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Bernard A. Margolis Papers

 Collection
Identifier: JHCP-004

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains correspondence, photographs, awards, art, artifacts, educational records, newspaper clippings, audiovisual materials, brochures, and articles documenting Bernard Margolis’s personal and professional lives. Included are materials related to the Margolis and Birkenfeld families, art and artifacts collected by Margolis throughout his lifetime, educational records from elementary to graduate school, and material on his political involvement, including his protests against the Vietnam War and his campaign for Michigan State Senator. His professional papers include materials related to his work at the Denver Public Library, Monroe County Library System, Pikes Peak Library District, Boston Public Library, and New York State Library, as well as his involvement in professional library organizations.

Dates

  • undated, 1860-2018

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, Hebrew, and Romanian.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for researcher use. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Conditions Governing Use

There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Biographical / Historical

Bernard (often referred to as Bernie) A. Margolis was born on October 2, 1948 in Greenwich, Connecticut to Sidney and Rose (Birkenfeld) Margolis. He had one younger brother, Michael.

His father Sidney Margolis was born on February 17, 1918 to Bernard (born circa 1872 in Romania) and Dora (born circa 1885 in Poland) Margolis. Sidney grew up in New York City and attended the New Utrecht Evening High School, from which he graduated in 1936. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942, serving as a Crew Chief and Engineer Gunner of the 442nd Bomb Squadron of the 320th Bomb Group, and was honorably discharged as a Master Sergeant in 1945. He worked a variety of jobs in the Jewish community, including as administrator of the Jamaica Jewish Center, the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills, and the Beth El Synagogue Center (all in New York), and as Director of National Community Development for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith New York, Director of Development for the Synagogue Council of America, and various positions at the United Synagogue of America. In 1976, he received a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the State University of New York.

Bernard's mother, Rose (Birkenfeld) Margolis, was born on August 13, 1922 to Harry and Sadie Birkenfeld in Louisville, Kentucky. Harry, who owned a grocery store, was born in Poland and immigrated to the United States circa 1902, and Sadie was born in Kentucky to immigrant parents.

On January 1, 1941, Sidney and Rose married. In the 1970s, the couple retired to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they opened a shop, Native American Artifacts and Antiquities. Rose died on October 22, 1992, and Sidney died on February 24, 2003.

Moving from Connecticut with his family, Bernard A. Margolis grew up in New Rochelle, New York, and attended Albert Leonard Junior High School and New Rochelle High School, where he was a prominent member of the Model United Nations organization, for which he won many awards. In 1970, he received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Denver, and in 1973, his Master of Arts in Librarianship, also from the University of Denver.

In 1970, amidst the Vietnam War, Margolis was called to report to his local draft board. Citing his religious and moral beliefs, he sought classification as a Conscientious Objector. Although he was not granted the classification, he was granted an exemption from military service.

From July 1972 to October 1973, he served as the head of the Virginia Village branch of the Denver Public Library (DPL). In October 1973, Margolis was hired as the Deputy Director of the Monroe County Library System (MCLS), headquartered in Monroe, Michigan, serving until December 1975, after which he was appointed Director. As director, he oversaw 16 branch libraries and one mobile unit; successfully led three tax millage campaigns in 1976, 1980, and 1984; expanded the number of libraries in the system; developed a computer-output-microfilm (COM) catalog of library holdings; and instituted an art-for-loan program. During this time, he also served as the Director of the Raisin Valley Library System and the Director of the Southeast Michigan Regional Film Library and was a founder of the Woodland Library Cooperative. In 1985, he was named Michigan Librarian of the Year.

In 1986, Margolis ran for state senator of the 11th Senate District in Michigan. Winning the Democratic primary for the office, he later lost to Republican candidate Norman Shinkle in the general election.

In March 1988, Margolis was hired as the Director of the Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD), which serves El Paso County and Colorado Springs, Colorado. Here, he directed 11 library branches, doubled the library’s collection size, introduced free internet access to the library system, worked with the Kennedy Center’s Imagination Celebration, and oversaw the Community Video Center, which produced live cable TV programming, documentaries, and informational media on topics like the Bill of Rights and homeschooling. In 1990, he was named Colorado Librarian of the Year by the Colorado Library Association.

