Thomas is Past BPL Board Chair and First African American President of New York Library Association

Brooklyn Public Library has unveiled a new portrait depicting legendary librarian, Dr. Lucille Cole Thomas. Serving the profession for more than 60 years, Dr. Thomas began her career at Brooklyn Public Library in 1955 and served on the Board of Trustees for nearly three decades including as chair from 2003 to 2006. Her legacy continues to serve as an inspiration with the Dr. Lucille C. Thomas Award for Excellence in Librarianship awarded to an exemplary BPL librarian each year. A true trailblazer, Dr. Thomas also worked as an educator and librarian in the New York City schools, with generations of students following in her footsteps, devoting their lives to public service.

Dr. Thomas was a leader in numerous professional organizations throughout her career. She was the first African American to serve as president of both the New York Library Association and the New York City School Librarians Association. She was also president of the New York Library Club and the International Association of School Librarianship. She served on the American Library Association Council and Executive Board, and was awarded the organization’s highest distinction, Honorary Member. 

“Dr. Thomas exemplified everything a librarian should be: passionate, inquisitive and caring. Her dedication to Brooklyn Public Library and to the world of books never waned, and her legacy continues to be an inspiration as she is the namesake for our highest award for librarians,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO, Brooklyn Public Library.

Active throughout her life, she served on numerous committees and professional organizations even after retiring, authoring reports, presenting at conferences, mentoring students, and traveling the world to advocate for libraries on a global stage. 

Dr. Thomas was also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority Incorporated®, Eta Omega Omega Chapter, an international service organization. Joining as a graduate member of Pi Phi Omega chapter, she was a member from 1988 to 2019 and served as president from 1994 to 1998. Dr. Thomas later transferred to Eta Omega Omega Chapter and was an active member and annual contributor to the AKAteens Rites of Passage scholarship, punctuating her dedication to scholarship and service.

“Since our founding in 1908, the women of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated have been trailblazers and on the frontlines of service.  Today we are proud to celebrate our trailblazing sister from the Eta Omega Omega Chapter, Dr. Lucille Cole Thomas.  Her portrait will stand as a testament to her commitment to enriching the lives of so many throughout her storied career as a Librarian and a leader,” said Dr. Claudia Schrader, President, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated® Eta Omega Omega Chapter.

The portrait, created by Charles Edward Williams, a contemporary visual artist, will hang in Central Library’s trustee room on the third floor. Dr. Thomas served on Brooklyn Public Library’s board of trustees for many years, including a tenure as president from 2003 to 2006.

After careful review, Williams was unanimously selected by a committee of representatives from Brooklyn Public Library, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®, Eta Omega Omega Chapter and Dr. Thomas’ children. The commission was generously supported by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®, Eta Omega Omega Chapter, the family of Dr. Lucille Cole Thomas, the New York Black Librarians’ Caucus, and many caring members of the community who knew and admired Dr. Thomas. Dr Thomas would have turned 101 this month.

About the Artist

Charles Edward Williams is a contemporary visual artist from South Carolina. He holds a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Georgia and an MFA from the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG). Williams has attended summer artist residencies at Otis College of Art and Design (CA), SOMA (Mexico City, Mexico), the Gibbes Museum (SC), and the McColl Center for Art + Innovation (NC). Solo traveling exhibitions include “Sun + Light,” “Warm Water,” and “Swim.” “Sun + Light” has been on view at Polk Museum of Art (FL), Gibbes Museum of Art (SC), and Residency Art gallery (LA). “Warm Water” has been on view at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (MI), SECCA (NC), and Weber State University (UT). “Swim” was displayed at Morton Fine Art (DC). His work was also recently exhibited at Aqua and Scope Art Fair / Art Basel (FL) and Texas Contemporary Art Fair (TX).

Group exhibitions have included the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (CT), David C. Driskell Center of the University of Maryland (MD), Kunstraum Potsdam (Berlin, Germany), Barnes Foundation & Rush Arts Foundation (PA), Post Collapse Art (Zurich, Switzerland), and other domestic institutions. Works have been reviewed in local and national publications and media, including the Washington Post, NPR, and South Carolina’s ETV network (PBS affiliate). During Williams’ ongoing residency at Pike School of Art (MS), he created the project FORWARD, which the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Ruth Foundation for the Arts partly supported.

Permanent collections include the North Carolina Museum of Art (NC), the Gibbes Museum (SC),Georgia Museum of Art (GA), Knoxville Museum of Art (TN), Delaware Art Museum (DE), Mississippi Museum of Art (MS), Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University (NC), and the Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art (NJ). Williams also received the Riley Institute Diversity Leadership Award from the State of South Carolina for developing enriching art programs within local communities.

About Brooklyn Public Library
Brooklyn Public Library is one of the nation’s largest library systems and among New York City’s most democratic institutions. As a leader in developing modern 21st century libraries, we provide resources to support personal advancement, foster civic literacy, and strengthen the fabric of community among the more than 2.6 million individuals who call Brooklyn home. We provide nearly 65,000 free programs a year with writers, thinkers, artists, and educators—from around the corner and around the world. And we give patrons millions of opportunities to enjoy one of life’s greatest satisfactions: the joy of a good book.

About Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority Incorporated® Eta Omega Omega Chapter

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® (AKA) is an international service organization that was founded on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1908. It is the oldest Greek letter organization established by African-American college-educated women. Led by International President Danette Anthony Reed, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®  is often hailed as “America’s premier Greek-letter organization for African-American women.” For more information on Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® and its programs, visit

Eta Omega Omega Chapter is the oldest and largest graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® in Bronx, NY, chartered in May 1964. Eta Omega Omega’s signature service programs focus on educational enrichment, health promotion, economic legacy, the arts, and global impact. These programs are the cornerstone of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® international theme, “Soaring to Greater Heights of Service and Sisterhood.”

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