The USF Libraries growing Children’s and Young Adult Literature Collections currently feature over 25,000 titles of American fiction for children and adolescents, dating from the early 1800s to the present. The collections comprise three distinct parts: the children’s literature collection (including toy and picture books, girls’ and boys series books, and a large collection of G.A. Henty), the dime novel collection, and the Hipple Collection of Young Adult Literature. Together, they provide researchers, teachers, students, and readers the opportunity to study the evolving culture and sociology of American adolescence through the literature written for them.
One of the collections’ strengths is its chronological sweep. In the history of publishing, the 21st century conception of young adult literature is a fairly recent phenomenon. Many 19th and early 20th century dime novels and series books featured teenage exploits, but they usually focused on adventure, exploration, and career choices. Novels geared specifically to adolescents that explore sexuality, identity, prejudice, life choices, substance abuse, and the family did not emerge until the 1960s – today’s YA literature. Another strength is the collections’ focus on narrative, serial fiction, including the Stratemeyer Syndicate’s iconic Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys as well as often-forgotten series like Judy Bolton and Cherry Ames. USF’s collections are distinguished by their emphasis on serial monographs, beginning with dime novels and progressing through the Stratemeyer syndicate and later series.
In addition to the Children’s and Young Adult Literature Collections, the Dobkin Collection of 19th Century Americana features juvenilia from the golden age of American children’s literature, including Oliver Optic, Horatio Alger, Louisa May Alcott, and Mark Twain. Extensive runs of children’s story papers and periodicals, like Frank Leslie’s Boys’ and Girls’ Weekly, Golden Days, Merry’s Museum, and St. Nicholas supplement the book holdings. The department’s George Henty collection is one of the largest and most complete in the country, featuring first British printings as well as numerous American copies. The collection’s strength is fiction, but representative examples of American chapbooks, toy books, and picture books are also included. The 250 toy and picture books published by the McLoughlin Brothers are a particular highlight.