When exactly did the YA genre begin?
Some might say with the explosion of the
Harry Potter phenomenon.
Not with the Brothers Grimm surely.
TREASURE ISLAND, OLIVER TWIST, and KIM
all had youthful heroes back when children's books were written with adult sensibilities ...
So that you could grow up with them, learning new things about your old friends.
No. It began oddly enough in a library ... or maybe not so oddly after all.
In 1906, (not this year did YA begin )
Anne Carroll Moore became the Director of Work with Children for The New York Public Library.
She knew that there had to be a way to keep children, who weren’t quite adults yet,
coming to the public library and not let all her hard work for children be for naught.
In 1914 (No, not quite yet)
Anne hired Mabel Williams, a young librarian from Somerville, Massachusetts.
Mabel began working with schools and inviting classes into branches and finally
in 1919 (Sadly not even then)
Mabel was appointed to Supervisor of Work with Schools and her groundbreaking work with young people (teens) began.
Her official title (“Supervisor of Work with Schools and Young People”) wouldn't happen until
Yes, it took poor Mabel that long to affect real change.
To say that not everyone at NYPL was enthusiastic to have adolescents in their library branches
would be an understatement.
Some librarians were resistant to change and the idea of noisy, chaotic young people in their libraries.
Mabel, however, stood firm against the “old ladies,” as she called the older library staff,
and strove forward in her mission to serve the teens of New York City.
Mabel started by going out and recruiting other enthusiastic librarians, like herself,
who understood her vision:
that it wasn’t just about easing the transition from the children’s room to the adult room
but doing actual distinctive work with teens and giving them the same equal space and services that children were getting through the children’s rooms.
Back in 1919, there wasn’t any literature being specifically written for teens.
In order to create “browsing” collections for teens in the branches,
Mabel and her staff would comb through books in the children’s and adults sections of the libraries
for books they thought would interest teens and meet their reading needs
for both schoolwork and free time.
One of those new, enthusiastic young librarians for young people was Margaret Scoggin.
Margaret started as an outreach librarian but soon became the head of the new Nathan Straus branch,
an innovative library just for teens that opened in 1941 and was located in the West 40s.
Opened to help keep kids off the streets,
Williams recalled “They had wonderful programs there… it got to be sort of a hangout, with those young people."
One of Margaret’s keen interests was the selection of books for teens.
She started a radio program of teen book reviews
and from 1933 to 1946 she wrote a column for Library Journal called “Books for Older Boys and Girls.”
she changed the title to
“Books for Young Adults”
and thus began the phrase “young adult literature."
So all of you who write YA thank Margaret!!
She worked hard enough to more than earn your thanks!