During National Library Week I would like to pay homage to Anne Carroll Moore, the librarian largely responsible for something we take for granted today: free access to books in public libraries for children, regardless of age, reading ability, or how clean their hands are.
During the latter half of the nineteenth century Andrew Carnegie supported the building of public libraries in towns and cities throughout America, but initially, young children were denied access to them. Frances Sayers, in the forward to her biography of Moore says, children could only watch from the outside as people "emerged from the building with armloads of books after a mysterious ceremonial ritual at the desk in the rotunda, involving rubber stamps and little boxes of pads purpled with ink."1
In 1894 the American Library Association declared that public libraries should not bar children from entering, and further, that children should have special rooms where they can choose books to read and these special rooms should be staffed by people who like children.2 In 1896 The Pratt Institute Free Library in Brooklyn was the first library to create a special room for children, and they hired Moore, who had just graduated from Pratt Institute's library program, to serve as head of the children's department. During the ten years she worked at Pratt she became one of the leading authorities on library work with children and in 1906 she was hired to be Supervisor of Work with Children at the New York Public Library, a position she held for 35 years and a position which offered her the opportunity to give shape and content to the new profession of library service to children and to define the role a public library could play in the life of a child. She abolished the age limit that barred children under the age of 14 from some of the branch libraries, improved the content of collections and the services, established the position of Children's Librarian, and created reading rooms for children so they could come and read at the library, not just select books to take home. She instituted storytelling hours, helped establish Children's Book Week, wrote articles for library journals and reviewed books for the New York Herald Tribune, and The Bookman and Hornbook magazines.
Throughout her life, she took both children and children's books seriously. She championed the creation of inviting spaces, where children could encounter a variety of good books supervised by people who cared for both books and children and she evaluated children's books as works of literary art, helping to foster the development of a rich, distinguished body of American children's literature.
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Copyright 2004 © Rita Smith
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