PICTURE BULLETINS IN THE CHILDREN'S LIBRARY
The practical usefulness as well as the artistic merit of picture bulletins is discussed in this report prepared for the Club of Children's Librarians for presentation at the Waukesha Conference of the A. L. A. in 1901. It is based upon answers received in response to a circular letter sent to various libraries.
Mrs. Mary E. S. Root was born and educated in Rhode Island, studied art before her marriage, became interested in children's literature through her own children, and organized the children's work in the Providence Public Library, where she still has charge of this work. She has held many offices in educational and civic organizations, and has lectured on children's literature. For two summers she conducted a course in children's work in the Simmons College Library School.
Mrs. Adelaide Bowles Maltby was born in New York City, and was graduated from a private school in Elmira, New York, in 1893, with an equivalent of one year's college work. After completing the regular course in Pratt Institute Library School in 1900, she spent six months in the Pratt Library, at the same time taking lectures in the second-year children's course. For four and one-half years she was head of the Children's Department in the Buffalo Public Library. She then became a member of the New York Public Library staff, first as special children's worker in Chatham Square Branch, then as branch librarian there, and later as librarian of the Tompkins Square Branch.
There has been a rather marked difference in activity between the eastern and western libraries on this subject of picture work, we of the east seeming more conservative, somewhat prone on the whole, because there is not time for elaborate work, to doubt its practical usefulness. The questions upon which this report is based were sent out in a circular letter to different libraries. These questions with their answers may be considered in order:
Question 1. If you make picture bulletins in your library, what is your object in so doing?
To supplement school work, advertise the books, stimulate non-fiction reading and celebrate anniversaries are the four answers which the majority give.
There is no question but bulletins made for school helps are useful, help teacher, pupil and library; but we are all studying to do away with suggestions of a school atmosphere in our rooms as far as possible, so, primarily, these bulletins should give pleasure. They offer a strong point of contact between the children and the librarian, and if too strongly labelled with "school work," do we not rob the child of the one place where he could have the indescribable charm of learning what his natural tastes prompt him to acquire? It is easy enough in our libraries to teach without calling it teaching. Again, a bulletin to "advertise our books," especially new ones, seems misdirected energy, as the new books are always eagerly sought and there is often need of checking in some way the desire for the new just because it is new. If the books to which the attention is directed by the bulletins enlarge the child's experience, well and good, but we do not need to post a bulletin merely to circulate the books or with the feeling of advertisement in any sense of the word.
Question 2. Are these bulletins used only to illustrate books owned by the library or are they general, commemorating anniversaries, etc?
The majority of bulletins seem of the most general character --book bulletins, illustrations of school work, holidays and anniversaries especially dear to childhood. Miss Putnam, of the library at Los Angeles, offers a most serviceable suggestion in her guide to the books in the children's room: "This is composed of pictures, each representing a book clipped from the publisher's catalogs, each author kept separate mounted on large sheets of tagboard, and when the author's picture, call number, criticism of books are added, the sheets are kept on the tables for the children's use." At Detroit there is constantly on the walls a bulletin board about 28x32 in. covered with dark green burlap on which are placed lists of books, pictures of their authors, illustrations, current events, public affairs, etc., not of sufficient interest to demand a separate bulletin. Some change is made in this every week, keeping two lists of books, taking down one and moving the other as a fresh list is added.
Question 3. Of what material and by whom are your bulletins made?
The best material is classified clippings and pictures from duplicate magazines and illustrated papers. Braun & Cie photographs, Perry prints, bird portraits from Chapman's "Bird manual," and from Birds and All Nature, Fitzroy prints and Perkins' Mother Goose pictures can also be used to advantage. Card board can be obtained at slight cost, in some cities at $4.20 per hundred. Pulp board, book cover paper and charcoal paper, all can be utilized for this purpose. Where the book cases are low enough to admit of it, red denim stretched above the top of the cases makes an effective background for the bulletins. Where the cases are five feet in height this is not practicable, as the pictures must be opposite the eyes of our small readers. In the Providence Public Library an excellent substitute for this is in the shape of a six-panelled mahogany bulletin surrounding the large circular pillar in the center of the room. The mahogany serves as an excellent frame to the panel and the many sides offer opportunities for a series of bulletins on a given subject, each simple in itself and conveying one idea to the child, which seems far preferable to us than trying to crowd all on one bulletin.
Other libraries use a stationary framework across the tables, with glass each side, so that pictures may be slipped in between.
