"The right book for the right child at the right time."
Virginia Haviland (May 21, 1911 – January 6, 1988) was an American librarian and writer who became an international authority in children's literature. She chaired the prestigious Newbery-Caldecott Award Committee, traveled and wrote extensively. Haviland is also well known for her Favorite Fairy Tales series, featuring stories from sixteen countries.
Virginia Haviland was born in Rochester, New York, to William J. Haviland and Bertha M. Esten. She grew up mainly in Massachusetts. During her childhood, she traveled abroad and spent time with two aunts who entertained international visitors in their home. The early influence of contact with international visitors may have influenced her adult interest in traveling and working with international colleagues. Haviland held a BA in economics and mathematics from Cornell University (1933). She became a children's librarian in 1934 for the Boston Public Library, under the tutelage of Alice Jordan, founder of children's services there. She was a branch librarian and children's librarian at Boston from 1948 to 1952, and a reader's adviser for children from 1952 to 1963. Haviland studied folklore under Albert B. Lord at Harvard.
In 1949 Haviland gave the New England Library Association's Hewins Lecture for research in the history of children's literature about nineteenth-century travel books for children, and taught Library Service to Children and Reading Guidance for Children at Simmons College School of Library Science from 1957 to 1962 where there is now a Virginia Haviland Scholarship. She also reviewed for The Horn Book Magazine for about thirty years.
Haviland chaired the Children's Services Division of the American Library Association (ALA) from 1954 to 1955, and as such attended conferences of the International Board on Books for Children (now called the International Board on Books for Young People), the International Federation of Library Associations, and the Institutions Roundtable for Children's Literature Documentation Centers. She was also chair of the Newbery-Caldecott Award Committee of the ALA from 1953–1954, and held positions of authority in other national and international professional organizations, including positions on many committees and juries that selected outstanding children's books. Her "credo was 'The right book for the right child at the right time.' She had high standards by which to judge children's literature and also accepted newer forms." Haviland judged the New York Herald Tribune Children's Spring Book Festival Awards from 1955 to 1957, as well as the International Hans Christian Andersen Award, the Book World Children's Spring Book Festival Awards, and the National Book Awards (1969). She was instrumental in beginning the Washington Post Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award. In 1962 Haviland was invited to found the Center for Children's Literature at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. She became its first Head in 1963, and worked for the Library of Congress until her retirement in 1981. In a note to Haviland's cousin, author C. S. Haviland, fellow Regina Medal-winning author Jane Yolen wrote: "She was funny, acerbic, brilliant, and did not suffer fools at all. She was also gracious, never condescending, and saw her calling (as a librarian) as one of the highest callings of all. Her knowledge of American and British children's literature—and folklore in particular—was encyclopedic. It's been years since she died, but I still think of her."
Virginia Haviland died of a stroke on 6 January 1988, in Washington, D.C.