Of Nightingales and Supermen...
SLIS doctoral student Carol Tilley successfully defended her dissertation on July 20, 2007.
Her work, titled "Of Nightingales and Supermen: How Youth Services Librarians Responded to Comics Between the Years 1938 and 1955," presents a cultural and social history of the intersection of libraries and librarians, children and their reading, children's literature and comic books.
Carol has been teaching SLIS courses as an adjunct instructor and lecturer since 1997. This fall she will begin a tenure-track position as an assistant professor at the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science.
In 1937, librarian Frances Clarke Sayers used Hans Christian Anderson's story of the emperor and the nightingale to rally youth services librarians to return to their fundamental belief in the power of imaginative literature to bring delight, epiphanies, and catharsis to young readers. Youth services librarianship, a profession whose work centered on selecting and recommending books to young people in school and public libraries, was an established profession. Yet, in 1938, the profession found itself struggling against an upstart medium: comic books. Comic books were the dominant cultural force in the lives of young people from 1938 — the first appearance of Superman — through 1955, when the comics industry bowed to intense public scrutiny and adopted a restrictive editorial code governing its publications. This study is a cultural and social history of the intersection of libraries and librarians, children and their reading, children's literature and comic books. The profession's ambivalence toward comics, despite their popularity among young readers and in the absence of compelling research that the medium harmed its readers, hampered its ability to contribute meaningfully to any dialogue about children's reading that took place outside the profession's boundaries. Although the profession liberalized its views on young people's relationship with books in other ways during these years, its insular attitude contributed to the longevity of the profession's belief in what it viewed as the true nightingale: those materials selected by librarians, not children.
Posted July 26, 2007