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Esther A. Barlow Collection

Identifier: nnhc-eab

Scope and Contents

The Esther A. Barlow Collection documents Esther Barlow’s nearly fifty year career as a children’s librarian at Chicago Public Library and also contains a small amount of material related to her personal life and family history. The professional papers include notes, planning material, event fliers, conference programs, journal articles, pamphlets, and correspondence. The personal and family papers include certificates, memorial cards, clippings, and travel material. There is also a collection of greeting cards and postcards; publications, including children’s books and cook books; and photographs. The photographs include images of Chicago Public Library children’s events and staff gatherings at Hild Regional Library and the Lake View Branch. They also include images of Esther Barlow’s early family life in Calmar, Iowa.


  • circa 1880-1993


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

Esther A. Barlow was born in 1904 in Elbow Lake, Minnesota and grew up in Calmar, Iowa. After graduating from high school in 1922, she moved with her family to Minneapolis and attended the University of Minnesota for two years. She then moved to Illinois and entered Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois. In 1927 she graduated from the Liberal Arts Course there and was hired by the Chicago Public Library.

During the first four years of her forty-nine year career with the Chicago Public Library, she served at the Holstein, Albany Park and Rogers Park branches. In 1931, soon after the opening of Hild Regional Library, she was appointed to the children's department there. From 1942-1955 she was the children's librarian at Lake View Branch. In 1955 she returned to Hild to become the Head of Children's Services and remained there until her retirement in 1976.

Esther Barlow served three generations of Northsiders during her years at Chicago Public Library. During her twenty-one years as Head of Children's Services at Hild, she was also responsible for training over one hundred beginning children's librarians who served in CPL branches throughout the city. She also held weekly story hours and extended programming to youngsters at Children's Memorial Hospital. The story-telling room at Sulzer Regional Library is named in her honor.

Esther Barlow made her home on the north side, living for twenty-four years with her aunt Petra Marie Dahl (1878-1951, a practicing physician in 1916) at 4264 North Milwaukee Avenue. She remained on the north side even after her retirement and died in October 1983.


5.5 Linear Feet (in 9 boxes and 89 photographs)

Language of Materials



Esther A. Barlow was a children’s librarian at Chicago Public Library from 1927 until her retirement in 1976, including over twenty years as Head of Children’s Services at Hild Regional Library. The collection contains personal and professional papers, books and publications, and photographs.


The collection is arranged in 5 series:

Series 1: Professional papers and correspondence, 1928-1983, undated

Series 2: Personal and family papers, 1905-1993

Series 3: Cards, 1906-1982, undated

Series 4: Publications, 1896-1967, undated

Series 5: Photographs, circa 1880-1982

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Palma Barlow Lindholm and Marie C. Will.

Existence and Location of Copies

Select photographs from this collection are available in the Library's Esther A. Barlow Digital Collection

Guide to the Esther A. Barlow Collection
Allyson Smally.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2022: A portion of the collection was originally processed by Becky Haglund, 1985. Additional material was added at a later date, and an unknown person began processing but did not finish. In 2022, Allyson Smally integrated the original and new portions of the collection and created an updated Finding Aid.

Repository Details

Part of the Northside Neighborhood History Collection Repository

Sulzer Regional Library
Chicago Public Library
4455 N. Lincoln Avenue
Chicago IL 60625 United States
(312) 742-4455