Sesame Street has been a treasured icon of children educational programming. For over forty years children have enjoyed wonderful characters such as Cookie Monster, Kermit and of course,the loveable Big Bird. Over the years the radical concept of this program aimed to help children learn the basics, such as the alphabet, by watching television. A novel concept back in the 1960's. It was and still is a wonderful idea, and it has lived up to its goal of preparing children to get a "jump" into preschool. There are several reasons for the success of this iconic program. After all to appeal to audiences year after year for over forty years is a big deal and accomplishment. What can children's library program learn from the Seasame Street success? How can Sesame Street longevity be incorporated into the library setting? The answer to these questions are simple and attainable.
Everyone knows who lives on Sesame Street. It is the ideal neighborhood where everyone gets along, watches out for each other and most importantly helps each other when there's a "problem" It must be comforting to children to see the puppets interact with each other and adults when trying to "figure" out the problem. The children's room should become that comfortable place where children can play, read and interact with each other freely. For discovering the solutions to homework or questions, the children would know that without a doubt asking the "adult" in the room for help, who just happens to be the knowledgeable, friendly and helpful librarian. There should always be sunny days in the children room, just as it is on Sesame Street. Are the children who come to your library know the names of the librarian? Is there an outreach to the neighborhood families to visit the library often?
Sesame Street is also not static. New puppets come along. Every week there are new visitors who stop by and say hi. Along with the traditional core lessons such as the ABC, new ideas and lessons are introduced to keep the program fresh. Take a hard look at your children's programming. Think about how long a "favorite" program has been running in the library. Should the storytime program be revamped? Should a new program be introduced? Should an invitation be sent to "celebrity" visitors to add some excitement to the Youth Services Area.
Never overlook the power of caregiver's in a child's life. Sesame Street began by proving to parents, grandparents, educators and babysitters that their program had a lot to offer children in the formative years. Once the adults were "hooked" it took little time for the tots to become lifelong fans of the show. How many parents do you know that still can sing "I love Trash"? At a best guess, there are very few parents today who did not grow up with Sesame Street. Even if they lived in another country, they are still able to recognize Bert and Ernie, along with all the other regulars. Children's librarian are in the unique position to capture the attention of caregivers and entertain the youngsters. If the caregivers love what they see in their library, then chances are the children are being entertained. If the children grow to love the library, the programs and reading, chances are very good that they will become lifelong library supporters. Sesame Street found their residual audience. Libraries should be doing the same.
Last but not least, it has never occurred to Sesame Street that they would become obsolete or irrelevant in their viewers' eyes. Instead they have carried on the tradition of the program, all the while, looking for other outlets to spread their message of early learning and literacy. Libraries are constantly listening to the "experts" who say that the industry is doomed and the need for libraries is fading. As professionals in the field, we know that this is not even close to the truth. However, looking at trade magazine, a young librarian might get the idea that the library is a dead end job. Wrong! When was the last time your library investigated new ways of funding a program? When was the last time you thought creatively about getting the library's message out? It's time that libraries stop allowing experts opinions define who librarians are and what libraries can do for the community.
Sesame Street the friendliest place on earth where children are encouraged to learn, read and grow. Funny, those very same words should be applied to libraries. Don't you think so?