Magazine article American Libraries

Children's Services - What Do They Mean to the Rest of the Profession?

Magazine article American Libraries

Children's Services - What Do They Mean to the Rest of the Profession?

Article excerpt

The challenges facing today's youth-services librarians will affect only three of your concerns: job, society, and quality of life Linda Ward Callaghan is a seasoned children's librarian who has directed services to young people at Deerfield (Ill.) Public Library for the last three years. She formerly worked with children at the Chicago Public Library for six years. Her writings include an article on reference services to children in a recent Reference Librarian.

In May 1986 she was named chair of a major new task force for approaching the future of library youth services-the Allerton Institute/ Alliance for Excellence goals task force established by ALA:s three youth divisions: the American Association of School Librarians, the Association for Library Services to Children, and the Young Adult Services Division. HERE'S SOMEthing to send shivers down your spine: the class of 2000 is now in school. that awesome benchmark of civilization--the 21st century--is just around the corner, and it will come as a shock to many that today's kindergarteners will graduate from high school as the class of 2000. Swarms of fourth graders now raiding school and public libraries for science-fair materials will already be in the work force at the turn of the century or setting out on their careers as college graduates.

Projections indicate that school enrollment figures in 1993 will have crept up to 1965 levels for K-8 students, while high school enrollment will begin rising in 1990.' Birth rates in the coming years will determine the shape of youth services in the 1990s and form the foundation of adult service needs in the 21 st century.

As I see my young friends-so proud to share what they've learned-negotiate the rite of passage into education, I reflect on the challenges youth-service personnel in school and public libraries face daily. Because the adult services sector of public, academic, and special libraries will inherit these children sooner than we can imagine, all librarians need to monitor how responses to the needs of youth today will shape the adults of tomorrow. Perhaps adult services personnel can be spared a legacy of problems. STRUGGLING with the low literacy rate in adult society, the library community knows that illiteracy breeds illiteracy. The disadvantaged reader who is also a parent is unable to aid children in reading mastery, homework assignments, or study skills. Children who struggle during the crucial first years of school can become frustrated with the task of learning, give up on their potential, and drop out of school.'

In my experience, kids who do not receive strong reinforcement of early learning skills can be lost by the end of fourth grade and on their way to behavioral problems. Many can become so frustrated that they seek those other means of self-esteem: drugs, gangs, teenage pregnancy

Arrested literacy skills and abandoned education create new members of the work force who are unskilled and difficult to employ. Some workers may find on-the-job training programs; but even as corporations and industry spend training budgets on preparing workers to function in an advanced technological environment, how will management deal with personnel who cannot read the new manuals?

Re-education on the job will also be necessary every few years as students likewise become white collar workers. Increased numbers of liberal arts graduates are working in business writing technical manuals or conducting communications classes for corporation managers who are unable to write clear memos or effective department reports. Foreign language skills have also become necessary in sales departments to increase US. trade to overseas markets. DIVORCE AND teenage pregnancy have increased the number of single parents. Even in two-parent families, more women have either chosen to pursue careers beyond marriage or been driven into the work force by economic need. …

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