What’s in Your Toolkit?


Hula Kahiko by Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, Kailua-Kona Airport (commissioned 1997).

2013 was a good year for young people and their families at our library. We offered lots of exciting programs, provided a safe, inviting place for teens and soon-to-be teens, and added a fabulous variety of materials to the collection.

For me personally, the year was a busy one! I proudly completed my MLIS, became my library’s first ever youth services librarian, and connected with a fabulous array of librarians around the country.

While on vacation, I’ve been thinking a lot about what made the past year work and what needs to be done differently. The Hawaiian sun has offered me some fabulous contemplation time!

When I return to work in a couple of days, I will begin the year with gusto and the time to try new things. My position as youth services librarian will become full-time, thanks in part to the tremendous response to our programs, extensive use of the children’s library, advocacy on the part of the community, and the support of the city’s council and administration.

As I dream up new ideas and evaluate the tried and true, I have been taking inventory of my toolkit. What should a young people’s librarian have in a toolkit, physical or virtual?

Here’s a look at some of what’s in my toolkit. What’s in yours? (Sorry for the stream of consciousness.)

  • ALA membership (including ALSC, YALSA, and PLA memberships)
  • AkLA membership (state organization)
  • professional networks like Little eLit, Nationwide Teen Lock-in, ALA Think Tank, etc.
  • my blog roll
  • an iPad (and apps for all ages)
  • portable speakers
  • a personal collection of pop up books
  • puppets (my newest is the great white shark I had to buy at the a Kona Stories bookstore in HI)
  • a feltboard and lots of felt
  • Every Child Ready to Read resources
  • my sense of wonder, compassion, innovation, and optimism
  • tape, glue, and crayons, markers, paint, and playdough
  • patient and supportive coworkers
  • a great Friends organization
  • time to volunteer at my kids’ school where kids see me wearing a different “hat”
  • a hobby
  • a personal relationship with the local baristas

Day in the Life of a Children’s Librarian

Periodically I read blog posts by librarians like Amy over at the Show Me Librarian and others at the ALSC blog about their daily work as children’s librarians. I always read them with interest to see what my peers are up to around the country and across the world. I thought I’d offer a brief overview of how I spent a day recently for comparison.

Here is how a recent Wednesday went for me, a part-time youth services librarian.

9:00am It’s Wednesday, so I arrive ready to set up for preschool storytime. While I have already planned the program, I need to get the room ready for the 35-45 kids and caregivers that will arrive soon. I start by turning on all of the computers, except for the AWE early literacy stations which I leave off until after storytime to keep the focus on the group activities. I clear the display books and return them to the front desk so I can spread out supplies for today’s craft on the big table. I also go over the songs and rhymes I’ve picked to share this week, pull out the felt board and felt pieces I’ll need, and check that the iPad is ready for use. After a quick scan of the books I’ve chosen, I pull out the sit mats and put away any books left out from the night before.

10:00am The library opens and I welcome the kids and caregivers to storytime! For the first thirty minutes we read, sing, talk, and play together, strengthening early literacy skills. The second half of storytime is devoted to activities and crafts that extend what we learned or shared during the first half. It’s also a time when I help families find books, read to individual kids, and catch up with both kids and adults.

11:15am Everyone begins to leave so it’s clean up time. After putting away all of the craft supplies, it’s time to scrub the tables, shelve books, and create the new book display.

11:45am I grab fifteen minutes to check my email which includes messages about an upcoming outreach program, a meeting about early literacy, requests for book suggestions, and an ongoing discussion on a national listserv for children’s librarians.

12:00pm It’s time for lunch. I brought lunch so I eat in the back of the library and read one of the many kids and teens books I am reviewing for possible purchase to add to the library’s collection.

1:00pm I look over the book, props, and felts I’ll need for the toddler storytime tomorrow. I also get the books ready to bring to a local preschool as part of a bimonthly outreach visit.

1:30pm I work at the front desk checking in and out library materials, answering technology questions, helping people find books and audiobooks, organizing shelving carts, researching books, music, and audiobooks for possible purchase and visiting with families who stop by.

3:00pm I continue preparing an exhibit for the upcoming Rotary Health Fair. We’ll be participating for the first time so I collect the books, and toys I’ll need for my new Literacyland exhibit. They’ll go along with the puzzles, printed material, and iPad apps I’ve already gathered.

4:00pm I head to my desk and spend the rest of the day focusing on reading professional reviews and ordering, receiving, and cataloging (a new part of my job) new books and audiobooks for the children and teen areas. It’s not nearly enough time to make any significant head way, but I’ll have more time tomorrow. The process is intermingled with conversations by email and in person about tasks and projects I am working on with coworkers and other community members.

5:00pm I head home!