It DOES Make a Difference

Julie over at Hi Miss Julie just wrote another in her long line of thought-provoking posts - this time on the question of self-worth for youth librarians.  Being valued for our work is something we all need. Our youth library community embraces us in so many ways.  The youth we work with and their families do to. But how can we help each other boost our support and recognition in the larger community of other types of librarians. Julie encourages us to make sure youth librarians are nominated for awards and recognition. I couldn't agree more.

Time for a story....

Three years ago, I was honored as the Wisconsin Librarian of the Year. Two long-time colleagues in WLA/ALSC youth work had put together the nomination and tag-teamed to call me with the great news. It happened out of the blue and was the most pleasant shock of my life.

Part of the surprise? It is an award that seldom goes to youth folks.  In my decades in the association, I can recall only three other youth librarians receiving the award. Most awardees were directors and/or just about to retire or leave the profession.

I have always been a working grunt of a front-line librarian. Big believer in service to my community; service to the profession and service to my colleagues. I believe in learning and sharing every single day I go to work. Inventing and creating great service - and supporting those who do the same - is what I live for. I do it because...well, isn't that just what we all do?

So I was truly honored and humbled. I was also blown away by the appreciation I felt from colleagues who were so excited not just for me but that a youth librarian had received the award. It was like a giant celebration and recognition of all our youth services tribe.

This award changed the equation of my professional life in significant and subtle ways. While I had done a workshop or presentation here and there, suddenly, the requests started pouring in. Colleagues in other disciplines in the profession started seeking me out to serve on committees, ask my opinion, teach and work collaboratively. I ran for a statewide non-youth library position and won against a library director (doh!). I was seen as a "library leader."

What's funny is that I didn't feel any stronger, smarter or mightier after the award. I'm pretty much the same person/librarian I've always been (still just as opinionated and prone to mistakes and mis-steps). The award didn't change me.

But it did make a huge difference in the eyes of colleagues - especially librarian colleagues in other disciplines. They learned to listen to and respect a youth librarian! I think it empowered youth colleagues around the state to step up and take on leadership roles locally and state-wide.

It has motivated me to work even harder to support my youth colleagues in taking those steps to leadership. I routinely nominate or support nominations of youth colleagues for awards. I want everyone to experience the recognition they deserve for their daily hard work in our field.

So please, do as Julie says. Boost your youth colleagues and shine a light on them. You'll be glad you did. Not just for you, but for our whole youth services tribe.

Graphic courtesy of Pixabay


  1. Marge, the rarity of a youth services person winning state-wide recognition is exactly the reason I ran for (and was elected) president of our state organization. I really wanted it to be a youth services person, and a woman, and if it had to be me, I was willing to do the work. Congratulations on your well-earned accomplishment, and thanks for the reminder that we can choose our own luminaries.

    1. Yes! Exactly. Our friend and colleague, youth consultant Rhonda Kasemodel Gould ran for and won our association presidency and was a strong, articulate (and fun) leader. Her example also galvanized our youth librarians to think in terms of leadership -and other librarians to gain more respect for the youth folks!

  2. Awesome story, Marge! One of my ambitions is to raise the profile of youth services librarians to OTHER librarians. So glad that so many of us have the same goal.