Augusta Baker was born on April 1, 1911, in Baltimore, Maryland, the only child of 2 schoolteachers. In 1933, she received a BA in Education from New York State College (SUNY, Albany) and a BS in Library Science in 1934 from SUNY.
In 1937 Augusta Baker was hired as a children's librarian at what was then the 135th Street Harlem Branch (now the Countee Cullen Regional Branch) of the New York Public Library. In 1939 she began assembling a special collection of titles that would fairly represent African-American culture and give children of all races a realistic picture of African-American life. This African American list became what is now known as the James Weldon Memorial Collection, partially housed at New York's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
In 1953 Baker was appointed storytelling specialist and assistant coordinator of children's services of The New York Public Library. She was the first African-American librarian to have an administrative position in the system.
In 1961 Augusta Baker became the first African-American coordinator of children's services for the NYPL. This position put her in charge of programming for youth in all eighty-two branches of the New York Public Library. Her influence did not stop at the library walls, but spread to schools, community groups, and professional organizations. Baker participated in many professional activities including serving the American Library Association's Children's Services Division in various capacities and winning a number of awards.
As the Children's Coordinator, Mrs. Baker expanded the children's collection in the system; wrote a book entitled Books about Negro Life for Children; lectured and taught at many universities; participated in conferences; started radio and television programs; served as a consultant and bibliographer for Sesame Street; and, of course, told stories.
In 1974, Augusta Baker retired from the New York Public Library. and in 1980 moved to Columbia, SC to become the University of South Carolina's storyteller-in-residence at the College of Library and Information Science. She retired from this position in 1994.
In 1986 The University of South Carolina College of Library and Information Science and the Richland County Public Library established the annual A(ugusta) Baker's Dozen: A Celebration of Stories in her honor.
Augusta Baker died on February 23, 1998 at the age of 86.
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Augusta Baker Collection of African-American Children's Literature & Folklore
This site provides information about the Augusta Baker Collection from her personal and professional library housed at Special Collections at Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina.
Oral History - This site includes a transcript and a sound file of an interview with Augusta Baker.