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Youth Literature Collection inspires collaboration on campus and commemoration from alumni
Youth Literature Collection inspires collaboration on campus and commemoration from alumniNovember 05, 2007Margaret Costello Spillettmcostell@syr.edu
For years after getting a Master of Library Science degree from Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool), Rosemary Scalessa G’72 kept in touch with Dorothy McGinniss, the professor whose passion for children’s literature had inspired Scalessa’s own 35-year career as a children’s librarian and school media specialist. When McGinniss’ regular Christmas cards stopped arriving, Scalessa began a search for her old mentor that ended, sadly, with the discovery of a 1997 obituary.
Determined to preserve McGinniss’ memory, Scalessa decided to keep in mind the possibility of making a donation in the professor’s name. The chance for commemoration came two years ago when Ruth Small, Meredith Professor at the iSchool and director of the Center for Digital Literacy (CDL), put out an appeal to school media alumni to help jumpstart a collection of materials for students who intended to work as teachers, children’s book authors and illustrators, school librarians, or children’s librarians in public libraries.
Scalessa is one of several alumni who responded to the call and contributed to the Youth Literature Collection, which started out as a small library within CDL. It has since grown to the point where it will become part of the University’s circulating collection. With the support of University Librarian/Dean of the Library and iSchool Board of Visitors member Suzanne Thorin, the collection will be managed jointly by CDL and the SU Library.
Kori Gerbig G’07, a research assistant at CDL, has worked with SU librarians to develop a collection development policy and document of understanding between the SU Library and CDL. In addition to funds given by alumni, the collection has also received donations from a number of children’s book publishers.
“We at CDL are very excited about this project and are proud to partner with the library,” Small says. “While similar collections exist on some other college campuses, it is rare that students have the opportunity to actively participate in the development of that collection. We look forward to seeing faculty, staff and students use and enjoy the new youth literature collection when it goes public.”
iSchool students are already benefiting from this partnership in more ways than one. In addition to having access to a rich and wonderful collection of children’s books, they participate in an authentic learning experience. Through their courses on literacy and children’s literature, these students complete assignments that require them to review each new book received by CDL before it is sent to E.S. Bird Library. Each review then becomes part of the library’s acquisitions decision process.
For Scalessa, an Atlanta resident who retired in 2004 but still works a few days a week as a substitute librarian, the greatest satisfaction comes from knowing that her contribution will perpetuate Dorothy McGinniss’ legacy of children’s librarianship. “She was an inspiration and had an amazing amount of knowledge,” Scalessa says. “She always had a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye. She was a personality, as well as wonderful teacher. I just didn’t want her to disappear.”