Memorial Hall Library

Special Exhibit: Edna Brown, our second Head Librarian

Edna Brown, 1922

Stop by the 1st floor exhibit case to see our spring display about the life and work of Edna Adelaide Brown.  Miss Brown, as she was affectionately known, served as Memorial Hall Library's second Head Librarian from 1906 until 1939.  Born in Providence, R.I. to a prominent merchant family with early American ancestry, she was not allowed to go to public libraries as a child because her parents were concerned about germs in public places. Of her childhood she said, " because I had few child playmates, I created imaginary ones and entertained myself making stories."  After her parents died when she was twelve years old, she lived with her older married sister and helped care for her nieces and nephews. She soon began writing children's plays and stories to entertain them.  After graduating from Pembroke College, the coordinate women's college for Brown University, Edna Brown attended the New York State Library School. Graduating with a degree in Library Science, she then worked in the Providence Public Library and the Rosenberg Public Library in Galveston, Texas. 

In 1906, The Trustees of Memorial Hall Library hired Miss Brown to succeed Ballard Holt as Head Librarian for a salary of $75 per month. At that time, the library held about 17,000 books.  In her first year, Miss Brown extended borrowing priviliges to children over ten and initiated an open-stacks browsing policy for the first time. In 1927, Miss Brown oversaw a major addition and renovation which resulted in the library's first Children's Room.  By the time she retired, she managed a highly successful Ballardvale Branch, a bookmobile, a significantly expanded staff and collections of over 100,000 books. 

 "To the little girl I used to be"
Dedicated: "To the little girl I used to be"

Edna Brown was a prolific children's book writer with more than fifteen children's and young adult books to her name.  Her first novel, The Four Gordons, was published in 1906, the same year she arrived in Andover. All of her books were reviewed in the national press as well as in library and educational professional journals.  She was proud of the fact that all of her books were recommended by the American Library Association review journal BookList. She said, " I have tried not only to write books which children really like, but which give them standards for a happy home life."  Miss Brown traveled extensively in Europe with her sister Ethel and her nieces from Rhode Island.  She often said that her travels were inspiration for her writing.  Miss Brown never married and lived with her sister Ethel in a house on Bartlet Street. Ethel and Edna Brown were very active in the Andover community and were known for their leadership in the November Club, a women's civic and cultural organization and Christ Church.  

The exhibit will be on display through the end of the month.