Category Archives: Rants

Tracking the Conversation on Giving Credit

Last Thursday, I wrote a little post on making sure you credit the folks who have inspired your library work, or whose library work you have borrowed from. That post has spurred a substantial conversation–a great thing, if you ask me, as our profession could benefit from more critical, respectful conversation on hard topics that affect us all.

Since this particular conversation started here on the Storytime Underground, I want to set up a post that will link to all the pieces that are contributing to the conversation. I’ll keep updating this list, so if you know of a piece that should be linked, let me know in the comments.

Happy critical reading!

1. “How to Not Be An Asshole: Or, Citing Your Colleagues’ Work” by Amy Koester on the Storytime Underground (June 5) — The post that got this discussion rolling

2. “Avoiding Additional Asshat-tery” by Marge Loch-Wouters on Tiny Tips for Library Fun (June 5) — The first response, opening the discussion for considering the scaffolding inherent in library creation

3. “Further Considerations on Citing Your Colleagues, and the Detrimental Effects of ‘We'” by Amy Koester on the Storytime Underground (June 5) — My response to Marge’s response, aiming to unpack the potential damage of the “we did it together” statement

4. “I v. We” by Marge Loch-Wouters on Tiny Tips for Library Fun (June 6) — Marge’s clarification of her original point: that citing colleagues is integral, but we need to recognize that nothing is created in a vacuum

5. “School Carnival: A Library Outreach Report” by S. Bryce Kozla on Bryce Don’t Play (June 6) — At the end of her post, Bryce weighs in on the discussion, including her rationale for using Creative Commons licensing for her work and personal examples of when her work has been used both academically responsibly and not

6. “Inspiration, Citation, and Collaboration: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due” by Molly Wetta on Wrapped Up in Books (June 8) — Molly shares her personal experience with her work being used by another library without citation, finishing up with a reminder that claiming your work is not bragging, it’s part of a culture of responsible sharing

Further Considerations on Citing Your Colleagues, and the Detrimental Effects of “We”

This morning, I posted here on Storytime Underground a piece about the importance of citing your colleagues’ work, and how to make sure you always give them credit. Take a moment to read it if you haven’t yet; there’s a “10 Things I Hate About You” gif at the bottom as a reward for making it all the way through.

Now, I love discussion, so I was pleased as punch when fellow librarian and friend Marge posted a response on her own blog. Now go take a look at that one.

Marge ends her post with the question: “What do you think?” So here we go.

I would like to respond to Marge’s response from the perspective that, actually, focusing on the “we” of a collaborative team effort isn’t covering all of your bases; it’s usually not academically responsible, and it’s often detrimental to individuals and the profession–even when it’s used with the best of intentions. And I’ve got a few arguments as to why.

First, I’d like to assert that there are multiple contexts in which we all have the opportunity to share programs, successes, and accomplishments, and they all require consideration as to how to talk about these feats.

Let’s take the perspective of a department manager:

Scenario One: The manager is going out into the community to discuss the great things the library can offer. The purpose of this meeting is to give a general overview of the library’s excellence; too much detail will possibly weigh down the advocacy. Verdict: “we” is okay; the manager is conveying the sum total accomplishments of a group.

Scenario Two: The manager is going to a meeting of the library administrators or board of trustees to give a report about what’s been happening in children’s services. Verdict: “we” is NOT okay; there are key decision-makers in this type of meeting, folks who can have immediate impact over the career trajectory of individual employees, and thus should have a full understanding of the specific accomplishments of those individuals. Credit for specific projects needs to be given to the project owner.

Scenario Three: The manager has a public platform from which to share program (etc.) information–a blog, a column in a journal, a conference presentation, a keynote, a teaching opportunity–and details a specific program, or a list of specific programs. Verdict: “we” is NOT okay; when you have a public platform associated with your career, that platform is, by default, an academic medium. As such, it is subject to standards about voice of the author and crediting intellectual property holders. When you say “we” in an academic context, it is implied that you as an individual are the mind behind the statement unless that “we” is immediately followed by the names of all contributors. Saying “we” without naming specific contributors is academically dishonest.

