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Effie Louise Power

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Effie Louise Power

Effie Louise Power
Born (1873-02-12)February 12, 1873
Conneautville, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died October 8, 1969(1969-10-08) (aged 96)
Conneautville, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation Children's Librarian, author, educator, and storyteller
Parents William Ellis Power and Francis Billings Power

Effie Louise Power (February 12, 1873 - October 8, 1969)[1] was a trailblazer in the field of children's librarianship. She wore many hats throughout her career: children's librarian, educator, author, and storyteller. She encouraged children's book production, as well as evaluated children's literature.[2] Ms. Power “directly influenced the development of services to children in three major U.S. cities: Cleveland, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh.”[3]:671 In addition to the work she did in these urban cities, Power traveled across the country lecturing students and librarians on children and youth library services. She worked to build a network of children's librarians across the country who supported each other and established high standards for all in the profession. Throughout her career, Power simultaneously held multiple positions including librarian, lecturer, and author.

Early life and education

Power was born in Conneautville, Pennsylvania in the United States to mother Francis Billing and father William Ellis Power.[1] Power never married, nor did she have any children.

After graduating from high school, William Howard Brett, a Power family neighbor, jump-started Power's career by encouraging her to write the entrance exam for the Cleveland Public Library (CPL).[3]:671 Shortly thereafter, Power began working at the CPL in 1895. Brett, a librarian at the CPL, not only served as Power's mentor during her time there, but also put her in charge of the "Junior Alcove".[3]:671 Later, on February 22, 1898, Brett opened the CPL's first stand-alone children's room.[4] He put Power in charge, effectively making her the first children's librarian in the Cleveland Public Library System.

Children's librarianship

As the Cleveland Public Library's children's librarian, Power worked to instill in children a love of books and reading. She also sought to debunk the myth that children lacked interest in nonfiction. At the time, people believed that children had to be forced to read nonfiction books.[3]:671 However, Power believed that with encouragement and when given ample opportunity, children would enjoy fiction, as well as nonfiction. To prove her point, Power took age-appropriate nonfiction works from the other library sections and displayed them on the shelves in the children's room. As she expected, the children loved the books.

In 1902, the Cleveland Public Library temporarily changed locations.[3]:672 When this happened, employees working in the Children's Room were given enough space to gather children together and tell them stories. So began Effie Louise Power's career as a storyteller, a great program addition to the Children's Room.

Power graduated from the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, PA in 1904.[5]:193 She earned a diploma in their program for children's librarians. Two years later she graduated with a teaching certificate from Columbia University.


"The consciousness that none of us is working alone in her endeavor to bring worthwhile books to children should strengthen us."

Effie Louise Power, in her inaugural address to the ALA's Children's Library Association, 1925.[6]:102

Power spent a great deal of her career lecturing at schools and training other librarians in the area of children and youth services. Over many years, she helped establish curricula for and taught at library schools across the country, including Western Reserve University, Cleveland Public Library training program, Columbia University and City Normal School in Cleveland.[5]:193 Power felt it was important to establish standards for children's librarians across the country.[6]:103

Power clearly valued a network of children's librarians who could support each other and create better children's programs by utilizing and sharing the knowledge they had. To this end, Power taught in library schools and helped create standards for children's librarianship in an effort to create this strong network of superior children's librarians willing and capable of working together to best serve their young patrons. She believed children's librarians were responsible for the books they put on the shelves. Power understood the power of books in young lives and the impact of establishing a love of learning at an early age:

"We count the issue of books with care, but that is not the measure of their use. Books are dead things unless they come into contact with living souls and are revived. The most interesting stuff we work with in the Public Library is human nature and that is more vital when you catch it young." [7]:928

Having worked her entire career in ethnically and racially diverse cities, Power worked to ensure access to library resources for all.[7]:928 She worked on book lists and programs she felt were appropriate for all of her young patrons. She established the forerunner of the Bookmobile in 1926, then known as the Book Caravan.[5]:193 Power also encouraged the writings of Langston Hughes, an African American poet and author, and assisted him by reviewing his work and suggesting changes. In a letter to Power on December 31, 1931, Hughes thanked her "for the splendid little introduction"[8] she wrote for his book of poems, The Dream Keeper. In 1932, Ella McGregor of the American Library Association's Committee on Library Work with Children, asked Power for the name of someone who would might be interested in writing an article for the 1932 Children's Library Yearbook. Power suggested Hughes write the article.[7]:929 The subject of the yearbook article was "the book needs of the Negro children in the South.".[8] Power even wrote the introductory paragraph to Hughes' article in the Yearbook in order to promote awareness of his work as an author.

