Violet Frances Myer, 94, headed the Pratt Library film department

September 02, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Violet Frances Myer, who headed the Enoch Pratt Free Library's film department, died of congestive heart failure Thursday at the Fairhaven Retirement Community in Sykesville, where she resided for the past 15 years. She was 94 and had previously lived in Windsor Hills and Guilford.

A former city neighborhoods branch chief, she ran the downtown library's audio-visual department before her retirement in 1971.

Born in Pueblo, Colo., she was raised in Tuscaloosa, Ala., by her maternal grandparents after her mother died in childbirth. She earned a degree from the University of Alabama and a master's degree in library science from Columbia University.

She was a librarian for the Rockaway branch of the Queens Borough Public Library in New York before becoming the assistant director for the U.S. Information Agency's libraries in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa.

In 1947, she joined the Pratt Library and was chosen to head the Waverly branch, then at Gorsuch and Kirk avenues in Northeast Baltimore, and the Patterson Park branch. She later was assigned to select adult books for three new branches the library was then opening - Edmondson Village, Pennsylvania Avenue and Pimlico. She was appointed librarian of the Pimlico branch when it opened in November 1952. Under her direction, the library achieved the highest circulation of any branch in the Pratt system.

"She had incredible memory and was always vivacious, outgoing and gracious," said Julian L. Lapides, her attorney who lives in Bolton Hill. "She entertained beautifully. She had impeccable manners and was a delightful conversationalist. And she was not averse to a bourbon and water at 5 in the afternoon."

In 1953, on a leave from the Pratt, she went to the American Library Association in Chicago to supervise a Ford Foundation grant assisting small libraries to open adult education departments.

In 1955, she returned here and was named head of the central library's films department.

"She built up the department into a well-rounded film collection," said Marc Sober, a Pratt media research specialist who lives in Belvedere Square. "She worked on the 16 mm film collection at what was one of the oldest public library audio-visual departments in the country."

Other colleagues recalled her willingness to serve her patrons.

"She had a strong social conscience," said Carolyn Hauck, a former Pratt co-worker who lives in Mount Vernon. "She was dedicated to building a good collection, in trying to buy the best films and to present them to the public. She liked good examples of documentaries and art films. Film programming was important to her."

After her retirement, Ms. Myers organized a library at Har Sinai Congregation, where she was librarian from 1972 to 1976.

When she moved to the Fairhaven Retirement Community in Carroll County in 1988, she continued her interest in libraries.

"A portion of her estate is being left to Fairhaven to be used to establish a library fund for the residents," Mr. Lapides said.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Fairhaven auditorium, Sykesville.

Survivors include a nephew, James William Harpel of New York.

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