Calling All Early Literacy Librarians!

It is such an exciting trajectory to look back to when I was in library school (in the olden days) where we talked about storytime without talking much about learning to read–to the early 2000s when we started to learn about early literacy concepts via Every Child Ready to Read–to to the late 2000s, when state libraries and other organizations started to partner together to launch statewide early literacy initiatives–to the last few years, when more and more libraries are adding dedicated Early Literacy Librarians to their youth services departments. How cool is that? How much fun to be a part of such an amazing groundswell of learning and sharing and supporting families!

I’m really curious how the jobs held by those Early Literacy Librarians are shaping up and if you are one of them, either by title or by fact, I would love to hear from you! What are your days like? What goals and objectives are you charged with meeting in your community? What is in your official job description, and what do you actually do? Do you mostly work with collections, or programs, or training, or outreach? Or something else?

I realize that this should properly be a survey, and that I’m asking a lot! But if you are an Early Literacy Librarian, would you please share a few sentences about your job in the comments? I’m particularly interested where your tasks diverge from a more traditional children’s librarian’s tasks. Do you have any advice for libraries considering adding an Early Literacy staff member?

Thanks in advance!

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10 Responses to Calling All Early Literacy Librarians!

  1. KathyK says:

    I would call myself a practicing, self-identified Early Literacy Librarian.

    Providing early literacy support is probably the most valuable service I provide. It adds meaning and value to every story time. I provide ECRR2 workshops to large groups of childcare providers and the evaluations are excellent. They are receiving needed support and encouragement and greater confidence in what they are doing for kids. (And they love to hear about great, new books!) I also hold an ECRR2 class for incarcerated fathers who hugely appreciate and enjoy this information and encouragement. I think this class is the best possible program for outreach and EL goals.

    I think my tasks diverge from the more traditional because my thinking, programming, materials and outreach are dominated by the 5 activities and honing my ability to communicate about them well (fluency). I work to systematically support all 5.

    I look forward to hearing from others. Thanks.

  2. Vicky Hays says:

    I have been an early literacy librarian for 7 years. While most of my job is typical of a regular children’s librarian, there are a few aspects that focus more on early childhood. I am expected to know more about early childhood development and bring that expertise into planning programs and services. I train staff in Every Child Ready to Read 2 and how to incorporate it into all of our story times. I work with community groups such as the school district and early childhood council. I look at research on early childhood education and how new learning can be used at the library. One example is using new technology with young children. What can we do to increase children’s literacy skills through tethered iPads and using them in our story times? I also serve as a media mentor in helping parents, caregivers, staff and children in their decision making and practice with new media. This is something that I feel is a really important role not only for early literacy librarians, but all staff who work with children and their caregivers. I am pleased to be able to offer guidance to our staff in this endeavor.
    This is probably too long, but I hope it helps with your information gathering.

  3. Annie Miller says:

    I am the director of a small town library. I’m working on creating an early literacy position within the next year and would be very interested to hear what those already in the field have to say.

  4. Jennie Rosenblum says:

    I am a preschool librarian at a private preschool. We have kids 6 mons – KinderBridge (like a private kindergarten). I work 3 days a week doing a regular program for the 3’s and up and then special monthly story times for the younger ages. My goal and the school’s objective is to foster a love of reading and libraries. I am open before and after school for parent/kid check out. A lot of my parents prefer my “small” (8,000 items) library as they feel the public ones can be overwhelming for their kids. By the time the kids leave our school they have checked out books, learned basic library procedures, created their own books and hopefully are ready to learn to read! Feel free to contact me with any questions.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I was an Early Literacy Librarian for two years and I loved it. I hated leaving that age group. I think with all the emphasis in research showing that the 0-3 range is such an important time in kids’ lives it is necessary to have that job position to be their advocate at the library. I can’t tell you how many times people would say to me, “You do storytime for babies? Why? They can’t read..” We do know this. I promise. If you have a two year old who can read he should probably be at Harvard and not at my storytime. But I think because the parents and patrons of libraries often have this mindset (that babies don’t need programs) it’s hard for librarians to plan them and talk them up unless it is their sole job and passion. Now that the CSLP has also added the Early Literacy portion in their binder I think it’s important to have that position in order to implement that during the summer as well. At most libraries Summer Reading starts at age 3-4. It is so important to impress on the moms that the age of their baby has nothing to do with when you should start reading to them. It’s all about encouragement and engaging the masses to show them that the library and reading are for everyone no matter their age. And thinking up amazing programs to get those babies to love the library while they’re young and impressionable. That was a lot of blabber only to say, if you can hire an Early Literacy Librarian DO IT. They are so important.

