Several times a week, youth services librarian Claudia Haines holds Storytime in the Homer Public Library’s Joy Griffin Children’s Room. For ages 3-5 and 2 and younger, Haines reads books, sings songs and holds games, all with the goal of forming literacy — and inspiring children with the joy of reading.
Next year, when Haines reads new picture books published in 2017, she’ll be enlisting Homer children’s guidance in picking the 2018 Randolph Caldecott Medal, the award given by the Association for Library Services to Children to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book. Current ALSC President Betsy Orsburn recently appointed Haines to the Caldecott awards committee, a 15-member group that reviews and selects the medal winner. Haines and her fellow award committee members will review books published in 2017 for the 2018 medal.
“What’s fun is the Caldecott committee really encourages people to use the experience of sharing books with children to help guide books for the award,” Haines said. “I will be paying special attention to how kids respond.”
Haines, 45, earned the honor of being on the committee through her work with the ALSC, particularly in her work in new media and using digital tools to promote literacy. She has worked at the library since 2010 and been youth services librarian since 2013. Before that she also worked as coordinator for the Friends of the Homer Public Library. She has a master’s degree in library science from the University of Washington.
“She’s a librarian rock star,” said Ann Dixon, head librarian and director of the Homer Public Library.
This year, Haines won a $7,000 Curiosity Creates grant to develop new media programs at the library. She’s used that money to support Maker Space, an after-school program for youth to learn about technology. Haines also co-authored with Ken Campbell “Becoming a Media Mentor: A Guide for Working with Children and Families.”
“Claudia has been a very involved member of the ALSC, and recently has been somebody we look to for media mentorships and the programming she has been doing,” said Andrew Medlar, past president of the ALSC. “I know that Claudia is a name that those in the world of children’s librarianship know and respect.”
Haines said she started her work in new media mentorship in response to what she saw as a need in the community after the emergence of table computers with the iPad in 2010. As part of that effort, Haines writes a monthly column on media literacy for the Homer News.
“I was looking for ways to support families as they were using iPhones and tablets,” she said. “It was in response to what I saw locally, but it ended up as part of the national effort for what children’s librarians do. It has really opened up the library as a resource for families using new media.”
Reviewing picture books and choosing an award winner will be daunting. Any picture book for children up to age 14 published in print in the United States and illustrated by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident is eligible, including books by small and regional presses. A companion ALSC award, the Newberry Medal, honors distinguished children’s books. Because the committees work independently, a book can receive both awards. The Caldecott Committee also can cite other books worthy of attention as honor books. Committee members can expect to review hundreds of books.
“It’s important to be kinder than usual to one’s postal delivery friends,” Medlar said, joking. “It’s a lot of work, too. It’s fun work.”
The Caldecott Committee will keep in touch electronically over the next year, meet in person in June at the annual ALSC conference and then meet again in person in mid-January 2018 for several days of deliberation.
“We really find that nothing beats that face-to-face deliberation,” Medlar said.
“I’m so excited,” Haines said of the work ahead.
As leader of Storytime, Haines sees the importance of picture books to early readers.
“Picture books are that first foray into the wonder of reading for children. A good picture book can hook children and grow that love of reading,” Haines said.
Medlar said being an Alaskan also helped Haines get chosen for the Caldecott Committee. The ALSC seeks geographic and cultural diversity among its members. That’s an issue that has been at the forefront among children’s librarians, Haines said.
“Over the last couple of years there has been more rich discussion about topics of diversity, inclusion, authors of color and people of color being represented in picture books, with the idea that books can be both windows and mirrors,” Haines said. “For Alaskans, being able to see the Alaska experience in picture books is very valuable.”
Haines said when she considers potential award winners, she’ll keep her young readers in mind.
“Books that adults like aren’t always the ones that have strong kid appeal,” she said. “That’s part of the award: what’s appealing to kids, what’s motivating them to be excited about reading.”
Medlar said he’s anxious to learn what the Caldecott Committee chooses.
“I will be waiting along with the rest of the world to see what picture book Claudia and her colleagues select,” Medlar said.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at email@example.com.