Toward a History of Children’s Libraries in China: An Interview with Yang Luo

Yang Luo is a PhD student at GSLIS UIUC who studies the history of children’s libraries in China. Ever since she successfully defended her dissertation proposal last spring, I’d been anxious to hear more about the work that she’s been doing. Plans for an interview (conducted under the auspices of the Center for Children’s Books) were put on hold when I found out that Yang would be conducting field research in China this past summer. I’m delighted to say that I’ve finally had a chance to speak more thoroughly with Yang about her research to feature it through the CCB. Though it’s slated to be released with the CCB newsletter on December 2, you can read the full interview with Yang on the CCB website. Here are some highlights from the interview:

Yang says of her research, “I’m specifically looking at the time period from 1912-1937. I begin with 1912 because that year marks the foundation of a new Republic of China after hundreds of years of imperial rule. I end with 1937, at the dawn of the Sino-Japanese War. I’m interested in the development and genesis of children’s libraries during this time, and my initial investigation has found several factors during this time period—modern education reform, the public library movement, the Republic’s investment in child welfare, influence of Western librarianship, the appearance of children’s rooms and children’s literature—that converge to form children’s libraries in the early twentieth century.”

She says, “As China pays more attention to youth services today—we’re seeing more programs and libraries for young people being opened—I hope my research will answer the first question we should ask: ‘Where did we come from? How did we get here?'”

Yang says she draws her inspiration from Hu Shi, an advocate for education reform and young people in China during the time period she’s interested in. He was greatly influenced by John Dewey, and I think he’s someone I’d like to draw inspiration from as well. Yang shared this quote during our interview:

“It is not a disgrace for a nation to lack a navy or an army. It is only a disgrace for a nation to lack public libraries, museums, and art galleries. Our people must get rid of this kind of disgrace.”

Again, please check out the full interview with Yang to find out more about her wonderful work.

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