Media Mentorship has been a buzz word in children’s librarianship for a while. While it can still cause some disagreement, we’ve generally resolved that it’s important for children’s librarians to embrace as part of their role. Many contend, myself included, that we’ve always been media mentors – that the only real change has been the medium through which media is being conveyed.
Even still, it can be tricky to navigate what about these new mediums to focus on as librarians. I’ve been working with a group of librarians out of Central Maryland, along with Lisa Guernsey from New America and Elaine Czarnecki of Resources in Reading to develop a training toolkit for library systems around the topic of Media Mentorship and we’ve broken the concept of Media Mentorship down into three categories for easier understanding.
Media Mechanics – How do I work this?
We’ve long acknowledged that it’s important to teach how a book is structured to children – that’s media mechanics! What about how to access and navigate an eBook? – that’s media mechanics, too! We often model the former through storytimes and reference interviews and we can model the latter similarly. Use an eBook in storytime; just by using it you normalize it for families, showing how it’s structured and how to work it. Remember when referencing a database or digital resource in a reference interview to model how you found the needed information (i.e. “ctrl + f”), just as you might show a child the index of a book for navigation.
Media Management – Should I use this and how much?
This is probably the trickiest category in the bunch for librarians, and often the one that causes the most tension in our field. When is it ok to let a child use a screen? For what? For how long? As librarians and mentors, it’s not our job to give the answer, rather to point families to resources to help them decide for themselves. Just like we don’t tell a family a child can’t read a particular book. Each family has their own specific needs around media – we simply provide the tools for them to make those decisions.
Media Literacy – How do I navigate, evaluate, and learn from this?
In the world of traditional media and print, we simply call this literacy. It’s not just the ability to read, but to evaluate, understand, and learn from a book or print source. The same applies to non-print and new media. Remember to narrate your search in reference interviews – how did you find this, why did you choose it, and what can we learn from it? Practice dialogic reading in storytimes – ask questions and make comments about the books your reading whether it’s print or electronic.
There is so much more to Media Mentorship – so many more strategies for working with the families you see daily to build a more media literate community. But I hope these few tips give you some inspiration on your road to becoming a Media Mentor!
Children’s & Teen Coordinator
Harford County Public Library