Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gender And Book Selection, From Public Libraries in 1913

Gender And Book Selection: Selections from the 1913 ALA Conference, Children's Section in which Clara W. Hunt, the superintendent of the children’s department at the Brooklyn Public Library presented a talk titled “Values in Library Work With Children.” These selections are from the report and text of that talk.

“She referred to the fact that the children’s librarians for many years have had to take a good many knocks from spectators of the sterner sex who were worrying about the feminization of the library, who declared that no woman, certainly no spinster, could understand the nature of the boy. Some facts are to be considered here. Teachers tell us the opening of each new library witnesses a substitution of wholesome books for yellow novels in pupil’s hands...Publishers of children’s books are giving clean, safe juvenile literature. Many nickel novel publishers are admitting the decline in the sale of their wares. Yet there is a warfare against juveniles still to be fought” ("American Library Association Conference: Children's Section" 332).

“There are many books so fine in point of matter and make up that we should lament having been born too late to read these in our childhood, but there are also a multitude of potboiler books; the written-to-order information book, which may be guaranteed to kill all interest in a subject treated in style so wooden and lifeless; the re-told classic, the reading of which gives to the child the familiarity which will breed contempt for the work itself; atrocious picture books, with hideous daubs of color, caricatures of line, the tale of the practical joker who torments animals, mocks at physical defects, plays tricks on parents, ridicules good manners; whose aim is to provoke guffaws of laughter at the expense of somebody’s hurt body or spirit” ("American Library Association Conference: Children's Section" 332-33).

“The great achievement of the world do not belong to those to whom they are entrusted, but some Frank or Jack or Bill possesses the brain behind them. Many of these stories are outlined by a writer whose name makes books sell, and outlines are then filled in by hack writers. One author writes admirable stories, abounding in fair play and a sense of honor, and at the same time, writes under another name, books he is ashamed to acknowledge.” ("American Library Association Conference: Children's Section" 333).

“Two principle arguments are hurled at every librarian who tries for a high standard of book selection. One is, ‘I read them when I was a child, and they did me no harm.’ The other is based on the notion that the librarian’s ideal of manhood is a grownup Fauntleroy. The individual who argues, ‘It did me no harm,’ though he survived a boyhood of mosquito bites, house flies, common drinking cups, etc., refuses to allow his child to risk what he knows to be a possible carrier of disease. The notion prevails that since the children’s librarian is a woman, and is prone to turn white about the gills at the sight of blood, she cannot possibly enter in to the feeling of the ancestral barbarians surviving in the human breast” ("American Library Association Conference: Children's Section" 333)

"American Library Association Conference: Children's Section." Public Libraries 18.8 (1913): 332-333.

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