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GCountryman

About this collection

Over 200 photographs concerning the long-time director of the Minneapolis Public Library and founder of the Hennepin County Library system. Donated, in part, by Virginia Buffington Shaw.

Gratia Alta Countryman (1866-1953) was the third director of the Minneapolis Public Library and the founder of the Hennepin County Library. In 1904 she succeeded James Kendall Hosmer as chief librarian, becoming the nation’s first female head librarian. Countryman was chief librarian for over thirty-two years until 1936 when she was required to retire at the age of seventy. In the thirty-two years she directed the Library, service expanded into all areas of the city including elementary and junior high schools, hospitals, engine houses, welfare centers, and factories. By the time of her retirement, the book collection had increased to 662,842 volumes and the circulation, which was 519,000 in 1904, had increased to 3,293,484 in 1936. The number of registered borrowers had increased from 40,500 in 1904 to 181,582 in 1936. Of the 11 branch library buildings in Minneapolis, 9 were built during her administration. Miss Countryman was instrumental in local, state, and national library work, and was elected President of the American Library Association from 1933-34 becoming the sixth woman to hold that distinction in the association’s hitherto sixty year history. 

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