Within the new realities of sheltering-in-place and distance learning created by the Covid-19 pandemic, children and families have greatly increased their use of technology to seek information and consume various types of digital media. And while children’s library professionals have always provided timely information, resources, and programming that serves the needs of their community, it’s children’s librarians’ role as “media mentors” that has become even more vital in this time of uncertainty and misinformation. In the media mentorship capacity, librarians use their expertise to evaluate content and locate high-quality resources and model the safe and effective use of digital devices.

To shine a spotlight on this and other expert support that children’s librarians can deliver, ALSC has launched the #LookToLibraries public awareness campaign encouraging families and caregivers to “discover the power of connecting with your children’s library professional.”

According to ALSC president Kirby McCurtis, the key elements of #LookToLibraries include “the creation of tip sheets, booklists, and resource lists aimed at supporting families and children by providing information that will help them to better understand the pandemic and cope with its emotional and technological challenges.” Articles about media mentoring, a “Tough Conversations” tip sheet incorporating the strategies of Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, a “COVID-19 Expert Resources” tip sheet, and a “Comforting Reads” list of books selected to “help children going through challenging situations,” are among the offerings on the #LookToLibraries website.

With this effort, McCurtis said, “It is vitally important to ALSC that we build public awareness of the important work children’s library professionals do on a daily basis and of the positive impact of libraries on communities.” McCurtis noted that the campaign grew out of some of the work that ALSC members were already instinctually doing. “ALSC library professionals have been sharing tips and resources related to the pandemic among themselves since spring,” she said. “However, when the stay-at-home orders lengthened and the realization set in that many schools would not resume in-person classes in the fall, it became clear that these materials were critically needed by families and caregivers.” She added that “the conversation around the struggles that families face, especially around navigating digital device use by children,” was not new to the association’s members. “Library staff have the expertise, and ALSC has been supporting library professionals as media mentors for several years,” McCurtis said. “With families facing the increased pressures of needing to balance online learning, monitoring children’s activities, and for some, working from home, we felt it important to let them know they could and should turn to library professionals for assistance.”