Annie Carroll Moore (July 12, 1871 – January 20, 1961) born in Limerick, Maine was the visionary behind, and founder of, the first children’s reading room in the United States. Throughout her career she advocated for children’s rights as librarian patrons, revolutionized the relationship between libraries and children, and less notably wrote a number of luke-warm picture books. Today she is remembered, infamously, for her complex relationship with E.B. White and his wife Katherine Sergeant Angell White, which ended with Moore’s campaign to ban Stuart Little from the NYPL. On this last note, not to be missed is Jill Lepore’s excellent article on E.B. White and Annie Carroll Moore featured in The New Yorker: The Lion And The Mouse.
Before Moore was criticized for being backwards thinking in the world of children’s literature, she was known as a pioneer in the field. Moore studied library science at Pratt Institute, and in 1896 was hired by the school to run their children’s division. Although other libraries had devoted small sections of their collection to adolescent patrons, Moore’s Children’s Reading Room was the first room designed specifically with children in mind. Moore was the first librarian to request the miniaturize furniture that is now ubiquitous with children’s reading spaces.
Moore’s approach to children’s librarianship can be summed up quite nicely in her “Four Respects”:
1. Respect for children.
2. Respect for children’s books.
3. Respect for fellow workers.
4. Respect for the professional standing of children’s librarians.
The backbone of Moore’s work was her strong belief in children as citizens, particularly citizens who were deserving of an education. Moore was also understanding of the difference between a library meant to encourage exploration and one meant to keep children out. She informed her librarians not to “not expect or demand perfect quiet,” and left shelves open and lock-less for easy access. Furthermore, she was an advocate for diversity in the library. Moore hired Nella Larson to head the Harlem Children’s Library in 1924 and promoted a multicultural approach to learning by including books in a variety of different langages in her collection development.
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