Children's Librarians are Experts

Children’s Librarians are Experts in … Collaboration

Do you remember when you were in school and your professor assigned the dreaded group project? You immediately thought of with whom you wanted to work and which students gave you concern. You feared you’d be stuck doing all of the work or were afraid you’d appear inadequate to your classmates. All of those feelings continue into the professional realm (especially the one about inadequacy), but luckily, I work at a library where we foster the culture of collaboration. Frequent alliances across departments and within the community help to assuage those fears of working with others and make us experts in collaboration.

In August of this year, inspired by national events, our Children’s Services Department partnered with the Adult and Teen Services Departments to host a Families Together program. This program featured a Bilingual Spanish Storytime and a presentation on reliable news sources. While we did not have a huge turnout, our Families Together booklist, featuring titles from all departments, has been a huge hit.

We often share our skills, knowledge and resources cross-departmentally. Children’s Services works closely with Teen Services to offer programs for 5-8th graders. Our goal in offering these programs is to help kids who are moving from our Children’s Services Department (birth-6th grade) into the Teen Services Department (7th-12th grade) feel more comfortable about making that transition.

Images of hands after a successful program collaboration
A Henna program we offered for 5th-8th graders, taught by a local artist and library patron.

Another hugely successful program we offer with Teen Services is our yearly Haunted House. The head of Teen Services, Sam Farruggia, works with the teens to create and assemble the Haunted House. The teen volunteers then guide kids through the Haunted House, witnessing firsthand the positive response to their work.

My favorite collaborative project is the Welcome Baby bags we give to families with a new baby. The bags include a board book, a sensory toy, booklists, our newsletter and a onesie. Staff and the Teen Advisory Board create designs for the onesies and print them using our Silhouette Cameo. In the past we’ve also included hats and blankets knitted by a group of knitters who meet in our library.

Items for our Welcome Baby bags
Items for our Welcome Baby bags

In the summer, all departments partner to orchestrate our huge Summer Reading Kick Off Party. We’ve also had various library staff members, including our director, contribute as guest chefs for our Kids’ Kitchen program.

In addition to regular storytime visits to many of our local schools and daycare centers, we also play a part in the Battle of the Books. Librarians and staff from each of the three libraries in the school district read the books and create questions. We also participate in the individual school battles and the final battle by presenting the questions to the teams.

Last year, our local school’s Learning Resource Center Director, Lauren Mlade, initiated a Little Free Library project enlisting our library, the Boy Scouts and the park district. Her goal was to place these boxes in locations farther from the library to ensure that kids who may not be able to get to the library have access to books. She has since overseen the installation of three Little Free Libraries in our parks, painted and assembled by the Boy Scouts. Our library fills the boxes with weeded or purchased books.

One of the Little Free Libraries stocked by this blogger's Library
One of the Little Free Libraries we stock.

We also partner with other local libraries to do outreach in schools. We sync up our summer reading visits for efficiency, alternate months for storytime outreach to the main preschool, and visit an after-school program together each month. Our Teen Services Librarians team up to host the high school’s PRISM group (a group addressing issues regarding LGBTQ+ youth) at the libraries.

These are just a few of the ways we’ve collaborated internally and across the community. This spirit of teamwork is crucial to the library, where anything can happen at any moment. We often have staff jumping in and saying, “How can I help?” It not only creates a positive vibe in the work place, but sets a shining example for the children, teens, and often adult patrons we serve.

(Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy of guest blogger)


This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, III. Programming Skills, and V. Outreach and Advocacy.


Headshot of today's guest blogger
Photo credit: William Hopkins

Today’s guest blogger is Rose Hopkins-LaRocco. Rose is the Children’s Services Director at La Grange Park Public Library in La Grange Park, IL. She received her MLIS from Dominican University. She can be reached at rose@lplibrary.org.

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.

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