During both the Executive Committee and Board meetings last week the topic of Youth Services librarians and staff being eliminated or furloughed indefinitely came up. We talked about how much value youth services workers bring to both the library and the community and the short sightedness of removing an entire department because many of our buildings are not open to the public.
Parents and caregivers need an ally in the quest to support their kids, and children’s library professionals are there to help. You provide a pipeline to materials, programs, and services that support families in their library communities. Librarians play a special role in facilitating difficult conversations with children. You offer resources that help families navigate discussions of potentially uncomfortable topics.
More important, children’s librarian professionals are uniquely trained to evaluate content intended for children. Children’s librarians leverage this expertise to select high-quality books, recordings and apps. Beyond that, children’s librarians offer expertise in the safe and effective use of digital devices as well as content, providing valuable guidance to address privacy and security concerns. Just because you have limited building access doesn’t mean this work has stopped or is less important to our communities.
I am in awe of the ability of children’s librarians to continuously do more with less, and I hate that you are asked to do that constantly. You have adapted to this new virtual environment with grit, determination, and plenty of flair as parents and caregivers look to libraries for support in navigating and adjusting to radical changes to their routines and access to information. So, to now see you pushed aside makes me so angry. Libraries must fight to keep as many youth services staff in the library, serving the community, as possible. I appreciate that serving families looks different in every community–virtual storytimes might not be the way to reach your target audience for example–but I know that you have the knowledge and experience to find the best ways to reach families, and I ask Directors everywhere to trust, invest in, and develop their youth services staff. In order to effectively provide the highest-quality serve to children and families, ALSC has established a comprehensive set of Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Libraries that can only be achieved by staff who have undertaken specialized coursework, on-the-job training, and through continuing education. These competencies are reviewed and revised every five years to ensure they reflect the most up-to-date thinking and practice around the skillsets needed to practice at the highest level, and were approved by the ALSC Board on November 4, 2020.
ALSC members– know that your board is working on a statement and some action steps that we can take. We know the importance of having a well-funded and supported youth services department with qualified staff is to build healthy children and communities.
Our first step has been setting up the membership relief fund, so I encourage you to apply for funding if you have been furloughed or laid off.