What is the future of children’s librarianship? #Covid19 has instituted a (valid) fear among many people about job security, a change in job duties, and an all-together new approach to “normal.”
This was my first year on the committee for my library’s Summer Reading Program and in a weeks time we revamped it to something that has never been done before. Kids were given all their logs and prizes in one kit, instead of having multiple pick-ups. Hunts for the mysterious “Sasquatch” were done online and we did not have our helpful teen volunteers. However, we had comparable numbers of participants to year past.
And that wasn’t the only unusual aspect of summer reading this year. In a time when our shelvers are usually full to the brim with work, they were asking for extra projects. At hours when the library is usually louder than a playground, it was silent. Instead of my time being booked helping lines of patrons, I was sanitizing self check screens.
I saw a few of my library regulars coming in to say hi or pick up holds. But more often than note provided book bundles for them to take home to their parents. I took kids to Mars on a virtual field trip from my lap top. I looked up ways to support families home schooling, or needing help with technology from a distance.
And now that Fall is here and school has started, this “alternative reality” has continued. We are tasked with finding ways to reach our customers virtually, with providing literacy guidance to youngsters from a distance without giving them too much screen time, and with maintaining a safe environment during a time of crisis.
As we make plans for the future conversations center around, “if things go back to normal,” or “if everything is still like this.” And the question on everyone’s mind is- “How long will everything still be like this?”
Will there ever be a day again when kids can meander into the library and enjoy a shared playspace? Will in-person programs have hands-on crafts or group activities? Will students be able to work together sitting at the same table?
And how does our role change as children’s librarians. Myself and several colleagues and friends have struggled with the lack of interaction with children and families, something we’re not sure if we’re ever going to give back. Not everyone is equipped for or a natural at virtual programming. I’ve heard the statement (and said it myself many times) “this is not what I signed up for.”
I’m sorry to say that I don’t have the answers for you, and I definitely don’t have a vaccine for coronavirus. But, I’m also here to tell you that you’re not alone. Regarding your future, you are equipped to make the best decisions for yourself and your family. And the children, they still love you and they still need you- even if everything looks a lot different.
Keep on trying to see what works best for you and for your community. The children’s librarian community is here for you too, to motivate and support you and help you figure out these “unprecedented times.” We are capable and we can do this.
Now go out there and be the amazing children’s librarian you are, even if it looks a lot different!