Elizabeth Davis a 28 year old children’s outreach librarian at the Lackawana County Children’s Library, in Scranton, PA. You can follow her on twitter, or on facebook or email her at elizabethhdavis[at sign]gmail[dot]com.
Being a children’s librarian is an amazing job that requires a lot of patience, flexibility and is never boring. For one minute though, pause and gather your mental image of the species known as the children’s librarian. What do you see? Is it a brightly colored sweater vest with animals, or something seasonally themed? Is it the super-caffeinated or sugary voice that breaks out into song at the drop of a hat? Do they look like your cuddly grandmother? Do they look like they haven’t seen a wardrobe change since the Reagan administration? Is it a craft centered train of thought? Do they knit at conferences?
For these reasons, I tend to say I’m a librarian who works at a children’s library. I realize to some it’s a matter of semantics, but to me it’s a huge difference. I prefer to work with children because are amazing human beings who have unique and interesting ways of seeing the world. They are startlingly honest without malice and know what they want. Oddly, children’s librarians tend to be looked down upon within the profession. There are so many librarians that I have meet that make snide comments about how they can’t stand children and how they feel bad that I’m stuck in the children’s department. It’s disheartening to feel like the gum on the bottom of someone’s shoe. It’s really not fair considering the amount of work we actually do on a daily and the importance that is placed on that work.
We have the distinct honor and responsibility to aid families and children through some of the most important times in their development. We help prepare and enlighten them about the world around them. We stress the importance of early literacy and school readiness skills so that children are prepared when they enter preschool or kindergarten. We help them find the best books to get them excited about reading and to keep them reading. We plan programs that make the library a place where kids want to be for fun or for when they need help with a school project. We get them excited about learning new things and introduce them to the world outside their town.
Today for example, I had story time with the neighborhood day care center, then filled collection requests for area teachers and homeschoolers. I worked on our Flat Stanley program that we are doing with an infantry battalion going to Afghanistan. I picked up and dropped off new books we are getting Brailled by our local Association for the Blind. I answered reference questions from confused moms, curious kids and made snow out of diapers. This was just one day.
I have a very loose job title that allows me to do things that I don’t think many other children’s librarians do. I serve on our Emerging Technologies Committee, co-chair of the city wide community reads program, do Ask Here PA Virtual Reference and pretty much anything else that interests me. I’m really interested in UX and am constantly wondering if the services we are providing are helpful and easy to use. It’s helpful that upper management is excited when I get excited about something. They give me and my coworkers the freedom to try new things, whether it be broom hockey or Drupal.
I sometimes think about why I refuse to accept this title of ‘children’s librarian.’ I think it is because I don’t want to be clumped into a stereotype. I want to be taken seriously even though I to jump around with five year olds and read stories that rhyme aloud. I want people in our profession to see that while we may have fun at our jobs that doesn’t mean we’re not doing important things. I want librarians to see that being a children’s librarian isn’t a demotion but rather a promotion. A promotion to holding the future of the library in our hands because if I don’t do my job, the rest of you won’t have a job.
My mom always says that I am the only person she knows who loves their job. Can you say honestly that you laugh at your job on a daily basis? Can you say that your job is rewarding just because you found the perfect book for a picky reader? Can you say that you learn something new every day and a new way to see the world because of another person, even if they are 10 years old? I can and that’s why I’m a librarian.