Saturday, April 25, 2015

Interview with Linda Salem- Children’s Literature Subject Specialist at the SDSU Love Library (Part 1 of 2)

In exciting recent news, the NCSCL was fortunate enough to speak with Linda Salem, the Children’s Literature subject specialist and Bibliographer at the San Diego State University’s Malcolm A. Love Library. She was extremely generous with her time, and it was vastly rewarding to pick her brain for information on just how multifaceted the children’s books collection really is. We also were able to converse about how this collection inspires a unique approach to the way kids are reading these days.

Because this interview provided us with some great and unique ideas, we will post it in two parts in order to give our children’s books the respect they deserve.

Apparently a lot more goes on in the arrangement of children’s books at the SDSU Love Library than one might assume. If you haven’t been up to the fourth floor’s children’s book section recently, the remodel of new   Dr. Seuss-like furniture is a must see, but the best part is the rows of children’s books, everything from picture books to young adult literature. There are also display cases featuring children’s books and artwork from the SDSU’s Children’s Center.

According to Linda Salem, this is a unique space that combines old books and new books through the thread of storytelling and is continuously growing as a collection. For scholarship, she tell us, it is important to look at several variations of stories, like Perrault’s and the Grimm’s fairytales, in order to bring together the contemporary collection with historical collections. This combination allows not just the NCSCL’s brilliant scholarship on the subject of children’s literature, but also plays a role in the School of Teacher Education and Children’s Center at SDSU.

Storytelling and read-aloud books develop and promote literacy in readers and also provide methods of exploration for how teachers can draw in new readers. So do these new children readers participate in this process at our library? Linda explains this is very much the case. Specifically kids from the SDSU Children's Center directed by Robin Judd visit the library to select and read books with their parent and student interns from the College of Education.

She says, “The power of story and storytelling is that it connects all these communities,” unlike any other subject area. This book collection connects research and story, activity with children and story, activity with adults and story, theater performance in story, art in story, visual images, [and] visual language.”  The redesign of the children's book section in Love Library is a project that has taken place over many years, intended to be a common meeting place for these communities. And we are very honored to say many of the children’s books that call the SDSU Library home, have been donated by the NCSCL and the amazing directors that run it now and in the past.

Another amazing new addition to the children’s book collection at the SDSU library, which should be arriving soon, is a variety of children’s texts intended to support Common Core lessons for current elementary school classrooms. These Common Core lessons are designed to assist teachers develop children’s text such as stories and even poetry. It is never too early to introduce children to poetry, and what a great way to have it be adapted into the classroom. 

Another amazing part of our children’s books collection, is found separately in Special Collections area on the fourth floor of the Library Addition, located above the dome (can be accessed by taking the elevator in the 24/7 study area). Many of the books that make up both collections of children’s books, have been donated from the Library of           Dr. Peter Neumeyer. Dr. Peter Neumeyer achieved a giant milestone by being one of the first to teach a literary course about children's books in the United States, and his irreplaceable contribution to SDSU’s English Department, was creating the largest Children’s Literature Program in North America.  But of course he did not stop there. Dr. Neumeyer has donated a large number of high quality books, which were able to refresh the SDSU Library’s main book collection.

In addition, signed copies of children’s books, rare copies of picture books, special editions, and even unique Young Adult books have been added to the Special Collections section now available to students and faculty. The Edward Gorey Collection, which is the personal library of Edward Gorey himself, is made up of over 5,000 titles of unique and important contributions to children’s literature. Field trip anyone?

So what does this sort of collection inspire? Well for starters, we asked Linda to define what high quality children’s and YA books would be and the influence of pop-culture. She said, “I think that the question you just asked makes this collection and this program in the university, in the country, a really great place to ask those questions. You know, these are the kinds of questions that are inspired by our collection, by the classes that are taught here, and the students who work for [and study in] this program.” She continues to point out, importantly, that quality is subjective to what the book is being looked and judged for: A book intended to teach literacy to a bilingual student will not be regarded in the same light as a book that is judged for its artwork and creativity alone.  She continues, “And in that way we do look at some of those popular culture issues, especially in terms of this concept of meme, which is just idea really.”

So since story and storytelling is also considered a cultural artifact, and these days transcends into our media and technology, this is an interesting topic that will be discussed in greater detail in the part-two blog post.

Special thanks to Linda Salem again for taking the time to talk to us about the San Diego State University’s Children Books Collections at the Malcolm A. Love Library and about children and books and the bigger picture of them in the future.

1 comment:

  1. We Children's Lit folks at SDSU are very fortunate to work with Linda, our compatriot and good friend in the library. Thanks for this blog interview!