Profile By: Mary Henley
Being a librarian was not only what Genevieve Price did for a living, but also what she lived for. Price began working with the Omaha Public Library systems in 1965 and retired in 1996, so to say her life was the library is fitting. Even as a little girl with vision challenges, Price was preoccupied with libraries and reading. As a student at UNO, she devoted herself to learning about literature and how to share her passion for learning with children from all walks of life. As a librarian, Price realized her passion. From driving the Bookmobile around Omaha to providing books for underprivileged children, to serving as the assistant to the Registrar at UNO from 1945 to 1963, to working for the Omaha Public Library system, Price always knew that reading was the key to a fulfilling life. She established the Genevieve Price Historic Children’s Collection at the Omaha Public library, a collection of 7,000 children’s books, including some rare books, some signed by the authors, that can’t be found anywhere else in the country.
A look into how gender roles operate within public libraries and children's literature in particular. ...
As a child, Price was diagnosed with nearsightedness, which made it very difficult for her to read. Doctors recommended glasses and limited reading to improve her eye functions. This prescription was very difficult for Price to follow. She recalls a strong desire to, “read so badly. So in the summer time…I would crawl off into a corner and read Heidi once or twice [despite what the doctors said]” (Price). Doctors had also given Price the prognosis that she would remain sighted only until the age of fifteen. However, as it turned out, Price not only kept her sight, but it began to improve over time. Price made up for a lost reading time during her early years when she went to college: “I spent a lot of time in the library and liked it” (Price). The library provided a space
Price bequeathed her love of reading to the children of the Omaha community. She began her career with the Omaha Public Library by working on the bookmobile. The bookmobile mostly served Catholic schools and was only sent out by request. Price recalls that spreading literacy was a difficult and daunting task, which was seemingly impossible at times:
“We went out to east Omaha one summer… the children would come and they were very poor children, their parents would still be in bed. One little boy would come every time with a sack of candy and his parents had given him money and told him to go get some breakfast…Those children bothered me because their parents couldn’t read or write, and we couldn’t see much hope for them. Being there one hour a week, we couldn’t do much for them; they would
Price not only arranged book talks and puppet shows with dolls and clothing that she had sewn herself, she also created a historical children’s literature section for the library. The collection is compiled of books from other branches of the Omaha Public Libraries throughout the city. The historical section was not comprised of books based on historical events, but rather children’s books that were published before the 1960s. Had Price not stepped in and repurposed the children’s books, they would have been rendered useless and thrown out. These books proved to be not only useful to Omaha children and homeschooled students, but to students studying to be librarians and educators. Price tells a story of a college student she had spotted in the children’s historical section over several days. When Price asked why he was there, he replied, “I have
Price also valued her role as advocate for the children who visited the library, feeling that she was their representative in the adult world. She also had many strong opinions about being a librarian. “The adults will complain if they don’t like things, but the children don’t. At least, they don’t know how, or where to complain if they do [have concerns].” Price remarked that she felt it was her personal duty to protect the wishes of the children she served, especially as a children’s librarian: “Children’s librarians are more people-oriented and adult librarians are more book-oriented…” (Price). Given her strength of conviction, it is easy to understand why Price was promoted to a supervisory position in one of the library branches, which shattered both gender barriers and specialty areas that were favored at the time. While Price was never
Genevieve Price has always been determined, diligent, and patient. Those distinctive qualities are essential for the type of work to which she devoted her life. She was determined to introduce children to the library and the world of literature. She was diligent in protecting the innocence of children’s minds and, in turn, allowing them to remain kids for as long as possible. Her patience was utilized in her interactions with both children and adults. Price took great pains to select books that would hold the interest of a particular child so that s/he would continue to enjoy reading and visiting the library. Patience was also used when encountering the trials of a gendered workplace. These different components made it possible for her to do what she truly loved and encourage children to do the same. All of these qualities underscore