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Title:Children's Voices in Librarians' Words: Children as Readers in Public Libraries in the United States from 1890-1930
Author(s):McDowell, Kate
Subject(s):children readers, children librarianship
Abstract:Public librarians documented children's reading choices and activities in surveys and articles published from 1890 to 1930, a period in the United States that coincided with popular interest in childhood, the rise of children's publishing, and the emergence of mass media. This paper seeks to analyze how the history of children as readers is reflected in public children's librarians professional writings. Although historical readers are notoriously difficult to study because their interactions with texts were ephemeral, in professional library literature there are abundant traces of children's reading preferences, choices, and attitudes. However, children's voices were recorded in librarians words and for librarians professional purposes; they were typically quoted to bolster claims of librarians professional efficacy while asserting the need for more children's librarians. The evidence of children's voices that librarians collected must be understood as partial, mediated by adults, and complicated by power relations between children and adults. Even answers to seemingly straightforward queries about favorite books or authors must be read with an awareness of the personal influence librarians cultivated in the relations with children. Interpreting the quantitative survey-based and qualitative anecdotal writings that children's librarians created about the children they served requires careful attention to historical methodology. Qualitative and quantitative data about children's reading must be contextualized in public library settings and in light of children's power relations with adult librarians in order to contribute a meaningful chapter in the history of child readers.
Issue Date:2010
Genre:Presentation / Lecture / Speech
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-03-12

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