not just cute

I recently found an excellent early childhood education blog titled Not Just Cute. The author, Amanda, has some incredible credentials, and her passion and dedication to early learning experiences shines through in her writing.

Whenever I have the opportunity, I encourage children’s librarians to work with and learn from early childhood educators. In my opinion, Library School programs need to offer more child development courses for students hoping to serve children and teens. The more you know about the population you hope to serve, the better your service is going to be.

I have an incredible loathing for cutesy crafts that have little or no value–you know the ones, the foam monstrosities that you can buy from Oriental Trading and other such suppliers. These crafts end up looking “cute”, but mostly they are either too simple or too difficult to put together, especially for preschoolers, and the parents or librarians end up doing most of the work. Yeah, sure, many parents love the end result, but all they’ve really gotten is a cute piece of crap that’s going to maybe spend some time on the fridge and eventually get thrown in the garbage.

Yet how can you plan crafts and programs that are developmentally appropriate and provide real value for children if you have little to no knowledge about child development? You can’t, not really.

If you’re still in library school and you want to be a children’s librarian, try to take some courses in child development. Not only will this make you a better librarian, it will make you stand out in a crowd of other job seekers with the exact same degree that you yourself have.

If you’re already employed, take advantage of excellent blogs like Not Just Cute and try out some of the excellent, developmentally appropriate activities she’s put together for you.

But you don’t have to take my word for it! Check out zero to three to learn more about how important quality, enriching early experiences are for children.

Old Spice, Libraries, and Marketing.

Have you read Andy’s summation of the Great Old Spice Library Twitter Adventure of Aught Ten? Read it, and then come back here; as soon as I read his post script, my mind immediately made a couple of substitutions that I think are interesting:

As for the product itself, I have used [libraries] before these ads came out and I’ll use it again in the future. For me, the [library] reminds me of my grandfather; he used to [take me there] and it’s one of the strongest sensory memories of him that I have. I started to [go to the library again] after he passed away because it was comforting. My reasons for using [the library] go a long way beyond social media, marketing people, and the viral videos that have been produced. I connect with the brand and the product at a deeper, more sentimental level. There is no ad campaign in the world that can replicate that. –Andy

That’s the kind of branding and brand loyalty that libraries need, and I think a lot of them have. What I don’t think we have is someone like the Old Spice guy who is bringing a fresh new awareness to a product/institution that has been around forever. There will always be library loyalists, but where is the fresh excitement from the public?

we don’t need you, either.

The Summer Reading program. It is the event  that youth librarians spend almost their entire year either preparing for or recovering from. Children and parents descend, en masse, worked up into a froth of excitement from the promotional tour–books were booktalked, prizes were displayed and demonstrated, and the joy and pleasure of the program were hyped to the extreme.

Summer Reading, in my opinion, should be about the joy of reading, with the bonus of getting tacky plastic crap in return. I hope most libraries also give away books; in most programs I’ve worked in, that is the final prize. I also see Summer Reading as a time for kids to experience the freedom to read what they want. No AR tests, no quizzes, just–read. Enjoy a story, or a set of facts, or a recipe. Listen to an audiobook, or idly flip through a magazine. Read a video-game guide while you play your current favorite game (and people who think gamers don’t read, have you seen the super-thick game guides that are out there? Lots of text, and pretty complex directions to follow as well. So, shut it, people who claim video games are anti-literate; between the guides and the story inherent in most games, gamers are incredibly literate.)

I’ve recently heard a sad tale of a library that restricts teens to reading only YA titles for their summer reading. That sounds so nonthreatening, right? But it isn’t. It’s step one down the slippery slope of restricting access to materials. What if a teen doesn’t want to read YA books, and prefers adult books? Stephen King and Dean Koontz are popular with teens, as is Jodi Picoult and Nicholas Sparks and his LOVE stories (don’t call them romances). Tough sh*t, guys; you’re gonna read what the librarian tells you to read. And don’t forget, when adding up your totals, 2+2=5.

This library also denies teens the ability to check out movies based on rating. Even a 17 year old, who could see an R rated movie in the theater, can’t check out an R rated film from the library, because if you’re 17, you have a card that is color coded to indicate that your access is restricted.

This, my dear friends, is censorship. It is acting in loco parentis, which is frankly not the librarian’s job.

I hate these policies, and all too often teens are the ones suffering the most. Why can’t teenagers get a break?

Thinking about this stuff just makes me feel so sad and tired. Does anyone have any stories about awesome libraries that go out of their way to defend the rights of minors to access information?