In 2009, Elizabeth York made the decision to donate her collection of over 10,000 first-edition children’s books to the Nicholson Library. The books are kept in a special humidity-controlled room on the first floor of the library to keep them in good condition. In order to find a way to showcase the collection, the York family and Dr. Janet Brewer, the director of the library, decided to create the Elizabeth York Children’s Literature Festival.
This is the sixth year that the festival has taken place. It wasn’t put on last year because of a lack of funding, but this year have acquired backing from the Bose Foundation which supports many art performance programs in Anderson. “The Bose Foundation has made a commitment for at least this year and the next two years after that,” Brewer said. “So we’re keeping our fingers crossed that they like what we do and they will continue to support it for many years to come.”
While the festival does showcase specifically children’s books, the subject matter and speakers are more geared toward university students and adults. “We made the conscious decision that our target audience would be college students and adults, those teaching, librarians, people interested in children’s literature,” Brewer said. She explained that this is because the speakers talk more about specific aspects of making children’s books and those topics might not be as interesting to younger people.
The speakers chosen for the festival are writers, illustrators, and other people who are involved in making and producing children’s books. “I try to get a mix of authors and illustrators,” Brewer said. “I also try to include somebody who works in rare books or a dealer of rare children’s books.”
They will speak on how they go about producing children’s books and why they chose to produce children’s books. “My favorite part is the speakers,” Brewer said. “I love to hear them talk about what goes into putting a children’s book together, why are [they] a children’s book author, why not an adult author, and how do [they] go about doing research for that audience?”
This year the speakers include award-winning children’s book author Candice Fleming, author/illustrators Kristi Valiant and Will Hillenbrand, and local storyteller Doug Berky. During the festival, the speakers’ books are available for purchase through the AU bookstore. There will also be time at the end of the day to get the books signed by the authors.
In addition to the speakers, during the day there are three or four “topic tables” set up in the collection’s reading room. “We pick some unique facet of the collection, like pop-up books, and we highlight some of the best pop-up books in the collection.” Brewer said. “You’d see a variety of the ones we have from different time periods in history from the earliest one we have to some of the current ones and then someone would be at that table who would have some background information about what you’d be looking at.”
“There are three majors that might find this more pertinent to them,” Brewer said. “That’s students in the School of [Education], students in the English department, and then students in graphic design because that piece of illustrating is so important to what they’re studying.”
The Festival itself is free, however there is an optional lunch provided for $10. “Usually you can’t go to these things and see these folks for free, so that whole piece, particularly for students, take advantage of it,” Brewer said. “It’s an opportunity that doesn’t come along every day.”
The festival will take place on Saturday, Sept. 19 in the Nicholson Library, beginning at 8 a.m. For more information, you can visit the Nicholson Library website or email Lori Scott at email@example.com.