Guide to the Lillian López Papers
(Bulk 1970-1980)

Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora
Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Phone: (212) 772-5151
Fax: (212) 650-3628

© Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY. All rights reserved.
Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY: Publisher

Processed by Ismael García with the assistance of Izzy De Moya, Damary González and Yosenex Orengo, March 2003. Revised by Pedro Juan Hernández and Nélida Pérez in 2005.

Machine-readable finding aid derived from a MS Word document dated: 2005. Machine-readable finding aid created by Brian Stevens. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: López, Lillian, 1925-2005.
Title: Papers
Dates: 1928-2005, (Bulk 1970-1980)
Abstract: Library administrator, among the first Puerto Rican librarians in the New York Public Library system (NYPL) and a pioneer in providing services and creating programs for underserved communities. Collection contains information on the programs developed by NYPL to address the needs of its Puerto Rican and Latino constituents, her activist sister, Evelina Antonetty, and librarian and folklorist, Pura Belpré. Consists of letters, news clippings, photographs, audio and videocassettes, scrapbooks, and scripts for puppet theater.
Quantity: 2.27 cubic feet (7 boxes)
Call Phrase: 1997-02

Historical/Biographical Note

Lillian López was among the first Puerto Rican librarians in the New York Public Library system and a pioneer in her efforts to create library services and programs for Puerto Ricans and other Latinos. In her role as coordinator of the Office of Special Services and in other leadership positions, she sought ways to make the library more responsive and accessible to all sectors of New York City.

Born in Salinas, Puerto Rico in 1925, Lillian López spent her early childhood in Ponce. In 1935, she left Ponce with her widowed mother and a younger sister for New York City. There they were reunited with an older sister, Evelina, who had arrived two years earlier. Joining a growing number of Puerto Rican migrants in New York City, they settled in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem). In keeping with a family tradition of activism, they became involved in the political life of El Barrio. As teenagers Lillian and Evelina joined the Young Communist League and would both remain active in social causes throughout their lives. Evelina went on to become a fiery community organizer while Lillian worked for change as a professional librarian.

After graduating from Washington Irving High School in 1944, López postponed college in order to work to help support her family. In 1952, she enrolled at Hunter College attending evenings or days depending on her financial situation, earning a B.A. degree in 1959. While in college she worked in private industry and labor unions, but finally decided to pursue a library science degree from Columbia University. She applied for a job as a trainee at the New York Public Library (NYPL), but feared that because of her labor activism she would not be hired. However, in 1960, she became a library trainee and remained with NYPL for twenty-five years until her retirement in 1985.

López quickly moved up in the library system to become the first Puerto Rican to hold important supervisory administrative positions, which allowed her to help set policies and change the way the library related to minority communities. From the start, she was an advocate for better library services to the Spanish-speaking residents of New York City. She says in an interview that her role was to get the library to "come down to earth and serve the needs of the every day person." She labored to recruit bilingual library staff, and to attract young Latinos into the library profession. Early on, she managed to get the branches serving large numbers of Latinos in Manhattan and the Bronx to acquire sizable collections of books and other materials in Spanish.

In 1967 she was instrumental in establishing the innovative South Bronx Project and became the administrator of this model library outreach project. "The goal of the project," she explained, "was to break down barriers between the library and the community." The project operated in nine neighborhoods, which had become predominantly Latino. Spanish, English and bilingual programs of diverse types were presented to people in all kinds of settings - schools, churches, playgrounds - beyond the library walls. The programs were carefully geared to the cultural and social needs of each group being served in keeping with López' belief that everyone should have access to all types of information.

After five years with the project, López went on to become coordinator of the Special Services Office, which allowed her to implement programs like the South Bronx Project throughout the boroughs served by NYPL. In 1979, she became Bronx borough coordinator with responsibility for the 33 branch libraries in the Bronx and worked toward strengthening the role of libraries in the revitalization of the area.

For much of her library career, Lillian López was critical of national organizations such as the American Library Association (ALA) for their lack of responsiveness to the needs of Latinos, and believed that it was her professional responsibility to do something about it. She became involved and held positions both in ALA and the New York Library Association. Between 1980 and 1982, she was appointed to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Sciences' Minorities Task Force. She retired from the NYPL in 1985 and in 1986 The National Association to Promote Library Services to the Spanish Speaking (REFORMA) honored her for her contributions to the New York Latino community. Lillian López died in New York City on July 28, 2005.

The Lillian López collection is an important complement to the Pura Belpré Papers also in the Centro Archives. Both collections offer insight into the workings of a large public institution and how it negotiates change in order to meet the challenge of new population needs. The papers also reflect the close friendship and collaboration that existed between these two pioneering librarians and their efforts to enrich the lives of the Latino community of New York.


Ayala, María S. "Lilian (sic) López Interview." 1978. Wilson Library Bulletin. (November).

Josey, E.J. and Peeples, Kenneth E. 1977. Opportunities for Minorities in Librarianship. New Jersey: Scarecrow Press.

Guereña, Salvador and Erazo, Edward. 2000. "Latinos and Librarianship." Library Trends, 49:1 (Summer): 138-181.

