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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Give Me Your Central Children’s Room Loving

It has existed since 1911.  Anne Carroll Moore, the great children’s librarian and head of children’s services, worked in it.  Over the years its collection has helped researchers, children, educators, library students, and anyone interested in children’s literature and its history.  It moved in the early 70s to a new location and has been incredibly popular ever since. 

The Central Children’s Room is located at the heart of Midtown Manhattan and is best described as a hub.  Currently on display are paintings by N.C. Wyeth from Robin Hood, items from P.L. Travers (the author of Mary Poppins), the real Winnie-the-Pooh toys, and more.  Abundant computers are available for kids, alongside a huge circulating collection.

When I first started working for the Central Chidren’s Room I was intimidated, to say the least.  We’re talking about what may well be the best children’s collection available free to the public.  It contains everything from a Newbery Medal (for Trumpeter of Krakow) to numerous original pieces of art and design.  Heck, I’d be working alongside original papercuts done by Hans Christian Andersen!  I was just a dinky librarian, so doing my job with four other children’s literary professionals was ideal.  With access to a huge foreign language children’s collection, a Teacher’s Collection, a Parenting Collection, and a clientele who knew what they liked and what they needed, it was great.  Tourists would come in every day to see Winnie-the-Pooh and admire him.  The location was brilliant because it was right smack dab in the center of everything.  Subway lines surrounded it, as did publishers, and for businessmen and businesswomen on their lunch breaks, nothing was more convenient than hopping in the door to grab some books for their kids’ homework assignments.

At the end of May, the Donnell Library will close.  As such, I would love to get whatever memories you readers have of using or entering the Central Children’s Room at the Donnell location for this blog.  I’d like to set up a regular feature where people remember how important it has been in their lives.  Did you attend an Ezra Jack Keats event there and enjoy it?  Were you, like Chris Raschka, kicked out for wearing a black leather jacket?  Did you find a rare Donald Barthelme picture book, a signed copy of The Giver, or a Rackham print you never knew existed?

Tell me what you loved about this library.  I want the love of the Central Children’s Room to overfloweth as I wait to hear where we are going next.  Feel free to e-mail me your stories at Fusenumber8 at gmail dot com.  As they come in I will post them on this site.  A collection this grand and wonderful deserves no less. 

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About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Roger Sutton says:

    Betsy, I do hope there will BE a Central Children’s Room. There will be, yes? YES? Its traditions traveled far and wide–I remember learning to “light the story candle” in library school, a ritual from NYPL brought to the U. of Chicago by professor Ellin Greene. Do you guys still do that?

  2. We do indeed still light the story candle. They teach you that when you enter the system. Every branch is outfitted with story candles as a result. As for the fate of the room, nothing is known. Nothing has been decided either. We cross our fingers and hope that people will tell NYPL how important the room is.

  3. Jennifer Schultz says:

    Betsy, when I was job hunting and sending off applications two years ago, I would visit the NYPL website from time to time. I remember that there was a section in which patrons’ memories and experiences of/with NYPL were posted. Is that still there? Maybe patrons could be encouraged to post there too?

    I don’t have anything to share, unfortunately, but the patron stories were nice to read.

  4. Jennifer Schultz says:

    Speaking of storytelling candles…have you seen Lucia Gonzales’s picture book about Pura Belpre yet?

  5. I have and it’s gorgeous! Such a good version. I’m holding off on reviewing it until we get a little closer to the publication date, but it’s a stunner, no question. Didn’t know about that NYPL patrons memories section. I’ll have to check that out. Thanks!

  6. KT Horning says:

    There’s also the Ellen Tarry & Marie Hall Ets book, My Dog Rinty, published in 1946, that has the wonderful photograph of Augusta Baker holding the story candle during a story time at the Harlem Branch.

  7. I’m trying this again…

    Hands down, Central Children’s Room was my favorite place to work. I started right after the glorious bruhaha over Dunwoody’s mission to return Pooh to England, and stayed through Augusta Baker’s memorial service, Paul Fleischman’s Anne Caroll Moore lecture, Connie Regan Blake’s St. Nicholas Eve storytelling gig, and more. I’ll try to limit myself to one or two stories for you. I don’t want to be a show-off, after all!

  8. Waller Hastings says:

    Betsy –
    Who at the NYPL should folks contact if they want to express their passion about keeping the central children’s room open? What is their contact information?

  9. Click on my name at the beginning of this post and then e-mail me for contact info.

  10. Kidlitjunkie says:

    Why is Donnell closing? This is the first I’m hearing of it, and I’m heartbroken–I have loved the Donnell branch for a long, long time.

  11. Carol Reid says:

    The “story candle” mention put me in mind also of the 1950 book Rosa-Too-Little by Sue Felt. (If I’m remembering corrctly … am I?)

    I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of the NYPL children’s room, but I know that Eleanor Estes was the head librarian until resigning around 1944 to write the Moffat books with illustrator Louis Slobodkin.

    I’m terribly sorry to hear about the Donnell Center closing or moving. Best of luck, Betsy!

  12. Margaret Tice says:

    I put a post in this morning, but I don’t see it yet. The author and illustrator for the new book about Pura Belpre will be at the Donnell Library in the Central Children’s Room on April 3 at 6 p.m. It should be a great program!

  13. Sorry, Margaret. This here blog is more persnickety than that doggone self-checkout machine in the children’s room. Technology shouldn’t be allowed to have attitudes. It just shouldn’t! Thanks for the info.