Confessions of a Children’s Librarian

Shh! I have a librarian secret.

Well, I actually have many librarian secrets. And most of them probably aren’t even that scandalous of secrets, because I bet a lot of us probably feel this way. But still, there are a few things that I don’t mention out loud very often. And because I’m in a sharing mood, I figure I should go ahead and mention them here. So here you go…

Secret #1: I don’t care for a lot of today’s most popular children’s books…

Nope

I don’t get Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I couldn’t make it past more than a few pages in Geronimo Stilton because the cheese jokes were just too cheesy for me. I’m far too old to appreciate the potty humor in Captain Underpants. Monster High kind of scares me, simply because the monsters remind me of Bratz dolls (which also scared me back in the early 2000s). Speaking of things scaring me, don’t get me started on the bobblehead covers for the Who Was series… While I can appreciate the Minecraft game, some of the Minecraft fiction books have me lamenting the state of children’s literature. And can someone please tell me when Caillou is going to disappear for good?

…But I still get excited when I see children reading them.

Rey Dancing

What can I say? I’m a librarian. It doesn’t matter if I like the books or not. What’s important is whether or not the child I’m helping likes the books. So when a kid asks me for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I’m all, “YEAH! Let’s see what kind of shenanigans Greg is getting up to in Old School!” And when someone else asks me for Monster High or the Who Was series I…admittedly don’t look at the covers…but I very happily hand them over. When someone asks me for Caillou…I manage not to cringe. Most of the time. And when I get to booktalk books that I actually like? Well, that’s just an added bonus.

Secret #2: I hate the evening shift…

I am all for library’s being open during the evening. And I understand that someone has to staff the desk at that time. But that doesn’t mean that I actually like it. I’m most productive in the mornings and early afternoons, so coming in at noon means that most of my productivity has vanished for the day. Don’t get me wrong, I still do stuff and try to make the best of it, but I spend most of the shift feeling apathetic and blah until it’s time to go home and I can wrap myself up in a blanket, eat pizza, and watch Netflix.

…But I love working on the weekends.

Lets Go

I get insanely excited when I have a weekend off, but when I do have to work weekends, I’m pretty okay with it. The library has a completely different atmosphere on Saturdays and Sundays. I mean, think about it, people can choose to go anywhere on their day off, and they choose the library!!! How awesome is that? Weekends at my library are typically packed and busy and full of book recommendations and crafts and trying to figure out why so many kids still love to play Roblox. And at the end of the shift, my coworkers and I all walk out of the building together (no 9 PM shifts on the weekends!).

Secret #3: I’m growing disillusioned with Summer Reading…

Miss Piggy No

Which is extra sad because Summer Reading is one of the cornerstones of children’s librarianship, and I’m only 5 years into my career. But I just can’t get myself all that excited over handing out trinkets. My library also hands out books as the 2nd and 3rd prizes, and that’s a little better (because I of course want to give away free books), but I feel that even book prizes are not that great for kids who are either developing or dormant readers. So I feel like Summer Reading is ultimately for the kids who would be reading anyway (either by choice or because their parents are forcing them). And that makes me sad.

…But more and more libraries are taking a look at changing their Summer Reading Programs

New Girl Excited

I don’t know what the answer is to the SRP problem, but I do know that there’s a lot of talk about SRP in the children’s librarianship field, and more and more people are agreeing that timesheets and trinkets may not be the way to go. In the meantime, I just have to keep reminding myself that SRP is doing some good! It is bringing kids into the library, and some of them definitely are reading (and reading lots!). So I’m just going to have to soldier on and continue to try to get kids excited about reading (even if reading for trinkets isn’t all that exciting).

Secret #4: Sometimes I suck at Reader’s Advisory…

Elmo Shrug

I love reader’s advisory, and I’m constantly trying to expand my knowledge of children’s literature. And, not to brag or anything, but there are definitely days when I am ON FIRE when it comes to connecting books to readers. But there are also days where I completely draw a blank. Days where I can’t think of the authors for some of the most popular books. Days when I can’t pinpoint exactly what kind of book the customer wants. Days when I do find a good book, but I can’t articulate why its a good book. Etc.

…But I am working on it.

