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Carolyn W. Field Award

The Youth Services Division sponsors the annual Carolyn W. Field Award (CWF) for the best book for young people by a Pennsylvania author or illustrator. The goal of this award is to recognize outstanding books of authors or illustrators living in Pennsylvania. It is given annually to either an author or an illustrator for a specific book, which may be either fiction or nonfiction.



Submissions open in June and the deadline is the following February. The committee will email publishers when submissions are open and will send out a reminder in November. To get on this list, please contact the current chair. The 2020 Chair is Melissa Adams.


The CWF Winner and publisher are invited to attend the CWF luncheon held at the Pennsylvania Library Association (PaLA) annual conference as guests of PaLA. PaLA covers the cost of the CWF luncheon itself but does not cover fees for travel, lodging, or conference attendance. Honor authors/illustrators are also invited to attend and PaLA will cover the luncheon fee but will not cover the cost of honor book publishers. They may attend at their own cost.


Eligibility & Evaluation Criteria:

Eligibility for the award:

1.   The author or illustrator must have a primary residence in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at the time of publication of the book.

2.   The age level of the books considered will be preschool through age 18 and illustrations and writing will be considered depending on the book itself.

3.   The book may be fiction or nonfiction.

4.   The book must bear the copyright year prior to the one in which the award is being given. Thus the 2020 award will be given for books published in 2019.

Criteria for the award:

The following criteria for selection of the award winner will be considered:

1.   Literary or artistic merit will be the primary aspect considered

2.  Popular appeal.

3.  Value of the book as literature.

4.   Uniqueness of the text and/or illustrations.

5.   Clarity and style of text.

6.   Purpose and esthetics value of illustrations.

7.   Contribution of the design and format.

8.   Value to intended audience.

9.   Potential acceptance by intended audience.

10.   Illustrations may be of any type. However, they should constitute a major portion of the work, be of primary importance, or at least of equal weight as the text.

11. The text and/or illustrations must be original in the year of publication.


Selecting the Winner(s) / honor books:

The Committee will choose the winner in the following manner:

1.   Each member will read all eligible books and nominate five books to move to the short list for discussion and voting.

2.   The Committee will meet in person and conduct an open discussion about each of the books that have been nominated.

3.   After discussion, each committee member will vote on the top books, with four points being awarded to each first choice, three points being awarded to each second choice, and two points for each third choice. A book must win by at least two points. If this does not produce a winner, discussion will be reopened and another vote will be taken.

4.   The Committee will forward the names of the winning book and four honor books to the Chair of the YSD and the PaLA President by April 30th. The selection will remain secret until formally announced.

This award was first given in 1985 and has been given annually since. 

See a list of Past Winners!

About Carolyn W. Field

A Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania, Carolyn Wicker Field (1916 to 2010) retired in 1983 from the Free Library of Philadelphia where she served as Coordinator of Work with Children for 30 years.

The Carolyn W. Field Award: a brief overview of the life of the person behind the name

By Karen Wanamaker

2018 Carolyn W. Field Award Committee Chair

Each year our Pennsylvania Library Association’s Youth Services Division awards the Carolyn W. Field Award to recognize the best book for young people by a Pennsylvania author or illustrator published in the previous copyright year. But who was Carolyn W. Field and what did she do? In 2016, I was selected to serve on the 2017 Carolyn W. Field Award Committee. While I looked forward to serving on this notable children’s award committee, I admit that I didn’t know much about the woman for whom it is named. I knew Carolyn W. Field was a prominent player in children’s literature and children’s services. That was about it. Let me be simple and clear: she was amazing! Now serving as the 2018 Chair of the Award Committee, I decided to share a bit more information with all of you. I compiled this information from several websites and a tribute article that are found at the end of this post.

Carolyn W. Field’s favorite quotation was from English children's writer Walter de la Mare: "Only the rarest kind of best in anything can be good enough for the young." In fact, she had this quote inscribed in the fireplace mantle at Philadelphia’s Northwest Regional Library so that everyone would see it. I doubt that she realized when she started in librarianship that she would in fact BE one of those rarest and best things or that she would have such a profound impact on the world of children’s literature and services.

The following is a brief outline of some of her accomplishments.

Carolyn Wicker Field was born in 1916 and grew up in Massachusetts. In 1938 she earned a master’s degree in library science at Simmons College in Boston. After several library jobs, she got a job at the Free Library of Philadelphia. She remained there for 30 years. On July 24, 2010 at the age of 93, she died, leaving a legacy that is as strong as she was.


