I don’t have time to write anything lengthy today, but I wanted to share two enormously interesting articles about public libraries and the gatekeepers who determine what the library should and should not stock. Both of these are about Anne Carroll Moore, the first children’s librarian at the New York Public Library, who absolutely loathed quite a few children’s books that we now regard as classics.
This piece is on Moore’s hatred of Goodnight Moon, and how her decision to withhold her blessing prevented that book from being a commercial success. I can’t say that I knew much about Margaret Wise Brown before, but apparently she had quite a progressive attitude about children’s intellectual development.
There are a lot of different philosophies regarding what libraries should stock and whether activist librarians should attempt to shape the values of their time. This is especially true for children’s librarians, who are perhaps the only ones working with clients that remain impressionable.
Moore was insistent that children should only have access to the very highest quality of literature available. And she had clear standards regarding what she considered quality literature. She did not want to stock books written by authors who tried to situate themselves within the emergent psychology of children.
Nowadays, we have gatekeepers with the opposite standards as Moore – they promote overtly political books, usually written at the lowest reading levels, lacking in vocabulary words, and often offering contrarian narratives about historical events.
Outside of all of this, there are people who believe that libraries should be full of whatever could be potentially appealing to anyone at all. If kids want to read treacly books recounting their favorite television cartoons, they should have those. If women want to read soft-core porn romances about Amish people, they should have those.
I find this an endlessly fascinating topic.