As a rule of thumb, “we” is generally acceptable, but only when it is immediately followed by naming the contributing parties.

(image from glitters123)

(image from glitters123)

I am a huge fan of the collaboration in this profession, and I recognize that many, many excellent services are the product of a melding of many minds. But “we” doesn’t cut it, because again, the person saying “we” is going to automatically be given the credit; it’s how the English language works. It is imperative that any “we” statements are immediately specified by the names of the contributors in order to give full and equal credit for collaborations. So when Blossom says on her conference panel that “We saved the day!” she needs to immediately say: “It was a collaborative effort between Bubbles, Buttercup, and myself.” Relatedly, when Splinter tells Channel 3 reporter April O’Neil that “My team saved the city,” that means diddly squat in terms of attributing accomplishments unless those team members are explicitly named.

There are a lot of unintended potential effects of a “we” mentality, and they are damaging to the individuals who make up that we.

When you say “we,” it devalues the individual strengths, skills, and accomplishments of your team members. It can be a huge drain to staff empowerment and morale to only feel like you’re an unnamed piece of a larger machine.

When you say “we,” you’re keeping your teammates from the potential opportunities that their accomplishments might bring them. If Ms. Frizzle’s name is never attached to her ideas about transformational field trips, she will never have the chance to get tapped to author an article, present a training, or contribute to a webinar on the topic in which she has seen great success. The worst case scenario for Ms. Frizzle is that her principal gets paid to present trainings on the Friz’s Field Trip Philosophy while she never has that chance.

When you say “we,” you’re reducing your teammates’ opportunities for advancement. Every smart HR team knows to do a Google search and talk to supervisors of candidates they’re thinking of hiring, whether for in-house promotion or a whole new job. If you, the one with the platform to talk about ideas, don’t name the names of your contributors when you talk about collaborative accomplishments, those contributors are left without a paper trail to speak for their excellent work. That’s a huge detriment in a competitive workforce.

The idea that because we’re a collaborative field we need to just go with the team mentality is misleading, and potentially very, very damaging.

Our culture often teaches us to prioritize the group above the individual. In the library world, for example, when a voice speaks up about sexually aggressive behavior at conferences, the disproportionate number of white people in the profession, or the disproportionate number of white men in positions of authority, the discussion is ultimately shut down by the assertion that “We need to stick together!” But all that does is preserve the status quo.

With regard to giving individuals credit for their work, that’s akin to implying to, or outright telling, professionals that their individual professional wellbeing isn’t that important in the scheme of things so long as we’re Doing! Great! Together! Like the library profession is utopian or something, as opposed to what it is: often patriarchal, frequently dismissive of the contributions of youth services folks, and bestowing of preferential treatment upon those with the biggest platform for spouting opinions. In fact, when librarianship is unabashedly excellent, the major reason is because of those individuals who passionately share their ideas outward.

If we keep saying “we” without qualifying it, we’re not promoting ideas and progress on a large scale. If we keep saying “we” without qualifying it, nothing will change. And there’s plenty that needs to change, my friends.

Excellent librarians are responsible for great changes every day, and I want them all to get full credit for their work.


How to Not Be An Asshole: Or, Citing Your Colleagues’ Work

This here is a collaborative profession, y’all, a fact about which we at the Storytime Underground are THRILLED every day. There wouldn’t be a Storytime Underground, or a Guerrilla Storytime movement, without your willingness to talk about your ideas and successes. The stuff you all freely share–on your blogs, on Facebook, on listservs, at conferences–why, it’s inspiring. Sharing is what helps us all keep things fresh, interesting, and as beneficial as possible for the folks we serve at the library.

When you don't cite your colleagues' ideas, we're judging. Do the right thing and give credit where credit is due. (image from absolutelyluvvie)

When you don’t cite your colleagues’ ideas…yikes. Do the right thing and give credit where credit is due. (image from absolutelyluvvie)

And yet, sometimes, in the midst of all that feel-good energy that comes from the sharing for the benefit of all, we neglect to do that most responsible of librarian duties: cite our sources.

Consider this post, then, firstly as a reminder that it is important to cite your colleagues. They do great inspiring work, after all, and they absolutely, 100% deserve the credit and recognition for that work. As do you, for the work you do.

