Children's Reading Giant Mildred Batchelder Dies at 96

American Libraries, October 1998 | Go to article overview

Children's Reading Giant Mildred Batchelder Dies at 96


Influential, indefatigable advocate for children's reading and books for young adults Mildred Batchelder died August 25 at the age of 96. She was a resident of the Swedish Retirement Association home in Evanston, Illinois.

Batchelder joined the American Library Association staff in 1936. She soon became chief of the School and Children's Library Division, reorganized in 1949 as the Division of Libraries for Children and Young People. Later she became executive secretary of both the Children's Services Division and the Young Adult Services Division (now known as the Association for Library Service to Children and the Young Adult Library Services Association, respectively) until her retirement in 1966.

A native of Lynn, Massachusetts, Batchelder graduated from New York State University Library School in Albany in 1924, and began her career directing the children's department at Omaha (Nebr.) Public Library in 1924-27. After a year as children's librarian at State Teachers College in St. Cloud, Minnesota, she served as elementary and intermediate school librarian at the Haven School of Evanston, Illinois, from 1928-36.

Under her direction at ALA such programs and projects were established as the Frederic G. Melcher Scholarship and the divisional publication The Top of the News. Unique activities she guided included the film The Lively Art of Picture Books; "The Children's World" exhibit at the Seattle Century 21 Exposition in 1962; and the children's library at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair.

When she retired, ALA honored her by establishing the Mildred L. Batchelder Award, which recognizes American publishers for issuing quality children's books in translation.

Dorothy Anderson, Batchelder's biographer, told AL, "Mildred influenced nearly a whole century of librarians around the world because she was so passionately and indomitably devoted to children and books - that's a legacy thousands of librarians remember." Anderson is retired assistant dean of UCLA's Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

Anderson, who worked as Batchelder's first professional assistant in the '60s, said, "She was an absolute visionary who pushed people beyond their own idea of what was possible; she scolded and cajoled them into almost miraculous acts."

"She changed my life and the lives of so many people," Anderson stated. "She was 4 feet 9 inches in height but she was vivacious and charming, and terrifying, too. She had a mind like a computer."

A champion of international relations and admirer of Jella Lepman, founder of the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany in 1949, Batchelder traveled to 11 European countries in 1964 to spread the word about children's books in translation. …

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