Wednesday, July 24, 2013

From the CCBC Archives: The First Librarian

Meet Bonnie Stecher. She was the Cooperative Children's Book Center's first official librarian, and she worked at the Center from June 1964 until June 1965.  Mrs. Stecher, as she was always called back then, accomplished a lot in her one-year tenure at the CCBC. She made numerous contacts with children's book publishers to assure that the CCBC would receive review copies (there were 88 publishers included on her 1964-65 checklist). She responded to correspondence related to donations for the CCBC's Historical Collection. And she started compiling the bibliographies of recommended books that the CCBC is still known for today.

But perhaps her most lasting accomplishment was her compilation of Newbery and Caldecott winners and honor books. In the age of easy access to this sort of information via the internet, it's hard to imagine a time that there was no comprehensive list of Newbery and Caldecott Award winners. But even ALA didn't have such a list. In fact, in the CCBC files is a copy of a letter from Mildred Batchelder herself (the Executive Secretary of ALA's Children's Services Division), thanking Mrs. Stecher for sending her the list of award winners and runners-up. In her letter, Miss Batchelder brainstorms some possible ways for ALA to disseminate the list -- pending Mrs. Stecher's permission, of course.

Her list eventually saw publication as part of Lee Kingman's Newbery and Caldecott Medal Books, 1956-1965 published by the Horn Book, where it was credited to Bonita E. Stecher. Over the years, as the list has been updated, the credit was dropped, and few people know or even think about where it came from.  But here at the CCBC, we haven't forgotten what Mrs. Stecher accomplished. In fact, those of us who started out here as student reference assistants in the 1970s-1980s will remember updating the original list each year after the ALA awards were announced, and sending out copies whenever anyone requested one (and provided us with a self-addressed stamped envelope).

I'll leave you with this last photo of Bonnie Stecher, working with the CCBC collection back when the library was located in the dome of the State Capitol Building. She looks so deep in thought that perhaps she is trying to track down those missing honor books from the first few years of the Newbery Medal's existence.  The CCBC librarians no longer wear pearls and heels to work but we are no less dedicated providing information about children's and young adult literature to those who request it.

We still have those wooden benches -- and that book truck!

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