  6. Stephanie Smallwood says:

    I have done early literacy work at my library for five years and been an official early literacy librarian for nearly 3. I have a lot of different responsibilities: I provide early literacy and early childhood training and mentoring for library staff, serve as a resource on early childhood (I was an educator before becoming a librarian) for the system, promote and advocate for services to families with young children and provide outreach. My outreach program has two components. I work at our local WIC office where I meet with families and have short conversations about early literacy with families while they wait for their appointments and give free books. I also have 14 community organizations that I partner with officially. I provide family programming for the clients of these organizations (storytimes and other types) and annual training for the staff at the organizations. The staff training component is important, we have a long-term goal to create a community where all organizations that serve high-risk families are aware and focused on early literacy and encouraging it with their clients. I have organizations that do everything from home visits to court-mandated parenting classes to run residential facilities; I just added the office staff of a low-income apartment complex. I design my own programs and community staff trainings on a variety of topics and in a variety of formats (I just did a very interesting one on the Word Gap with some health providers). I do reference work for organizations and families and attend community meetings. I hope to increase the amount of work we do with child care providers in our community and I’m the point person in a collaboration with a local university to design and administer a survey to providers to determine what kinds of early literacy support and information they need. I really wouldn’t consider myself a traditional children’s librarian, more of support staff and outreach. Feel free to ask if you have any additional questions!

  7. Erin Davison says:

    I’m not a librarian, but I am a Library Assistant II who was recently put in charge of our early literacy programming. I have been tasked with creating storytime training and evaluations for staff. I am responsible for setting the early literacy programming schedule. I am responsible for partnering with area groups to provide programming at the library and in the community. I am responsible for seeking outreach opportunities focused on early literacy. This is not an “official” position within my library, but rather something I was directed to do by my supervisor. Let me know if you have any questions!

  8. Andrea says:

    Hello,

    I have been the Early Literacy Librarian in my district for almost 4 years, and before that I was a Literacy Americorps member, specializing as the Story Train provider in the Early Literacy Outreach department. My job includes helping with other age groups in the youth services department, but I mainly work with the littles. Here is my job description where it differs from other children’s librarians:

    GENERAL DESCRIPTION
    Serves as district’s early literacy expert and liaises with public entities within the
    community. Coordinates storytimes and early literacy activities….
    SUPERVISION RECEIVED
    Works under the direction of the Head of Youth Services.
    GENERAL DUTIES (includes but is not limited to)
    ? Coordinates monitors and evaluates early literacy programs such as story times
    and parent training; maintains statistical information and produces reports.
    ? Identifies and implements emerging opportunities throughout the community
    for early literacy partnerships.
    ? Provides training to staff on how to utilize the Every Child Ready to Read
    literacy skill development techniques

    QUALIFICATIONS
    Masters in Library and Information Science. One Year experience working with
    youth in a public library.
    SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
    Training in Every Child Ready to Read.

    My job includes collection development for kits, picture books, and easy readers (both fiction and non), as well as children’s music. I currently am on the Steering Committee of Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy as well as the CSLP’s Early Literacy Manual Committee, and I have participated in my district’s Early Childhood Council. I lead continuing education classes for professional development for early childhood teachers in my area annually, and I present regularly at both library and early childhood conferences. I lead in house storytime shares bi-annually, as well as evaluate other storytime staff once yearly. My own personal schedule includes 4-6 storytimes per week (including a yoga storytime), one STEAM-related early childhood event per month, a quarterly 4-session preschool book club, and a yearly early literacy fair.

    Wow, on a daily basis, I always feel like I should be doing more, but when I write it all down, it seems like a lot. Early literacy librarians FTW!

  9. Melissa says:

    THANK YOU to each and every one of you who have responded! This information is so valuable! I know it took precious time to type out and I appreciate very much your willingness to share your time and your thoughts. I’ve heard from several people who were looking forward to the answers to aid their own department planning, so you have not just satisfied my curiosity, but you have helped other children’s libraries across the country! You’re the best.

  10. Jane Schmidt says:

    Hi,
    I’ve been working part-time at our library at the circulation and reference desks for the past three years. My education background is in teaching with an emphasis in early childhood education. When I was hired, our children’s librarian was excited to have me begin a lap sit storytime for babies and toddlers. I have four hours each week dedicated to planning or executing those storytimes and for creating/maintaining an early literacy area in the library. Future goals are to look at ways our library can work with the local childcare centers to promote early literacy and to study the possibility of beginning the 1000 books before kindergarten program.
    Thanks for all you do Mel. Your blog has been very helpful in the development of our baby lapsit program.

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