Here’s my first entry on some of the things I am coming to realize that I believe in as a children’s librarian/supervisor.
I think it’s an absolute necessity for children’s librarians to read. Five years ago, it would never have crossed my mind to articulate that thought, but now we all have so many things competing for our time and attention that I suspect we all are reading a bit less than we were. A lot more of our work time is spent on programming at many libraries, and many of us have experienced the big bump you get in activity when your library finishes a building or remodeling project. There just isn’t the time on the desk that there used to be for reading.
I’ll take it a step further: I believe you have to do some of the reading at home. As a supervisor, I can’t tell my staff they have to do that. They’re being paid for 37.5 hours of their time, and how they spend their time when they aren’t at work however they like. And yet, I don’t believe you can be an excellent youth services librarian without reading when you’re away from work. I feel like even with my reviewing work and trying to keep on top of the books that are getting a lot of attention, I still barely scrape the surface of the great children’s books out there. That’s putting aside books written for adults almost completely!
But everything in youth services goes back to the books, and if it doesn’t, you aren’t doing it right. People doing storytimes need to be constantly refreshing their books so they read them enthusiastically; people out in the schools can’t just booktalk what they read in library school; librarians out on the desk may be asked their opinions of the award winners as they come out, and people will think the less of them if they haven’t even heard of the books, as we found out last year when the Newbery Committee picked books we had never heard of. You need to be able to offer Readers’ Advisory based on more than lexile numbers, and you need to sometimes be able to say to a child as you’re off to get the book they’ve asked for, “I’ve read that–it’s a great book!”
So that’s the second thing I believe about being a Children’s Librarian: You have to read children’s books.