Children and Libraries – K. Karr
Children who engage literature through listening, singing, reading, playing, and writing enhance their vocabularies and critical thinking skills.(I) To the children’s librarians who are faced with the task presenting literature to young people, the mission becomes one of outreach. Observations of the past two years of the professional journal Children and Libraries reveal that community engagement has become a core value in the field of children’s librarianship. While much of the work done by children’s librarians in providing access to literature is still accomplished at a localized public library, many in the youth services field have elected to take their programming off-site.
Given that the discipline of library science is taking strides to make information resources available to all users, multiple articles within the pages of Children and Libraries have explored how children’s literacy programs that occur in at-risk communities are taking place in venues other than library buildings. These outreach endeavors are often manifested in programming designed for populations including children of immigrants and non-English speakers, and children with disabilities. As children’s librarians develop these programs, they fulfill the mission set forth for them by the American Library Association’s national standards.(II) As children’s librarians innovate ways to seek and find patrons, questions of access to technology must be raised in light of the examples of community outreach offered within Children and Libraries.
The Association for Library Service to Children, which publishes Children and Libraries and serves as a guiding force for the ways many youth services departments approach their programs, lists “Knowledge of Client Group” as the main core competency youth services professionals should display.(III) Children’s librarians, whose clientele consists of local families and youths, are charged with assessing the “diverse needs, preferences, and resources of the community on a regular and systematic basis.” (IV) In many cases librarians find that their communities are aware of the library’s presence, but are reluctant to use its services. Librarian Tess Prendergast, who leads an organization called the Early Years Community Program, listed some of the barriers to patron access use as language differences, lack of knowledge about what actual services might entail, mistrust of government entities, and preference for web-based information.(V) To eliminate such barriers, the Early Years program sent bilingual librarians into communities of nonnative speakers to offer parent-child reading programs, starting a chain reaction of other cultures in the surrounding area asking for similar services.(VI) In another case of librarians engaging patrons outside the walls of the library, a group in Columbus, Ohio used data from the census, the state department of education, and thirty-seven local agencies to create a target zone for its bookmobile.(VII) Using the information obtained from their study, the group was able to meet with parents of at-risk children to inform them of the benefits of early literacy.
Not only are librarians continuing to reach out to patrons through library-created projects, but Children and Libraries also profiles librarians who approach other local organizations to help create community programs. In 2010, a group of librarians in Florida created a partnership with local special needs awareness agencies to provide storytimes to kids with autism.(VIII) As librarians look for ways to meet patrons where they already are, they form unique bonds with local organizations. In one Louisiana program, librarians rode on public transportation in high-poverty areas to advocate library services to teens and parents of small children.(IX) But as Children and Libraries presents this material on outreach to readers, most of whom can be assumed to be children’s librarians themselves, the question remains as to how users will continue to receive such services in the future.
The articles published in the past two years of Children and Libraries reveal the importance of outreach in the realm of youth services, but they also raise questions about the future of the profession. As the whole field of information science shifts towards the digitization of resources, there may be concerns that this could provide another barrier to user access. To address this potential problem, an increasing percentage of the materials presented in Children and Libraries have revolved around the use of technology. While each month features a short article on a tech-related skill, the more recent issues have included pieces about why children use e-books, and which tablet applications are best for kids. In an article on digital storytelling, a children’s librarian urges readers to help kids create stories using digital cameras, microphones, and editing programs.(X) While a heightened awareness of technological uses is beneficial, there must be more done on the part of those providing services. Unfortunately many of the at-risk neighborhoods librarians visit do not have technology readily available. Perhaps this need could create a new form of outreach. As children’s librarians look to the future of serving off-site users, technology will no doubt play a part.
To try and encapsulate the entire past two years of content of a single professional journal such as Children and Libraries into one broad idea would do a disservice to its contributors. But in scanning the most recent issues to identify the trends taking shape in the field of children’s librarianship, it becomes clear that outreach is an important topic. Children’s librarians have taken seriously their duty to know their clientele, and have implemented programs to support local users. Through offering services to patrons outside of libraries, utilizing the cooperation of area interest groups to create programs, and raising awareness of users’ increasing technological needs, children’s librarians are striving to reach all possible users.
I. Allison Kaplan, “Growth and development and early literacy” (lecture, Library Services to Children and Young Adults, University of Wisconsin-Madison, September 17, 2013). Based on information from Every Child Ready to Read
II.“Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries,” Association for Library Services to Children. accessed September 24, 2013, http://www.ala.org/alsc/edcareeers/alsccorecomps/
V. Prendergast, Tess. 2011. “Beyond Storytime.” Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children 9, no. 1: 20-40.
VII. Swell, Kim. 2012. “Beyond Library Walls.” Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children 10, no. 1: 27-29
VIII. Leon, Anne. 2011. “Beyond Barriers.” Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children 9, no. 3: 12-14
IX.Gaines, Jamie. 2012. “The People on the Bus . ..” Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children 10, no. 3: 17-19
X.Wawro, Larence. 2012. “Digital Storytelling.” Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children 10, no. 1: 50-52.