Saturday, September 24, 2011

Librarians then and now – passion and questions

One of my favorite books about our field is Library Work with Children, reprints of papers and addresses by children’s librarians, selected and annotated by Alice I. Hazeltine and published by H.W. Wilson in 1917.
From programming to discipline to reference to “values” – it’s all here, Librarian_at_the_card_files_at_a_senior_high_school_in_New_Ulm,_Minnesotathe work we’ve been doing for over a century.  It’s clear from these essays that children’s librarians have been passionate, opinionated and outspoken from the very beginning.
Take “Story Hour.”  Way back in the dawn of children’s librarianship, this meant something far different than it does now.  If you could step back in time to 1905 or 1930 or even 1965, you’d see a group of kids, most of them no younger than 8 or 9, seated around a librarian.  This librarian would be telling a story.  Not reading a story – telling it.  It might be a Hans Christian Andersen tale, a Greek myth, or a legend of King Arthur or Robin Hood.  The librarian may be using an adaptation she borrowed from another storyteller or she may have adapted it herself.  She probably spent many hours learning the story and getting her delivery just right.
It’s likely, especially in New York City, that she lit a candle at the beginning of her story session.  At the end, she or a child will blow it out, and children who remained silent and still will get their wish granted.
While library storytelling had started as early as the late 1890s, this form of Story Hour first took hold in a big when Anne Carroll Moore heard Marie Shedlock tell stories in 1902; she, as well as other librarians, was enchanted by the magical spell the stories cast over children and by the way they flocked afterwards to the books upon which the stories were based.
Within a decade or two, most large library systems and many small ones offered Story Hour series.  It was generally accepted by most librarians that this was a valuable library service, as it broadened a child’s interest in literature, led them to the best books, introduced them to cultural works with which they should be familiar as American citizens, strengthened English skills, and (last but not least) was hugely entertaining for the kids and rewarding for the children’s librarians.
Source:  Keep Reading - American Library Association Blog

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