How can I be a great children's librarian?
November 19, 2012 5:03 PM   Subscribe

I recently changed jobs from a teen librarian to a children's librarian. I have solid public service skills, but I feel like I'm behind the curve in terms of preparedness. Help me be the best children's librarian ever!

So, I was pretty confident in my abilities as a teen librarian -- I was solid on what kinds of programs were developmentally appropriate, I was really familiar with YA literature and older middle grade for reader's advisory, and I had a good handle on reference work for all ages.

Now that I'm a children's librarian, though, I feel totally adrift! I've got a super-supportive work environment full of librarians with different styles, so I'll definitely be looking to them as examples. I'm also planning on taking a class on emergent literacy at the local college.

Other than that, what are some books, blogs, and other resources I can check out (ha! librarian joke!) that would help me become more familiar with children's developmental stages, picture books as an art form, the big names in picture books and juvenile fiction, storytime tips and techniques...and anything else that might be useful? Are there some listservs that are more fruitful than others? The children's ones I was on were not incredibly helpful, as they were mostly mis-remembered book queries and the like.

Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated!
posted by itsamermaid to Education (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest searching for libraries of children's books in the .edu domain, because university librarians seriously love amassing resource links like this.

Just digging around the resource pages of the first two hits, I find annual 'best of' lists and a collection of children's lit syllabuses you could follow independently.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:32 PM on November 19, 2012

I just learned this because one of our Managing Librarians is on the selection committee for the Newbery Medal, but apparently there's a whole galaxy of blogs discussing each year's selections. I'm sorry I don't have one or two to recommend, but apparently there's an overwhelming number of them.
posted by carsonb at 6:40 PM on November 19, 2012

Library sparks is a good magazine geared towards children's librarians.

I would ask if you can take a day to visit some school librarians in your area. They can be a great resource in learning about the local population of kids and they could help you find out what reading programs the local schools use. Ie accelerated reader, scholastic counts, founts and pinell guided reading, etc.

School librarian conferences can be a good resource too, if only because they will usually have information about storytelling, activities, and can tell you what all is going on in the world of elementary and preschool readers.
posted by aetg at 7:08 PM on November 19, 2012

Best answer: I have gone the other way (sort of), general youth librarian to young adult.

I hope that this is not too basic, but my storytime formula for what it's worth.

-Open with a song. Close with a song. I know some librarians use tapes but I think it is better to sing yourself even if your voice is not the best. (Singing along with a tape is good too, if you can unobtrusively manage the controls.) I usually did Shake My Sillies Out but not the whole thing, and I like Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear for an ending song. (Short version: just
Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around,
Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the ground,
Teddy bear, teddy bear, reach up high,
Teddy bear, teddy bear, wave "bye-bye"!)

-I like to take five or six books into a storytime and use three or four of them, so I could put in a book or two that would work if the audience turned out to be younger or older than anticipated. For toddlers/preschoolers, I wanted to do at most one longish narrative story, filling out the rest of the storybooks with shorter books, action books or musical books (like "The Seals On The Bus"), and books with a lot of repetition.

-If you sense that your audience is bored, it is okay to close a book in the middle of a story. It may be awkward to transition out of it but it's a lot more awkward to keep going as the kids get more and more restless.

-It is great to do books or activities that ask for some kind of audience response. Some kids are REALLY SHY. This is okay. You kind of have to be okay with being up there by yourself waving your arms around.

-I like to follow a basic pattern of sandwiching other things between storybooks. Rather than doing two picture books in a row, I would put a flannel board or a song or a fingerplay or some kind of visual storytelling (origami, string games) in between.

-In as gracious and polite a way as you can, set out any necessary rules at the beginning of storytime, and asking parents to turn off their cell phones is a NECESSARY RULE.

-Generally, do not choose a storytime book unless you have read it in the last few days (ideally, a couple of times) or you know it VERY well. I'm occasionally called in last-minute to sub for the children's librarian, and on those occasions when I think "Oh yeah, I remember, this was a good book..." it very often turns out that I've misjudged the developmental level, or the sudden presence of Christmas in a book I'm reading to a mostly Jewish audience. Reading it several times before storytime also helps because it's not always easy to read a book while you have it positioned to face the audience, and it's easier if you have a general idea of what's coming.

The Heavy Medal blog and the Calling Caldecott blog are discussing potential candidates for the Newbery and Caldecott awards, and I think Heavy Medal in particular has had some excellent writing on how we evaluate children's books, and what makes an excellent children's book -- in addition to the wide-ranging reviews.
posted by Jeanne at 7:38 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also give kids hand stamps. Hand stamps are awesome.
posted by Jeanne at 7:39 PM on November 19, 2012

As an avocation, I have a website in which I recommend illustrated books for young children. So I know a fair bit about books for the 3-6 year old range and you are welcome to MeMail me if you want some specific recommendations or if you want to discuss books for young children in general.
posted by Dansaman at 9:12 AM on November 20, 2012

Response by poster: As an update: I am still a children's librarian; it's not scary at all now; I got a promotion recently so I'm even MOAR children's librarian; and I'm still looking like a crazy woman waving my arms around by myself!
posted by itsamermaid at 5:58 AM on June 21, 2013

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