Know Your Librarians: Children's Tag Team

One is a master at getting kids revved up at programs. The other knows children's books like an old pro.

Meghann Henry and Elena McVicar are ready to take the joy of reading both into the community and into the kids' areas at two branches in need of their services.

Though they could be "anywhere in the city," according to Henry, on a recent Wednesday afternoon, the two new youth services librarians are at the children's desk at the North-East Branch. Earlier in the day, they had given a program at J.A. Rogers Elementary.

At the program, as McVicar read and gave book talks, Henry led story circles and character-building exercises based on Shane Evans' book Olu's Dream.

It's a tag-team approach designed to capitalize on each librarians' skills.

"When she wants a program for a book, she comes to me. And when I need a book for a program, I ask her," Henry says.

Before coming to the Library, Henry worked for three years as education director at Kansas City's renowned Coterie Theatre. Her programming skills perfectly complement McVicar's formal library training. With a dual MLS/Master of Arts in Children's Literature from Simmons College in Boston, McVicar brings a passion for getting kids to read.

"I'm really into the new titles and new trends," McVicar says. "I've been plugged into the world of children's library services for the past three years."

Now that they're plugged in at the Kansas City Public Library, the two will bring their passion for working with kids to the North-East and L.H. Bluford Branches, as well as into the community.

As youth services librarians, they'll perform all the usual services for children and teens at their home branches -- Henry at North-East and McVicar at Bluford.

But, as part of the Outreach team, they will also spend about half of their time invested in the community-wide efforts coordinated by their supervisor, Outreach Director Mary Olive Thompson.

Double Duty

This unique marriage of youth and outreach services in these two librarians' job descriptions grew out of the need for children's librarians and outreach support at both the North-East and Bluford branches.

There had been no children's librarian at North-East for years. At Bluford, the spot had been vacant following Thompson's move to Outreach in late 2011. Meanwhile, both branches also needed help bringing kids into the libraries.

"We can't serve the community from a single point in each location," says Joel Jones, director of Branch and Outreach Services. "We have to go out to the schools and community centers but also be at the branches."

Going forward, Henry and McVicar will report to Thompson and their branch managers. They will collaborate on outreach programs and serve children and teens at both branches.

They will reshape their roles as their roles reshape them.

"Mary and Joel have been encouraging us to focus on our strengths -- what we're good at -- and the rest will come," Henry says.

Is this hybrid youth-services/outreach approach the shape of things to come?

"It's more of an experiment than a model for the future of children's and teens services," Jones says.

So far, it's off to a rocketing start.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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