You can also consider this post a how-to for doing right by your colleagues. A how-to for giving credit where credit is due and not being as asshole, as it were.

1) When you see something on another blog (or conference presentation, or webinar) that you’d like to try, make sure you note where you got your original idea.

Keep these inspiration links in a Google Doc or on Evernote, because chances are, if you have your own blog, newsletter, etc., you’re going to want to write about your awesome iteration of the idea. Any write-up you do is incomplete–and, frankly, misleading–if you don’t include your inspiration source material. I’m not talking about etymology of a program concept here; there’s no need to trace every single step back to the original idea person. Cite where you got your inspiration, and you’re covered.

2) Your colleagues’ ideas are not your ideas.

That is to say, if you are in a position to be a mouthpiece for the excellent work happening at your library or by your colleagues–be that in a meeting, in a conference presentation, in an online course, on a blog, etc.–don’t just state your colleagues’ ideas like they’re your own. Cite them! Drop their names! Give them mad props for their badass librarian skills. Not only will you be doing the right thing, you’ll also demonstrate that you’re all about supporting the folks doing great work in the profession.

3) When you use program photos and other image content from blogs in your own blog posts or presentation slides, include the blogger’s name and a full link back to their blog.

It’s polite. It’s academically responsible. And it’s also giving your readers/attendees a direct link back to your source material. If it inspired you, it’ll probably inspire them, and you want to make sure they can get to the goods.

You’ve got some straightforward tips for being on the responsible side of citing the colleagues who influence you, but you may be wondering: what happens if you’re on the other side of the equation?

What to do if you realize your work hasn’t been cited by a colleague:

If your intellectual property isn’t being credited to you, you should be all means contact the person failing to give credit. But contact that person in private–face to face if you work directly with them, via email if you don’t. And be respectful. Sometimes a lack of credit is due to a lost link, or a hurried wrap-up to a blog post process. And while none of you fine readers will ever encounter these obstacles in your own need-to-cite-scenarios again, when they do happen, it’s usually neither personal nor intentional.

And if you’ve talked to the person, and they continue to take credit for your ideas (either explicitly or tacitly)? If you work with them, I’d seriously consider talking to your supervisor about how to proceed. It’s not being a tattletale, it’s about YOU getting appropriate credit for YOUR work. If you don’t work with them? Start a blog and write up all your awesomeness as soon as possible. Timestamps don’t lie.

It's never asshole day when you credit the colleagues who inspire you. (image from gifmethat)

It’s never asshole day when you credit the colleagues who inspire you. (image from gifmethat)

There is Something Rotten in the State of YS Professional Development

I’m seeing a worrisome trend in many youth services circles and departments. That trend is youth services practitioners routinely undervaluing and devaluing the work that they are doing. And that is a big problem.

What I’ve noticed can be summed up in one phrase: “I’m just an ordinary library staffer, I don’t have anything extraordinary to share.”

Okay, first thing first: Who has made you think that what you do is not extraordinary? Because those people are flat out WRONG.

Every day at your job, you are working to make meaningful connections between kids and literacy. You are patient in helping that reluctant reader find a book that will spark an interest and make reading not only accessible, but enjoyable. You are dedicated to finding and offering programs and activities that are both developmentally appropriate and fun while promoting all the library has to offer. You spend hours trying to find the best books for your collection and your kids, reading reviews and books at home to stay on top of new releases, and you’re not getting paid for these out-of-work efforts. You are listening to children every day and demonstrating to them that they matter. Do you know how many people do not, could not do any one of these things, let alone all of them? AND YOU DO THEM EVERY DAY. You are doing extraordinary work.

And you know what? We’re all ordinary librarians. That whole “rock star librarian” thing? It’s a fallacy! A red herring! Doesn’t exist! The only reason it seems as though there are extraordinary librarians is because sometime, somewhere, those librarians met the right people from the right library journal/blog/association and they got their names in a place that a lot of people read. That’s all it is: name recognition masquerading as absolute fame. Those librarians are not doing anything more extraordinary than you are. What they are doing is serving their unique communities. Every community is unique, so of course you will read about librarians who are doing different things than what you are doing. But “different” does not equal “extraordinary,” and it doesn’t rank one librarian above others.

