Let's Hear it for School-Age Programming

Amy over at Show Me Librarian has a call to action for libraries to not just do fabulous early literacy programming but also make sure that school age programming is as strong a priority. In the post she questions whether the emphasis on early literacy recently has resulted in neglect for our school age clientele.

Just to continue the conversation Amy started, I think it is well worth considering where the emphasis on school-age programming went to.  I think it stretches back further than the past ten years when ECRR woke us up to the possibilities of making our storytimes and work with parents and tots more..uber.

In the late 1980s, the Public Library Association developed a list of roles for public libraries. Libraries and focus groups in a community went through a role selection process to determine the 1-3 roles that best described their service and service goals. The eight roles listed:
  • Community Activities Center
  • Community Information Center
  • Formal Education Center
  • Independent Learning Center
  • Popular materials Library
  • Preschoolers Door to Learning
  • Reference Library
  • Research Center
could be considered all-ages encompassing. But in reality, only one spoke strongly to youth concerns.  The role that a huge majority of libraries selected was Preschoolers Door to Learning. After all, we are THE library for this age group.

So libraries started strengthening and improving their service to our youngest audience. And I wonder whether this is where some of the school-age programming started to slip. There was no true role for this age group.

The roles have been replaced with newer paradigms as years have gone on but not all libraries got that message. Even here at my library as recently as the last year, a staffer cited the Preschooler Door to Learning as the reason we had to concentrate more staff hours on preschool services.

We have tried hard at the libraries I work at to serve all ages with excellent programs. Because kids are in school doesn't mean we should stop serving them during the school year.  We collaborate with the schools; present programs during school breaks and early release days; and present afterschool workshops and events on weekends. We also make sure to have a healthy dose of stealth programs running nearly year-round to involve busy school-age kids in visits to our library.

This is all much on my mind of late. I am developing a six week online course of programming and great swaths of it will deal with creating programs for school aged kids and developing programs for preschoolers beyond storytime. Much of that territory is still ripe for exploration (think unprogramming and it's impact).

I am so happy to see how strong the early literacy component of storytimes is and how powerful the voices of early literacy advocates have become in libraries around the country. The sharing of great ideas through Flannel Friday and Underground Storytime has put power into the hands of librarians.

But I'll still keep looking for those innovative school age program and service ideas from people like Amy and Abby and Bryce and ALSC and others who are pushing the service envelope to school-agers. Hope you share your great school age ideas too!

Image: 'Turn On The Bright Lightshttp://www.flickr.com/photos/49722723@N00/261265808 Found on flickrcc.net

1 comment:

  1. I found that post, and this one, inspiring. The homeschool community has voiced an interest in school age programs at my library. Great to know this area of programming is coming into the light!