G.R. Little Library has Vintage Children's Literature Collection

Kesha Williams
August 23, 2010

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The staff of the G. R. Little Library continuously review the collection of books to determine their relative use for today's patron. On a recent review, Sue Geiger, a reference librarian, decided to remove over 1,000 books from the stacks and establish a very special collection: the Vintage Children's Literature Collection.

The books included were all published before 1940, some as early as 1890. They came from a children's literature collection that is maintained to support the curriculum of the Education Department. Students majoring in education frequently use that collection to complete assignments. In their sometimes shabby condition, the vintage books were often overlooked in favor of the newer more colorful, shiny generations of children's books.  Geiger realized the books were a treasure trove of history-- the history of elementary education, of children's literature, and of children's art. 

"The new collection has been established in order to protect them as part of the heritage of ECSU, and to keep them available to the university and the patrons of the library in perpetuity, Geiger said. "Many of these books have been here since this institution was a state normal school and contain that school's seal inside.  This is a very special collection you won't find in another library."

 In the early years, the Elizabeth City State Normal School contained an elementary school within it where new teachers received training and could practice while local children received an education. Many of the original books in that school's children's literature collection may have been the same textbooks or storybooks that were being used in the classroom.  The collection was almost certainly used as part of the teachers' training curriculum Geiger said. 

The State Normal School's early collection contained many books useful for a classroom setting such as the 1927 edition of "Young Peoples History of the World War" by Louis P. Benezet illustrated by numerous black and white photographs.  It also contained many biographies for example the "Lives of Poor Boys Who Became Famous" by Sarah K. Bolton (1925), or "Heroines of Service" by Mary R. Parkman (1917). Geography was well represented with stories of people and places around the world, as were the arts, the sciences, and technology.  There are books of poetry, nursery rhymes, biographies, adventure stories, the classics along with books on morals, virtues, obedience, death, and faith.  The illustrations, in some cases, represent some of the first books that positively reflected the lives of black children and families.