Because the thing is, if you are doing this job, you have something worth sharing with your YS colleagues. You have your expertise honed from your experience doing your job. You have perspective that can help colleagues think about what they are doing in new, inspiring ways. You have your bag of tricks for what works in different library situations. And you know what? Your colleagues want to know these things.

How do I know? I’ll start with a personal anecdote: some of the most impactful professional development for me personally has been learning from my colleagues across North America. Some of that PD has taken the form of formal conference sessions and webinars, but formal programs don’t hold sole rights to quality professional development. I’ve also found informal sharing sessions to be incredibly valuable from a PD standpoint, as they allow me to have give-and-take, evolving conversations with other librarians who are doing my job, or something similar to it. Think Guerrilla Storytimes, participatory Conversation Starters, the unconference model. I have several times found that these informal sharing sessions are much more fruitful than top-down lecture-style presentations from “experts” or “rock star librarians.” It’s like when at trainings, your greatest take-aways come from conversations with other librarians over lunch as opposed to the formal program agenda.

And I’ve noticed that many of my colleagues have expressed a similar experience–that some of their greatest professional learning has come from basic sharing scenarios where everyone can contribute. Yet I have encountered many a librarian who is reluctant to share in these contexts because they aren’t “doing anything particularly special.” Maybe it’s a facet of the imposter syndrome? I don’t know, but I do know that it is bad. It is bad because it is you telling yourself that what you’re doing isn’t really important, or relevant to the profession.

Now I will say, this hesitance to share, the feeling like you don’t have anything to share, is by no means universal (think library bloggers, and basically all the Flannel Friday and Storytime Underground and other folks who are actively “out there” and sharing). But I do see it and hear it an awful lot, and oftentimes from people who I KNOW are doing really cool things that I and my colleagues would love to learn about. I hear it way too often for it to merely be attributed to shyness or discomfort with sharing in groups.

I hate it when youth services librarians sell themselves short, and it happens all the fracking time. That is what is happening when youth services practitioners don’t share because they don’t think what they have to say will matter or be of interest. That’s a HUGE institutional problem when professionals don’t think that their work has importance.

I really, truly want every single youth services library staffer to share. It should absolutely happen in a way they feel comfortable. It could be a conference presentation, it could be an idea-sharing conversation, it could be a staff meeting, it could be during the stretch break at a formal training, it could be a Facebook thread, it could be a listserv. Whatever the forum, whatever the topic, all youth services folks need to share. We all need to share so we can all learn from one another to do even more of the extraordinary work that each and every one of us do every day: serving children and their families.

And we also need to encourage one another to share whatever it is we’ve got to say. This rotten state of YS professional development is ultimately caused by an institutional problem: by YS work being ranked as less expert, less important, less worthy than other library work. We YS folks need to encourage one another to share because we can learn from one another, yes, but in the process we can also change this culture of devaluing YS work. This culture could be because of sexist thinking that youth services work is women’s work and thus inherently lesser. It may be because of administrators who don’t actually understand what happens in storytime who make use feel like storytime isn’t actually that important, not really. It may be because of board members who don’t see youth as “real” library users because they don’t pay taxes. It may be because of colleagues in other departments who think that because many of the children we serve cannot articulate their wants and needs in the ways adults can, then their wants and needs aren’t a priority and so YS is kind of just babysitting, right? It is absolute bullshit reasoning, all of it, but it has existed for so long and is so pervasive and entrenched that WE have soaked it in. It’s not that we agree with these arguments, per se, but they’ve left a lasting, silencing impression on us.

What you have to share about the work you do absolutely has value, and your colleagues want to hear it as much as you want to hear from them. Don’t sell yourself and your great work short.

Let’s get rid of this toxic, rotten thing that’s stinking up and stunting YS professional development.

It’s Not Just Sexism

I’ve been reading a lot of great blog posts on privilege in librarianship, like this one by Cecily Walker and this one by Nina de Jesus. I mentioned to Cecily that I had been ruminating on a blog post about the ways in which children’s librarianship is discriminated against within the profession, and she encouraged me to do so.

