Before becoming a children’s librarian, I was an arts administrator at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. From these experiences, I learned about the power of the arts.
When you hear “arts education” you may think school, but you should also think library. Libraries are wonderful venues for promoting and exploring the arts. Libraries host live performances and offer arts experiences. Below are some resources to create programs and gain ideas for your own activities.
As librarians, we believe everyone has a gift that should be encouraged and the arts promote creativity and celebrates differences. Art forms have structures, but the exploration does not have to be structured. The arts allows for a variety of entry points for everyone. For example, there are over 50 types of poems so plenty to explore but you can also use free form. VSAarts, an organization that promotes arts for individuals with disabilities states, “Many students find their strengths and success through the arts.” At libraries children participate in areas of interest and get recognized for their efforts and accomplishments.
Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) has a toolkit, Library Services to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers: A Toolkit for Librarians and Library Worker with helpful information. VSAarts’ resource, “Let your Style Take Shape” is another source for creating inclusive programs. This resource has a school-base focus but most of the suggestions are adaptable to library environments. It tells how to prepare for inclusive programs and to engage with parents and other professionals. VSAarts site has other valuable information including lesson plans. It also has resources to assist children who want to pursue careers in the arts.
The National Endowment for the Arts and Local and State Arts Agencies provide funding opportunities. There are grants for artist residencies, performances and other types of artistic engagement and learning. Americans for the Arts has links to help you locate arts organizations in your area. National Assembly of State Arts Agencies provides links to all the state arts agencies and regional arts organizations.
Through the resources shared with you, I hope you will find information to expand access to programs in your library.
Carmen Boston is the Children’s Services Coordinator for DC Public Library. In addition to loving to read, she enjoys taking advantage of the many arts programs in Washington, DC, especially the free Smithsonian museums.