a two-page Testimonial of Olive Brumbaugh Morris.

Timeline history 1900-1991

Library timeline history 1990-1991 contains important events during the leadership of Olive Brumbaugh.

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