The Children's Literary Salon, previously known as the Children's Literary Cafe, began in 2007. In November 2008, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building ("the library with the lions") celebrated the opening of the Children's Center at 42nd Street. You can view "Women in Comics: Female Graphic Novelists Writing with Kids and Teens in Mind," a Children's Literary Salon program held at the Children's Center on April 3, 2010, by visiting the Library's website.
How I met Betsy Bird and started going to the Salon: I met Bird on November 1, 2008 at the Book Fest 2008 conference, where she was running a book discussion on graphic novels for children. She was very witty and had a perspective on children’s literature that I found thought-provoking. When I later heard about a similar event being presented by the Children’s Literature Café, I thought Bird might be running that program as well, and if she was, I definitely wanted to attend.
Where and when to go to the Salon: As previously mentioned, the program was eventually renamed the Children's Literary Salon. It was formerly called the Children’s Literature Cafe, but since no food was involved, it got a new name. The format of the program varies, but in general, either Bird moderates a panel discussion, a guest presenter runs the show, or the panelists present on their own. The program is held in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, sometimes in the Margaret Berger Forum on the second floor (Room 227), sometimes in the Children’s Center on the ground floor (Room 84), and sometimes in South Court Auditorium (if you use the Fifth Avenue entrance between the two watchful lions guarding the Library — affectionately known as Patience and Fortitude — walk through the Astor Hall lobby and go down the stairs). You might want to check the Library's online calendar or check in at the Children’s Center to see where the program will be held. It usually takes place on the first or second Saturday of the month from 2 to 3 p.m.
A gem of children’s literature discussions: The Children's Literary Salon is as valuable as some of the staff trainings and conferences I’ve gone to. It includes materials on children’s and teen books and current trends in the field. In fact, I’ve seen some of the same people from past panel discussions at conferences (eg, School Library Journal’s “Day of Dialog” 2011 at the Lincoln Center Campus of Fordham University). The programs also pertain to teen literature — young adult publishers, etc., often sit on the panel. There are many varied topics, including some obscure topics that I haven't seen much written about or heard much about before attending these programs, such as children’s computer applications (apps), women in the military, etc. I’ve learned so much from these gatherings. I have learned a lot from staff trainings for children’s and teen services, but the amount of new things that I've been exposed to through these programs is unparalleled. I also have the opportunity to be exposed to professionals in the field that do not work at NYPL. Program attendees have had the benefit of hearing the thoughts of publishers that work with books written in other languages, professionals that work overseas, etc. Bird always has thought-provoking questions and insightful comments on the world of children’s literature. I have worked with all age groups (children, teen, and adult services) in several neighborhood libraries during my time at NYPL and in my professional life as a librarian. It’s great to have the perspective of someone who works exclusively with children and has done so for a longer period of time that I. Her knowledge of trends in literature and the field of children’s publishing far exceed what I have developed (I am currently working with teens in one of NYPL’s neighborhood libraries.)
Betsy Bird’s work: I very much enjoyed reading Bird's book Children’s Literature Gems: Choosing and Using Them in Your Library Career during a library-appointed snow day a year or so ago. She writes in an engaging, friendly, and very entertaining style. Bird is the author of Fabulous Fictionalized Biographies: Trend or Genre? on NYPL Blogs, as well as A Fuse #8 Production, a blog series on the School Library Journal website. (One of my favorite photos from this series features a photograph of a librarian holding a sign stating, "When Librarians Start Marching, You Know There's a Problem." In her blog series, Bird's sophisticated vocabulary and fun, engaging writing style explore the rhyme and reason (if either exist) behind current literary publications. The blog series is cool because it features unusual trends and things in children's literature that I would otherwise be unaware of. For example, her blog posts feature videos of books that change colors and sneakers based on books (eg, A Scarlet Letter). She has also published several articles in School Library Journal, Children & Libraries, and Horn Book. I have known about her School Library Journal blog series for some time, but I am now reading it regularly in an effort to improve my own blogging skills as I begin writing for NYPL Blogs. Bird currently works at The New York Public Library's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.
Stay tuned for my blog series, Children's Literary Salons in Retrospect, in which I will detail some individual seminars. However, if you can, I highly recommend coming to see them in person at "the library with the lions" on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street!
Upcoming Children’s Literary Salons
- Saturday, December 3 at 2 p.m.: Funny Ha Ha — Humorous Books for Kids
Continuing our series where we explore amusing books for children, we look at funny books in a myriad of forms: funny picture books, funny graphic novels, and funny early chapter books. Join David Roman (Astronaut Academy), Nick Bruel (Bad Kitty), Laurie Keller (Arnie the Donut), and Jules Feiffer (Bark, George) as we look at finding the funny for different ages of kids.