News from Rochester Public Library

Rochester Public Library Local History Division


The Local History & Genealogy Division of the Rochester Public Library has acquired the papers of Jacob Gitelman, which includes personal items and papers presented to the Philosophers’ Club. During his tenure as a Rochester City Court judge from 1934 to 1940, Gitelman’s progressive views and interest in social welfare prompted him to enforce jail sentences on those caught driving while intoxicated. Taking into consideration the social and economic ramifications of jail time, Gitelman introduced the “weekend sentence,” which allowed people to serve their sentence on weekends or other convenient days so that their employment and family life were not jeopardized. After its initiation in 1935, use of the weekend sentence was widespread throughout New York State.


The Local History and Genealogy Division has a fun new exhibit on display that explores the use of
buttons as a means of self-expression. Showcasing a collection of historical buttons from the Office of the City Historian, the exhibit also features photographs, ephemera, and other items from the collection of the Local History Division and from the private collections of library staff. Each piece reveals a part of Rochester’s rich history; collectively, they chronicle the civic, economic, political, and social experiences of Rochesterians, past and present. The button exhibit will run until September 30, 2013. Also keep an eye out for the traveling “I Do!” button that is making its way around the community, and visit our blog,, to find out who had the button and what they did with it!

Grant Projects

Twenty-two cubic feet of materials from three collections were arranged and described with financial support from a Documentary Heritage Program grant. The Photographic Heritage Association/Photo Archives Belong in Rochester (PHA/PABIR) collection documents the grassroots organization’s fight to keep the photograph archives of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography in Rochester. Documenting the oldest community theatre in New York State and one of the oldest continuously operated theater organizations in the United States, the Rochester Community Players collection reflects the trials and tribulations of an artistic venture as it endures site moves, financial struggles, and other obstacles in its effort to remain a viable cultural organization in Rochester, NY. The efforts of the Rochester Area Educational Television Association gave the city of Rochester, NY, its first public radio and television broadcasting station, WXXI. The RAETA collection documents the complicated process of creating and licensing a public broadcasting station with an emphasis on education, arts, and culture.

With a grant from the New York State Program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Research Materials, the Local History division provided archival-quality housing for 155 cubic feet of materials including glass plate negatives, lantern slides, ledgers, photographs, and papers.

Submitted by Cheri Crist, librarian, Local History & Genealogy Division, Rochester Public Library


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