Colwell, Eileen (Hilda) 1904-2002

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COLWELL, Eileen (Hilda) 1904-2002

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born June 16, 1904, in Robin Hoods Bay, Yorkshire, England; died September 17, 2002. Librarian, storyteller, and author. Colwell was one of the first librarians in England to specialize in children's literature, and throughout her life she was an active force in promoting children's books both in England and abroad. She received her diploma in librarianship from the then-newly opened University College School of Librarianship in 1924, and got her first job as a senior library assistant at the Bolton Public Library that year. When she heard that the library in Hendon was creating a new children's collection, Colwell leaped at the chance to help organize it. Specialized libraries in children's literature were, at the time, a new idea, and Colwell therefore was able to lead the way in establishing a collection for children according to her own preferences. When the library officially opened in 1929, she was appointed its librarian and remained in that job until 1967. Colwell was not only active in Hendon, but also throughout England, working with the Library Association to help encourage others to specialize in children's books and to establish the Kate Greenaway and Carnegie medals. In addition to her work as a librarian, Colwell developed a talent for storytelling, and would regularly regale children with stories of her own invention, often changing them according to suggestions she got from her young audience. Many of the best of these are collected in her A Storyteller's Choice (1963); her talents as a storyteller are also evident in her book How I Became a Librarian (1956) and her autobiography Once upon a Time (2000). Colwell also wrote a book on read-aloud techniques titled Storytelling (1980), edited numerous story collections for children, and appeared on the television programs Playschool and Jackanory. For her groundbreaking work she was made a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1965, received an honorary doctorate of letters in 1975 from Lough-borough School of Librarianship, and was presented with the Eleanor Farjeon Award in 1994.



Independent (London, England), October 18, 2002, p. 20.

Times (London, England), October 4, 2002, p. 34.