It’s easy to focus on those rare but disheartening comments from parents we hear on occasion as youth services librarians. “No, I’ll let you check out a DVD today but no more books.” “You’ve already read that before. Pick a book that’s not so easy.” “If you don’t be quiet, that librarian (or teacher, as we are often called) will make you leave.”
We can combat these statements by celebrating the joys of reading at every opportunity, encouraging youth to channel their energy by attending our interactive programs. We can engage both parents and children during brief readers’ advisory moments, sharing that we support reading for pleasure for even our youngest patrons. We can help parents become their child’s reading advocate.
We can also hold fast to those unassuming remarks from our patrons that demonstrate the incredible impact of our work in the community. We gain insight when we learn from those parents who share how their children model their story time experience at home. We also strengthen our perspective when we hear how our youngest customers view our libraries when they walk through those doors.
My colleague overheard a child’s comment he made to his friend. As she greeted the children and adults arriving for preschool story time, she heard this boy’s casual introduction to our library. “This,” the child said, “is the room where the magic happens.”
These words have transformed the way we view our work at our Hope Mills Branch of the Cumberland County Public Library and Information Center in Hope Mills, NC. We’ve altered this sentence by focusing on the magic we create for customers of any age. We’ve focused on the library not as a room but as a destination. We find reading material for all patrons. We assist adults with finding employment; we connect individuals to their larger community. Our libraries are the place where the magic happens.
This message now defines our work as library staff. We have discussed the impact of this statement at our branch meeting. We’ve used this sentence in our celebratory events and are looking at wearing t-shirts with this message during our system’s Staff Development Day. Our library’s community relations department has designed signs for our branch with these words from this young patron, and customers comment on this signage when they enter our programming room.
As a library staff, we knew our work had the ability to change lives for the better, but this acknowledgement from the mouth of one of our youngest customers has reinvigorated our efforts. These eight words have reinforced and challenged us to review how we value our professional work’s impact in the community.
Inevitably, we will all hear words that temporarily discourage us, but we must take heart. There are children and parents seeing the magic in what we do, and they are spreading the word. What spectacular statements have you heard from your youngest patrons that demonstrate that your library is the place where the magic happens?