“The love for a good story, well told, lies deep in every human heart.” – Lillian H. Smith
The Lillian H. Smith Library was founded in 1922 and named after the first professionally trained children’s librarian in the British Empire. Lillian Smith was 25 when she joined the Toronto Library system due to a growing demand for the children of the city. Housed within the collections of this library are The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books and The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy. All of course guarded by the two stone gryphons at the front doors.
In fact, Smith was instrumental in bringing the Osborne Collection to Toronto. Edgar Osborne was a British Librarian who moonlighted as a children’s book collector. After some time, he managed to collect over 2 000 items which represented three centuries worth of children’s reading materials. Upon meeting Smith, he was so impressed that he committed all of his collection to Toronto. Those 2 000 items have now grown to a tripartite collection represented by 100 000 items.
I have often found that children’s books allow writers, illustrators and creators to be the most innovative, and the Osborne Collection did not disappoint. There are a number of interesting children’s books and childhood items in the collection including a horn book, a vellum copy of Aesop’s Fables from the 14th century and (until 2002) the world’s smallest book.
There are circulating exhibits in both the Merril and Osborne Collections and the curators of the collections often run seminars including “Ask a Curator” on Saturdays.
(Oh and for all of you “Where the Wild Things Are” fanatics, there’s a small celebration of his work at Lillian H. Smith right now as well.)