What do librarians do? Day Five – children’s librarian

Children’s librarians work to engage with the local community and encourage parents and carers into the library with children of all ages. (Image c/o Ross Belmont on Flickr.)

The following post was written by Kelly Millership, a Children’s Librarian in Wandsworth.  Here she explains how she encourages children into the library and how she works with the local community.

I have various regular activities that form the structure of my working week. During term time one of the most important parts of my job is visiting local schools to deliver outreach sessions; over the past couple of weeks this has ranged from visiting nursery and reception groups to deliver storytimes  and delivering whole school assemblies to award children with their Summer Reading Challenge certificates. I have been in post for one year now and have got to know lots of teachers and children so visiting them, talking about books and libraries and being called ‘Library Lady!’ across the playground is a lot of fun.

As well as going out to schools I see roughly 4-5 class visits into the library a week. Monday afternoons is key stage 1 and we usually spend about twenty minutes looking at picture books that relate to their current curriculum topic. They then explore the library and choose books to take home or back to school. On Tuesdays and Fridays Key Stage 2 come in and we do a range of things which always include reading aloud and discussing a book or story. Where I can, I relate the book to the current class topic, so last week we looked at Anthony Horowitz’s series of Myths and Legends books for a year 5 group learning about the Greeks. I also try to deliver library skills sessions to older primary school age children and we could do anything from looking at the differences between fiction and non-fiction, to navigating dewey, to looking at genres. Class visits are perhaps one of my favourite things as it is a joy to see the children getting excited about taking a book home. The Horrid Henry, Wimpy Kid and Rainbow Magic shelves get regularly wiped out but I really hope and think we are providing something for everyone.

Aside from schools one of the main parts of my job is to engage as much of the local community with the library as possible and increase visitor numbers and issue figures. To this end, I visit the local children’s centres and do rhyme times at creches and toy libraries. I have also spoken to parent’s forums about library services, ‘Bookstart’ and the importance of reading and singing with your children. I do two storytimes and one baby rhymetime a week which are a very popular service in Wandsworth. These activities attract parents and carers with young pre-school children; it’s a very nice thing to issue a library card to a 3 month old baby and see them leave with a touchy feely board book to chew at home.

School holidays bring a change of focus and its important to offer a fun holiday activity for children to get involved with. This past half term has seen the library decorated with ‘Handa’s Suprise’ fruit baskets for Black History Month and dangly Halloween pumpkins and witches. A big focus for children’s librarians during the long summer holiday is of course the Summer Reading Challenge and lots of time was dedicated to preparations for this and then statistics and evaluation afterwards.

When I’m not delivering these sessions or preparing for them then I am either thinking about stock management or reports and statistics. As I am new in post I have spent a lot of time this past year really getting to grips with the stock in my library; weeding and luckily lots of buying. There are two different types of monthly lists that I order from which include pre-publication stock and stock lists on approval that the supplier puts together. I order from both of these each month in fiction and non-fiction. I also spend time putting together specific orders for things I think are needed or will be popular with the local community. After a visit to a Somali parent’s group at the local children’s centre I ordered new dual language stock that would be useful to this user group. There are lots of ways to keep up with children’s publishing and ensure a varied, relevant collection and I visit specialist bookshops, read blogs, newsletters, subscribe to mailing lists of publishers, booksellers and other librarians. I also attend a monthly teenage book group and have picked up so much information from this and read some fabulous crossover fiction.

I think over the next couple of months I will be spending some time preparing for the FAB book awards which is a teen book award voted for by children and young people. I am going to try to get a local group involved and promote the award across library branches. My working week is full and varied and having so many different things to think about really draws on my planning and time management skills. I think a children’s librarian post gives you the opportunity to use many of the skills of a library professional but also has the added benefits of meeting so many enthusiastic borrowers in a range of settings and being able to talk regularly about books and reading. If you are happy one day to be reading about learning development and the next to be ripping up tissue paper for a craft activity then Children’s Librarian is probably the job for you.

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