Children are important because they are our future. Public libraries serve as one place of education for the children. Children’s programming, material, and reference services provide early education and supplement what they learn in school via after-hours service and research assistance. In addition to service, libraries promote children’s programming and hire individuals who hold the children’s interests at heart.
Literature studied during my coursework suggests four trends within children’s services. Perhaps the most important is that childhood library services are essential to learning. Diamant-Cohen researched how libraries help prepare children for school via exposure to literacy and social skills in storytimes and other programs. Watson-Hadlock built on this by adding technology programming is equally important for children because the skills are essential in today’s society. Since lower socioeconomic homes may lack technology, the libraries must step up and fill the gap. Winston and Dunne concluded their study of children’s librarians by pointing out libraries and librarians offer services that ensure emerging literacy in young children. These articles all support the idea that the library is a place of learning for young children.
A second trend is in children’s scheduled programming. Diamant-Cohen provided several examples of children’s programming when she discussed storytimes, lap sitting programs, and family programs. Each introduces literacy and social skills. She also deems parent education important because the programs teach parents literacy skills to use with their children at home. Watson-Hadlock advocated using age appropriate technology in library programs. These can range from toddler music programs to gaming events with school-aged children. Parent education is again mentioned, as Watson-Hadlock believes both parents and children need to learn safe internet searching and other computer skills through both child- and family-friendly workshops. Hughes-Hassell, Agosto, and Sun analyzed program opportunities for children with working parents. In the cities surveyed, many libraries offer programming for infants through preschoolers and family programs in the evenings. This is important because evening programs reach out to a segment of the population that may not otherwise receive programming.
Promoting children’s resources and needs are a third trend. Smith believes librarians are advocates for children. She firmly believes that children’s librarians must convey their department’s needs to the administration and board of trustees. Smith also believes that children’s librarians should reach out to the community. She thinks this is best done via partnerships with other community agencies. The combined resources and visibility would further encourage children’s literacy. Finally, she stresses the importance of promoting literacy to parents. Watson-Hadlock furthers this by adding that the best advertisement for technology programming is to visit the local schools to promote the service. This excites the children and can draw in new patrons.
The final trend is the profession of children’s librarianship. Winston and Dunne conducted a study of children’s librarians. They determined the majority of librarians were white, middle-aged, and female. They fear lack of males and other ethnicity harms children because boys and non-white children need role models more like them to feel like literacy is truly valued. Smith took a different approach. As mentioned above, she sees children’s librarian as advocates for the children they serve.
All the articles may cover the topic of children’s services in a different way, but all indicate children’s services should exist and need to thrive. Libraries are the only place that can equally serve all people in the community despite socioeconomic status. This makes libraries an extremely important place in the community and the nation. Also, even if the articles do not directly mention it, the librarians are also teachers. They teach the children literacy and social skills though programming and reference. Taken together, the articles show the unique aspects of children’s programming.
Note: Because of database licensing issues, I cannot link to the journal articles.
Diamant-Cohen, Betsy. “First Day of Class: The Public Library’s Role in ‘School Readiness.’” Children and Libraries, Spring 2007 (2007): 40-48.
Hughes-Hassell, Sandra, Demise E. Agosto, and Xiaoning Sun. “Making Storytime Available to Children of Working Parents: Public Libraries and the Scheduling of Children’s Literacy Programs.” Children and Libraries, Summer/Fall 2007 (2007): 43-48.
Smith, Meg. “The ABCs of Advocacy: The Role of Children’s Managers in Public Libraries.” Children and Libraries, Winter 2008 (2008): 50-51.
Watson-Hadlock, Madeline. “Tots to Teens: Age-Appropriate Technology Programming for Kids.” Children and Libraries, Winter 2008 (2008): 52-55.
Winston, Mark D. and Jennifer Dunne. “Children’s Librarians: A Research Study of Diversity and Leadership.” Public Library Quarterly 19, no. 1 (2001): 23-38.