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A Public Library Discovers Doll Power

January 29, 2013




The public library may well be the one of the last true public spaces in American life. It is a place where people of all social classes and races come together in one location at one time. That is one of the reasons that the American Library Association has long been a proponent of board games. They see them as a great way to bring disparate people around the same table at the same time and give them a chance to get to know each other.

It was with this in mind that my eye was drawn to a great New York Times article by Corey Kilgannon, "A Doll's Magic, Free to Renew." It seems that the Ottendorfer branch of the New York Public Library, situated in the East Village, has been lending out an American Girl Doll. The doll has traveled "from one girl's home to another's for two weeks at a time, spending nights inside cramped apartments in public housing projects and inside luxury high-rises...."

Many of the girls who take her home come from families that simply cannot afford the cost of an American Girl doll. So the library works as a social leveler in giving all children a chance at the doll and what she represents and, by doing so, allows each of them to interpret her in their own way. As the
article puts it so eloquently, one time "...she returned with her hair in dreadlocks. Another time, her long blond locks were primly fashioned into a traditional bun. One day, she came back wearing a uniform of the exclusive all-girls Brearley School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan."

It's a great story about the power of dolls. Wouldn't it be nice if every American library had dolls to lend?