November 2023

President's Column | Vice President's Column | Thank You to Our Friends

2024 ALSC Charlemae Hill Rollins President’s Program

headshot of Jonda McNairDear ALSC Members: This past June while attending our annual conference in Chicago, Illinois, I had the opportunity to visit the Chicago Public Library’s Carter G. Woodson Branch, which houses the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, the largest such collection in the Midwest. Harsh was the first African American branch head in the Chicago Public Library system and was devoted to providing books written by and about Blacks for her patrons, regularly requesting grants and even using her own personal funds to purchase materials. Celebrated Black authors such as Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wright, and Zora Neale Hurston were regularly featured as guest speakers at the George Cleveland Hall Branch, the first to be established in Chicago’s Black community. Harsh worked from 1932 until 1958 as head of the Hall Branch, and Charlemae Hill Rollins was the children’s librarian there from 1932 until 1963. Rollins assisted Harsh in building the collection of books by and about Blacks.

The papers of Charlemae Hill Rollins are housed within the Harsh Research Collection. While going through the Rollins papers, I found a wealth of treasures, such as these:

  • A note from Langston Hughes to Rollins
  • Rollins’s diary (click on thumbnail image below/left to view larger photo)
  • Her desk name plate
  • A letter she wrote to Miss Lucile Deaderick, the editor of the ALA Bulletin at that time, about retiring ALA President Althea Warren’s decision to hold ALA conferences in cities where Negro librarians could not attend all meetings
  • Rollins’s ALA membership card (click on thumbnail image below/center to view larger photo)
  • Photographs of Rollins and Harsh with other librarians at the Hall Branch
  • Photographs of children who participated in branch book clubs and reading programs (click on thumbnail image below/right to view larger photo)

Charlemae Rollins Diary Charlemae Rollins ALA membership card Photo of the Colman Book Club

Jordan McKenna, a librarian who works in the Harsh Research Collection, shared one of the most important treasures with me: the actual piece of paper on which Gwendolyn Brooks handwrote a poem for Rollins upon her retirement. McKenna made my day when she allowed me to hold the poem in my hands! (Click on the following thumbnail image to view larger photo.)

Handwritten poem by Gwendolyn Brooks

Rollins, whose work was closely aligned with that of Harsh, is well known for her advocacy efforts related to the representation of Blacks in children’s literature. She edited multiple editions of We Build Together: A Reader’s Guide to Negro Life and Literature for Elementary and High School Use (see the 1967 edition: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/7f9eeaf0-ec86-0134-ee46-096986f5ac8f), challenged the purchasing of racially offensive children’s books by the Chicago Public Library, wrote letters to publishers asking them to publish more books for children about prominent African Americans, and wrote several biographies herself after retiring. Her biography Black Troubadour: Langston Hughes (see https://archive.org/details/blacktroubadourl0000roll) won the 1971 Coretta Scott King Author Award.

Rollins was an active member of ALA for many years, serving as president of the Children’s Services Division (the first African American to do so) and chair of the 1956–1957 Newbery/Caldecott Committee. ALSC’s annual Charlemae Hill Rollins President’s Program is named in her honor due to her service and prominence within the profession and is held each year during the ALA Annual Conference. The 2024 program will focus on the legacy of celebrated African American librarians such as Augusta Baker and Effie Lee Morris, with an emphasis on Rollins. The co-chairs, Jason Driver and Erica Marks (special thanks to both!), are hard at work with ALSC staff on the 2024 program, which will inform attendees about these legendary librarians and how their work remains relevant today.

I look forward to seeing all of you at the 2024 ALA Annual Conference, which will be held June 27 to July 2 in San Diego, California (see https://2024.alaannual.org/), for what I hope will be an informative and exemplary ALSC Charlemae Hill Rollins President’s Program!—Jonda C. McNair, Charlotte S. Huck Endowed Professor of Children’s Literature, The Ohio State University, 2023–2024 ALSC President, she/her/hers

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Coming Together to Support ALSC and the Profession

Rob BittnerIf there’s one thing that I’m very quickly learning in this new role as ALSC vice-president, it’s that no matter how prepared you think you are, you’re wrong.

This isn’t meant to scare, but rather to express how much goes on behind the scenes that it can be easy to miss between conferences. I have no end of gratitude for the work of the ALSC staff and the many volunteers who take part in committee work throughout each year. It can be easy to forget how many hundreds of volunteers there are working year-round. They are holding meetings, organizing workshops, panels and webinars, building and nurturing professional networks, and working with staff and the board to build a robust and resilient organization that benefits children’s librarians, authors, illustrators, educators, and publishers now and into the future. To each and every one of you who do this work, Thank You!

When I joined ALSC back in 2010, I could never have imagined the journey that would take me to this point. I have had the opportunity to take part in many different aspects of ALSC work over the years, from awards to board nominations to manual revisions, and so much more. And yet I still feel I have barely scratched the surface. This new role, however, allows me to get a much more thorough understanding of what makes ALSC the amazing organization that it is. And now I have the challenge and honor of working to appoint folks to the many committees that will ensure stability, growth, and resiliency during my term as President.

Now for everyone’s favorite part of these posts: the ask! I know that everyone is incredibly busy, and the world feels like it’s on fire—the attacks on children’s librarianship can make us feel unappreciated and scared. But we can come together as an organization, as colleagues and friends, to fight back and ensure that ALSC remains a space for people to find hope, comfort, and joy. Together we can create tools and networks to build each other up and keep fighting the good fight. So, I am asking you to volunteer, if you are able, to help us continue our work. (Find the committee volunteer form here. Have your ALA password handy.) It is my duty over the next year to appoint chairs and members to process committees, and I am excited to get to know more of you in that time and have the opportunity to work with you over the following year.

There are so many great committees, task forces, and discussion groups working in areas of advocacy, organizational support, professional development, and much more. Are you interested in intellectual freedom? What about literacy and programming? We’ve got opportunities for that! Do you have ideas about how to improve the work that ALSC does? We have Budget, Membership, EDI, and Organizational Effectiveness committees and task forces, among others, that will give you a chance to help ensure ALSC is doing its best work!

Now is the time to come together, strong and united, and I am thrilled to be working with such an incredible group of people, including President Jonda McNair, Past-President Amy Koester, and the many amazing board members, staff, and volunteers over the coming years. I look forward to seeing many of you at LibLearnX in Baltimore (January 19-22) and celebrating the Youth Media Awards (always a highlight).

Once more, thank you all for the opportunity to serve in this capacity. I look forward to hearing from many of you in the coming months!—With gratitude, and in solidarity, Rob Bittner, ALSC Vice President

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Thank You to Our Friends

Friends of ALSC logo with blue/green ALSC tulip logo imageMany thanks to the following generous contributors to Friends of ALSC. To learn how you can support ALSC, visit our website.

Gold Circle - $500 to $999

Vicky Smith

Silver Circle - $250 to $499

Robin Larkin

Notables Circle - $100 to $249

Rita Auerbach
Christopher Biss-Brown
Marge Loch-Wouters
Marianne Martens

Friends Circle - up to $99

Allison Knight
Carla Kozak
Beatriz Wallace

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