One of the special collections housed in the Society's Reference Library is the Fitzgerald Collection of Missouri's Literary Heritage for Children and Youth. The collection was created in 1981 when Alice Irene Fitzgerald, a distinguished Missouri educator, donated to the Society a nucleus of three hundred books. Her gift represented a majority of the three hundred books annotated in her 1980 bibliography, Missouri's Literary Heritage for Children and Youth, and others from her collection. During Fitzgerald's career as a grade school teacher and a professor of children's literature at the University of Missouri-Columbia, she acquired a large collection of Missouri-related juvenile literature. As an authority on this subject, Fitzgerald traveled and lectured around the state and nation before her retirement from UMC as professor emeritus in 1981.
The scope of the Fitzgerald Collection includes fiction, nonfiction and poetry for readers under the age of fourteen by Missouri authors, as well as literature written by non-Missourians on subjects relating to the state. Additional information about Missouri authors represented in the collection has been compiled and can be found in vertical files in the Reference Library.
A sampling of historically significant titles available in the collection includes Ada Claire Darby's stories of settlements in early mid-Missouri, such as Pinafores and Pantalettes and Look Away Dixie Land, and Olive Rambo Cook's description of young people in mid-nineteenth century north central Missouri in Serilda's Star and Locket. Famous Missouri writers Rose O'Neill, Langston Hughes and Laura Ingalls Wilder are represented, as well as more contemporary Missouri authors such as Sandra Asher, Clyde Robert Bulla, Jan Greenberg, Edith McCall, Patricia McKissack and Glen Rounds. Marian Potter, author of the longtime children's favorite, The Little Red Caboose, is proud of her Missouri heritage and has donated her books.
Generous gifts from publishers, authors, libraries and schools have increased the collection to its present size of over one thousand titles. Most titles are out–of–print and no longer available for purchase. Recent titles by Missouri authors or relating to the state are contributed by the Missouri State Library.
Fitzgerald and the other authors have contributed their books with the understanding that they will be preserved and made available for research use. The Society anticipates that the collection will grow in value for future teachers, scholars and students seeking source material for research papers and theses. Historians and antiquarians will be delighted by the detailed descriptions of houses, landmarks, historic trails and daily life that are not readily found in other published sources. Patrons interested in viewing the collection should call ahead to make sure staff are available to help access books and materials from the restricted stacks.