Children in Academic Libraries

This past week I was lucky enough to attend my first OLA Superconference, and I walked away with more than just 17ish ACRs and assorted conference swag. While I don’t have time to explore everything, I wanted to share one of the more fun ideas I brought home.

One of the sessions I attended was the OCULA Lightning Strikes talk, to hear about a friend’s work implementing a Twitter presence for Weldon Library here at Western; she did amazingly as I knew she would.

Another presenter discussed an idea that has been bumping around in my mind: children in the academic library. For context, the library I work at is in a small university college with a very community-like feel, and I work almost exclusively evenings and weekends; both of these may factor into my experiences.

But I am seeing kids in the library all of the time. And I think it’s great! Their parents are getting work done, and the kids are becoming acclimatized to higher ed and academic libraries in particular. I often see the kids reading, playing videogames, or doing homework. And I do sometimes wonder, could we better accommodate these unlikely users? Should we bother?

One of the presenters – apologies for not writing down her name! – took this a step further and suggested offering storytime for preschoolers. She listed a number of potential pros and cons. It sounded like a fun idea and I enjoyed hearing her explore it.

I do think that a storytime program for preschoolers might be overkill; I’m not sure there is enough demand to justify the costs in time and resources. But I do think that there’s room for, at minimum, acknowledging that children are sometimes users of academic library space. As always, user needs should be the driver; some libraries may find demand for a small resource shelf or even a small physical space with passive programming, while others who scarcely see children’s faces pass through their doors would probably be confused by the whole idea.I do think though that, given the right approach, this could be a boon for community engagement, student experience, and even, as the presenter pointed out, potential long term recruitment.

I was also reminded of a visit that a friend took to Yellowhead Tribal College Library, which is an academic library that offers space and programming for children of students. I enjoyed reading her blog post about it, which includes more information and pictures of the space.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments!


2 thoughts on “Children in Academic Libraries

  1. Having programs for children in academic libraries has been something I’ve thought about. For most kids, universities are a mysterious place that they aspire to enter. However, introducing programs for kids is an opportunity to demystify and humanize universities.

  2. Hi Lisa, sorry I missed your comment until now! I’m glad to hear others have been thinking about this as well – it looks like a few of us who are early in our careers are interested in the concept. I wonder if that means this is something to watch long term. Thanks for the comment!

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