LIBRARY WORK WITH CHILDREN
HISTORY AND GENERAL DISCUSSION
The history of library work with children is yet to be written. From the bequest made to West Cambridge by Dr. Ebenezer Learned, of money to purchase "such books as will best promote useful knowledge and the Christian virtues" to the present day of organized work with children --of the training of children's librarians, of cooperative evaluated lists of books, of methods of extension-- the development has been gradual, yet with a constantly broadening point of view.
A number of libraries have claimed the honor of being the first to establish children's work--a fact which in itself seems to show that the movement was general rather than sporadic. The library periodicals contain many interesting accounts of these beginnings, a number of which have been mentioned in the articles included in this volume.
Certain personalities stand out very clearly in the history of the early days, and many of the same ones are still closely associated with children's work in its later developments. The Library Journal says editorially in 1914: "Probably the credit of the initiative work for children within a public library should remain with Mrs. Sanders of the Pawtucket Library, who made the small folk welcome a generation ago, when, in most public libraries, they were barred out by the rules and regulations and frowned away by the librarian."
Three articles from Miss Caroline Hewins's pen have been chosen for this collection, the last written thirty-two years later than the first. They not only give details of the history of children's work, but reflect Miss Hewins's personality and opinions.
A paper given by Miss Lutie E. Stearns at the Lake Placid Conference of the American Library Association in 1894 has been referred to as one of the most important contributions to the development of work with children. This paper was printed in the first volume of this series, "Library and school" (New York, 1914).
The leading editorial in The Library Journal for April, 1898, says: "Within the past year or two the phrase 'the library and the child'--which was itself new not so long ago--has been changed about. It is now 'the child and the library,' and the transposition is suggestive of the increasing emphasis given to that phase of library work that deals with children, either by themselves or in connection with their schools."
Mr. Henry E. Legler, in the last paper in this group, traces the growth of the "conception of what the duty of society is to the child"; claims that the children's library should be one in a union of social forces, and asserts that it contributes to the building of character, the enlargement of narrow lives, the opening of opportunity to all alike.
Thus the modern viewpoint includes the ideals of democracy in addition to Dr. Learned's emphasis on "knowledge" and "virtue" and probably points the way to the future development of library work with children.