Mapp, Edward. Puerto Rican Perspectives. 1974. New Jersey: Scarecrow Press.

Oral History Interviews, 1997, 2001 (with Nélida Pérez)

Scope and Content Note

These papers reflect on the life of library administrator Lillian López, her activist sister, Evelina Antonetty, and librarian and folklorist, Pura Belpré. They are a valuable source of information on the programs developed by The New York Public Library to address the needs of its Puerto Rican and Latino constituents. Notable among the materials are those related to the South Bronx Project and to the puppet theater directed by Pura Belpré. The collection relates to the Pura Belpré Papers in the Centro Archives and highlights how closely the two women worked together.

The bulk of the documents focus on the 1970s and 1980s. The folders are alphabetical and the materials organized in chronological order. Types of documents included are letters, news clippings, photographs, audio and videocassettes, scrapbooks, and play scripts.


Folders are arranged alphabetically.
The collection is divided into 8 series:
I. Biographical and Personal Information
II. Correspondence
III. Writings
IV. Scripts for Puppet Theater
V. Subject Files
VI. Photographs
VII. Scrapbooks
VIII. Oral Histories


Access Restrictions

Open for research without restrictions.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the:
Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora
Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Phone: (212) 772-5151
Fax: (212) 650-3628

Access Points

Subject Names:
Belpré, Pura, 1899-1982.
Biaggi, Mario, 1917-
Cabrera, Elba.
Koch, Ed. (Edward Irving) 1924-
López Antonetty, Evelina, 1922-1984.
Mohr, Nicholasa, 1935-
Silva de Cintron, Josefina.
Subject Organizations:
New York Public Library.
New York Public Library. South Bronx Project.
Subject Topics:
Children's literature, Puerto Rican.
Children's stories, Puerto Rican.
Community organization--New York (State)--New York.
Folk literature, Puerto Rican.
Folklore--Puerto Rico.
Hispanics--New York (State)--New York.
Libraries and community--New York (State)--New York.
Marionettes--New York (State)--New York.
Public libraries--Cultural programs--New York (State)
Public libraries--New York (State)--New York--Services to Hispanic Americans.
Puerto Ricans--New York (State)--New York.
Puppet theater--New York (State)--New York.
Puppet theaters.
Tales--Puerto Rico.
Subject Places:
South Bronx (New York, N.Y.)
South Bronx (New York, N.Y.)--Social conditions.
Document Types:

Separated Material

There is no information about materials that are associated by provenance to the described materials that have been physically separated or removed.

Administrative Information


Gift of Lillian López

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); The Lillian López Papers; 1997-02; box number; folder number;
Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños Archives, Hunter College, CUNY

Processing Information

Processed with a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Funding was also provided by a congressional directed initiative sponsored by Congressman José Serrano and administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

Other Finding Aid

Guide to the Lillian López Papers available in Spanish: Spanish Version

Container List

[The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.]


Series I: Biographical and Personal Information (1961-2005)

Scope and Content:

This series offers insight into aspects of López' personal life and contains materials about her professional career in librarianship, public recognition of her work, professional certificates and documents related to her retirement and her death. Notable among the papers is a folder (Box 1, 5) containing transcriptions of interviews conducted with López.

Box Folder Title Date
1 1 Biographical Information undated, 1972-1980
1 2 Drawings undated
1 3 Identifications undated
1 4 Interviews-Transcripts and Articles 1978-1991
1 5 Invitations 1977-1994
1 6 Job Related Information undated, 1961-1986
1 7 Personal Information 1985
1 8 Professional Certificates 1962-1980
1 9 Retirement Materials 1985
1 10 Retirement Materials-Congratulatory Cards 1985
1 11 Tributes to Lillian López 1986
Box Folder Title Date
Oversize_I 1 Les Oiseaux heureux by P. Cosme (Drawing dedicated to Lillian Lopez) undated

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Series II: Correspondence (1957-1994)

Scope and Content:

Categories in this series are personal and professional correspondence, greeting cards, and invitations. They are divided into incoming and outgoing. The bulk of the correspondence concerns Lopez' work as a librarian. A highlight of this series is the folder of letters and cards from Pura Belpré, folklorist, author, and the first Puerto Rican librarian in NYPL. Also of note are the many thank you notes received from children's classes who visited the library as well as congratulatory notes and invitations from public officials. There are also sympathy cards upon the death of her sister, Evelina López Antonetty.

Box Folder Title Date
1 12 Belpré, Pura 1967-1981
1 13-14 Christmas Cards undated, 1971-1986
1 15 Greeting Cards undated, 1978-1994
Box Folder Title Date
2 1-4 Incoming undated, 1957-1993
2 5 Outgoing 1970-1987

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Series III: Writings (1970-1976)

Scope and Content:

The contents of this series are samples of López' writings and speeches. Included are the articles "The Library is Action," "New York Public Library Speaks Spanish," and "The South Bronx Project" which highlight the efforts to improve library services to the Spanish-speaking. There are also speeches such as "The Puerto Ricans and the Public Library," (1976) where López reflects about her professional decisions. Some of the talks were later published.

