Dear Parents, Love, Your Librarians
What Tulsa City-County Library children’s librarians want parents to know
Don’t you love those online lists where nurses or waiters or veterinarians tell you “What we wish our patients/customers/users knew”? It’s a behind-the-scenes look into their secret worlds – or, at the very least, how they view their professions and the people (or animals!) they work with.
That prompted me to write something similar, as a representative of children’s librarians and children’s library staff at the Tulsa City-County Library. Here are 10 things we wish parents knew about us and what we do!
1. We love your children.
This is an obvious one (I hope), but absolutely central to what we do and who we are. Of course, you love your children more than anyone else in the world, but did you know that your Tulsa City-County Library children’s librarians and library staff are not far behind?
We get giddy when we see your kids come in the door, when we help them find books, when we sing songs with them in storytime and talk about the characters in Thomas the Tank Engine (for preschoolers) or Star Wars (school-aged children and above!).
Your children are miracles, and we are honored when you bring them to the library to experience the joy of reading and learning.
2.…even when they are crying, naughty, angry, or shy, (in other words, when they are human).
We all have bad days! It’s OK if your child cries, or knocks over books, hides behind your back, or has a meltdown for any reason in the library – we completely understand, and we love them even more for showing their humanity. When that happens, we try to be gentle and kind, and we will greet your child with the same enthusiasm the next time they are in the library, no matter what happened the last time.
Please don’t ever be embarrassed or concerned when your little angel is temporarily acting the opposite in the library. We know their true nature, and we want you to return to the library again and again!
3. You’re doing a great job!
You know that we love your children, but we’re also quite fond of YOU! Parents today have an enormously difficult job, and we both notice and admire the patience, good humor and attention you show when you come to the library with your children. First, you brought them to the library, which makes us want to shower you in medals and confetti. But also, I can’t tell you how many times I have just been in awe of parents and how you again and again demonstrate your love for your kids. It’s inspiring!
4. Yes, we have fun, but we’re also professionals who are constantly learning about child development and more to help you.
This is a difficult thing to explain when it looks like our jobs are nonstop fun and delight, because we DO have a lot of fun! Being a children’s librarian and children’s staff person is one of the best jobs in the entire world – and the Tulsa City-County Library makes it even more amazing because of the support we receive from our administration and communities.
But it’s not without hard work, too. To be a children’s librarian, you must have both an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in Library Science. (Other children’s staff are required to have a bachelor’s degree and professional experience with children.) But we don’t stop there. We love to keep learning and growing as professionals, attending webinars and continuing education classes, reading professional journals and books, and adding to our knowledge and skills.
Child development, literacy techniques, speech pathology theories, brain research – if it’s even close to being in the realm of children and literacy, we are first in line to learn more. In fact, I know of at least two children’s library staff members who decided to take a class in puppetry on their own time “just because” – while several have learned the ukulele to make storytimes even more fun. (We can also give you chapter and verse why music is a great way to connect the left hemisphere to the right hemisphere of your children’s growing brains and help them get ready for reading!)
5. We do lots of other things in the library (ebooks, anyone?), but your kids are still at the center of it all.
While our positions are officially in children’s services, we also are on the front lines of everyday library work. We connect people to all of the library’s resources – including electronic ones like ebooks and digital audiobooks on about a million different ereaders and apps – while keeping our shelves tidy and up to date, our displays on point, and computers available for use. We visit schools to help support school librarians and teachers, we create book lists (not just for kids) and we make personalized reading guides for adults.
But of course, it’s our children’s duties that mean the most!
6. We are evangelists for reading – for everyone!
It’s probably not surprising (I mean: libraries = books), but it should be said that we love books and reading, and we are constantly talking about the benefits of reading for people of all ages. Did you know that readers volunteer more, are physically healthier, and participate in elections more frequently? While there’s not a scientific causal connection, a pretty firm case can be made that the more you read, the happier you are.
7. We want you to use us more!
Please, please, please ask us to help you and your children! We love answering questions. We love going down research rabbit holes and sharing awesome new authors and books. Do you want to give us a gift? Simply ask us to help your kid do research for a biography project or find other books that are as good as the Magic Tree House series or Babymouse. Nothing makes us happier because we are here to serve you and your family!
8. Please tell us what you need and how we can do better.
You won’t hurt our feelings if you tell us you think it would be good for your child if we had a program about insects or dinosaurs. Tell us if the graphic novel section for kids is in an inconvenient place or our storytime dates don’t work for your family. We want to know! We may not be able to deal with it right away, but we can’t get better if we don’t know what’s not working and what we could be doing differently for your family’s benefit.
9. We love your pictures and stories!
I feel fortunate to be on the holiday card list of several of my former storytime families, and I just adore it when a parent tells me about their child’s adventures in school and beyond. When you share pictures and stories, we are not bored or inconvenienced – we LOVE it! More! More!
Lydia (R) was so inspired by Laura Raphael’s Storytimes that she “wrote” her own story by telling it to her mother, who wrote it down.
10. Did I mention we love your kids?
It all comes back full circle to this. Helping your children – knowing them – watching them grow – gives your Tulsa City-County Library children’s librarians and library staff meaning, purpose, and joy.
Thank you for sharing your gifts with us.
Laura Raphael, MLIS, is the Children’s Services Coordinator at the Tulsa City-County Library (TCCL) with more than 20 years’ public library experience.