In celebration of Central Library’s 75th birthday, this exhibition features a small selection of books from the Library’s most valuable collection, the Hunt Collection. Named for Clara Hunt, these old and rare books were well loved by generations of young Brooklynites.
The Hunt Collection was created as a memorial to Clara Whitehill Hunt (1871 – 1958), the first Superintendent of Work with Children for the Brooklyn Public Library system, and a pioneer of her profession. Hunt assumed her post in 1903, a time when many libraries around the United States barred their doors to young people. Hunt felt otherwise about the vital importance of providing children with free access to the best available books, and went on personally to oversee the design of the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Children’s Room and of the Brownsville Children’s Branch, which was the world’s first library built solely to serve children. During her thirty-six-year tenure, she opened more than thirty branch library children’s rooms in all and built one of the nation’s largest collections of materials for children and teens. Hunt held leadership roles in the American Library Association chairing the committee that in 1921 established the John Newbery Medal as the world’s first literary prize honoring work for children.
Never one to mince words, she declared: “When librarians know enough to tolerate only the positively good books, many noble forests will be saved which are now being slaughtered to furnish paper for books that waste young minds.” Clara Hunt retired from the Brooklyn Public Library in 1940 and left New York permanently for Sudbury, Massachusetts, the birthplace of both her parents.
Curator Leonard Marcus is one of the world’s leading writers about children’s books and the people who create them. He is the author of more than 25 award-winning books, including Show Me a Story!; Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom; Golden Legacy; The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth; and Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing. A founding trustee of the Eric Carle Museum, Leonard curated The New York Public Library’s critically acclaimed exhibition, The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter, and lectures about his work throughout the world. He teaches at New York University and the School of Visual Arts, and lives in Brooklyn, NY.