The origins of this collection are intertwined with the goal of the founders of the university to train teachers to serve the region’s schools. Consequently, librarians began to buy children’s textbooks and story books to support teacher instruction. In 1934 a young librarian, Allie Austin (Hodgin) was named head of the Children’s Literature Department. After the completion of the Dougherty Memorial Library a year later, the department was located on the lower level of the new building. A further impetus for growth was the establishment in 1937 of a training program for school librarians in the Education Department (now the Reich College of Education). The program was an immediate success thanks in part to the efforts of Mary Peacock Douglas, North Carolina Department of Education’s Supervisor of School Libraries. Mrs. Douglas regularly taught school librarianship at Appalachian during summer sessions in the 1950s and 1960s. Following her death in 1987, ASU received her personal collection of children’s Christmas books.
The books given by Mary Peacock Douglas formed the core for the Children’s Literature Collection. They were maintained by the director of the Instructional Materials Center (IMC), Pat Farthing, in her office until the completion of the new library. Mrs. Farthing supplemented the collection with books withdrawn from the IMC collection because of their age and value, and through gifts. Her selection efforts were aided by Susan Golden (now retired), a Collection Development librarian with considerable expertise in children’s literature. In 2005 the collection was transferred to Special Collections where it forms an important part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts unit.