Volunteering to work in your school library is an excellent way to learn more about this career. Many schools rely on students to assist school librarians. As a media center aide, you may be asked to staff the library check out desk, shelve returned books and periodicals, or maintain audiovisual equipment. Volunteering or working part time at your local library is the ideal way to explore this career. You can get hands-on experience with the working routine of a real library and network for future job opportunities.
Don't forget to visit Web sites of library associations such as the American Library Association, the Association for Library Service to Children, and the American Association of School Librarians (ASLC). Their sites can provide a wealth of information about education programs, scholarships, financial aid, certification, and student membership. The ASLC offers a blog (https://www.alsc.ala.org/blog), which you should read to learn about the work of school librarians and issues that they encounter on the job.
Participate in information interviews with children's librarians. In such an interview—which can be conducted in-person, on the phone, or through video-conferencing technology—you will get the opportunity to ask child life specialists about their educational training, job duties, work environments, likes and dislikes about their careers, and other topics that will help you to obtain a better understanding of the field. Start out by asking your school's librarian if he or she would be willing to participate in an interview. They also might be able to recommend other librarians to interview. Additionally, your school counselor can help set up information interviews.
Many libraries have special departments that cater to children. This library within a library, often called a children's library, houses collections of age-appropriate fiction and nonfiction, as well as research tools such as encyclopedias and atlases. They may also have computers that feature e-books and programs and games that appeal to the young, as well as games and more traditional toys and puzzles. Oftentimes, librarians choose to work with a particular age group. Those who work specifically with children and young adults are referred to as children's librarians or youth services librarians. If employed in a school setting, such librarians are called library media specialists. Regardless of title, children's librarians help young library patrons find and select information best suited to their needs, whether for school research, personal knowledge, or simply the enjoyment of reading a book or finding a useful or entertaining resource.
Maintaining and organizing library facilities are the primary responsibilities of children's librarians. One major task is selecting and ordering books and other media, including fiction and nonfiction, reference books such as encyclopedias and dictionaries, study guides, maps, periodicals, videos, DVDs, and music. These materials must be organized so library patrons can access them easily. New acquisitions are cataloged by title, author, and subject matter in a computerized system. Each book is given a label and card pocket, and stamped with the library's name and address. A bar code is attached to help keep track of its location. Children's librarians must regularly inventory their collection to locate lost or overdue books, identify books that need repairs, or to dispose of outdated or worn materials.
Libraries are given an annual budget by either the school board or library board. Children's librarians must consider this budget when making purchases to the collection. When the budget allows, they fulfill special book requests from children, teachers, or parents.
Children's librarians are teachers as well. They have a thorough knowledge of their library's collection so they can effectively help students with any research questions, or guide them toward a reading selection suited for their grade or reading level. They are familiar with the works of established authors, as well as newly published books and series. Children's librarians also teach effective ways to navigate library resources using catalog systems or the Internet. They work with area schools and teachers to help plan and organize upcoming class projects and tests. Many times, they teach patrons and students how to use library equipment—computers, audiovisual equipment, copy machines, and software programs.
The implementation of special projects is also a major responsibility of children's librarians. They host story time for toddlers and preschool-age children, often planning a special craft project related to the day's story. Children's librarians often schedule holiday parties and puppet shows. They may offer summer reading programs and challenges, author visits, or book clubs.
Children's librarians also organize displays of books, artwork, collections, or memorabilia that may be of interest to children. They are responsible for soliciting the display of private collections and setting up and dismantling the displays. They create a comfortable and inviting space using colorful furniture and cozy reading areas. They also decorate the library with book displays, posters, toys, and seasonal items.
Children's librarians are also responsible for outreach services such as the book mobile. These mini-libraries house a collection of books and periodicals that travel to different locations in the community. Library employees staff the book mobile and often conduct a story and craft time for the children.
Children's librarians also have management duties. They supervise library technicians and non-professional staff such as clerks, student workers, or volunteers. They often train staff regarding the layout of the library, use of special equipment, or new computer programs.