Power's feminist views also came out in her writing, with Florence M. Everson, in their 1928 book, Early Days in Ohio: A story of a pioneer family of the Western Reserve:

"Girls can't chop anything." said James scornfully.
"They haven't the right swing with their arms," added Alonzo.
"Here's one girl that can do as much as any two boys," declared Peggy as she seized a hatchet, and she swung it with so much vim that James and Alonzo stood back and gazed at her in open-mouthed wonder." [7]:942

As a strong, career woman herself, Power portrayed what now would be considered Girl Power in 1928. She put forth a female image of strength and ability that was rarely seen in the literature of the time.


When the American Library Association sought to create a text book on youth services in children's libraries, they called upon Power to write it.[7]:932 In 1930, the American Library Association published Library Service for Children. This text served as the first publication of its kind and demonstrated Power's preeminence in the field of children's librarianship. After years of producing pamphlets, articles, and book lists, Power was honored with this commission. In 1943, an update to the book was released and the title was changed to Work with Children in Public Libraries.

Later years

Effie Louise Power worked for the Cleveland Public Library from 1895–1909 and from 1920 until her retirement in 1937. She also worked at the City Normal School in Cleveland from 1903-1908. Over the next 10 years, Power taught at various schools and worked in libraries including the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, PA, the Carnegie Library School, and the St. Louis Public Library.[9] :3 After Power retired in 1937, Columbia University offered her a position, she lectured there for 2 years before retiring to Pompano Beach, Florida. Power became active in Pompano Beach's library system where she helped appropriate funds to rebuild a library that had been decimated in a hurricane many years earlier.[10] :73 She retired for the last time in 1943 and moved back to Pennsylvania, where she lived until her death on October 8, 1969.

Effie Louise Power had a love of children and a desire to instill in them a love of reading and learning. This is evident in her creation of text books, course materials for library schools, numerous pamphlets and articles for library programming and fiction for children. As one of the definitive children's librarians of her time, Power demonstrated her skills as an educator, a librarian, an author, and a story-teller. Effie Louise Power dedicated her life to serving young patrons of libraries, opening up for them, a world of information.

Works by Power

  • A List of Books for Girls (1930) New York: The H.W. Wilson Company.
  • Bag O'Tales: A Source Book for Story-Tellers (1934) New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.
  • Blue Caravan Tales (Unknown) Unknown.
  • Early days in Ohio: A story of a Pioneer Family of the Western Reserve (1928) written with F.M. Everson. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.
  • Library Service for Children (1930) Chicago: American Library Association.
  • Lists of Stories & Programs for Story Hours Editor, (1915) White Plains: The H.W. Wilson Company.
  • Osceola Buddy, a Florida Farm Mule (1941) New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.
  • Stories to Shorten the Road Compiler, (1936) New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.
  • Work with Children in Public Libraries (1943) Chicago: American Library Association.



  • Berneis, Regina F. (n.d.) Power, Effie Louise. Miller, Marilyn Lea. (editor). (2003). Pioneers and leaders in library services to youth - A Biographical Dictionary. Libraries Unlimited. ISBN 1-59158-028-5.
  • Cleveland Public Library Archives. (1937) Photograph of Effie Louise Power. Retrieved from on May 27, 2009
  • Children's Library Work Puts Her With Who's Who. "Cleveland Plain Dealer", January 3, 1927, provided by Cleveland Public Library Archives.
  • Cramer, C.H. (1972) Open shelves and open minds: A history of the Cleveland Public Library. Cleveland, OH: The Press of Case Western Reserve University. ISBN 0-8295-0219-X.
  • Hughes, L. Personal letter to E. L. Power from Langston Hughes. December 31, 1931. Cleveland Public Library Image Collections. Retrieved from on May 27, 2009.
  • Jenkins, Christine A. (2000). The history of youth services librarianship: a review of the research literature. Libraries & Culture, 35.1, 103(40).
  • Kimball, M., Jenkins, C., & Hearne, B. (2004). Effie Louise Power: Librarian, Educator, Author. Library Trends, Vol. 52, No. 4, 924-951.
  • Kingsbury, Mary E. (n.d.). Power, Effie Louise. Wedgeworth, Robert, editor, (1993). World Encyclopedia of library and information services, 3rd edition. American Libraries Association. ISBN 0-8389-0609-5.
  • Power, E.L. Personal letter to Langston Hughes. January 20, 1932. Cleveland Public Library Image Collections. Retrieved from on May 27, 2009.
  • The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History (n.d.). Retrieved from on May 16, 2009.

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