Working

Reader’s advisory is just one of those things that you just have to practice, practice, practice. And I do. A lot. Like I said, I really enjoy it, so I really don’t mind spending time trying to familiarize myself with various genres and authors and books. RA is actually something that I’d like to talk more about on this blog, but I just don’t have the time right now. Maybe someday. In the meantime, I’m just going to have to keep practicing.

Secret #5: This one might get me in trouble but…I kind of think the MLS is just a piece of paper…

Sorry

I don’t want to invalidate anyone’s diploma (including my own), but…come on! Everything I learned about children’s librarianship, I learned on the job (because my focus wasn’t children’s librarianship in grad school). I also work with a lot of people who are AMAZING, but who don’t have an MLS. I did enjoy getting my MLS, and I will highly recommend my program to anyone who genuinely wants to get an MLS. But I ultimately feel like the MLS is an expensive piece of paper that divides the profession.

…But I LOVE continuing education!

Brand New Info

The ALSC classes I have taken were wonderful! I love webinars! I very happily read The Book Whisperer and From Cover to Cover and felt so enlightened about books and how we use them with children when I finished! I think it’s VERY important to continue to learn and grow in the profession. I just don’t think spending thousands of dollars on a piece of paper is necessarily the way to do it.*

*This is mostly for public libraries. I have no idea how this applies to academic or special libraries. I do kinda feel that if I became a corporate librarian after grad school, my business information classes would have been very beneficial. But I have a sneaky feeling that people could probably learn all of that stuff on the job too.

So there you have it, folks. My secrets. What are some of yours?

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8 thoughts on “Confessions of a Children’s Librarian

  1. Thanks for the thought-provoking thoughts! You hit on some big ones. My biggest career-long secret has been wondering why do so many people make SLP such a big deal. It’s maybe 6-8 weeks out of 52 and seems to have waaaaay too much emphasis in the working lives of youth librarians. OTH, I can see the massive arrival of kids into the library and the resulting hyped up adrenaline pump-jump does make those weeks loom large. Ah well. Oh and on MLIS..I always say its simply a ticket that allows you far wider freedom to go anywhere to grab a job.As many of my dear friends without an MLIS can testify, it is really challenging without the degree to make a job change into a new institution. And that’s a shame.

    • I agree on both points. It does seem silly that we spend most of the year planning and stressing over what amounts to be 6 to 8 weeks, but seeing so many kids in the library during those 6 to 8 weeks does make it worth it. And I’m so conflicted on the MLS, because I did love my program, but I also think it divides the profession. So I’m very, very torn (though definitely leaning towards the “Do we really need this?” camp).

  2. Erin, thank you so much for your courage in posting your confessions. As I told the members of our Youth Services Interest Group, this post really resonated with me. Actually i must be an odd ball since the odd numbers are especially true for me as well. 1) books are not a one size fits all, which is why it is good there are so many to choose from 3) SRP — I learn more each year and i’m on year 17! My favorite part is watching the kids joyful faces and the fun family interactions. 5) is the elephant in the room and i hope we, as a profession, can get to a place where we don’t tear each other down…similar to the working vs nonworking motherhood issues. We all want to do our best and what is best for patron.

    • 5) is the elephant in the room and i hope we, as a profession, can get to a place where we don’t tear each other down…similar to the working vs nonworking motherhood issues. We all want to do our best and what is best for patron.

      Yes! I would have no problem at all with the MLS if it weren’t so dividing.

  3. YES!! I share quite a few of your “secrets” 😉 I’m glad that my library has been shifting its approach to SRC – kids are now tasked with reading for a minimum of 15 minutes a day for 50 days over the entire summer – we don’t care what they read, we don’t care how many books they read, we don’t care if they actually even read for 15 minutes, as long as they read something at some point. We also don’t give out tchotchke – every kid gets a medal at the end of the program, and we do prize draws for books throughout the course of the summer. Less cost, less waste = happier librarians! 🙂

    And to be honest, any degree is just a piece of paper – it’s what you get out of the experience, and what you put in, that matters. Having letters after your name really doesn’t guarantee anything – you can emerge from a fantastic program with zero skills, graduate from a lousy program with mad skills, or just pick up everything you need on the job.

    I’m glad I just discovered your blog, looking forward to getting caught up on your posts. 😉

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