Theorie on the Disappearance of Children's Librarians

By Manley, Will | American Libraries, March 1998 | Go to article overview

Theorie on the Disappearance of Children's Librarians


Manley, Will, American Libraries


One of the issues that all library managers must face is the problem of staff turnover. It's inevitable. Whether it's because of retirement, resignation, termination, promotion, sickness, death, or winning the lottery, library employees do vacate their positions from time to time. Staff turnover disrupts organizations and requires valuable time in recruiting, interviewing, and training new people. This is especially true when the departing employee is a children's librarian.

In a word, good children's librarians are scarce, and they are getting scarcer with each passing year. In a couple of years they will probably find their way onto the endangered species list next to the snail darter and the Ethiopian frankincense tree. I first noticed their scarcity 10 years ago when I had two children's positions open and realized that an appalling percentage of the prospective replacements on file had no formal training in either children's literature or juvenile librarianship. The main qualifier they had was a stated "love of children," which of course was a sure sign that they had never really worked with children or been around them very much.

Since then the situation has gotten worse. Now you don't even get interest from people who claim to love children. Like the disappearance of the woolly mammoth, theories abound about the disappearance of the children's librarian; but the fact remains, they are vanishing at the very time when they are most needed.

The real benefit from making children's services a priority in your community is that children act as catalysts in getting parents, grandparents, and brothers and sisters into the library. Emphasize children's services and your adult business will increase even more than your children's. No one is more persuasive than the 4-year-old who demands to be taken to story hour. Thus, the issue we should be paying attention to is not what we can do for children, but what children can do for libraries.

Given their value, why, then, are children's librarians vanishing? Here are the three most prevalent theories.

1. Library administrators do not always act in the best interests of their libraries or their communities. Let's face it - children are a pain. They're loud, disruptive, and obnoxious. They yell, they throw up, and they break things. Life can be a lot more pleasant without them. If you're a library director dealing with leaky roofs, shaky budgets, and cranky constituents, do you really need the hassle of making children's services a priority? …

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