Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What It Means to Me to Be a Media Mentor

I consider myself a pretty competent desk worker. When I'm on the youth services "Ask Questions Here" desk at my library, I genuinely enjoy advisory questions--it's a joy to get great materials into the hands of eager youth. I get a rush from a good reference query; it's like a sort of logic puzzle to find the specific resource or information that the child or caregiver seeks. And I feel like my natural curiosity serves me well in my job: I read a lot about literacy, education, developmental appropriateness, etc., and I am always happy to share some of the research and recommendations I've read when parents ask questions about specific materials, encouraging literacy, or appropriateness of a certain item for their child.

I love doing all of these parts of the desk worker's daily trade. And, in a twenty-first century library, I don't think any of these services is limited strictly to books.

Did you notice that I didn't specifically mention books and traditional reading materials in the first paragraph of this blog post? That was intentional. If my experience working at reference desks over the past few years has taught me anything, it's that library patrons--of every age--consume information widely and in many different ways. Books. Audiobooks. Downloadables. Web resources. Databases. And, most recently, new media--predominantly apps.

The way I see it, my job is to answer patron questions. If they ask me about books, I tell them about books. If they ask me about the appropriateness of a book for a child of a certain age, I share resources that can provide perspectives on that topic. I use the knowledge I have gleaned from my education, training, and years of service to given patrons the best possible resources in answer to their questions, whatever those questions may be. And if that holds true for books, it holds true for other types of media, too.

That's one of the reasons I co-authored Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth, a white paper adopted by the ALSC Board this past March.

Media mentorship means providing children and their caregivers with the best possible answers to their queries, regardless of the type of media they ask about. Being able to answer those questions well--which is my job--requires me to be knowledgeable about all those types of media my kids and caregivers might ask about. I need to have some basic information about all those types of media, specifically information and recommendations from experts. And I need to know where to go to find reliable, quality information when I a patron's question requires me to find it.

That's what being a media mentor means to me: supporting children and their families in their information needs and wants, and having access to and knowledge of the information that can help me do that. It's not about format--I am a media mentor when asked about books as much as when I'm asked about apps. After all, books are the original library medium.

I don't find the idea of media mentorship controversial. It's not about technology; it's about children and families and doing the best we can to serve their needs. That's what it means to me to be a media mentor.

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Do you have a perspective or story about what it means to act as a media mentor to children and families in your library? Help us spread the word about the virtual release party for the new Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth white paper! After Tuesday's ALSC Community Forum, we'll be taking to Twitter and blogs to spread ideas for media mentor programs and services. You can join us by using the hashtag #mediamentor.  

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