Ninjas, this month’s featured guerrilla is a former storytimer who now advocates for the importance of storytime from a management position. We all do our jobs best when we’re flexing all our muscles to promote early literacy–both in storytimes and to our communities and administrators. Our March Storytime Guerrilla of the Month, Keven Delecki, can share some perspective on just that topic.
Kevin Delecki has worked in libraries for 10 years, first in Michigan and now in Ohio. He began his career as a Children’s Librarian and moved into management 6 years ago. He is chair of the 2015 Theodore Seuss Geisel Award committee, and served on the 2011 Randolph Caldecott Award Committee. Even though it isn’t his main focus any longer, he is still active and involved in service to children and young adults, including storytime/storytelling, reader’s advisory and STEAM programming. In his spare time, Kevin spends as much time as possible with his wife and three adorable children, and is active on Twitter @NYALibrarian.
Q: What is your current position at your library?
Kevin: I am the Head Librarian (Branch Manager) of the Cedarville Community Library, a small library in a rural college town that is part of the Greene County (Ohio) Public Library system. Due to the size of the library, I am fortunate enough to be involved in all aspects of the library, including circulation, reference, outreach, programming, and youth services.
Q: What is your background as a storytime practitioner?
Kevin: I spent my first two years in libraries working with and studying under an amazing librarian who was a Professional Storyteller for 25 years before becoming a Children’s Librarian. I then began my professional career in a small inner-city branch with no history of children’s services. My focus there was to build interest and attendance in children’s programming. I began my first storytime series with 1 child and her grandmother –and it was just the three of us for three months! This was before the proliferation of Social Media and blogs focusing on Youth Services, so I learned as much as I could from other local librarians, listservs, and massive amounts of trial and error. Three years later, after a lot of work and immeasurable support from my manager and coworkers, I left the library with 10 children every week at our Baby Storytime, 25 children at Toddler Time, and 25 children at Preschool Storytime.
Q: How do you advocate for youth services at your library from your current position?
Kevin: Most importantly, I do whatever I can to ensure that the Children’s Librarian at my library has what she needs in order to succeed. That includes working with the budget, managing her work and desk schedule, ensuring she has the personnel support necessary, and providing opportunities for training and enrichment. Also, I spend a great deal of time advocating to parents/patrons in the library, as well as with stakeholders in the community–emphasizing to them the importance of quality Youth Services. Finally, I work with the rest of the staff of the library–reference, circulation, library aides–ensuring that they understand the importance of Youth Services and encouraging their support though their interactions with patrons, their participation in programs, and the building of their further knowledge.
Q: Unfortunately, not every library has administrators who understand or value what happens in the children’s room. What advice would you give to these YS staffers to help them advocate for their work to their administrators?
Kevin: This may sound counter-intuitive, but my first step would be to stop focusing on the views of the administration–at least at first. That’s not to say to be insubordinate or disrespectful, but instead to focus on yourself, and begin to grow and develop what you are doing. Get the pulse of your community, expand your Personal Learning Network, utilize the amazing online resources to help develop programs that specifically meet your community’s needs. Nothing builds vocal library supporters more than outstanding youth programs. In time, invite members of the administration–preferably starting with those more disposed toward Youth Services–to visit or assist with programs that you know will be successful, or will be attended by your more vocal supporters. You may not change their views or preconceptions quickly, or even at all, but demonstrated value goes much farther than just being told what should be important.
Also, surround yourself with local and virtual colleagues who understand the importance of Youth Services. Having people who truly understand and appreciate the important work that you do is vital to keeping you moving forward, innovating, and providing amazing service to the youth in your community.
Q: What do you miss most about leading regular storytimes?
Kevin: So much! Storytime/storytelling, both in the library and in the community, was the central focus and biggest joy of my job as a Children’s Librarian. I did between 8 and 15 storytimes a week, including three straight hours every other Friday. I taught myself ukulele, learned to storytell both on my own and with a 3-foot tall marionette and overcame my fear of singing in public. Most importantly, I got to be a part of so many children’s lives–helping them learn to love books, helping them learn to read. I worked in daycares and shelters where the children had never, in their entire lives, had a positive interaction with an adult male, and worked for months to help them build trust. Storytime encapsulates so much of a library’s importance, and it will always be one of my favorite experiences as a librarian.
Q: What’s been inspiring your library work lately?
Kevin: So much of what has been inspiring me is watching the current generation of librarians and library workers transform library service. Groups such as Storytime Underground and Flannel Friday, advocacy like Guerilla Storytime, being able to interact through Social Media with awesome, creative, innovative, exciting people, and being in a position where I am able to mentor and help encourage those new to, and excited about the profession–these are the things that energize and inspire me! Regardless of the doom and gloom predicted by news outlets with a 1967 view of libraries, I feel as if we’re in one of the most exciting times for library services–technology is giving us unprecedented access to patrons and ideas, and yet even with the changes, Gallup has found that we are more popular than baseball and apple pie! Libraries, and especially Youth Service librarians, truly have the ability to change and improve lives, and I am grateful every day to be a small part of that.