And then I thought, a lot, about how I want to see more posts about what we as youth services librarians are, or are not, doing to make the profession more diverse but also to make storytime more inclusive. I thought about questions of, are our storytime demographics much whiter than those of our neighborhoods? Why? Do the ways in which we structure storytime privilege a Western, white experience and make other families feel uncomfortable or unwelcome? I want answers to those questions, and I want to see those posts (And host them! Do you want to write that post as a guest blog here? Let us know!!) but I don’t really think I’m the person to write them. So that’s not this post. This is YET ANOTHER post about why no one but us pays attention to us, because, you know, that’s kind of what this blog is about. How y’all are doing amazing work and we want more people to pay attention.

I don’t even have any solid evidence, really, that the reasons we as youth services librarians get, well, I really hate to use the word ghettoized, but whatever the cushy white version of that is: Suburbanized? have to do with sexism, but also racism and classism. I just have this nagging feeling about it.

Here’s the deal: I’m sure it’s sexism. I mean. I know sexism when I see it, folks, and boy howdy do we have it in spades when it comes to who we do and don’t talk about in librarianship. Working with children is traditionally seen as “women’s work” and as such gets undervalued at a deeply ingrained and institutionalized level. I feel like that’s pretty well covered. But I don’t think it’s just sexism. And the reason I started thinking that is Maker Spaces.

Stop. I think 3D printers are as cool as you do. They make tiny plastic TARDISes. TARDII? I think there are a lot of people championing Maker Spaces specifically because it will help bring STEM skills to patrons who would not otherwise be able to access those kinds of equipment, due to lack of funds or just lack of exposure. And I’m for that. I loooooove providing access and opportunities for skill building.


There’s something about the whole phenomenon that reeks of coded speak to me. It’s like there’s a tiny beacon that goes off when I read about Maker Spaces that says, this is to encourage a different kind of user. . .and that kind of user is white and middle class. The kind of person who has enough extra time on their hands to get into niche hobbies, and also might want a tiny plastic TARDIS (look I know not only white people are into Doctor Who, but show me the fandom demographics. I suspect it’s a heavy skew. When was the last time a black person was even on Doctor Who? (PS, THANKS MOFFAT God I hate you bring back Martha Jones)).

So, assuming I’m not seeing racism and classism where it’s not, if the kind of innovative programming that the library world is interested in lauding is the kind that brings in middle class white dudes, well, Children’s Librarians are screwed. I mean, actually, I have a lot of middle class white dads come to storytime, because they can take Tuesday mornings off, and I welcome them, but a) ideologically, they’re not really our core concern and b) I’m not sure anyone outside of storytime knows that dads come to storytime.

I do NOT want to make it seem like we are anybody’s white knight, or want to be. Hell, I’m a terrible horseback rider. I’m not saying there’s no racism, classism or sexism in children’s librarianship, intentional or otherwise. I see listserv posts complaining about poor grammar or “weird” names. I SEE YOU (kidding. We all bring privilege to judgments sometimes and have to step back and check it). We all have work to do. I’m not saying librarianship as a whole is not about inclusion. I applaud the adult services librarians providing free ESL classes, building showers for their homeless patrons rather than kicking them out, and hiring psychologists and nurses for their staffs. I don’t think we have a lock on inclusive services designed to provide access to information or learning experiences specifically to the poor, the non-white, the underserved or underprivileged.

That said, I do feel like the core of youth services is specifically designing spaces, collections and services that welcome and provide access and learning opportunities for people who can’t or don’t know how to find literacy information. To people who are institutionally, systemically left out of learning environments, whose cultural values or experiences are at odds with the structure of those learning environments, who are everywhere being asked to assimilate rather than having their experiences honored–but are being held back, actively, from acquiring the tools to assimilate even if they should choose to.

There are more examples of this than I can cite.

Youth Services Librarians are like, you’ve never seen an iPad and you’re worried your kid is going to be way behind her peers when it comes to tech? We have iPads to check out with curated apps for learning!

