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Westfield had faith in Miss Emma Piehl

Dibbles Dabbles

April 11, 2012
By Billie Dibble - Westfield Historian, 1976-2006 ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

This article first published April 5, 1984:

As National Library Week approaches, it is fitting that Westfield people should remember Miss Emma Piehl who served the community so well for 52 years.

She joined the staff of Patterson Library almost immediately after her graduation from Westfield High School in 1898 when the library was only two years old and was located in the building which is now the YWCA. In 1900 she was granted a leave of absence to attend the State Library School of Albany. Until the fall of 1918 she worked with Miss Sarah Ames, and was advanced to librarian in the year of 1919.

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Submitted photo
For 52 years, from 1898 to 1950, Miss Emma Piehl served the public well at Patterson Library.

I remember Miss Piehl from the time she gathered the small children together at the library for story hours. She read to us those wonderful children's classics and played records on the old wind-up phonograph. Children who patronized the library knew that they must tip-toe and whisper in the sacred building and their hands must be clean and the books must be treated with care and respect and returned on time.

Miss Piehl was a good friend to any serious-minded student and would go to any end to find material. If it was not available at Patterson Library, she would send to Albany for it. She served long before the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System had been formed.

Emma Piehl was often called upon to give talks at meetings such as the Music Club, the Monday Club, school assemblies and the Parent-Teacher Association. I once heard her introduced at a gathering with these words, "If Emma Piehl cannot beg, buy, borrow or steal a book for you, she will make one." Such was the faith the reading public had in Miss Piehl.

Miss Piehl served at the library through three wars: the Spanish American, World War I and World War II. Her work load was very much increased during those periods when she handled publicity, collected books for service men and sold war stamps and bonds.

Miss Piehl was known as one of the outstanding librarians in New York State and received several awards for her excellent work.

While the library seemed to be her life, she had other interests. She was a member of Fredonia Presbyterian Church, Crown Chapter of the Order of Eastern Star of Westfield and the Chautauqua County Historical Society. She was a past matron of Crown Chapter and in 1934 was appointed District Deputy grand matron of Chautauqua District.

When Emma Piehl had served the library for 50 years a number of the descendants of Gov. George W. and Hannah W. Patterson, in whose memory the library was established, gathered at the library for a reception honoring Miss Piehl. At this time she was presented with a gift of money and a silver plate suitably engraved. Many friends who attended the reception presented Miss Piehl with gifts of lowers and congratulatory messages. The Westfield Republican of Aug. 25, 1948, in reporting about the reception, had this to say, "Not one of you but has felt her influence through school days and adult life. Strangers often say, 'Westfield is different. She is not like most small towns. She has culture and refinement that can be felt by even the most casual visitor.' The answer is Patterson Library and Miss Emma Piehl."

Miss Piehl continued her work at Patterson Library for two years after the party in her honor. She retired in October of 1950 and Mrs. John R. Sommers of Mayville was appointed to succeed her as librarian at Patterson.

Following her retirement from the position she had held for 52 years, Miss Piehl became librarian for the Chautauqua County Historical Society and a short time before her death on May 37, 1953, she was elected assistant treasurer of the society.

The number of lives touched and influenced by Miss Emma Piehl could never be measured. Even today (in 1984), thirty years after her death, it is not unusual for someone to ask, "Remember Miss Piehl?" and my answer is, "Indeed I do!"



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