While many a librarian was still recovering from all the excitement of Midwinter, a handful of librarians ventured on to Chicago to continue advocating for libraries at Opening Minds USA 2014. Opening Minds is a conference focused around early education, child care, and school-age children. Essentially, it’s a conference focused around educating children and the people who care and advocate for them–which is why youth services librarians are a natural fit to have a presence.
In addition to the librarians attending the conference for professional development, there were two contingents of librarians attending as finalists for the Innovation Award: Every Child Ready to Read @ your library, 2nd Edition, showcased by Jenna Nemec-Loise (of Chicago Public Library); and Little eLit.com, showcased by Cen Campbell, Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen, and myself.
The purpose of the Innovation Award is to recognize initiatives that are game changers in early care and education. Librarians absolutely fit that bill, and it’s clear early childhood educators think so, too: at the Innovation Awards reception on Friday, January 31, Every Child Ready to Read @ your library, 2nd Edition was announced as the winner of the 2014 Opening Minds Innovation Award!
The award winner was decided by attendee votes, which were cast after conference-goers stopped by the finalists’ showcase booths. Early childhood educators and advocates who stopped by the ECRR2 booth heard Nemec-Loise explain how “ECRR2 is asserting the critical role of public libraries in early learning.” She also emphasized that ECRR2 can help parents and caregivers embrace their roles as their children’s first and most important teachers.
Said Nemec-Loise: “By taking part in these conversations, libraries can become partners with parents, educators, and childcare providers in improving outcomes for young children and their families.”
Little eLit.com showcased its crowd-sourced approach to thinking about new media as a tool in early literacy services. The showcase included demonstrations of the interactivity and literacy development possible with the Felt Board Mother Goose on the Loose app designed by Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen. The Little eLit.com booth also debuted a promotional video by contributor Carissa Christner, created to emphasize that children’s librarians are poised to offer tips and strategies for caregivers interested in using new media effectively and appropriately with their children.
The presence of two library initiatives at a conference meant specifically for early childhood educators speaks to the need for library advocacy outside our immediate profession. Children’s services librarians have plenty of expertise and passion to share, and by working together with colleagues in other fields who share our passions and goals, we can make even greater moves toward impacting the lives of the children in our communities.
ECRR2’s receiving the Innovation Award further emphasizes that librarians and early childhood educators need to be collaborating.
“I’m excited for what it means for children’s librarians,” said Nemec-Loise. “It can really elevate our profile within the early education community.”
How do you collaborate with other professionals and organizations in your community who serve children?