It’s Friday, and that means another guest post! This week we’re bringing you words of wisdom from Jaime. We think you’ll love her perspective!
I spent four years as an academic librarian before switching to my true passion, a youth services librarian in the Dallas, Texas area. I do storytimes for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, 1000 Books before Kindergarten, special programs, and more. My hobbies include Texas Rangers baseball, cruising, country music, and, of course reading. You can also find me writing on my library’s children’s blog (http://fblchildrensblog.tumblr.com) and my personal blog (https://liltexaslibrary.wordpress.com/blog-2).
All the Library Things I Wish I’d Known
As someone who transitioned from academic services to youth services, I’ll be writing primarily about my experiences breaking into the youth field, including best practices and resources that helped me get started, how to take ownership as a new children’s librarian, and more. I can’t wait to share this series with you, and I hope it will help other children’s librarians starting out, too. Today, I’m writing a little about how different public services are from academic services. Here are ten things I wish I knew about public services before I became a YS librarian.
- Awareness of current trends means everything from best practices to pop culture. It’s not just your favorite authors and using a catalog. Know what’s popular with your patrons. Know pop culture and its literary counterparts. Know your community. Constantly learn about what’s available and what’s in.
- Being a children’s librarian isn’t just about children. Common sense, right? You will work with families, teachers, nannies, advocacy groups, sponsors, and city government. Children have a lot of people invested in them, and you have to connect with those people, too. Your library services to children are also services to the adults who care for them. Cultivate adult buy-in, too.
- Children (and their caregivers) will NOT love you immediately. This one’s hard. I was sure that kids and parents would love me immediately, and when they didn’t, I was a shocked and a little hurt. It’s not personal. It takes time for children to adapt to a change in their routine. Don’t pressure them, but keep doing your best work. They will love you as much as you hoped – it just takes time.
- Common sense to you isn’t always common sense to someone else. Things you find easy, like typing a document or finding a book in the catalog, may not be. Be prepared for any question. People are often scared or embarrassed, and you don’t want to make them feel like their questions are common sense or a waste of your time. There’s a bonus, too – often the easiest questions you answer are the ones that mean the most to your patrons. That’s how you build connections.
- Don’t worry so much about stereotypes. People are going to stereotype you as a librarian. Choose to be an example of the good. Be a warm and welcoming children’s librarian that everyone loves, and show them by your actions which stereotypes are wrong. Stop worrying about whether you’re the type of librarian people expect, and start being the type of librarian you are: awesome.
- Flexibility and creativity are a must. You have to be creative about how you use your time and solve problems, whether they’re yours or someone else’s. No matter what, flexibility is key. Learn others’ tips and tricks to make your life easier. Use apps, volunteers, organization – whatever works for you. Learn from the brilliant ideas of your coworkers and colleagues. Don’t burn yourself out trying to a “perfect” librarian – find what it takes to be your best librarian.
- Networking saves your time (and your sanity). There are so many librarians (and others) willing to share what they’ve done. You’ve already found one of the best resources here at SU. Look at blogs, Facebook groups, and Pinterest boards for ideas. Don’t be afraid to learn from others and ask questions. You’re not bad at your job, you’re willing to learn and grow. Eventually, you’ll get to pass it on, too.
- Patrons will very rarely tell you what they want the first time you ask. You have to ask follow-up questions and forge through blank stares. You may also need to phrase questions differently. Asking fiction or nonfiction isn’t the best approach if a patron doesn’t know what that means. Ask more questions and simplify each one until you find out the real need.
- Someone will always want to be the exception to the rule. It doesn’t matter which policy, someone always wants an allowance. It’s not their fault. It’s the first time. Sometimes you can make exceptions, but more often, it’s your job to enforce the policy as written. You’ll be yelled at and hated, but you’re ultimately making the library better for everyone.
- There will ALWAYS be critics. If you change something, you shouldn’t because it’s always been done that way. If you don’t change anything, you’re lazy. They will criticize your songs, book choices, themes, crafts, and programs. They’ll comment on how you organize the collection and what you bought (or didn’t). Someone is always going to have an opinion about your job and how to do it. It doesn’t matter. Take the criticism and feedback, but evaluate it. At the end of the day, you’re the critic that matters. As long as you’re learning and improving and growing, you’re doing okay.