I’ve been inspired by many fine teachers over the years but the one who influenced me most was Frances Henne, my professor at Columbia’s graduate library school.
Not a household name and surely not recognizable outside her field, Dr Henne was a mover and a shaker in the children’s and young adult library world.
Born in Springfield, IL in 1906, Henne graduated from University of Illinois with a BA, and then got an MA in English while working at the Lincoln Public Library. Library work intrigued her and she went to New York for library studies at Columbia, and then to University of Chicago Graduate Library School for her doctorate.
Henne then accepted a teaching position at University of Chicago – the first female faculty member appointed there. There in addition to instructing, she began to write about the importance of giving youngsters access to good literature, and the travesty of districts where school libraries were underfunded or non-existent. Although her first love was the literature, she worked tirelessly on improving and codifying standards for children’s and young adult collections in public libraries, and for libraries in elementary and secondary schools.
Luckily for me Frances Henne had left Chicago and was teaching at Columbia in the 1960s when I was a grad student there. Of course her work with library standards and education policy was well known and she continued to advocate for that.
But thankfully she also taught two courses dear to her heart – children’s and young adult lit. And sitting in that graduate school classroom and listening to Frances Henne reading from Charlotte’s Web, and explaining why children need to hear it, is something I’ll never forget.
Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!