Evelyn Zerzanek served the Cedar Rapids Public Library for nearly half a century, beginning in 1924 and ending with her retirement in 1972. She was the head Children’s Librarian for 23 years.
She began her library career as a student assistant while attending Coe College and the University of Iowa. She was awarded a Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Chicago in 1938.
Miss Zerzanek was instrumental in implementing the library’s story hours and summer reading program, and she is known throughout the city as the woman who helped hundreds of youngsters learn to love reading.
During her tenure as Children’s Librarian, Miss Zerzanek developed a collection of over 850 original illustrations from children’s literature. The collection is owned by and housed in the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Although currently in storage, plans are being made to make the collection accessible to the public in the future.
The illustration collection features original artwork from many of the most beloved children’s books of the 1950s-1970s, including
Illustrators represented include Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Edward Gorey, Bill Peet, and hundreds of others.
The collection also includes 14 volumes of correspondence between Miss Zerzanek and well-known authors, including hand-drawn Christmas cards, recipes, and other items of interest.
After her retirement, Miss Zerzanek relocated to Sun City, Arizona with her longtime friend and companion, retired teacher Ruth Putnam. She died in 1995 at the age of 91.
Following the death of Miss Putnam in 2000, the estates of the two women left a generous gift of $300,000 to the library, specifically to be used for children’s materials, equipment and programs.