Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mary P. Aiken (1927-2010) and Project Little Kids

Hands down, the most creative and innovative segment of the library profession is public library children's librarians. In my career I have had the good fortune to know and work with some outstanding children's librarians. As a former library administrator, I like to think that I have been a consistent advocate for children's services in public libraries. However, there is no doubt that strong, dedicated, creative children's librarians have been a major force behind that advocacy. At the top of the list of those children's librarians was Mary P. Aiken, former Coordinator of Children's Services for the Greenville (SC) County Library. I came to know and admire Mary when I became Director of the Greenville County Library in 1974. One of my early indications of Mary's zeal in the promotion of children's services was when she had arranged, without my knowledge, to close off the street in front of the library for a parade to kick off the summer library program. She was one of the earliest champions of public library service to children from zero to three years of age, and was the driving force behind Project Little Kids at the Greenville County Library, a nationally recognized program for this age group. When I wrote about Project Little Kids for LISNews in February of this year, I was unaware that Mary had died earlier that month. As I indicated in my essay for LISNews, one of my primary contributions to the project was the acronym which stood for Learning by Infants and Toddlers Through Library Experiences, Kits, Information, Demonstrations, and Services. The photograph above shows Mary (on the far right) and Early Childhood Development Specialist Linda VonCannon receiving a special award on behalf of the library from Sara Craig of the U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1979 in recognition of Project Little Kids as an "exemplary project" showing "innovation and creativity".

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