In the hot Omaha summers of the late Sharon Fogarty's childhood, she clambered with siblings and young neighbors into her father's automobile—the only one in her neighborhood—and headed for a place where adventure waited on the shelves: the library.
The love of books nurtured there lives on in Northridge's elegant Oviatt Library. A $50,000 "evergreen" endowment will make possible the annual acquisition of a wide variety of children's literature for the library's 4,000-book circulating juvenile collection, newly named in Fogarty's honor.
On Thursday, February 19, an exhibition titled "Once Upon A Time" will open at the Sharon Fogarty Young Readers' Collection, located on the lower level of the Oviatt Library's west wing. Through March 31, book lovers can enjoy the collection's classics, multicultural titles, poetry, drama, fairy tales, childhood mementos, posters and illustrated books—Fogarty's particular favorite.
"A redheaded Irish pixie of a woman," the fun-loving Fogarty would have delighted in the whimsical spirit of the 6 p.m. opening night public reception, to be held in the Oviatt's Presentation Room. Child-sized peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will be served to guests, including her girlhood friend Jane O'Brien and cousin Mary Fogarty Monson, traveling from Omaha for the occasion.
"We are proud to have a named collection in Sharon's honor," said Library Dean Susan Curzon. "She was a delightful, vivacious and interesting person, and a true friend to the library."
Before her untimely and unexpected death from asthma in April 2000, Fogarty had initiated plans to honor her parents, Frank and Patricia Fogarty, with a posthumous gift to the Oviatt. Her wish to provide the gift has been carried out by Fogarty's sister, Patricia Tish Fogarty and her husband, David Svoboda, both pleased to have Sharon's name forever associated with children and books.
"Sharon's adult interest in children's literature came about when she began to buy books for our sister Kathleen Edquist's four children, and continued to do so as David, Erin, Eileen and Erik had children of their own," said Tish Fogarty. "Kathleen and I agree that the imaginative quality of the writing and the beauty of the illustrations are what drew Sharon to those books, and both of us have vivid memories of Sharon sitting with a child, delightedly pointing out a vivid image or a well-turned phrase."
"Sharon could not go into a bookstore without coming out with an armload of books for children," said retired Cal State Northridge librarian Virginia Elwood-Akers, who with Fogarty packed a lifetime of "crazy" adventures into their 30-year friendship. It was Elwood-Akers who introduced her high-spirited comrade to former head librarian Norman Tanis, cementing Fogarty's lasting relationship with the Northridge library.
"When it came to reading, Sharon's emphasis was on the reader," Elwood-Akers said of the former UCLA researcher, whose joy in odd illustrations drew her to the work of author/illustrator Maurice Sendak and the feline antics in "Medieval Cats" and "Catropolitan Opera," by Susan Herbert. "She was always thinking of things she could give the kids."
The endowment will give them a great deal, said Teacher Curriculum Center Librarian Karin Duran. "The cost of children's books has been rising, so this endowment will really allow us to add a variety of new materials, including children's literature for all grades and ages."
Duran and her staff annually assist hundreds of teaching credential candidates who read the books as assignments or simply for pleasure. About 20 classes per semester receive Duran's formal lectures on children's literature, and scores of teachers in the Valley—a number of them former CSUN students—are frequent borrowers.
Fogarty's family and friends feel the naming of the library's juvenile collection is a fitting tribute to her generous spirit. "The thread that runs through all of Sharon's acts on behalf of the people in her life was a desire that they partake of what the world has to offer, be it real places or those found in the corridors of imagination," said Tish Fogarty.
Elwood-Akers agreed. "Sharon really wanted this money to come to Northridge," she said. "It is a perfect gift."
@csun | February 16, 2004 issue
Public Relations | University Advancement
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