Youth Services Librarians are like, you don’t speak English? I’ll get an interpreter to do storytime in Chinese! (Real thing Angie Manfredi really does in her library)

Youth Services Librarians are like, you heard that reading out loud with your child will make them better at school, but you are intimidated because you’re not a strong reader? That’s amazing, let’s find the right books.

Youth Services Librarians are like, you can’t come to storytime during the day because you work two jobs? Let’s stay open later and have storytime at night!

In a world that is afraid of young men of color to the point that it can be fatal just to be one, Youth Services Librarians actively try to bring them in, listen to them, give them tools to tell their stories and speak out and do whatever they want with their lives. Not because we’re white knights but because as a core of our professional ethics we believe in the power of young people to succeed given whatever tools they need–not the tools we think they need. The tools they tell us they need.

Most of that is just good librarianship. It’s stuff I learned in libschool that I was supposed to do to be good at my career. But it’s, you know, a bunch of women (or worse! men doing women’s work!) listening to a bunch of poor brown folks, so, we just put it in the corner and don’t talk about it.

We have all these cool toys that are going to attract a new kind of library patron. The right kind. You know who I mean.

Privilege, Intention and Impostor Syndrome

I know, this is where the Coolest Thing post goes. Here’s the deal. . .I have a dance recital this week, and have been in practices A LOT and have not read ANYTHING on the internet this week. So, if you posted something or read something that you feel sure belongs in a Coolest Thing post, please email/comment/tweet/FB me and let me know, and it will go in next week’s.

Last week I mentioned that I don’t like the word intention when it comes to storytime, but I loved Sara’s use of deliberate. A couple of people said they’d like to hear about why I feel that way. You needn’t ask me twice to share my opinion!

Part of why I dislike the word “intention” goes back to The Secret. The idea that you manifest the intention you set for yourself seems to me to be one so steeped in privilege it’s unsupportable by those of us who serve the underserved. My patron base is made up primarily of people who have been the victims of systemic, institutionalized racism for hundreds of years, and whose lives are still being affected by it daily. I’m talking 3rd world poverty conditions, no electricity or running water in homes, very young kids without their teeth because of lack of nutrition and access to dental care. Those parents, who bring those kids in to my library? They didn’t manifest abject poverty for themselves and their beloved children. That’s not the intention they set. And, no amount of intentioning out of it will change the nutritional, educational, economic or institutional roadblocks they face daily. So, already, I’m not into the intention thing. I think it carries a lot of “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” weight that makes me very uncomfortable both personally and in terms of our professional ethics.

I’m also not into the idea of living with intention, for the same reason that I think it’s all privilege, all the time.  This is maybe not fair. Merriam-Webster says intention is:  the thing that you plan to do or achieve : an aim or purpose.  Leaving aside the cultural baggage (as if) that comes along with how the word is actually used currently, which conjures ghosts of white women in Whole Foods after their yoga class talking about Living With Intention (I know. I’m a white woman. I do yoga. If I lived within 100 miles of a while Foods I would totally shop there. I’m able to own that I’m part of that privileged class while hopefully also acknowledging that that’s what it is). So, just the non-baggage-ridden definition, then. In terms of, let’s say, librarianing (I’m making everything a verb today! Verbs all around!) with intention, let’s look at that. It’s smart to have a career plan. It’s smart to have a bigger idea of where you’re going with storytime, whether it’s changing demographics, upping attendance, getting better parent feedback, etc. But this all takes quite a bit of time, and space, and support. Some of us have amazing management/staff/boards/communities that support us continuing to innovate constantly, putting a lot of work time into planning storytimes from the brain development research down to the flannel making. Some of us have down time at home to do those things, or find doing them really spiritually/emotionally/professionally fulfilling so we make those our down time. Some of us are working part time trying to cover three unfilled positions, or working at Starbucks after hours because our fulltime library gig doesn’t make ends meet, or going to library school full time while working full time, or are trying to set up a nursery for a second baby while also parenting a toddler, or building a life partnership with a new love, or are chronically ill and only have the spoons we give at work and no more to devote to storytime, or are so burnt out from our 40 hours that doing anything at home would negatively affect our interaction with kids when we get back to work so instead we knit/bingewatch Supernatural/write fanfic/obsess about the Red Wings’ chances this year/play fantasy football/dance with swords on our heads. Some of us are so busy with state association or committee stuff that we’re like, yo, no flannels at home. Some are wearing so many hats at work that storytime gets exactly 20 minutes of planning and THAT IS ALL. Each and every one of these is a valid thing to be.

