Bridging the Gap Between Black and White: Recommending Inclusive Books for Children's Library Collections, 1941-1967
Jenkins, Christine A.
- Bridging the Gap Between Black and White: Recommending Inclusive Books for Children's Library Collections, 1941-1967
- Jenkins, Christine A.
- Smith, Mikki
- Issue Date
- gap between black and white
- childrens' books
- As public library service to children began to flourish at the turn of the last century, librarian-created lists of recommended books proliferated. In 1909 the enterprising Wilson Publishing Company compiled 20 such lists to create the first edition of Children's Catalog (CC), a bibliography of 1,000 recommended books for children's library collections. The Wilson catalogs quickly became key selection tools for librarians --indeed, the books listed in CC became the de facto children's canon throughout the 20th Century. The CC was not without its critics, however, as very few of the titles included in the CC represented authors, illustrators, or characters that were not white native-born Americans. In the early 1940s this problem began to be addressed by two African-American children's librarians -- Charlemae Rollins (Chicago Public Library) and Augusta Baker (New York Public Library), who created landmark bibliographies of recommended titles that included selection guides with evaluation criteria for illustration and text using positive and negative examples drawn from popular children's books, including many in the CC. Rollins We Build Together (WBT) (NCTE, 1941,1948,1967) and Baker's Books about Negro Life for Children (BNLC) (NYPL, 1946,1949,1957,1961,1963) played an influential role in developing more inclusive library collections for children. This research began as a comparative examination of the books included in contemporaneous editions of WBT, BNLC, and CC to identify patterns of inclusion and exclusion. Which of the titles recommended by Rollins and Baker were included in CC? Which were not? Conversely, which titles with negative evaluations from Rollins and Baker appeared in CC? Which did not? Our presentation focuses on the titles noted in WBT and BNLC to gain a clearer picture of the shift in evaluation criteria as applied to depictions of race in mainstream and even canonical children's books of the 1940s. The longer project will trace the presence and/or absence of these titles over time in CC and in the collections of four public libraries in Midwestern communities from the late 19th to the mid-20th Centuries.
- Graduate School of Library and Information Science. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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