Guest Blogger

Transform your Programs with your Expertise

Libraries Transform: The Expert in the Library is ALA’s new motto. It invites libraries to alter the course of our community presence to introduce library services that are aligned to the needs of the community. You might believe that libraries have been already doing that for many years, but the idea of “transformation” goes beyond what we already know.

Libraries are sending the message: “We are here to offer what you need.” Such innovating ideas as the “Libraries on Lockdown,” (an event program involving escape exercises) or the “tiebrary” collection (Paschalville, Philadelphia ends ties for job interviews), libraries are transforming into a more noticeable presence within the community. Furthermore, think about the libraries that lend computers, musical instruments, and the libraries that renovate their buildings to include green energy. There is a palpable sentiment of transformation.

Simi Valley Library is also trying to transform our services to enhance the lives of the people in our community. But how do we transform beyond what we already are? Julie B. Todaro, ALA’s President, encourages librarians to uncover our credentials, to show our expertise and present ourselves as a real human value in the library.[i]

Inspired by the idea of the “expert in the library,” It occurred to me to use our individual abilities as librarians to create high standard programs focusing on specific areas of knowledge. Some librarians I know have law degrees, psychology degrees and even doctorates in different areas other than library science. In my case, I use my Spanish language background to create Spanish classes for children.

One of the Spanish classes was a six-week class offered during our Summer Reading Program. This class had more than 60 children signed up so we had to open another session. Presently, I am teaching a ten-week Spanish Intermediate class for children ages 8-12. The class is offered once a week and lasts one hour.

Here you have some of the learning points that came out in my evaluation of the class. These points might help you design your own programs.

  • Learning Point 1: The most difficult aspect of creating this class was the preparation of the 10-week curriculum. I consulted four books to build the curriculum. Then, I put myself in the shoes of the clients – what did they need to learn? Finally, I used as many images, dialogues, charts and exercises to make the sessions agile, meaningful and inviting.
  • Learning Point 2: My Spanish class included children ages 6-12 in the summer session. This was a mistake. The younger children felt frustrated because they could not learn as fast as the older kids did. This experience helped me redesign the class I am teaching now for kids ages 8-12 only. The initial hypothesis considered that younger children learn second languages with much ease, however they do not have the attention span or writing skills to keep up with older kids.
  • Learning Point 3: There is considerable time invested in preparing lessons and materials for the class. Nonetheless, the satisfaction of noticing how much your patrons have learned, and how thankful they are that you share your knowledge, makes your efforts worth it.
  • Learning Point 4: I suggest class size be restricted to no more than 20 patrons. My Spanish Intermediate class has exactly 20 children and I have to move fast to keep all attendees with me.
  • Learning Point 5: Organize your seating space to be inclusive and welcoming. The idea is that everyone can have eye contact with everyone.
  • Learning Point 6: I highly recommend providing snacks during a short break. I bring my iPhone and children choose what they want to hear during the break. This feature presents you as an adult in touch with your audience, it is a fabulous ice-breaker, and it relaxes and reinvigorates kids, who might feel tired after a long school day.

Librarians already offer computer classes, STEAM based activities and other programs that require preparation and some learning. Think about your talents and extended knowledge, you might be doing a great service by sharing them with your community.

[i] Todaro, B. J. (2016, September/October). Lead with the Value of You. American Libraries, 47#9/10, 6.


Photo courtesy of guest blogger
Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Today’s guest blogger is Kathia Ibacache. Kathia is a Youth Services Librarian at Simi Valley Public Library. She has worked as a music teacher and Early Music Performer and earned a MLIS from San José State University and a DMA from the University of Southern California. She loves to read realistic fiction and horror stories and has a special place in her heart for film music.

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


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