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The Folger Spotlight

Collection Connections: 'The Personal Librarian,' the Morgan, and the Folger (Part 1)

Held on the first Thursday of the month, the Folger’s virtual book club is free and open to all. To spark discussion, speakers provide historical context, throw in trivia, and speak to relevant items from the library collection in a brief presentation to participants before small-group discussion begins. Here, we revisit conversation between Erica Ciallela and Sara Schliep as part of our discussion of The Personal Librarian, the first of a two-part series.

emma poltrack (Community and Audience Engagement Program Manager, Folger Shakespeare Library): Erica, I wanted to start with you. As with any work of historical fiction, The Personal Librarian takes a number of liberties. Can you give us an overview of some of the changes the authors made in telling Belle da Costa Greene’s story?

Erica Ciallela (Exhibition Project Curator for Belle da Costa Greene, A Librarian’s Legacy at The Morgan Library): (laughs) Yes, there were a number of changes made, but overall I will say the book has been wonderfully received at The Morgan–it is now our third leading reason for people visiting! I have had the opportunity to speak to Victoria [Christopher Murray] and understand some of the changes that were made and why. They really chose to fill in the gaps no one had answers to, and in doing so changed some dates and specific locations. 

For example, we know the church that the Greener family attended in Washington, DC was actually the 15th St Presbyterian Church, which played a really important role in their lives. We know the minister at the time was Frances Grimke, and he was the one to baptize all of the Greener children. We have this wonderful history of the family at the church, and the church has its own really amazing history in Washington, DC. I encourage everyone to visit it.


We would like to thank the following organizations for their generous support of this program

Capitol Hill Community Foundation
Junior League of Washington

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