This brings me to Impostor Syndrome (you thought I forgotten about it, didn’t you?) which seems to be coming up a lot in my corner of the internet. All kinds of amazing youth services librarians feeling like they’re not doing “enough.” Enough innovating, enough NEW, enough shiny. Our own Master Splinter, Mel, feeling guilty that she’s not doing enough internet stuff because she’s doing too much local stuff (like starting A NEW BOOK AWARD). This is caused by a bunch of factors, I think.

1) Val talked about us all feeling like we need to be A Name, which is partly just a professional zeitgeist but also for real, leaving aside all of the crap about jealousy and being famous in Bulgaria, friends, being a known name has a real-world impact. The world is full of amazing youth services librarians. the SU Facebook group alone has 468 members as of this writing. That’s a fraction of the Storytime Guerrillas out there in libraries across the country. If every time you apply for a job, 10 or even 5 librarians of the caliber of our Ninjas applies as well, you need to have something to set you apart. Having a Name in this profession is a way to ensure that you might get a job in a town you like, with a boss you like, doing work you love and making enough to buy bread. That’s pretty huge.

2) There are strong and valid reasons to work hard to get known. There is also, amongst children’s librarians, the impulse to show HOW AWESOME WE ARE because NO ONE SEEMS TO BE PAYING ATTENTION (hell, we have a whole blog for that),

3) and of course there is the — “This is my vocation, I am in a lot of debt for the degree, I am super passionate about it and I am going to be SO AMAZING OMG LOOK AT WHAT THEY’RE DOING AT HENNEPIN I NEED TO DO THAT DAMN YOU PINTEREST” — impulse. We all respect the hell out of each other, and we want to be as good as everyone else. We should be reading books on early childhood development and learning a new song a week and expanding into shadow puppets/cut+tell/draw+tell/iPad apps/whatever we don’t already do.

And look, obviously I’m into all of the above. We have an SU book club (sort of)! We think shadow puppets are the coolest! New skills are always better than stagnating! But. . .I think there’s a correlation between this idea that we need to Librarian (verb) with Intention and impostor syndrome. We all feel like we should be intentioning harder. Here’s where Deliberate comes in.

Whether you have tons of time or very little for storytime planning, you’re a professional, and you’re trained, and you choose every element of storytime deliberately. Does this song have repetition, and rhyme, and new vocabulary, and teach counting and body awareness and exercise fine motor skills? It is also fun? GREAT. Is this book too long/the joke too sophisticated/the illustrations too small for a crowd? You know. You know what you’re doing. You choose every element with professional deliberation, because you’re great at your job. No seriously. You’re reading a storytime blog, probably at home in your spare time. You want to be a better educator. You’re great at your job. If you want to/love to/feel better about/have time for setting an intention for storytime, I love it. I want you to. Thank God for you. The profession and your patrons thank you. But if you don’t? You’re not an impostor!!! You have less time for planning or you choose to do different things with your off work time or your administration isn’t as supportive or you have an infant and are living on caffeine and prayers or whatever. You are still beloved by 3 year olds. You are still teaching a parent how to help their child learn to read. You are still a force for social justice and glitter and great books in your community. Be deliberate. Know how and why you do what you do. If possible, have an aim, and a goal, and a larger purpose towards which you are working in your personal career or as part of your library’s goals. But, if where you’re at on your personal Maslow’s hierarchy, for any reason, is “do my personal best to put on fun storytime that teaches stuff” then the people who pay the taxes that pay your salary are still going to be really damned grateful to you for rocking your shit.

And I am grateful to you for rocking your shit.


Like you, Dolly Parton rocks her shit hard (in a bedazzled sweater, no less) and contributes in a world-changing way to early childhood literacy efforts. Basically, you’re just like Dolly.


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