Youth Librarian as Guide and Sister?

I appreciated this recent reflection on "parenting like a librarian" from Michelle Woo, writing for Lifehacker. In the article she references the work of John Holt, unschooling pioneer, and his belief that parents need to "get out the way" and allow kids to discover.  Woo then compares that advice to how we in the library world do just that: offer diverse choices; don't dictate what to read; take part in the cultural conversation; and help people follow their interests.

Pixabay Image

This dovetails with something I share with grad students in my classes when we examine history and current practice in youth librarianship.

"Precepts and Practices" by Christine Jenkins published in the September/October 1999 issue of Hornbook has a much quoted set of  beliefs or central concepts in children's librarianship  that are part of our history as well as very present in our current librarianship. One of the seven beliefs she explicates is the the belief that children's librarians have "a friendly and unsentimental older sister's attitude towards children."

This particular description is one that often elicits the most discussion and controversy from students. (sometimes I wonder whether its because students might have fraught sibling relationships). So as I teach, I have given alot of thought to this. I think part of this belief description is turning away from the concept of youth librarians as motherly or grandmotherly; away from the concept of youth librarians as bosses; away from the concept of youth librarians as teachers.

Rather, the description enfolds the best of what an older sibling can provide: pathfinding guidance; experience; and support. Woo's article comes at this in much the same way and really speaks to me about how we approach our work with people of any age that use the library.

I like it!

1 comment:

  1. I also read the Lifehacker article, and appreciated it very much. I had never thought of us as older siblings. That will take some thinking about!