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Mary Church Terrell Main Library
148 W College St. Oberlin, OH 44074-1545


The main visitor lot is the east Service Building lot, and the south row of the Carnegie Building lot for visitors to offices within that building.

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About the Collection

Books made for children have likely been accumulating at Oberlin College since its inception, but especially since 1894 when the Kindergarten-Primary Training School began, and after 1908 when the college's Carnegie Library opened with a very early dedicated Children's Library. Discussions with faculty on Book History, the Sociology of Reading, Folklore and children's books have been ongoing since the early 2000s.

Woman seated beside a table, holding the hand of one young girl and looking at another, illustration.

Illustration from "Told in the Twilight" by F.E. Weatherly, illustration by Mary Ellen Edwards [1880s]

Scope and Contents:

The physical books for children in Oberlin College Libraries Main Special Collections range in date from the 18th - to the early 20th - centuries and display a variety of formats, printing styles, and topics, including a small amount of reference literature. There is no claim or ambition regarding efforts to collect comprehensively in any single area. Rather, this collection is a synthetic sampling, with an emphasis on older content, meant to serve ongoing student interests. Not all of our children's book holdings, therefore, are systematically gathered in our Children's Collection; it is possible that much remains undiscovered in Storage, or is already a part of another existing Special Collection such as Anti-slavery or Temperance. A great deal more books can be accessed online by those with College affiliation. While we have included books written in languages other than English and published in various locations around the world, the collection consists primarily of Anglo-American children’s books, many in a "much loved" condition.

Our hope is that by placing the books within a contextual discourse we can generate interest in the shared characteristics and how these reflect on the mentality of those who produced and consumed them. To signify potential curricular interests we have concentrated books into select "series" (borrowing an archival method) which are primarily defined by the book's perceived functional intention. Books within series may be further foldered and boxed with respect to an author, printer/publisher, or illustrator, depending on what lends itself best to our local needs. Strict adherence to genre or chronology is neither strictly possible nor helpful with such a broad mandate, due to long periods of overlapping book types, and the continued reprinting and/or republishing of popular works. Neither is it possible for books to always belong exclusively to one category or the other; we used our judgement to signal the intention and assign the book accordingly.

The Children's Collection has been divided into the following series:

  • Series 1. Don't Be Naughty: Etiquette and Morality
  • Series 2. Belief and Piety: Catechetical Books
  • Series 3. Enlightened Children: Influence of Locke and Newbery
  • Series 4. Books for Schooling: Early Spellers, Readers, Histories, and Geographies
  • Series 5. Once Upon a Time: Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Myths, and Complete Nonsense
  • Series 6. Polite Domesticity: Victorian Colored Picture Books
  • Series 7. Iconic Artists: The “Golden Age” of Illustrated Books 
  • Series 8. "Merch": Mass Market Publishers
  • Series 9. Pulp Fiction: Dime Novels and Comic Books
  • Series 10. Brainy Books: Books Designed by Educators and Psychologists
  • Series 11. Reference
Book gift inscription depicting black handwriting on light yellow paper.

Gift inscription inside "Our Village Life" [1884]