Image: Victor Crittenden with Lu Rees and Dr Waterhouse announcing the agreement between the University of Canberra Library and the Lu Rees Archives (now the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature)
In 1974, when a Commonwealth Government grant of $500 was made to each Branch of The Children's Book Council of Australia, the ACT Branch began a collection of biographical files about Australian children's authors and illustrators along with a collection of their books. Lu Rees, then president of
the ACT Branch, proposed this idea to all the Branches, who agreed. As a beginning, Lu Rees donated her personal collection of some 500 books. Members of the CBCA ACT Branch added to both the book collection and the files over the years.
In 1979, to celebrate the International Year of the Child, Lu Rees proposed that the collection should include translations of works by Australian children's authors and illustrators. Publishers, authors and illustrators donated available books. The exception was Ivan Southall's personal collection of 83 volumes, which the Branch purchased with a grant from the International Year of the Child Committee. Southall's collection in 2014 numbered 230 volumes, including variant editions and translations. Emily Rodda is presently Australia's most translated author. The Archives holds both Emily Rodda's and Gillian Rubinstein's complete body of work, which together appear in more than 40 editions worldwide.
By 1979, the collection as a whole had grown to some 1,000 books and 60 files of materials about authors and illustrators. Increasingly, requests were received to use the collection, but this was difficult as the collection was housed in the homes of Lu Rees and other Branch members. The time
had come to consider a future home for the collection. While various ideas were discussed, Belle Alderman suggested the Canberra College of Advanced Education Library as a possibility. Victor Crittenden, the Librarian at the College, fully supported the idea. A more public location would mean that students,
researchers and the community could have easier access. Negotiations began with the Librarian and administrators of the College.
The Chairman of the College Council, Douglas Waterhouse, accepted the collection at a ceremony held on 15 July 1980. Conditions of use and access were informally agreed upon by both parties, with the CBCA ACT Branch to retain ownership of the collection and the Library to house, catalogue and provide support in various ways. At that time, the collection was formally named the Lu Rees Archives to honour its founder. In 1988 the Archives gained deductible gift recipient status, renewed in 2000, and also classification as a tax-exempt charity. By 2014, 40 donations of authors' and illustrators' papers, manuscripts and artworks, as well as a publisher's archive, had been accepted under the Cultural Gifts Program. Their value exceeded $3,000,000 by 2015.
A formal Agreement was drawn up between the CBCA ACT Branch and the University of Canberra (formerly the College) in June of 1991, renewed in October of 2003 and December 2014. The Agreement details sponsorship by the Library and the University, management responsibilities, access, security, and termination and dissolution arrangements. The Centre has operated under Strategic Plans since 2000. In November 2012, a new phase of the Archives began as it was incorporated in the ACT, thus becoming an independent body. The Deed of Acknowledgment, appearing in the Lu Rees journal, issue 34, 2012, documents the new legal standing of the Archives, as well as its historical development. The latest agreement between the Centre and the University was signed in December 2014.
In October 2015 the Archives became the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature, to represent the importance of the collection as a national resource.
The full story of the former Lu Rees Archives' development over 40 years is documented in Showcasing Treasures published in 2014 and available for purchase on our Merchandise page.
The National Centre for Australian Children's Literature is proudly supported by The Children's Book Council of Australia, ACT Branch and the University of Canberra.