What I've learned working with young people in school libraries: a guest post by SarahLouise McDonald - Nosy Crow Skip to content
Posted by Nosy Crow, April 3, 2017

What I’ve learned working with young people in school libraries: a guest post by SarahLouise McDonald

Today’s guest post is by SarahLouise McDonald, a librarian for the past six years. SarahLouise posted a fantastic list on Twitter of the things she’d learned working with young people in libraries, which she has kindly allowed us to reproduce below. Here’s her introduction, along with her list in full:

I’ve been a qualified librarian for six years, the past two and a half in Edinburgh school libraries – which has been great for my YA and teen fiction addiction! The best thing about my job is seeing the potential in kids and watching their eyes light up when they find That One Book that makes reading special to them. My favourite Nosy Crow book is Petunia Perry and the Curse of the Ugly Pigeon.

I want to tweet about some of the most important things I’ve learned working with young people in school libs (applicable to all though).

1. There is NO SUCH THING as a stupid question. Do not belittle people who are trying to find information or expand their experience.

2. Answer honestly if you can. Be professional, but it is okay to be honest too. Kids (and library visitors) will respect you more for it.

3. Say “I don’t know.” Show kids that it’s okay not to have info, and show them your process for finding it out. No shame in not knowing.

4. I can’t say this loudly enough. DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING ABOUT THE KIDS. They will surprise you every day if you let them.

4b. Yes, they can be ratbags. But they can also be kind, funny, clever, sweet, and they honestly make my job worth going to every day.

5. Related to above: there is no such thing as a ‘Digital Native’. Do not assume that owning an iPhone means tech-confidence or competence.

6. Embrace their enthusiasm. If they are into comics, COOL! Start a club! If they’re into goth music, awesome! Have them review new albums!

6b. Find the things they like and run with it. It will strengthen their relationship with you, with the library and the associated literacy.

7. Literacy takes many forms. Let kids read books without words, build storytelling skills, debate books vs film. It all counts.

8. Try to say yes. Don’t dismiss things because they are inconvenient, try to work out why they are asking. Find a balance. Try to help.

9. People are rubbish at asking questions. If you don’t think they’re asking what they really want, engage with them. Be a detective.

10. BE KIND. You might be the only understanding face this kid sees all day. Even if you’re in a bad mood, give them your time. Listen. Try.

Thank you, SarahLouise! You can find SarahLouise on Twitter here.

Image credit: Stewart Butterfield.

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