Looking to Libraries in Times of Crisis
September 28, 2020
One could say the only constant during this unprecedented time is change. Childcare centers and schools are adjusting from one day to the next in order to keep the children and families in their communities safe. Another constant, however, is the value of connecting with well-trained children’s library professionals. This is why the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) developed Look to Libraries, a collection of materials intended to assist parents and caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. ALSC is a professional membership organization whose over 4,000 members work in communities across the country to engage children in learning opportunities through stories, programs, and activities in libraries.
Especially now, while families are trying to balance remote learning and digital entertainment with non-screen activities, it is critical to have knowledgeable experts serve as media mentors who can help families and caregivers navigate the digital world. Children’s librarians are professionally trained to evaluate media—they are perfectly suited for this role.
Rather than offering judgement about whether children should be using technology, librarians take cues from individual families about their needs and suggest materials of all types to support the child’s development, interests, and curiosities. Children’s library professionals can assist parents and caregivers in making decisions about what types of programs, apps, and platforms are best suited to each situation. Some librarians also curate digital apps and can help adults discern between those that are truly educational and others that are basically a vehicle for advertisements. Parents and caregivers should know that they can turn to children’s library professionals for media mentorship during the current crisis—and when things settle back down.
ALSC created Look to Libraries with media mentorship in mind. Since March, ALSC librarians had been sharing information within our network as areas began rolling out varying levels of stay-in-place orders. As it became clear that COVID-19 would be with us far longer than initially anticipated, we realized that the trove of resources children’s librarians were sharing needed to reach a broader audience. The Look to Libraries series consists of tip sheets and resource guides compiled by ALSC member librarians that span a range of topics like talking with young children about viruses, easing anxiety around changing routines, and activities family can enjoy together. The resources can be downloaded for free, and include customizable graphics for libraries and library advocates to repurpose.
Below are a few examples of the Look to Libraries resources:
- Media Mentorship Tip Sheet (PDF) – Learn more about media mentorship and how you can look to children’s library professionals to find excellent resources, model safe and effective digital device use, and find objective suggestions on creating a family media plan.
- COVID-19 Resources Tip Sheet (PDF) – Print and online books, articles, apps, podcasts, and websites for youth and parents/caregivers to provide support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Resources for Parents/Caregivers – Books and articles to help parents and caregivers on a range of topics, from caring for a newborn in the age of COVID-19 to trying to balance parenting and coping with the pandemic.
For more information about ALSC, visit ala.org/alsc.
Angela Hubbard is the Program Officer of Projects and Partnerships for ALSC. She works with multiple ALSC committees to support members’ creation of booklists, toolkits, and advocacy resources. Angela coordinates special projects around early learning, media mentorship, and diversity in children’s literature. She also manages grants and external partnerships for the association.