Blogger Cen Campbell

Why aren’t we there?


I attended the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Professional Development Institute in San Francisco recently. Lisa Guernsey, Karen Nemeth and I presented Links with libraries: The surprisingly diverse ways libraries are supporting developmentally appropriate early learning in partnerships with schools and programs   At the beginning of our talk, Karen introduced us and asked our audience the following:

 How many of you have ever heard a real, live librarian speak at this conference before?

NO HANDS were raised. None! Not one! These early childhood administrators and educators were clamoring to hear about what public libraries are doing around the continent, and some had not even thought of partnering with their local library. Some already had great partnerships in place, but almost all of them were looking for guidance in the area of new media use with young kids (that’s what we do now, after all).

Shame on us for not being there! Where else are we not? I challenge you all; submit a conference proposal for, or register to attend, a non-library conference in the next fiscal year. It doesn’t really matter which conference, as long as you’re talking about something you’re passionate about, you’re there representing libraryland and you make your message relevant to the group you’re speaking to. The higher the level, the better. State and national conferences are probably best, but if local is what you can manage, go for it! Walk the talk with me. Spread the word about what we do, because crazy as it may seem, not everybody really knows what librarians and libraries can offer.  If they don’t know what we do, it’s our fault, not theirs. Seek out professional organizations that serve the same demographics that you do, and get involved.

The NAEYC institute was a real eye-opener for me. Not only did I get to shake hands with Ellen Galinksy and Chip Donohue (who did a great webinar recently for ALSC on Young Children and Media), I didn’t get that comfortable, preaching-to-the-choir feeling. I got a reality check; while my life may revolve around libraries, the rest of the world doesn’t. If other professions who serve children don’t know what our skill set is, what resources we have to offer, and what we can do to further their missions, we might as well not exist. If we truly want to have a significant voice in the new media and information landscape (because we don’t yet), we’ve got to show up and make our voices heard.

Future non-librarian conferences/events I’m going to attend:

Where are you going to go?


  1. Peg Glisson

    Good for you for venturing outside the library world! Advocacy and education at the same time! We can never assume others know and understand what Youth Services’ librarians do. You might be interested in my article “Common Core and Preschoolers: All Work and No Play?” (

  2. Tess P

    I totally agree Cen, and good for you for showing up. I have presented several early childhood conferences here in BC – the response we have gotten has been great. So many other professionals just don’t know much about what we are trained to do and why we are so very well equipped and suited do those things for so many reasons.

    New media is indeed a huge opportunity for children’s librarians to continue to build our expertise and services and I would also add that it is not the only one. There are a great deal of things we do and know about that can support a huge range of childhood stages/topics/needs. I mean what other professional can literally pull together resources on ANY topic for ANY family at ANY given time (and in a variety of formats too!) We are information gatherers, connectors, purveyors and curators all in one. Families can and should count on us to help them gather what they need. Sure, a lot of what we do focuses on supporting families in supporting their children’s literacy/reading development and that is great. But librarians are also really really good at figuring out what is available on an enormous range of other important topics, organizing it and presenting it to people who literally don’t know where to begin. Think about the time you helped a family find books about how to explain death to a three year old who has lost a family member? That is pretty important service. These are the kinds of things we do that almost no one else is able to do at the drop of a hat. So called “new media” just adds to the awesome smorgasbord of services we can provide. I wholeheartedly agree with Cen that we all need to do a way better job of getting out there and making our services and expertise well known to everyone else who works with families and children of all ages in our communities. Be proud of your expertise and continue to expand the ways that you can provide it.

  3. Pam Brillante

    Don’t forget about young children with disabilities and the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division of Early Childhood Conference in San Francisco this October (same hotel as NAEYC).

    PS – It was great meeting you at NAEYC! I was also so excited to meet Ellen Galinsky and Chip Donohue. I have learned to stick with Karen Nemeth, that chick is going places 🙂

  4. Julia Hendricks

    Gosh, I thought this blog would discuss the fact that we’re not at some of these conferences because we’re in the middle of Summer Reading, or too busy with programming. It’s not about money, I’m willing to pay for the conference/any conference myself. I wonder how many other Youth/Children’s/Teen Librarians are unable to go due to programming.

  5. Peter Pizzolongo

    A friend clued me in on these postings. Cool! I’m the Associate Executive Director for NAEYC, with oversight for professional development, including the association’s conferences. It certainly was wonderful having the session presented by an actual librarian at the Institute! We would love to have more! (I’ve presented at ALA conferences, as well!) Check for the Call for Proposals for the 2014 conferences: September/October we’ll post the Call for the June Institute (in Minneapolis) and in December/January for the November Annual Conference (in Dallas). Look forward to seeing you! (& I agree with Pam–Karen Nemeth is a treasure!)

  6. Dorothy Stoltz

    Hi Cen et al,

    You bring up another wonderful topic to ponder! I know a handful of librarians who have presented at NAEYC over the years — but it should be every year.

    In 2007, my colleagues and I had a blast attending and presenting at NAEYC on the Carroll County (Md.) Public Library research-tested study about library early literacy training impacting children’s school readiness skills. The Maryland state library division sponsored our attendance there first, then we went on to the International Reading Association, the National Association for Family Child Care, as well as several regular ol’ library conferences 🙂

    My boss, James Kelly, makes it a priority every year to send several staff to non-library conferences – on topics such as, storytelling, creativity, technology, early childhood, museum services, family literacy, puppetry, and of course, the TEDx speaker events. Last year, we sent a staff member to the national Zero to Three conference. I’m happy to say that one of our children’s librarians will be attending NAEYC this year. Since it’s in D.C., I hope to drive down and be a sponge for a day 🙂

  7. Karen Nemeth

    Here is where I AM going! – the deadline for presentation proposals if you want to present at NAEYC’s June Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development is November 1 so visit the NAEYC . org website and think of ways you can contribute your expertise to the leaders and professional development providers for this event. It seems you might have a better chance of getting accepted if you partner with one or more co-presenters – so consider roping in someone from outside your library world to do this. Now – will somebody tell me how/when I can get in on presenting at ALA or ALSC? I can’t find the next deadline on the website yet! Partners always welcome 😉

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