The Library History Round Table (LHRT) announces the presentation of the 2018 Donald G. Davis Article Award

For Immediate Release
Tue, 05/29/2018


Danielle M. Alderson

Member Relations/Svcs.


CHICAGO — The Library History Round Table (LHRT) is delighted to announce the presentation of the 2018 Donald G. Davis Article Award to Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce for her 2016 article, “The Reign of Children: The Role of Games and Toys in American Public Libraries, 1877-1925,” published in Information & Culture.  Dr. Pierce, an associate professor in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Iowa, will be recognized at a Library History Round Table award ceremony during the LHRT Research Forum, at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 24, during the American Library Association Annual Conference.

The Davis Award Committee writes:

The article weaves together an array of source types—toys, games, trade articles, manuals, catalogs—into an engaging study with wide application. Going to immense lengths to gather her primary materials, she searched through multiple private and special collections for artifacts and resources. In addition, her research is firmly rooted in the literature including periodicals and other print materials essential to historical research.  Her rich selection of illustrations and enchanting descriptions of the toys and games of the past, such as “magic lanterns” and “dissected maps”, are coupled with astute inferences about how these realia reflected professional debates among librarians about the nature of youth services in nascent public libraries in the late 19th and early 20th century U.S.  In addition to expanding the historiography of U.S. public libraries, her research has made a notable contribution to the interdisciplinary field of childhood studies. 

Most significantly, Dr. Pierce not only interpreted her sources within their historical context but discusses the ways the work of librarians in the 19th and early 20th century U.S. with toys and games can inform library practice today.  She writes in her conclusion:

As twenty-first-century librarians emphasize new media and spaces suited to child and adolescent preferences, they need to know that the terrain they survey is one the profession has visited before. Present-day librarians interested in apps, computer games, and other types of atypical materials are better positioned than their predecessors to win arguments about the worth of the services they seek to provide…. This time, the bright colors, the noisy sounds, and the nontraditional material are contained within digital devices. Whether we have learned to think expansively about the possibilities of children’s services, then, is an open question. Even in the twenty-first century, children’s librarians must still work to bring about the reign of children in the services to young library users.


Dr. Pierce draws our attention again to a long-standing debate about the services and collections appropriate for a public library. With this research she contributes to our continued discussion in ways that this committee found engaging in its rigor and depth.

The Davis award is presented by the Library History Round Table of the American Library Association every even-numbered year to recognize the best article written in English in the field of United States and Canadian library history. The award honors Donald G. Davis, longtime professor at the School of Information at the University of Texas.

Dr. Pierce thanks the American Antiquarian Society, which awarded her the Jay and Deborah Last Fellowship, and Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library for a Winterthur Research Fellowship.  In addition to this research funding, both institutions and their superlative library and archival staff provided access to primary source materials that made this essay possible. LHRT wishes to thank the Davis Award Committee: Brett Spencer, chair; and members, Ben Brick and Christine D’Arpa.