Academic or Public? Perhaps both.

“Guitar Hero at the library” by svennevenn is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I have worked in an academic library for thirty years.  First in technical services, then transitioning to Access Services.  Yet here I am, getting my MSIS with a concentration in youth librarianship.  Some in my professional circles have questioned this choice, but for me it makes perfect sense.  This article reflects some of my own philosophy and reasons for my decision.

For many years, I have heard Academic library professionals in meetings make remarks about new initiatives as being “too public”.  This applied to anything from book displays, marketing strategies, materials (graphic novels, board games) and policies.  Yet, gradually, many academic libraries, including mine, have taken a page out of the public playbook and implemented ideas that look very similar to those you find in a public library. 

It is common now to find Maker Spaces, 3D printing, subscriptions to Ancestry.Com, board games and video game consoles in many Academic libraries.  For college students on a budget, having the ability to check out their reserve materials, but also King of Tokyo or Mario Kart for the weekend, encourages use and provides a welcome service to undergraduates. 

When I recently presented at a NETSL conference on my experiences doing a 3- year inventory project, I had as many queries about the project from public librarians as well as academic.  The reality is we all have limited space.  Keeping track of what we have and refreshing the collection applies equally to public and academic institutions.

My youth librarianship track has already made me a better library professional.  I am much more aware of what my students are reading, watching and playing than I was several months ago.  Core tenets of the library profession apply no matter if you are public or academic.  Assisting patrons, finding materials and supporting the people we serve is something we all strive to do.   

When I head to ALA next week, my schedule will reflect my expanding library universe.  I will attend some academic focused sessions, but I am also planning to attend the keynote with author Jason Reynolds and the Michael L. Printz award ceremony. 

I am not sure what my future is, but I do know that no matter where I land after graduating, my time spent reading picture books and graphic novels is well worth it.  If I do land in a public library, I know that I can assist patrons with primary research or compare colleges.  If I remain in an academic library, I know what books, games and movies we should add to our collection. 

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