Newly minted children's librarian

100 Days of Children’s Librarianship?

I’m contemplating the theme for my next 100-day blog sprint. As a recent graduate of library school, I’ve got a lot on my mind.

Upon graduating, I was hired into a role as children’s librarian in a well-endowed public library system. My everyday work focuses on reader’s advisory, reference and youth programming. I also continued working for my internship employer – EveryLibrary – in the capacity of webinar coordinator.

John's screencap of my linkedin tagline

I’ve been attending ALA conferences on the cheap since 2012, when I began to seriously consider the library profession. I left my summer hike on the Appalachian Trail, flying from Washington D.C. to Las Vegas to get my first sense of the profession on a national scale. I couchsurfed and scavenged my way through the conference, absorbing every second of all that good library-loving juju. People were great. I didn’t know exactly what “kind” of librarian I wanted to be. I just wanted to build a career that had a positive impact, on me personally and on those around me. I wanted to use my skills to treasure hunt, entertain, educate and organize. I believe in providing access to learning (materials, spaces, community) without barriers.

Things I’ve learned so far about children’s librarianship:

  • It’s a treat because you actually get to recommend materials and find books EVERY DAY for serious readers.
  • There is an endlessness to how creative you can be… with programming especially.
  • Unions are interesting.
  • The importance of sani-wipes?
  • There’s a lot happening in children’s literature. (And now I finally have an excuse to be reading it again all the time!)
  • Kids are so much fun. The sincerity. The enthusiasm. The sponginess for learning.
  • Nannies and caretakers are a big deal.
  • Programming can be political.
  • Librarians and library staff are basically 100% great people to work around.

One big thing I’m looking forward to since I started work is the “Mock Awards” party. It’s hosted by the regional library system (WLS). The party is a great excuse for area-librarians to read and discuss the latest popular literature. It’s also a great excuse to network and eat pizza with fellow librarians. I’ve joined the mock committee for the Caldecott Medal. It is a prize annually awarded to what the committee deems “the most distinguished American picture book for children”.

As I began the reading list provided by WLS, I wondered how the actual, real-world Caldecott committee makes their decisions.  I found and skimmed the Caldecott Medal Manual, and was particularly taken with the note-taking form they provided. It is preceded by this insight:

“Develop a convenient system for taking notes about each book read—a system that works for you. Some will keep complete bibliographic information on each book, a short summary, and a critical statement, noting both strengths and weaknesses with some specificity. Notes about books that do not seem to be serious contenders will probably become briefer as the year progresses. It is a mistake, however, not to make notes about each book as you evaluate. A book that at first reading does not seem a serious contender may prove to be a good possibility on further consideration. Committee members will need to re-read many books, especially those recommended by fellow committee members. Personal notes will help in the recollection of first impressions and further thinking about the book.”

The real Caldecott committee has 15 members. The terms and criteria for the award are clearly outlined. The committee process for selecting a book is described like this:

“During the selection meetings, the committee discusses all nominated and suggested books before beginning balloting. Each committee member votes for three books, with four points assigned to first choice, three points to second choice, and two points to third choice. To win, a book must receive at least eight first place choices and at least eight points more than any other book. Once a winner is chosen, the committee decides whether to name honor books and how many.”

These are the first two books I read on my “Mock Caldecott Reading List” for the past year:


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The whole list includes:

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee

Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña,

   illustrated by Christian Robinson

Ocean Meets Sky by the Fan Brothers

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Alma and How She Got Her Name 

   by Juana Martinez-Neal

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick

I’m currently still reading Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick. After that, I’ve only got two more to go (Ocean Meets Sky by the Fan Brothers and Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love). I need to go back and take notes on two other (Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger). I’m eager to study and hear how other people reviewed these books.

I think it may be most important to think about the impact these books can have on the kids, families and individuals who read them. Being in the library with so much access to the collection has caused me to begin questioning: what books most influenced my childhood, and life?

Will my new role be the topic of my next blog sprint?