Librarians from history

Hi all, I hope I haven’t been boring anyone with all things to do with libraries!! This last week I wanted to showcase the amazing people who as librarians have been pioneers in the world of literacy and reading. I know there are many amazing and famous librarians throughout history who have achieved so much, but the post that follows is about two exceptional librarians and their life stories!! I hope you enjoy them!!

cover image of exterior of public library with large flowers along walls and columns beside main door. on steps seated a Pertan Rican lady with four children around her as she reads a book to them. blue letters below reads 'Planting Stories: the life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre.'
An engaging biography!

Title: Planting stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Author: Anika Adamuy Denise

Illustrator: Paola Escobar

Genre: Biography

Publication details: Harper; NY, 2019

What this book is about: When she came to America in 1920, Pura carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Ricoan homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura’s legacy. This portrait of the international librarian, author, and puppeteer reminds us of the power of storytelling and extraordinary woman who opened doors and championed bilingual literature. 

My review: Wow!! What a lovely read this was!! The only thing I knew about Pura Belpré was that there was an award that existed for outstanding works of literature by Latinx authors and illustrators under her name. Now I know her story: how she came to New York in the 1920’s and became a bilingual assistant at the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library in Harlem and her consequent success as an author when she wrote and published Spanish books which became the first mainstream Latinx story books published in America. This gorgeously illustrated children’s book gives voice to an amazing librarian and author who changed the world of literature!! A gorgeous story and illustrations. I ended up reading it at least three times!! 

My rating: 5 ⭐

When I found this next one I had no idea the impact the librarian had made such a huge contribution towards literacy in America!

cover image is large black and white image of old fashioned car with bookshelves inside and books on road. group of people standing beside reading and looking for books. large letters in white at top read 'Library on Wheels.'
An engaging biography!

Title: Library on Wheels: Mary Lemist Titcomb and America’s First Bookmobile

Author: Sharlee Glenn

Genre: Biography

Publication details: Abrams Books for Young Readers; NY, 2018

What this book is about: Mary Lemist Titcomb was one of the most innovative librarians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Born in 1852, she grew up wanting to do something special. The problem was that people were always telling her that she couldn’t. But Mary never gave up, and did find something special – to be a librarian. As head librarian of the Washington County Free Library in Maryland, Titcomb was concerned that the library did not serve all the people it could. She was determined that everyone would have access to a library – not just the rich and those who lived in town. And so she set out to find a way to take the library to the county’s 25,000 rural residents. Thus the bookmobile was born!

My review: What a gorgeous book this was!! I found myself learning about the history of libraries from this. Mary Titcomb is described as a formidable woman whose passion for her work as a librarian outshone all other attributes. Her career path was anything but easy. She had to work hard to become the Head Librarian at the Washington County Free Library and what she achieved there was one for the history books. For being the woman who created the ‘bookmobile’ or ‘mobile library’!! Of course something as practical as that would only be the idea of a woman!! And what a woman!! Mary Titcomb was leaps and bounds ahead of her time!! I’m so glad the author has managed to honour her resting place in Concord in the best way possible! This book, although fairly cumbersome in size, was a joy to read. Images, photographs, paintings and vintage ephemera combined with gorgeous text gave it more of a vintage scrapbook feel instead of a non-fiction biography read. I found myself pouring over the articles and maps included too!! An amazing read!! 

My rating: 5 ⭐

If anyone knows of any other stories of interesting librarians from history, I’d love to hear your suggestions!!

2 thoughts on “Librarians from history

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