Guest Blogger

What happens when you take a child to the library?

They might just become a lifelong library advocate. I walked into “Take your Child to the Library Day” at #pla2024 expecting to hear about a fun family program to invite new people into the library. While I left with that, and a few thousand new ideas, the biggest takeaway was a lesson in library advocacy. 

Co-presented by Amanda Stern from the Connecticut Library Consortium and Caitlin Augusta from Stratford Library (CT), the session started by asking us to remember times we had experienced library magic. They shared countless examples of joyous moments of connection from libraries across America (and beyond!) celebrating Take Your Child to the Library Day. Since 2011, the program has been taken up by hundreds of different libraries as a powerful tool for library advocacy. 

The beauty of this event is that it can be whatever you want it to be. The presenters referred to it as a “global day with a local focus”, with the purpose being highlighting your own unique library. Implementation ranges from the most over-the-top events to simply welcoming new families to existing, bread-and-butter programs like storytime. Regardless of what happens at the program itself, focusing on bringing people together on a single day was key to turning this event into not just library magic, but advocacy magic.

“We are too used to doing more with less and wearing it as a badge of honor,” Stern proclaimed to the room. She reminded us that we do great things every day just by making do.  But that also means if we have more, we can do more. And the path to having more resources at our disposal to further the excellent work we do is through advocacy.

That’s where Take Your Child to the Library Day came into play. The presenters pitched it as a tool to address your advocacy and outreach goals. It’s a program you can promote as part of creating relationships with non-library users and inviting them into the space. It’s also a great time to invite administration, board members, and elected officials to see the library playing an important role in the lives of the next generation. 

Focusing on families allows you to promote valuable services to parents and caregivers, as well as create lifelong library users in the children they bring with them. As a family-oriented library-wide event, it’s important to establish buy-in from non-youth departments that parents and caregivers are not just tied to their kid, they’re adult users of the library, too, and might not be aware of what’s available to them. 

In our industry, it’s easy to think in a service mindset at all times. Advocacy can seem like something we can only do on the side, if we even have time, or once we’re higher up in our careers. Take Your Child to the Library Day is an opportunity to show your community the value that libraries can add to their everyday life and simultaneously demonstrate to stakeholders the potential for community connection that libraries provide.

Ellie Richardson (she/her) is Youth Services Librarian at Arlington Heights Memorial Library (IL). She specializes in services to K-3rd grade students and loves to nerd out over literacy and cognitive science. While not at work making overly ambitious DIY projects, Ellie enjoys karaoke, befriending cats, and long walks in nature to look at birds. This is her first time at PLA (and third conference, ever), and she’s excited to soak it all in while blogging for ALSC.

This post addresses ALSC Core Competencies: III. Programming Skills and V. Outreach and Advocacy

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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