At Minneapolis Public Library an interesting experiment was tried with success by Mrs. Ellison. Arrangements were made with the Director of Drawing to have the pupils furnish the picture bulletins, Mrs. Ellison furnishing the subjects and doing the reference work.
The making of bulletins in most cases devolves on the children's librarian, but we hear from several libraries where different members of the staff take their turn, all showing a keen interest in gathering material.
Questions 4 and 5. Do you have more than one bulletin at a time? Have you noticed any poor results from exhibiting more than one at a time?
The returns as to this point were not all that had been hoped. Two bulletins seem to be an accepted number, but more than that a question. We do not desire to confuse our children, or to detract in value from a bulletin when once posted, and most certainly not to cheapen our rooms; but if the standard is held high in each case, the number would not matter. Take for instance a hero bulletin. Here is a wealth of material which overwhelms us, and even when we have selected with the utmost thought our heroes and placed them side by side, we realize we have more or less of a jumble and have not told our story simply enough. Some division is absolutely necessary. We saw a bulletin on this subject grouped under three excellent heads: When all the world was young; In the glorious days of chivalry; Heroes of modern times. We should like to adopt this suggestion, but instead of one, offer three bulletins, as a safeguard against confusion.
Question 6. Can you show by citing cases that this picture work is of sufficient practical use to the children to pay for time and money spent?
One library--and this is an eastern one--gives us an encouraging, inspiring reply: "Case after case, actually hundreds of letters from teachers thanking us for the work." A general summary of reports from all the libraries shows an increased demand for the books on the subject posted. The perfectly evident pleasure of the little ones in the mere looking, to say nothing of their joy in telling at one time or another something they have seen before, shows with what keenness they observe. At the Buffalo Public Library there have been on exhibition some excellent silhouette pictures made by cutting figures, trees, etc., from black paper and pasting them on white backgrounds. "The pied piper" was one subject illustrated. To appreciate this it should be understood that the figure of the piper and of each little rat, some not more than a half inch high, were cut with scissors, without any drawing whatever. These were labelled "Scissors pictures. Can you make them?" When they had been up a week, one of the boys, 14 years old, brought in four, one of which was better in composition than any of those exhibited. This was posted as showing what one boy had done, and this boy is studying drawing and designing this summer, with good promise. Another library cites a case in relation to school work, where the superintendent of schools offered rewards in each school of five of Landseer's pictures for the best five compositions on Landseer and his work. A collection of his pictures was gathered, a bulletin made with lists, which at once attracted the boys and girls, set many earnestly to work, who would not otherwise have given it much thought, and finally received the hearty commendation of the superintendent. Miss Clarke, of Evanston, says: "We have no children's room, and have not done enough of bulletin work to be able to speak very surely of results." Yet she can give us this, which speaks for itself. "An Indian exhibit which we gave, where among the Indian curios and Navajo blankets I had all our books on Indian life and customs and our best Indian stories displayed, aroused a great demand for the books. I kept the list of Indian books and stories posted for some months, and it was worn out and had to be replaced by a new copy, owing to its constant use. Our boys at that time really read a great deal of good literature on the subject, including Mrs. Custer's books and those by Grinnell and Lummis." These are but a few of the many interesting illustrations, yet we all know there is a great part of our work of which we can see no results, but if these bulletins beautify the room, offer some new thought to the child and give pleasure, then the time and work spent on them is a small factor, and even in that we are the gainers, as we unconsciously acquire in the making of these bulletins much general information, and an ability to present subjects in their relative value to each other which is invaluable.
Question 7. Are these bulletins allowed to circulate?
In most cases, no. Several libraries allow them to go to schools and a few make duplicates for both library and school, and in Indianapolis the bulletins are sent to other libraries in the state. This should prove very helpful to small libraries which are open but a few hours in the week. The bulletins may wear out, but a bulletin once planned, three quarters of the work is accomplished, and it is little labor to make the duplicate one.
Question 8. Please describe the exhibit which has proved of the greatest interest in the past year.
