Elizabeth Ruffin, longtime Enoch Pratt employee, dies

Elizabeth Ruffin - Original Credit:
Elizabeth Ruffin - Original Credit: (HANDOUT)

Elizabeth Ruffin, an Enoch Pratt Free Library staff member for more than 40 years who fought racial segregation in Baltimore, died of heart failure Nov. 12 at Union Memorial Hospital.

She was 87 and lived in Tuscany-Canterbury.


Born Elizabeth Carleton in New Haven, Conn., she received a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Connecticut and a master's degree in library science at Simmons College in Boston.

As a young woman she worked in the Yale University rare book room.


She joined the Pratt Library in 1953 and was assigned to its Pennsylvania Avenue Branch, where one of her responsibilities was to develop a literacy collection. In 1957 she moved to the Govans Branch and later served at the Pimlico Branch.

Pratt colleagues recalled how she worked to break down barriers between librarians and clerical staff. She also opposed the racial segregation that was prevalent in Baltimore in the 1950s.

She represented the Pratt Staff Association when she testified before the Baltimore City Council at a hearing to end racial segregation in Baltimore restaurants.

"The library had an integrated staff of white and African-American persons but they could not go out of the building and eat together at many restaurants," said a colleague, Wesley L. Wilson, chief of the State Library Resource Center, located at Pratt's Central Library.

In 1961 she was made head of the library's County Services Department. In 1963 she opened the newly built Herring Run Branch and was its head librarian. She later served at the Hollins-Payson Branch in Southwest Baltimore.

Mrs. Ruffin returned in 1973 to Pratt County Services, which she expanded into Maryland Inter-Library Organization. She worked to strengthen her department's use of technology to enhance service to a state network of public, academic and school libraries.

She retired in 1994.

"As a manager, she always put public service first and constantly looked for ways to ensure library customers the fastest service possible," said Mr. Wilson.

In her free time, she read mystery novels. She was cat fancier and enjoyed trips to England and Asia.

Services are private.

Survivors include cousins who live in Massachusetts. Her marriage to Allen Ruffin ended in divorce.

—Jacques Kelly

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