Friday, September 2, 2011

Fearless, Flexible and Focused : Qualities of a Children's Librarian

Ah, the wonderful, crazy and often unpredictable world of a children's librarian is never dull. The only workplace where anything can happen from spontaneous giggling fits over a computer screen to clean up down the picture book isle and everything in between. Seriously, there is never a dull moment. However, if searching for the ultimate dull job, try a night security guard at the graveyard. it's lonely and quite and no one every wants excitement there. Think becoming a children's libraries is a good idea? The best librarians in Youth Services department have these three special "qualities": Fearless, Flexible and Focused. Without these qualities, it's better to apply for the "safe" jobs then to interact with young children at the library.
Why does it help to be Fearless? For so many reasons that it is hard to count. For the sake of time, the best scenario to illustrate this point is hosting a program where a naturalist nutritionist prepares snakes with bugs as it the main ingredients. Dare the patron to eat just one, and see how many will take up the challenge. Be prepared to be tested by the youngsters and try a bug or two. Yum! (Not!)
On a more practical side to being fearless is the willingness to go out on a limb with an idea and a hope that it will inspire youngsters to keep reading and returning to the library. Will the program or idea work? As the old saying goes: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Flexible is a term to describe the ability to bend or move in any direction without too much effort or pain. children's library programs can be fun to plan but nerve racking if a librarian expects everything to run perfectly and according to a planned script. A cancelled performer due to sickness, Three Stoodges marathon delayed due to technical difficulty, or tye-dye shirt design gone amuck. (Actually gone on the floor - YIKES!) All in the name of a providing a safe haven for children to be entertained.
On the practical side of being flexible is that a librarian is humbly reminded that sometimes life does not go according to plans. Not only that, children can be a lot more forgiving and blind to mistakes than adults. As long as they are having fun, the program was perfect enough for them.
Focused sounds boring, stuffy and rigid. It's not. It simply implies that children's librarians must be keenly aware of their patrons, needs, wants and likes. What's hot, what's not and what's cool or what's lame. That's just talking about the preschoolers, the tweens and the teens. Included with this group of demanding patrons are the parents who are looking for guidance in early literacy and grandparents who have their grandchildren visiting for the weekend.
The practical side to being focused is never losing site of who the customer is and always looking for opportunities to learn and grow with the "kids". It is one of the few profession that pulls together, learning, fun and never growing old. A wise person once wrote, "As long as the brain is able to continue to discover new ideas and learn new tricks, one will never grow old." Who said this? A children's librarian in Michigan who loves her chosen field.
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