Supporting Evidence-Based Practice

Have you ever wondered why we sing hello and goodbye songs during storytime? Or why we provide coloring sheets in the children’s room? 

As Children’s Librarians, we know there are various accepted practices that we implement in our everyday work. From singing at storytime rather than just reading books to providing opportunities for play and socialization for both children and adults, there are certain actions we all take. After a while, these actions become routine and we may not think about why it is we choose these over their alternatives. In some cases, they may not even have ever been explained; they have just been passed from mentor to mentee simply by example rather than described along with the reasoning behind it. However, in order to arrive at the conclusion that these practices should be the most accepted and widely used, someone had to ask: Which actions best support childhood development and why? 

The ALSC National Research Agenda was created to support the asking of questions such as these. The ultimate purpose of this document is to encourage evidence-based practice, which will help librarians bring an intentionality to their everyday routines. The six areas that are highlighted in the Research Agenda not only require more research, but also more action on the part of practitioners in the field. These six areas, identified with input from ALSC members, are:

  • Learning and Development for Young Children and Families
  • Learning and Development for School-Age Children and Families
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with Children and Families
  • Media Mentorship and Technology Use with Children and Families
  • Impact and Exploration of Literature and Resources for Children
  • Professional Development of Library Staff to Serve Children and Families

So, for instance, it is acknowledged that there are not enough resources available for school-age children to ease the transition from “learning to read to reading to learn” (p. 5) and the programs offered for this age group are not as robust as those offered for our younger patrons. By researching why it is important to provide these resources and programs, it is easier to advocate for the funding needed for the inclusion of these things. 

The Research Agenda provides about two pages for each specified area. These pages include an overview of what has already been researched, where additional research is needed, and 11 to 14 suggested research questions. These may be used as is or as jumping off points for similar topics. The Research Agenda Task Force is piloting a grant that would allow researchers to develop, conduct, and disseminate emerging research that aligns with the six priority areas identified in the National Research Agenda. Look for more details on this grant in January! 

Today’s blog post was written by Kat Baumgartner, Children’s Librarian at the Great Neck Library in Great Neck, NY, on behalf of the ALSC Early and Family Literacy Committee. She can be reached at kathryn.a.baumgartner@gmail.com.  

This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of:

V. Outreach and Advocacy

VI. Administrative and Management Skills

VII. Professionalism and Professional Development


  1. Kelly Doolittle

    The discussion of literacy deficiencies in the transitional years, in particular, the “learn to read – read to learn” aspect, is making me look again at our programming. We have several baby, toddler and family style storytimes, as well as numerous outreach programs (sadly, all in-person contact suspended for Covid, of course,) that serve those age ranges within those cohorts very well, I believe. But when it comes to that elementary age where real comprehension needs to grow, I find so many kids, especially kids in under served communities, come in to our library and just immediately hop on the computers to play games. I’m wondering if this is true for many libraries, as we try to keep up with technology and offer the best for kids, are we losing sight of what they really need? Should we offer less technology in youth services, and more after school programming?

    1. Kat Baumgartner

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful response, Kelly! I have noticed the same in my library, where (in normal times) elementary-age kids would come in and immediately go to the computers or iPads to play games. We do also offer programming for that age group, especially STEM programming, but there is probably more we could do even in terms of offering passive activities that would be more enticing than Roblox.

  2. Bryce Kozla

    Hi, wanted to give a shoutout for Fostering Readers, a free resource to support K-3 develop reading skills. It’s specifically designed for public library staff and afterschool providers, written by a team of children’s librarians and reading specialists: https://fosteringreaders.weebly.com/

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