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Youth Collection History

A History of the Children’s Literature Collection at UNI 

The Iowa state legislature established a public training school for teachers, or Normal School, in Cedar Falls in 1876. The first reference to a Youth Collection in the library appeared in The Normal Eyte in January 1897; in that year, a new department for children was established when eighty-eight children’s books were acquired. These included titles authored by Jacob Abbott, Louisa M. Alcott, and Charles Coffin.1 In 1912, a year after the relocation of the library to the newly constructed Seerley Hall, a separate room was designated for use by children enrolled in the campus Training School. The library included a collection of circulating children’s books and a building-use collection of books recommended for purchase by school district libraries, intended to provide teacher training students with access to a representative collection. 2 The first Children’s Librarian, as she was then known, was appointed in 1924.

By the mid 1940s, a juvenile library consisting of approximately 8,000 volumes had been created. Artwork and displays highlighted children’s interests. Materials circulated to children enrolled in the Campus School, children of college faculty, and college students. Subject-themed scrapbooks containing book jackets and reviews were available for browsing. Training in use of the library began as early as third grade for students enrolled in the Campus School. In eighth grade, students prepared bibliographies on a subject of their choice. High school students at the Campus School could use either the juvenile library or the college collection.

As the collection has evolved, the university community and others have relied on its resources and staff to support study, instruction, and often-innovative research. Today, the Youth Collection is a unit in the Collection Management and Special Services Department in Rod Library. Since 1995, it has been located in a spacious area on the library’s third floor. The collection is deliberately arranged to resemble a school library or media center, or a public library children’s collection.

At present, the collection numbers approximately 20,000 titles. It includes children’s and young adult books, as well as magazines, DVDs, audio books, and cd-roms. About four percent of the current collection consists of non-print items. It also provides access to electronic books and reference databases. A Historical Collection of approximately 700 volumes contains representative titles of ongoing significance. The collection includes materials intended for infants as young as 6 months, preschoolers, and elementary and secondary school students.

Children’s and Youth Collection Librarians

  • 1924 – 1925 Edith R. Morse, Children’s Librarian
  • 1925 – 1928 Louise Hamilton, Juvenile Librarian
  • 1928 – 1930 Mary Elizabeth Lewis, Juvenile Librarian
  • 1930 – 1936* Elsie Jeannette Duncan, Juvenile Librarian
  • 1935 – 1936 Helen Yvonne Newmeyer, Juvenile Librarian
  • 1936 – 1937 Jean S. McBurney, Juvenile Librarian
  • 1937 – 1952 Clara Evelyn Campbell, Juvenile Librarian
  • 1952 – 1957 Clara Evelyn Campbell, Campus School Librarian
  • 1958 – 1968 Mary Katherine Eakin, Youth Collection Librarian
  • 1968 – 1969 Arlene A. Ruthenberg, Youth Collection Librarian
  • 1969 – 1970 Ada McLeod, Youth Collection Librarian
  • 1971 – 1980 Arlene A. Ruthenberg, Youth Collection Librarian
  • 1980 - 2008 Lucille J. Lettow, Youth Collection Librarian
  • 2007 - 2013 Yolanda Hood
  • 2014 - 2014 Jillean McCommons
  • 2015 - present Katelyn Browne

*includes period of a leave of absence

Originally prepared by Katherine F. Martin for the Conference on Evolution of University Libraries: Past, Present, and Future, St. Petersburg, Russia, December 2, 2003.

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