In celebration of its 75th anniversary, the Center for Children's Books (CCB) has published a digital exhibit highlighting defining moments from its past.
"The history of the Center for Children's Books provides an excellent window into the history and evaluation of U.S. children's books more broadly—and for a period when both the quality and quantity of youth literature published increased tremendously," said CCB Director and Professor Sara L. Schwebel, who worked with a team of graduate assistants to design and publish the multimedia site.
MS/LIS student and CCB graduate assistant Josh Altshuler implemented the year-long project, which involved several other graduate assistants, all working remotely during the pandemic. After completing extensive research, the students worked together to organize the content into interactive timelines, create a multimedia gallery, and write biographic profiles of leaders of the CCB and The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.
According to Altshuler, the exhibit incorporates the sources of several university archives, including the Photographic Archive and Campus Publications at the University of Chicago, where the CCB began before it transitioned to the iSchool at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Other sources consulted for the project included the American Library Association Archives, Champaign County Historical Archives, and the Betsy Hearne Papers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Archives, which provided a historical context for The Bulletin and the work of its early editors.
"One of the highlights of studying the Betsy Hearne Papers was reviewing the memos produced by the Center between 1945-47 for the faculty at the University of Chicago and instructors at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools," said Altshuler. "The popularity of these memos—children's book lists with brief descriptions that were divided into themes based on subject and child development stages—led to the creation of a more widely-circulated Bulletin."
Among the interesting discoveries Altshuler made while completing the research was that the CCB consulted on a project with the United States Education Commission in 1946 to compile a list of children's books to be sent to occupied Japan following World War II.
MS/LIS student Helen Salkeld, who joined the project in January, worked on the multimedia gallery, scanning the CCB's files for pictures and posters from past events. As a Leep (online) student, she especially enjoyed collaborating and catching up with team members during Zoom meetings.
"It's been great to work with coworkers from such varied educational backgrounds and come together to keep the CCB going," she said. "Working at the CCB and celebrating its 75th anniversary was one of the bright spots for me during the pandemic that I will never forget."
Altshuler and Salkeld consulted with former directors of the CCB, editors of The Bulletin, and CCB graduate assistants as part of their research. They expressed their gratitude, in particular, to Professor Emerita Betsy Hearne, Associate Professor Kate McDowell, and Bulletin editor Deborah Stevenson for their assistance with the project.
"Over the past year, I've learned of the Center's long dedication to service and education. The impact of the Center and The Bulletin extends far beyond what we could capture in the virtual exhibit," said Altshuler. "I'm proud of the tireless work of previous editors, graduate assistants, and book reviewers, and I look forward to continuing to support the Center's mission as it approaches future projects and opportunities."
"We hope the site will be of interest to alums, and we know that the history presented will be useful for researchers," said Schwebel.