In 1993, after an amendment was passed in Colorado preventing any city, town, or county in the state from recognizing homosexual or bisexual persons as a protected class (the amendment was later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court), the PPLD sponsored a five-part series of panel discussions called “Tolerance/Intolerance in the Pikes Peak Region,” which explored topics such as civil rights, church and state, gay rights, and racism in the local community. Moderated by Margolis, it was broadcast on public television and won the Colorado Library Association 1993 Intellectual Freedom Award.

In 1997, Margolis was hired as the first president of the Boston Public Library (BPL). As president, he oversaw nearly 30 neighborhood library branches, led the effort in the restoration and renovation of the central library building, expanded library hours, created the Homework Assistance Program, and secured a multimillion dollar gift to establish the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL, among other accomplishments. Early on in his presidency, Margolis made headlines when he publicly disagreed with then Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s demand to block access to pornographic internet websites on public computers at the library. Eventually, a compromise was made, with the BPL installing filtering software on 26 computers available to minors. Margolis was also heavily involved in the creation of an exhibit on Alexandre Vattemare, a French national was an advocate for international library exchange and the formation of public libraries and who helped found the BPL. In 2007, Margolis’s contract was not renewed, and his presidency ended the following year.

In January 2009, Margolis was appointed New York State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner of Libraries. In his post at the State Library, located in Albany, New York and which serves the state’s 73 library systems and 7,000 academic, school, special, and public libraries, he administered the New York State Research Library and the Division of Library Development. In 2018, for his work with the New York State Library, Margolis was posthumously awarded the Senator Hugh Farley Outstanding Advocate for Libraries Award and the William Meredith Library Advocate Award.

On November 2, 1973, Margolis married Amanda Batey. In 2010, Margolis was diagnosed with blood cancer, and after an eight-year battle, died on April 14, 2018 at the age of 69.

Chronology

February 17, 1918
Sidney Margolis is born.
August 13, 1922
Rose Birkenfeld is born.
January 1, 1941
Sidney Margolis and Rose Birkenfeld marry.
October 2, 1948
Bernard A. Margolis (BAM) is born.
1970
BAM earns a B.A. from the University of Denver.
July 1972-October 1973
BAM is head of the Denver Public Library's Virginia Village branch.
1973
BAM earns an M.A. from the University of Denver.
October 1973-December 1973
BAM is Deputy Director of the Monroe County Library System.
November 2, 1973
BAM and Amanda Batey marry.
1976-1988
BAM is Director of the Monroe County Library System.
1977-1980
BAM serves as Executive Council Member of the Michigan Library Consortium.
1979
BAM is elected a delegate to the Michigan White House Conference on Libraries.
1979-1980
BAM serves as Vice Chair of the Southeast Michigan Information and Referral Alliance.
1980-1984
BAM serves as treasurer of the Michigan Library Consortium.
1985
BAM is named Michigan Librarian of the Year.
1986
BAM runs for state senator in the 11th Senate District of Michigan.
1988-1997
BAM is Director of the Pikes Peak Library District.
1989-1990
BAM serves as a councilor of the American Library Association.
1989-2010
BAM serves as a councilor of the American Library Association.
1990
BAM is named Colorado Librarian of the Year.
October 22, 1992
Rose Margolis dies.
1997-2008
BAM is president of the Boston Public Library.
February 24, 2003
Sidney Margolis dies.
2009-2018
BAM is New York State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner of Libraries.
April 14, 2018
BAM dies.

Extent

10.5 linear feet (7 document boxes, 2 OS boxes)

Overview

This collection contains correspondence, photographs, awards, art, artifacts, educational records, newspaper clippings, audiovisual materials, brochures, and articles documenting Bernard A. Margolis’s personal and professional lives. Included are materials related to the Margolis and Birkenfeld families, art and artifacts collected by Margolis throughout his lifetime, educational records from elementary to graduate school, and material on his political involvement, including his protests against the Vietnam War and his campaign for Michigan State Senator. His professional papers include materials related to his work at the Denver Public Library, Monroe County Library System, Pikes Peak Library District, Boston Public Library, and New York State Library, as well as his involvement in professional library organizations.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Amanda Batey, 2018.

Processing Information

Processed by Lindsay Murphy, 2019
Title
Guide to the Bernard A. Margolis Papers, JHCP-004
Author
Processed by Lindsay Murphy
Date
2019
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society Repository

Contact:
99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States
617-226-1245