  • 1938: Began her librarian career as a children's librarian at the New York Public Library

  • Other jobs prior to her work at the Free Library of Philadelphia:

    • Children’s services at Cuyahogo County Public Library in Cleveland, Ohio

    • Head of children’s work in Wilmington Institute Free Library, Delaware

    • County Librarian for New Castle County Public Library, Wilmington

    • Children's Coordinator for the Wilmington Public Library in Delaware

  • 1953 - 1983: Coordinator of the Office of Work with Children at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Her work at the Free Library cannot be summed up in bullet points, but some of the major accomplishments include:

    • Established the Children's Literature Research Collection

    • Established the Spring Book Review

    • Established the Storytelling Festival

    • Created the Philadelphia Children's Reading Round Table

    • Created the Drexel University/Free Library of Philadelphia Children's Literature Citation. She later won this award in 1984 after her retirement.


  • She served with the American Red Cross in England during WWII.

  • 1958 - 1988: She served on the Library of Congress’ Advisory Committee on the Selection of Children’s Books for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

  • 1958 - 1959: She served as a chair of the Newbery/Caldecott committee. Related to this, she also implemented the innovative “Profiles in Literature,” series which consists of taped interviews with Newbery and Caldecott authors and illustrators.

  • 1959 - 1960: She served as President of the Children's Division of the American Library Association--now known as the Association for Library Service to Children.

  • 1962: At the Seattle World’s Fair, she organized a storytelling event held at the United Nations Plaza.

  • 1965: She founded the Philadelphia Children’s Reading Roundtable.

  • 1970 - 1972: She served as President of the Pennsylvania Library Association.

  • 1970 - 1972: She led NCTE’s Committee on Reading.

  • She taught children’s literature as an adjunct professor at Drexel University.

  • Girl Scouts - She held almost every volunteer position in the organization during her life, plus:

    • Was an active Girl Scout starting in 1928

    • Served on the Board of the Girl Scouts of Philadelphia for almost 30 years

    • Co-chaired the Girl Scout Bicentennial celebration in 1976

  • She volunteered in the library and archives of Cathedral Village after retirement.

  • She served in various roles with Stagecrafters Theater in Chestnut Hill over many years:

    • Director

    • Actress

    • Member of the Board of Directors

    • Vice President for Production

    • President for Production


  • 1963: She received the Grolier Foundation Award (now called the Scholastic Library Publishing Award).

  • 1972: She received the William Penn Award from the Girl Scouts of Philadelphia.

  • 1974: She was awarded the Pennsylvania Library Association Certificate of Merit.

  • 1974: She was named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania.

  • 1975: She received the Alumni Achievement Award from Simmons College’s Graduate School of Library Science.

  • 1979: She won the B.A. Bergman Literary Award.

  • 1980: She received an Honorary membership in Drexel’s Chapter of Beta Phi Mu.

  • 1983: The Pennsylvania Library Association’s created the Carolyn W. Field Award named in her honor.

  • 1984: She received the Drexel University/Free Library of Philadelphia Children's Literature Citation.

  • 1994: She received the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) Distinguished Service Award.

  • 1996: She received the first Mary A. Grant Award for outstanding volunteer service from the Catholic Library Association’s.

  • 2011: The American Library Association announced an Honor Resolution Commending Carolyn Wicker Field at their Midwinter Meeting.

Publications: Author or editorial role for several books:

  • In 1967 she published Subject Collections in Children’s Literature.

  • In 1987 she co-authored Values in Selected Children’s Books of Fiction and Fantasy  with Jacqueline Shachter Weiss.

  • In 1993, she was an editorial advisor for That’s Me! That’s You! That’s Us! A Bibliography of Multicultural Books for Children.

As you can see, Carolyn W. Field was an outstanding librarian. Her passion for children’s literature and children’s services was evident in all of her work. She also showed a strong sense of service and creativity over her lifetime. I hope that my service on the Carolyn W. Field Award Committee will live up to the standard she set in her own work and that our award in her honor can perpetuate her name and accomplishments into the far-reaching future.

Stay tuned next month for the announcement of this year’s award winner and honor book titles! We hope to see many of you at the Carolyn W. Field Luncheon this October during the annual PaLA Conference.  

Web Sources:

Association for Library Service to Children:

Free Library of Philadelphia:

Pennsylvania Center for the Book:

The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Article Source:

Doms, K. (1982). Carolyn Wicker Field: a tribute. School Library Journal, 2819-21.

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