Exploring iSchool Career Pathways: Youth Services

iStudent Blog

If you’ve always loved working with children, or have a special ability to relate to teens, then you’re probably considering Youth Services librarianship. The School of Information’s Youth Services Career Pathway can help you shape your MLIS degree to prepare you for working with young people. Following the Youth Services Career Pathway will prepare you for a career as a Children’s or Young Adult Librarian, as well as a career in Youth Outreach or Young Adult Reference Services. The iSchool’s career pathways serve as guidelines to choose your elective courses to fit your career goals.

Even during my undergraduate education (a few, ahem, years ago) I knew I wanted children. Once I had kids, I started reading to them—in utero, actually. I love books, I love children and I love reading to children. I figured that being a children’s librarian would be a good fit for me. I didn’t think much further than that.

As I’ve gone through my graduate coursework, I realize of course that there’s much more to it than that. Faculty member Beth Wrenn-Estes, a youth services expert at the School of Information says, “It’s more than just working with kids and books. Writing, speaking well and using technology are so important, as well as budgeting, community outreach and promotional skills.”

Well, I’m getting a lot of practice with the writing skills here on this blog, and I do pretty well talking with children (though I must confess that teenagers can sometimes make me nervous), but budgeting and technology… outreach, well, hmm—I’ve got some work to do.

“And remember,” she says, “that working with kids means working with their parents and caregivers as well.” I know all about that first-hand. I pick the brains of my local children’s librarians all the time for book recommendations. As an MLIS student, I’m also a keen observer of story time. But what other skills will I need besides the ability to read aloud to a room full of preschoolers and know that if a child really enjoyed Dick King-Smith’s Babe: The Gallant Pig, they may dig The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane as well?

Wrenn-Estes recommends taking a library management course, such as one of the topics offered in LIBR 282. Taking a few classes outside the Youth Services Career Pathway can also serve you well and set you apart as you are looking for a job. Taking LIBR 240 and other website design and technology classes are vital when working with tweens and teens—you’ll need to be able to relate to these patrons and their interests, and you can be guaranteed that today’s youth know the internet. “Get as many solid skills as possible,” says Wrenn-Estes.

I know my internet and social media skills are way behind that of your average fifth-grader, and so I’ll be taking some technology courses to hone my skills and be able to poke around the web with my young patrons. Classes like LIBR 244 Online Searching, and LIBR 248 Beginning Cataloging and Classification might be a little bit outside my comfort zone (I’m a sucker for the materials classes), but they will help make me a more well-rounded and efficient librarian.

Wrenn-Estes also recommends checking out webinars outside of your required classwork. Organizations such as Booklist and InfoPeople offer webinars that can help fill in the gaps and strengthen the skills you need to be successful in your chosen field.

As with every career pathway, the faculty that teach the classes in each pathway work hard to stay current with the changes in libraries and technologies. They regularly and thoroughly examine the career pathways in order for you to be well prepared for a career in whatever field you choose.

Working with youth can be exciting. Helping a child learn to read, or being able to introduce them to their new favorite book can be a rewarding experience. Having the knowledge and the resources to engage children in the world of books and information can make it all the more worthwhile for everyone.

“This time in kids’ lives is a time of constant change and development. Understanding literacy and learning development is so important for the twenty-first century, and beyond,” says Wrenn-Estes.

I watch my own children, and I can see the worlds of potential in them. I watch with excitement how ‘learning to read’ unfolds in so many layers and I marvel at all the tiny skills being learned and added up to mold a life-long reader. I look forward to all the ways I can combine my graduate school education with my enthusiasm.


Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at a few of the different career pathways offered through the School of Information’s MLIS program. With the exception of LIBR 203 and the other three core courses, as well as LIBR 285, and either a thesis or eportfolio (to make a total of six required courses), the classes you take are your choice—whatever you feel best shapes your career direction, skills and passions. It is always a good idea to discuss your coursework with your advisor, and together you can map out a list of classes that will suit your chosen career goals.

What career pathway looks interesting to you?

For related content, check out these posts:

A Closer Look at MLIS Core Courses—What to Expect in LIBR 200 Information Communities

It’s That Time of Year! Back-to-School

Where Your Degree Can Take You—Explore Career Pathways of School Alum


image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS


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