Guest Blogger

Searching for Community

Preparing for my first ALSC guest blog post, I entered the search term “community” on the main page of the ALSC blog.  I wanted to make sure that I was not bringing up something already that had already been discussed.  As librarians, we pride ourselves on our detailed, often photographic memories, and enjoy setting the record straight. It’s in our DNA.

I searched for the word community because after 21 years as a children’s librarian, everything has boiled down to community for me.   I remember some great story times, fun summer reading programs, the excitement of Harry Potter, and selecting materials for a new library branch that was being built. I’ve worked with and for some innovative librarians and in some beautiful buildings.

I’ve decided that community matters the most to me.  The changes in publishing have been quite interesting. Technology and its accompanying acronyms have been overwhelming, but still exhilarating.

The daily interactions with my community-with the children, the parents and other customers I are what make this profession so important to me. Here’s why:  Many librarians are introverts.  Often, we go to library school because we love information, books and systems, and we may just love them more than people.

I spent perhaps the first 15 years of being a children’s librarian figuring out what it meant to be a librarian in my community.  I knew that I liked working with children. And then it hit me:  I realized that my presence in the community meant children and parents would see someone different than themselves, and that others would see someone that did resemble themselves.  In both cases I began to see that library programs, and more specifically story time, brought together people that might not ordinarily spend time with each other outside of the library.

I’m African American, and although I think of myself first as a person, I’m aware that my customers might see me first as a person of color. In fact, for the small children that I see weekly, I might be one of the first persons of color that they see regularly.

Yes, it is extremely important that children see themselves in books. I am thrilled that the topic of diversity in books is being widely discussed and that there is an increase in the number of titles that show what the true makeup of our communities is.

I’d like to add to the discussion by saying this:  When you step into a place and see someone that looks like you, it normalizes your experience. Our world is no longer monochromatic, and the places where we gather information or gather with others must not be either. It is good to remember the power of the relationships in our communities and the power of the desire that parents have to do good things for their kids.

Libraries have always been good at creating programs to bring our communities in. After all, story time is a program. What I believe is that a program is just the icing on the cake. The cake is the foundation of what we, the librarians create by welcoming our customers, all of our customers. We welcome our customers by becoming a part of the fabric of our communities and making our presence known, and our presence must be that which represents the world we live in.

********************************************************************

Photo courtesy of guest blogger
Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Our guest blogger is Ericka Chilcoat. Ericka is a Librarian at the Merced County Library and gets her best ideas about Children’s Services when she is eating Thai food.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

7 comments

  1. Barbara Carr

    For Ericka,
    Ericka, You are so correct!!!
    So glad you took time to spell out just what we “all” see! Yet there is so little that we notice!
    Blessings on your continuous work!
    Babs!!!

    1. Ericka

      Thank you Barbara. 🙂 I enjoyed writing this.

  2. Sam Bloom

    Excellent post! This point REALLY hit home for me: “When you step into a place and see someone that looks like you, it normalizes your experience.” Definitely points to the importance of having more librarians of color! Thanks for sharing your experiences and your wisdom, Ericka.

    1. Ericka

      Sam,

      I’m so glad that you resonated with this. I think it’s really important to create places where we can brainstorm and share experiences!

      Ericka

  3. Amy

    Reading this post made my day. As someone else that discovered community was their true calling, I applaud you and your work.

  4. Ericka

    Thanks Amy! Isn’t it great to know that you are making a difference? It helps me stay focused on the big picture when things get a little wild and woolly…

    Ericka

  5. Kelly Doolittle

    What a wonderful post! You touched on so many key issues concerning our jobs as library staff people AND concerning the world around us. Diversity is so important, and all libraries – as community hubs – should celebrate it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *