What American Youth Librarians can Learn from the Danish Library System: Fun as a First Priority

Happy November, readers! Although summer is now just a glittering memory for most of us as fall settles in, I remain excited and inspired by the experiences I had while visiting Copenhagen, Denmark in late August and September.

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Our travel group!

One of the most exciting and important portions of the trip was a visit to the city of Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark and the home of Dokk1, the most innovative and unique library I have had the fortune to visit. Dokk1 (pronounced DOC-EN if you’re Danish, or DOC-ONE if you’re American – it means “the Dock” because of the building’s location on the harbor) perfectly represents the Danish value of fun and “hyyge” – coziness. The library, completed in 2015, was built to be the living room of the city, and they accomplish this particularly well with respect to their children’s collections and spaces.

 

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Dokk1 at night on the harbor.

The children’s area in Dokk1 is imaginative, fun, spirited, and completely different from every American library I’ve visited. The area has dress-up clothes (not just in children’s sizes either!), climbing gyms, and video games. The library was relatively quiet when I visited, but the tour guide assured us that it can get quite loud, and they actually encourage that! The library is surrounded on all sides by a globally inspired playground, with different areas representing various countries of the world: a bear slide stands for Russia while a climbable eagle points toward the USA.

 

 

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The bear of Russia, surrounded by happy Danes!

 

The space in Dokk1 works hard to be there for all the members of the Aarhus community, and they fully include children in that ideology. Children feel, from the cradle into adolescence, that they are accepted and welcomed into community spaces.  This is in contrast to what can often feel like repressive, quiet spaces in American public libraries.

So what can we learn as future children’s librarians – we may not have the benefit of working in Dokk1 or a similarly family- or children-friendly facility, but I believe that we can all incorporate the welcoming spirit, openness, and creative use of community space that Dokk1 has made so central to their mission. If we can take even just a small piece of that Danish ability to welcome noise and chaos into our otherwise orderly library lives, I think we can create a whole new generation of library-loving kids.

 

Importance of Libraries and Community

We know this importance, we held a conference about it–but now it’s in the news. Read this LA Times article for more information. 

From the article: 

“The role of libraries — as it is now and as it has ever been. Certainly, they are repositories for books, even if (in my least favorite bit of data here) 20% of respondents think print titles should be moved “out of public locations to free up space for other activities.”

But more to the point, they are community centers — not just for neighborhoods but also for the community of ideas. Libraries are places where readers and writers can come together, where we can have a conversation, where books and literature are not relegated to the margins but exist, as they ought to, at the very center of public life.”

Tips and Tricks from the Experts!

Ever wondered how librarians put together such fabulous storytimes? Looking for tips and tricks to hone your skills? Look no further. ALA has got you covered!

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Here’s a description:

Whether trick-or- treating for charity or for the fun of bringing home treats, children will get a head start on their adventure in this issue, which offers both ghoul-free and mildly shivery takes on the celebration and great activities for other fall programming.

If you’re an ALA member (and you should be!) a one-year subscription is $45. Otherwise, it’s $50. Money well spent, as you build your toolbox for interview presentations!

Enjoy!

iYouth Meet and Greet Recap

Can you believe it? It’s Friday and the first week of fall quarter is (almost) over!

Thank you to all who attended and participated in iYouth’s opening Welcome Week event; a special thank you to our wonderful faculty guests: Sarah Evans. Stephen Del Vecchio, and Eliza Dresang, the Cleary Professor of Children and Youth Services. For students interested in working in youth services, these faculty members are great resources with a range of experiences working in schools and libraries, and conducting youth-related research! We are happy to have their support!

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To those unable to join us on Tuesday, here’s a review (pizza not included). Check back for updates and follow-up posts throughout the quarter.

Beyond introductions and children’s literature trivia (Ramona Quimby’s cat is named “Picky-Picky,” BTW) discussion focused primarily on ways to gain experience working with youth. There are many resources for finding Directed Field Work, but until a DFW is available to you after the completion of 30 credits, you can volunteer or intern!

But how can you find opportunities?

  1. Ask around. Talk to faculty (see above), TAs, peers, librarians at your local library branches, and school librarians in the area. Let people know that you’re looking for an opportunity.  
  2. Subscribe to listservs. In addition to the iYouth listserv, look for opportunities that come across program listservs. Keep track of application requirements and deadlines. Additionally, subscribe to listservs outside of the iSchool, like the EdLife listserv, for news and events for graduate students in the College of Education. 
  3. Research local youth-service organizations. Try http://www.volunteermatch.org/ – you can filter by areas of interest and preferred organizations.
  4. Take electives in youth services. We especially recommend INFX 571 “Research in Action” with Eliza Dresang as a unique and rewarding opportunity. Check back to hear from students who have taken the class.
  5. Participate in iYouth. This year, we’re focused on professional development, and there was a clear expressed need for connections to opportunities to work with youth. As a group we are trying to figure out how to meet this need in a meaningful way, and we would love for you to be involved. Check back for news, updates, and opportunities.

Thank you again to all who were involved and good luck with the second week of the quarter!