In January 2019, your library started a mentoring program called Librarian-in-Training, which gives students an in-depth look at how libraries function. JCPL’s School Age Program Coordinator Jennifer Johnson says that the main goal “is to inspire the next generation of library employees who are committed to fostering a life-long love of reading and learning in their patrons.” The idea for the program came from a young library patron who told Jennifer that she wants to be a librarian when she grows up. That conversation got Jennifer thinking, “Is there some way for us to offer meaningful experiences and education about the library profession to children who may be interested in the field?”
Librarian-in-Training started from that initial thought and evolved as Jennifer sought feedback and buy-in from both library coworkers and school librarians. The program’s current incarnation is the result of that hard work. It is made up of 10 third through sixth graders from area schools who visit the library for an hour per week over the course of several months. In pairs, students spend two weeks in each of six different library departments: Adult and Teen Services, Administration, Circulation, Maintenance, Technical Services, and Youth Services. During the first week, students take a tour and learn about roles in that department. In the second week they work on projects and shadow staff for a hands-on experience of the department’s day-to-day responsibilities. For example, the students sort, label, and shelve books in Circulation; in Technical Services they learn how to add materials to the collection and mend damaged books. They even attend a library board meeting to get a fuller picture of how everything works.
The program is designed to build students’ understanding of both the library as a whole as well as the specifics of individual jobs. This gives students a chance to “try on” various roles. Ethan Bunch is one such student. He says that his favorite part of the program so far has been his time in Technical Services. He says, “I’ve learned how important it is to take care of books and how you can’t treat them poorly.” And thanks to the overall experience of spending time in each department, Ethan says it has been “cool to see how just a few people keep such a big place running.”
Jennifer says she has seen “moments of confident initiative and meaningful learning” in all the students, and those moments are what make her proud of the program and excited for potential expansion in the future.