Box Folder Title Date
2 6 General undated, 1970-1976

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Series IV: Scripts for Puppet Theater (1939-1973)

Scope and Content:

Puppet Theater was an important component of the children's programs of the public library. Some of the scripts in this series are adaptations by Pura Belpré of well-known folktales and children's stories including Puerto Rican folktales, which she published such as Pérez and Martina, Juan Bobo and the Queen's Necklace, Oté, and The Dance of the Animals. A number of the scripts are bilingual.

Box Folder Title Date
2 7 Amancay undated
2 8 Budulinek undated
2 9 Curious George undated
2 10 Dance of the Animals undated
2 11 The Goat’s Well undated
2 12 Hansel and Gretel undated
2 13 Juan Bobo and the Queen’s Necklace/Juan Bobo y el collar de la reina undated
Box Folder Title Date
3 1 Little Red Riding Hood/ La Caperucita Roja undated
3 2 The Miller, His Son, and the Donkey/ El Molinero, su hijo y su burrito undated
3 3 Oté undated
3 4 The Painted Pig/ El Cerdito Pintado undated
3 5 Pérez and Martina/ Pérez y Martina undated
3 6 Puppetry Manuals and Papers undated, 1939-1973
3 7 Señor Billy Goat/ El Señor Cabro undated
3 8 The Three Billy Goats Gruff/ Los Tres Cabros “Grof” undated
3 9 Untitled undated

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Series V: Subject Files (1928-1996)

Scope and Content:

This series contains, among other items, internal publications of NYPL with staff news, newspaper clippings, and information on programs implemented by the library. Included are descriptions and reports of the South Bronx Project from 1967-1985. Also of note is the February 1956 issue of the NYPL Bulletin containing a bibliography of Puerto Rican books and transcripts of interviews of Pura Belpré by Lillian López. Civil rights, cultural and artistic events are also subjects in this series.

Box Folder Title Date
3 10 African American Women undated, 1928-1966
3 11 Articles 1972-1992
3 12 Belpré, Pura 1968-1996
3 13 Belpré, Pura- Transcripts of Interviews by Lillian López 1976, 1983
3 14 Children Stories undated
3 15 Cintrón, Petra undated, 1971-1983
3 16 Conference and Event Programs 1970-1979
3 17 Hispanic America: Freeing the Free/ Honoring Heroes 1984
3 18 Index undated
3 19 López Antonetty, Evelina 1968-1990
Box Folder Title Date
4 1 Mohr, Nicholasa 1980
4 2 Newspaper Clippings-Civil Rights undated, 1958-1959
4 3 Newspaper Clippings-General undated, 1934-1989
4 4 The New York Public Library-Staff News 1966-1986
4 5 Publications 1956-1984
4 6 South Bronx Library Project 1967-1985
4 7 South Bronx Library Project-Reports 1967-1969
4 8 Writings By Relatives undated, 1978

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Series VI: Photographs (1969-1996)

Scope and Content:

Contained in this series are photos of López' mother Eva, her sisters Elba and Evelina, and of Pura Belpré. There are also images of López reading to children in the library and inaugurating the opening of a public library branch in Eastchester.

Box Folder Title Date
4 9 Photographs undated, 1969-1996

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Series VII: Scrapbooks (1941-1985)

Scope and Content:

The materials in this series mostly document López' professional career. Included is a scrapbook prepared in her honor by her co-workers, congratulatory messages upon a promotion, and the guest book signed by those who attended her retirement party on October 31, 1985. The books also contain cards and programs of special events. Again, there are many items concerning the South Bronx Project.

Box Folder Title Date
5 1 Promotion 1980
5 2 Retirement 1985
Box Folder Title Date
6 1-2 South Bronx Library Project, Part I-II 1967-1973
6 3 "Work with the Spanish Speaking Reader in New York Public Library: Its Beginning, Development and Future." By Pura Belpre. 1941

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Series VIII: Oral Histories (1976-1998)

Scope and Content:

In this series are interviews of López by others as well as interviews she herself conducted of other individuals. Notable items include the audio and video interviews of Pura Belpré (1976), an interview of Evelina López Antonetty (1976), and a video from the television program Visionescalled "Three Sisters," where Lillian López, Elba Cabrera, and Evelina López Antonetty are interviewed by David Díaz (1983).

Box Folder Title Date
7 1-3 Belpré, Pura Feb 14, 1976, Apr 4, 1976


7 4-5 López Antonetty, Evelina undated, Feb 19, 1976


7 6 Silva de Cintrón, Josefina Mar 27, 1977


7 7-10 Interview with Lillian López. (372 CPW 4 tapes) May 30, 1989


7 11 Hernández-Delgado, Julio L. May 30, 1992


7 12-13 Vásquez, Lilia. May 11, 1989


7 14-17 Kirin, Tabitha. Sep 1986, Oct 1986


7 18 Malín Falú-Interpreta (audiocassette)


7 19 Lillian López interviews Pura Belpré undated


7 20 Pura Belpré’s Literary Legacy Apr 18, 1997


7 21 Nélida Pérez interviews Lillian López 1997-1998


7 22 ¡Visiones! “ Oct 14, 1983


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