NOTE: It's time once again for nominations for Library Journal's Movers and Shakers issue. Please participate -- we want to be able to show off the full range of talents and specialties within the profession. And please post this to every list you're on. Here's the info on how to nominate the librarians you most admire:
The editors of Library Journal need your help in identifying the emerging leaders in the library world. Our fourth annual Movers & Shakers supplement will profile 50-plus up-and-coming individuals from across the United States and Canada who are innovative, creative, and making a difference. From librarians to vendors to others who work in the librar field, Movers & Shakers 2006 will celebrate the new professionals who are moving our libraries ahead. Deadline for submissions is November 1, 2005 To nominate someone for Movers & Shakers 2006, please print out the form at http://www.libraryjournal.com/contents/pdf/LJMoveShakeForm.pdf and return it to Ann Kim, Library Journal, 360 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010 or fax to 646-746-6734. Movers & Shakers 2006 will be distributed with the March 15 issue of Library Journal.
REVIEW: FUNDAMENTALS OF CHILDREN'S SERVICES
Michael Sullivan. Fundamentals of Children's Services. ALA, 2005. 0-8389-0907-8. $45. Reviewed by Marylaine Block
When I quit my job in 1999 to become a full-time writer and speaker, I promised myself that I would never again read a book I did not want to read. Why, then, did I read -- eagerly read -- a book with this deadly a title? Because it's written by one of the most interesting people in our profession, Michael Sullivan, who has made a career out of turning around dying small-town libraries and showing boys that books and libraries are fun. (See my review of his previous book, Connecting Boys with Books, at http://marylaine.com/exlibris/xlib227.html.)
It would be easy to assume that this is purely a tome to be read in library school by aspiring children's and YA librarians, but that would be a mistake. Library managers who underpay children's librarians, place children's services at the bottom of their funding priorities and fail to enlist children's librarians in budgeting and strategic planning need to read this too.
Why? Because kids are not only the future of public libraries, they are the present as well. Ignore them, and those who understand their needs, at your peril.
Two thirds of library users are under the age of 18, and the little ones, as Sullivan points out, come with entourages. They are brought to the library by mothers, fathers, aunts, babysitters, doting grandparents, who then become targets of opportunity for the library -- after all, getting adults in the door in the first place is the challenge; showing them our stuff once they're inside is easy. Children's librarians can serve parents by providing family literacy programs and helping them choose books for their children.
Half of the book is devoted to the craft of children's librarianship: How to go about selecting materials, doing story hours and booktalks, running book clubs and summer reading programs, and such -- the fun work with kids that lured many children's librarians into the business in the first place. But the other half is devoted to policy-setting, budgeting and management issues that too often children's and YA librarians are either excluded from or exclude themselves from.
If a library bills itself as providing curriculum support for the schools, for instance, it has huge implications for children's and YA librarians, who will need to spend time developing and maintaining close liaison with schools. That mission also has implications for what subjects children's librarians will select, how the collections will be maintained when school curricula change, and how much money will be left in the budget for non-curriculum materials. So youth librarians need to be at the table when library managers decide on the fundamental missions of the library.
If a library bills itself as being all about reading, management must not be allowed to forget the primary importance of children's librarians in that mission: "teachers teach reading; public librarians promote it. School personnel make sure children can read; we make sure they do it. We are less concerned with making children capable readers, and more concerned with making them avid readers."
If a library bills itself as an information center and the children's librarians do not insist on having their own reference work and reference statistics included, the fact that they are answering just as many questions for children will be overlooked, and their contribution to a central library mission will be downgraded.
If the library's mission includes access to popular materials, but collection policy excludes comic books and graphic novels and other "unworthy" children's favorites, the library is not providing equal access for the children it serves. If children are systematically shushed and adults are not, that too is discriminatory. Again, children's librarians need to speak for the needs and rights of children when library policies are being drafted.
In a lengthy chapter, Sullivan sets forth a number of ways children's librarians can measure their services to children and the effectiveness of their programs. He's teaching them to prove, in management's own terms, how much they contribute to the library's overall performance.
Ignore this book's almost willfully dull title. If you work in a public library in any capacity, you need to understand how vital effective children's services are building your present and future clientele. Read this book.
And remember, the author is Michael Sullivan. Which means you'll even enjoy doing so.
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The most important function of the public library is to provide a place and an incentive for children to progress in reading. The library is a compounding device: it allows a child to multiply the efforts of parents and the school, and provides the materials to make this process possible.
Michael McGrorty, Library Dust, June 14, 2005. http://librarydust.typepad.com/library_dust/2005/06/moving_librarie.html
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Copyright, Marylaine Block, 1999-2005.
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