Skip to main content

Louise P. Latimer Papers

Identifier: 217

Content Description

The collection contains items gathered and organized by Louise P. Latimer. The items relate to her professional activities as a librarian (1909-1948) at the District of Columbia Public Library.

The first series includes five scrapbooks. The first two scrapbooks include full-text clippings of articles and opinion pieces written by Latimer, and published in The Horn Book and Library Journal between 1917 and 1947. The next two scrapbooks primarily contain texts discussing her work at the Library, including transcripts of presentations and lectures she gave. Titled “Controversial Matters,” the fifth scrapbook includes materials that primarily support Latimer’s refusal to acquire books by a Catholic priest, on grounds she determined were of insufficient literary merit.

The second series contains two boxes of reviews and correspondence. The first box houses a scrapbook of materials to Your Washington and Mine, Latimer’s city guide for children. The scrapbook also contains the complete 1927 edition of the Illustrator’s Finding List. The second box contains reviews and correspondence regarding the finding list, as well as correspondence pertaining to Latimer’s retirement in 1948.

The third and final series contains 12 books from Latimer’s professional library. The majority of works discuss storytelling for children. Included in this series is a copy of Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James, the 1927 Newbery Award winner; Latimer had presided over the Awards that year. Also included are two works by Anne Carroll Moore, Latimer’s peer at the New York Public Library.


  • Creation: 1917 - 1950


There are no known restrictions

Series Description

Louise Payson Latimer (1878-1962) spent the majority of her career at the DC Public Library (DCPL) as the Director of the Children’s Services department (then named “Work with Children”). A pioneer in library services for youth and a champion of illustrated works, her 1919 “finding list” included more than 800 artists that led to the creation of the Library’s Illustrator Collection. This subject expertise also lent itself to the publication of the Horn Book’s first volume of Illustrators of Children’s Books, published in 1947 shortly before Latimer’s retirement.

The West Virginia native had already been working in DCPL’s Children’s Department for two years when she graduated from the Carnegie Library School in 1911. In 1912 she was selected to oversee both the training and school divisions of the department (until 1913 and 1918, respectively). Under her leadership, the school division expanded outreach efforts to include more educational institutions, as well as settlement houses, playgrounds, and medical facilities. Latimer assumed the directorship of Children’s Services in 1919.

A prolific writer, Latimer’s essays and book reviews appeared in The Horn Book and Library Journal. In 1924, Latimer published Your Washington and Mine, a children’s guide to the capital. Writing in The Horn Book, fellow librarian Anne Caroll Moore linked the appeal of Your Washington not only to Latimer’s own skill for discernment. The book, Moore argued, also reflected the “natural interests” of young readers. She further praised her peer, citing Your Washington as a “contribution of distinct value.”

Not all were impressed by Latimer’s knowledge of “worth while [sic] books.” Presiding over the 1927 Newbery Medal committee, Latimer defended the selection of Will James’ Smoky the Cowhorse–intended for adults–citing its “exemplary merit.” Two years later, Latimer became the subject of a smear campaign when she refused to acquire any works penned by one Father Finn. The controversy was short-lived, however. Staff at other libraries had similarly unfavorable opinions. Clergy and other members of the Catholic community, like Latimer, also expressed support.

After 30 years of service, Latimer retired in 1948 from the DCPL. She died in Washington, DC, in 1962 at the age of 84.


2.25 Linear feet (3 clamshell, 1 flat box, 3 manuscript boxes ) : 7 boxes

Language of Materials



Donated by Charlotte B. Meryman, on behalf of Latimer’s estate. (Meryman is a great niece of Louise P. Latimer.)

Related Collections

Louise Latimer Washington Yours and Mine materials collection at George Washington University Special Collections.

Illustrated Works Collection, DC Public Library

Processing Procedure

Standard processing procedures were followed. Items in boxes 4 and 5 originally housed in a binder and transferred to folders. Letter from Will James originally housed in a copy of "Smoky the Cowhorse" was rehoused with other correspondence.

Louise Latimer Papers
A Guide to the Louise Latimer Papers
Guide prepared by Charisma Lee.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001