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Question: Library Service to Children and Young People


LIBRARY SERVICE TO children as a public responsibility is a development of the twentieth century, but the foundations for those services were being laid throughout the 1800s. The development was not one of steady progress. The early attempts on the part of well-meaning men and women to provide children with books were often sporadic and abortive. Nevertheless, all such efforts were directed quite consistently toward a goal of providing books for youth that would foster their education as effective and useful citizens. With a variety oE interpretations and in many different settings, this goal has continued throughout the past 150 years.

A survey of the development of library service to children can no more be treated neatly within the dates 1876-1976 than can any other aspect of library services; neither can children’s library service be regarded as a separate and distinct phenomenon. Children were members of every community in which libraries of a variety of forms-association, subscription, circulating, and eventually free public and school-were established, and it is reasonable to assume that in marry library situations there were children knocking at the doors, sitting in the reading rooms, and benefiting from books borrowed by adult relatives. The rapidity with which children made their needs known, and the characteristics of the response by the community, were largely dependent on the geographical, social and economic setting of the community. The timing of the development of children’s services was influenced by the changing status of children in the family, and in community relationships.

The change in the status of children during the nineteenth century was characterized by a gradual awareness of the needs of children as individuals. Essentially, there was recognition that childhood is not merely a chrysalis period during which the child’s body grows to adulthood, but that it is rather a part of a continuous experience of living in which each state has its unique physical, emotional and spiritual needs. This level of regard for childhood and its needs did not come easily or quickly in the early years of the last century, but gradually flowered as an aspect of the consciousness of a new nation with egalitarian and democratic ideals.

Generally, it can be said that children were themselves the instigators of the development of library services to fit their needs. This they achieved by continued and persistent demands to share in every advance in the design, organization and delivery of service to the general public. From those records that exist, we can perceive the children’s presence, but we can also recognize from these meager references that they were always in the background when a new building or new service was inaugurated. This spontaneous pressure of youth on community services can be traced throughout the history of the public library.

This paper will look at selected events that marked the development of library services to children in the last century, marking the time in rather large periods, not because they have unusually definite time boundaries, but because they relate to periods of change in the history of both public libraries and public schools. Such a discussion must begin with a brief survey of what had been happening to children and libraries before the year 1876.

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(Source: Pustaka Negeri Sarawak, 02 Jul 2021)

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