Carolyn W. Field, dedicated children's librarian

Field
Field
Posted: August 03, 2010

CAROLYN WICKER FIELD had a passion for children's literature and concern for how it influenced the youngsters exposed to it.

As the former coordinator of children's services for the Free Library of Philadelphia, she was in a position to promote the acquisition of books for young people and inaugurate programs, including storytelling sessions.

Carolyn Field, who was past president of state and national library organizations, a writer and teacher, died July 24. She was 93 and lived in Cathedral Village in Philadelphia.

She began her career as a children's librarian at the New York Public Library, then became children's coordinator for the Wilmington Public Library in Delaware before coming to Philadelphia in 1953.

She was named coordinator of the Office of Work with Children and remained in that position until her retirement in 1983.

During her time at the Free Library, she established the Children's Literature Research Collection, Spring Book Review and Storytelling Festival.

She also created the Philadelphia Children's Reading Round Table, and the Drexel University/Free Library of Philadelphia Children's Literature Citation, which she won in 1984.

She also taped interviews with authors and illustrators of children's books, some of which were broadcast on PBS.

Field grew up in Massachusetts and earned a master of library science degree from Simmons College in Boston.

Her favorite quotation was from English children's writer Walter de la Mare: "Only the rarest kind of best in anything can be good enough for the young."

With this in mind, she insisted that children's librarians wear formal attire when visiting schools or community organizations as a sign of respect for their profession and the children they served.

Even while on vacation and traveling, Field did not forget the library. She would distribute Free Library brochures and book lists wherever she went.

She was so well known in the children's literature field that publishers, authors, illustrators, educators and librarians would go to her for advice, consultation and evaluation of their work, all of which she freely gave.

Field served as president of both the Pennsylvania Library Association and the children's division of the American Library Association, now known as the Association for Library Service to Children.

She published several children's literature reference books, taught a children's literature course at Drexel and, after retirement, volunteered in the library and archives of Cathedral Village.

She also served on the board of the Girl Scouts of Philadelphia for nearly 30 years and was an active member of the Stagecrafters Theater in Chestnut Hill.

Field was frequently honored. She received the Scholastic Library Publishing Award, the ALSC Distinguished Service Award and the Catholic Library Association's Mary A. Grant Award for outstanding volunteer service.

She was named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania by Gov. Milton Shapp in 1974.

The Youth Services Division of the Pennsylvania Library Association created the annual Carolyn W. Field Award in her honor. It recognizes the best book for young people by a Pennsylvania author or illustrator.

She is survived by nieces and nephews.

Services: Private burial services will be held at the family grave-site in Massachusetts. The Free Library will host a memorial program for her in September.

Contributions may be made to the Carolyn W. Field Children's Book Fund of the Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine St., Philadelphia 19103.

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