- Bookbird Crosses the Pond
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The editorial and publishing headquarters for IBBY's journal Bookbird had moved several times in its first forty years—Munich, Spain, Vienna, Denmark—but had never left the continent of Europe. In 1990, IBBY elected Ronald Jobe of Canada as its first president from North America, and his agenda was to internationalize IBBY and with it IBBY's flagship publication. I had known Ron for several years already—he had visited Munich's International Youth Library in the 1980s when I was head of the English Language Section—so I guess it should have come as no surprise (though it did) when Ron asked me to consider the co-editorship of Bookbird, joining Lucia Binder, director of Vienna's Institut für Jugendliteratur and successor to the great Richard Bamberger (1911–2007) in both capacities. I was delighted and honored to be tapped, and Lucia and I hit it off well from the start, in part no doubt because we could communicate in German. So I supplied and edited an article or two for the first several issues, Lucia would then put the issues together and send them to Bookbird's pro bono printer/publisher/distributor in Aabenraa, Denmark, Jakob Gormsen.
Yet this was not enough for Ron Jobe and other friends in North America, among them Blouke and Marianne Carus (the creators of Cricket Magazine), who urged me to take a more major role with Bookbird, saying that it had become stodgy and dull. So I began work on a proposal to both modernize Bookbird in appearance and content but also to consolidate editorial, printing/publishing, and distribution at Purdue University, where I was a young and ambitious assistant professor and also the librarian for foreign languages and literatures. Developing this proposal was an enormous undertaking, but I received valuable advice and support from friends and colleagues—among them David Sanders, the head of Purdue University Press, along with David's wife, Chiquita Babb, who, as it turned out, was a very gifted graphic artist and designer. The proposal was completed over the winter of 1992–93 and presented to the IBBY Executive Committee in March 1993. It was accepted, with only one opposing vote, though leaving behind some hurt feelings in Austria and elsewhere in Old Europe.
Spring and summer 1993 became then one of the most stressful periods of my life, setting up an editorial and publishing infrastructure from [End Page 82] scratch as well as creating "Bookbird, Inc." as a legal non-profit entity in the state of Indiana, where I lived. The thematic and editorial revamping of the publication was also important, of course, being the change most visible to the outside world. To emphasize the new journal's hoped-for popular appeal, I changed the name of the journal to Bookbird: World of Children's Books. Each issue would be theme based, with the first issues devoted to "Violence in Books for Children," "International Journals," and "Sex in Books for Children and Young Adults." Chiquita gave the entire journal a fabulous design facelift, creating the Bookbird logo (with a blackbird sitting on the letter "i") used to this day. We also decided to commit resources to a color cover—another measure intended to appeal to a more general public. I leveraged contacts around the world, as well as Bookbird's forty or so associate editors, to get quality contributions, which were divided into two groups: major contributions (about 3000 words each) to be featured in the "To the Point" half of each issue, and then smaller field notes (approx. 500 words) grouped two or three to a page in the "Other Voices" section. Among other innovations was an enhanced section on new publications in the field of children's literature research from around the world—based on information received from the national sections. And IBBY Executive Director Leena Maissen, when she was not busy worrying about Bookbird being taken away from IBBY by its new, aggressive editor, made the "Focus IBBY" section both lively and informative. None of this would have been possible without the Internet...