We wish that time and space would allow a repetition of all the replies to this question. Miss Hewins says: "The exhibit which has proved of the greatest interest is on Queen Victoria. Within an hour after we heard the news of her death we had the bulletin for her last birthday and 40 portraits of her on our walls. I made one bulletin on her for the children out at Settlement Branch, and gave them a little talk about her. In this bulletin there were pictures of the dolls' house and toys that she gave the nation and I told the children how careful she must have been of them to be able to keep them so many years, and something about how careful she was taught to be also of her spending money, and that even although she was a princess and lived in a palace, she never could buy anything until she had the money to pay for it. I made a Stevenson bulletin for them on his birthday, and we had Stevenson songs and a talk about him and his childhood, his lovableness, courage and cheerfulness." At Buffalo the most popular exhibit was one illustrating the changes of the last century, taking the post-office methods, transportation of all kinds, i.e., carriages, boats, railroads, electricity in all its uses and those which could be appreciated by the children--guns, lifesaving methods, diving, etc. In each instance an old and a new type was shown. The children swarmed around the boards every day for the two months it was up, one of the pages who was interested in numbers having counted 60 an hour. Nature exhibits are always popular with children. "Our own birds" was the title of a bird- day bulletin at Evanston. A green poster board, on which were tied bunches of pussy-willows, among whose twigs were perched some of the common birds around Evanston, was used. The plates used were the nature study bird plates, brightly colored, which were cut out and pasted on the board in such a way that the effect was very lifelike. Much the same idea was carried out in Providence, only in this library the title is "Procession of the birds and flowers," each bird being added as it arrives. At the same time in the class room adjoining this library there was an exhibit of 150 photographs called "Joy in springtime," all being charming pictures of flowers, birds and happy children, with appropriate selections of poetry affixed. The long windows were hung with tranparencies, a framework being built in which to slide the tranparencies, that they may be changed from time to time. Invitations were sent to all the schools, and the exhibit was a great delight to the little ones. Miss Moore, of Pratt, tells of a picture bulletin illustrating life in Porto Rico and a companion bulletin illustrating the Porto Rican village at Glen island (a summer resort accessible to the children), with objects such as water jugs, cooking utensils made from gourds, etc., a hat in the process of making, musical instruments made from gourds, such as were used by the native band at Glen Island. The objects were carefully selected with the aid of the gentleman who instituted the village at Glen Island, and who had made a study of the country and people of Porto Rico. "The bulletin led not so much to the reading of books, because there are few on the subject, but it gave the children a very clear idea of the manner of living of the Porto Ricans and drew the attention of many visitors to Glen Island, as an educational point as well as a pleasure resort."
Question 9. Do you do anything with Perry pictures, scrap books, etc., for the little children?
At Medford scrap books are made by the children themselves, much to their delight. Several librarians make their own scrap books, Miss Hammond, of St. Paul, sending perhaps the best description of work of this nature. For the little children she always keeps on hand several scrap books made from worn out books, by Howard Pyle and Walter Crane. Other scrap books enjoyed alike by the older children and the little ones are "Colonial pictures" and "Arctic explorers," the last especially liked by the boys. Miss Hammond also cuts whole articles from discarded magazines, putting on heavy paper covers, labelling and arranging in a case according to subject for the use of teachers and pupils.
Question 10. Mention five examples of pictures suitable for a children's library.
The pictures suggested are given in order, according to the number of votes assigned to each one.
Raphael, Sistine Madonna, 6 Watts, Sir Galahad, 6 Guido Reni, Aurora, 4 Bonheur, Horse fair, 4 King Arthur, (Chapel of Innspruck), 3 Corot, Landscape, 3 Hardie, Meeting of Scott and Burns, 2 St. Gaudens, Shaw monument, 2 Murillo, Children of the shell, 2 Stuart, Washington, 2 Van Dyck, Baby Stuart, 2
The selection of these pictures must, of course, depend on the library, but there are a few other suggestions which are worthy of mention:
Question 11. In preparing your lists of books to accompany bulletin, do you prepare an analytical list or refer to book only?
An analytical list seems preferable where any list is used, although some librarians seem to question the advantage of lists. Miss Brown, of Eau Claire, says: "I have, however, decided for myself that the bulletin that pays is the one which tells something of itself and has no long list of books. If the child is interested in the bulletin it is no sign that he will take a book listed, but if he gets a fact from looking at it he has gained something and you lose the bad effect of having him get into the habit of skipping the books on the bulletin, which he usually does." On the other hand, lists help the systematic reader and relieve the librarian.
In closing we will quote a criticism of an eastern librarian, as a thought on which we all need to dwell: "From the artistic point of view such bulletins as I have seen are commonly too scrappy, ill arranged and given too much to detail. One or two pictures on a large card, with a brief descriptive note, all conveying one idea or emphasizing one point only, is the best form. In bulletins, as in many other things, the rule to follow first of all is simplicity."