Minerva Sanders

1837 - 1912



Minerva Sanders
Minerva Sanders was one of the first librarians to offer library services to children.  She was a pioneer of open stacks and free access for children at a time when other libraries were just not serving children. Minerva Amanda Lewis was born February 11, 1837, in Marblehead, Massachusetts.  She married Samuel Sanders as a young women but he died in 1863. Then in 1876, she began working in the Pawtucket Rhode Island subscription library.  Three months later, the board decided to change the library in to a free public library and it offered her the job of town librarian which she accepted.  Under her guidance, the Pawtucket Free Library became the first library to offer "continuous" services to children.  She instituted a number of innovations to attract children to the library: she provided reader's guidance, she prepared booklists, she sawed of legs of tables and chairs (so a child could sit in them comfortably), and she arranged materials within reach of even the smallest child.  She also began collaborating with the schools because she believed that the library should be an essential part of a child's education.  She strongly deplored the "die-young-and-go-to-heaven" kind of children's literature.  Instead she sought books that were well-written but would also spark a child's imagination.  She was affectionately referred to as "Mawtucket of Pawtucket" by the adults and "Auntie Sanders" by the children of Rhode Island. She died on March 20, 1912, two years after her retirement.

  • Librarian Emeritus, Trustees of the Pawtucket Free Library, 1910
  • Sassť, M. (1978b). Sanders, Minerva Amanda Lewis. In B. S. Wynar (Ed.), Dictionary of American library biography (pp. 456-458). Littleton, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
  • Vandergrift, K.E. (1996, Spring). Female advocacy and harmonious voices: A history of public library services and publishing for children in the United States. Library Trends, 44 (4), 683-718.

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Last Modified: May 6, 2002