By Andrea Lynn Should you want to revisit your youth in the midst of the wintry chill and curl up with a few good children's books, you have an additional 58,000 to choose from since the UI Library received an early Christmas present. With the 43,000 children's volumes already on its shelves, plus its nearly 48,000 volumes of classroom texts, the UI Library now has a children's and young adult collection second only to that of the Library of Congress. Yet another 14,000 books came to the university's library school a year ago, when the Center for Children's Books was transferred from the University of Chicago to the UI The new free cache also came from Chicago - from the Center for Research Libraries. Among other things, the national association of research libraries wanted to place the collection where it could better serve scholarship. CRL got proposals from 14 sites and in the end chose the UI. "Illinois had a good proposal," said Patricia Finney, head of stack management at the center. "One of the criteria was the strength of pre-existing children's collections and dedication to that genre of literature, and Illinois most certainly met that criterion. It also intends to make the collection available to the rest of the world." Most of the CRL books, which are neither cataloged nor inventoried, are U.S. titles published after 1950; about 15 percent of the titles are pre-1950 or British imprints. The nearly comprehensive CRL collection was formed over decades from deposits primarily by the Center for Children's Books, which received review copies of every children's book published in the United States. While many - if not most - people would be appalled by the idea of 1,120 boxes of uncataloged books being dropped on their curb one Saturday in November, Nancy O'Brien, a professor of library administration and the acting head of the university's Education and Social Science Library, is delighted. "It will be just marvelous for everybody in the world to have access to these materials," O'Brien said, noting that access to UI collections can be made through national data bases, as well as through the Internet, the international electronic network. In addition to heavy national and international scholarly use of Illinois' cataloged children's collection - Denmark borrows "rather regularly," O'Brien said - the collection often is tapped by students and teachers. The collection, which includes books from the early 1800s, is particularly strong in such areas as Aesop's fables, alphabet books, biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin, pop-up books, fairy tales from around the world, and Dr. Seuss books.