Monday, 26 May 2014

Talkin' about the issues...

So, last week, I attended a networking event for the ALIA New Graduates Group in Melbourne. They meet up every couple of months, and it's a great opportunity to meet other like-minded professionals at similar points in our careers. And even though it's been over eight and a half years since I graduated as a librarian, I still often feel like a new graduate - especially compared with most established librarians who seem to have been in the industry for decades!

Anyway, I went along with my video camera to stage an impromptu vox pop session, asking librarians (regardless of sector) their opinions on what they thought the issues were for children and youth library
services in 2014. Here are some of the responses:



One librarian who preferred not to be filmed mentioned the challenges of supporting the diversity of the community. She recounted an incident where the children's librarian had organised a program of "festive storytimes" which represented different cultures. Despite the events being clearly publicised, during the Chanukah storytime session, one parent interrupted the event and quite vocally objected
to her children being exposed to these stories, saying that they were inappropriate for the festive season.

This tale reminds that the issues of Censorship and Diversity are often closely related. Books
that are awarded as the best amongst its peers are often more closely scrutinised for their representations of race, disability and culture. Encouraging diverse representations in literature and programs can also stir up malcontent amongst those in the community with conservative and insular values. Librarians need to have the professional principles to support diversity in the community, whilst
still maintaining a sensitivity to a diverse range of cultural needs - and this can be a challenging line to toe!

On a final note, it was interesting to note that there were a number of librarians who didn't feel that they had a sufficiently informed opinion on the current issues for children and youth services. This was understandable, given that many librarians inhabit the tertiary education, government and corporate sectors, and rarely encounter children or youth in their roles. One librarian even suggested that there weren't any "real" issues in children and youth librarianship - certainly something of an inflammatory statement! However, it does highlight the sheer scope of issues that professionals face, and the
lack of awareness that they might have of the professional issues in other sectors within the industry.  Furthermore, I found interesting the implication of a professional hierarchy, where some librarian work
is considered "more professional" than others, where legal, medical and tertiary academic librarians are at the top, and children's librarians are at the bottom. It is true that professionals in each sector require a very specific - and different - set of professional skills, but each are just as valid as providers of essential professional services in the community.

References

Finegan, A. (2014) Librarian Vox Pop. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BsMBHPaSlI