Eileen Colwell

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Eileen Hilda Colwell (June 16, 1904 – September 17, 2002) was a pioneer children’s librarian. Born in Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire, Colwell was the third daughter of a Methodist minister. She obtained a scholarship and studied librarianship at University College London. She had become interested in the idea of a children’s library at an early age but found that the course (then the only one of its kind in the country) did not cover the subject.[1]

After leaving college she worked at Bolton Library before obtaining the new post of Children's Librarian for Hendon Urban District in October 1926. Mostly providing schools with "book cupboards" she built the children’s collection (2,000 volumes) from scratch. In 1929 Colwell was made permanent children's librarian with the opening of Hendon Library.

She pioneered the use of story telling hours (sometimes with a puppet called Jacko), and even let the children help with the running of the library. In 1965 Eileen was made an MBE and in 1967 she left Hendon, and for a while lectured at Loughborough University. She made several radio programs with the BBC and even appeared on Jackanory.

Her books include:

  • Autobiography, Once Upon A Time (2000)
  • Princess Splendour And Other Stories (1969)
  • The Magic Umbrella And Other Stories Of Telling (1977)


The Guardian Obituary September 25, 2002