Baker, Augusta


Wikipedia 26 Oct. 2012: "African American librarian and storyteller, renowned for her contributions to childrenís literature...In 1934, Baker became the first African American to graduate from Albany Teacherís College (now the State University of New York at Albany), with a B.S. in library science. After graduation, Baker taught for a few years, until she was hired in 1937 as the children's librarian at the New York Public Library's 135th Street Branch (now the Countee Cullen Regional Branch) in Harlem. In 1939, the branch began an effort to find and collect children's literature that portrayed black people as something other than "servile buffoons," speaking in a rude dialect, and other such stereotypes. This collection, founded by Baker as the James Weldon John Memorial Collection of Children's Books, led to the publication of the first of a number of bibliographies of books for and about black children. Baker furthered this project by encouraging authors, illustrators, and publishers to produce, as well as libraries to acquire, books depicting blacks in a favorable light. In 1953, she was appointed Storytelling Specialist and Assistant Coordinator of Children's Services. Not long after that, she became Coordinator of Children's Services in 1961, becoming the first African-American librarian in an administrative position in the New York Public Library. In this role, she oversaw children's programs in the entire NYPL system and set policies for them. During this time, Baker also figured prominently in the American Library Association's Children's Services Division (now the Association for Library Service to Children), having served as its president. Additionally, she chaired the committee that awarded the Newbery Medal and the Caldecott Medal. Furthermore, Baker influenced many children's authors and illustrators--such as Maurice Sendak, Madeleine L'Engle, Ezra Jack Keats, and John Steptoe--while in this position. She also worked as a consultant for the then newly created children's television series Sesame Street. In 1974, Baker retired from the New York Public Library. However, in 1980, she returned to librarianship to assume the newly created Storyteller-in-Residence position at the University of South Carolina; this was also the first such position in any American university at the time. She remained there until her second retirement in 1994. During her time there, Baker cowrote a book entitled Storytelling: Art and Technique with colleague Ellin Green, which was published in 1987."

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