My Conversation with M. Jane Manthorne

Several years ago, when and Betty Carter and I were collecting information for a School Library Journal article about YALSA’s 50th year anniversary, an opportunity arose for me to talk with Jane Manthorne, 1971-1972 YALSA [YASD] President. Our conversation was delightful, so it was with sadness that I read a notice of her death of February 12, 2010, and learned more about the rich, active life she’d led. Below is a link to her obituary, but I wanted to share some of our phone conversation.

I was struck by Jane’s precise, well-educated speech and her very sharp mind, though I surmised she no longer had great mobility. She reflected on the years she worked at the Boston Public Library with Pauline Winnick, YASD president from 1958-1959, and called her a “brilliant, witty” librarian who was a wonderful mentor. She remembered working with Pauline as the two tackled, and gave recognition to, the increasing quantities of mass market paperbacks being produced in the 1960s. They ensured that paperbacks were available in the YA Rooms for teen checkout at a time when many librarians discounted paperbacks for their lack of durability.

As part of an American Heritage project, Jane trained librarians on how to conduct interviews to determine what teens really think of books. She also spoke about giving legitimacy to science fiction and ensuring there were YA sections of catalogs. She seemed to me to be a major force in the YA field of librarianship.

On a more personal note, she told of the winter she was heading to ALA’s Midwinter in Chicago, by train, and was trapped by a blizzard. Across the aisle from her were Will and Ariel Durant and the three sat up discussing all manner of events while counting the cherries in their fruit cocktail [though I have a feeling those cherries might have been in something besides fruit cocktail].

The library world has lost another smart, determined woman who didn’t seem afraid to speak her mind in her quest to ensure that teens received outstanding library service.

Obituary from The Boston Globe