Competencies in Action | August 2022

Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries
First created in 1999 by the ALSC Education committee, the
ALSC Competencies highlight the critical skills and aptitudes required for providing exemplary library service to children. The Core Competencies are recommended to all children’s librarians and other library staff whose primary duties include delivering library service to and advocating library service for children birth to age 14.

Listed under “Competency III. Programming Skills” in ALSC’s Competencies is: Acknowledges the importance of the caregiver-child bond to early learning and establishes appropriate and effective environments for programs that respond to the social and emotional needs of children and create opportunities for families to engage in programming together.

In this installment of Competencies in Action, author Corinthia Price addresses five, core competencies essential to social and emotional learning. 

Social-Emotional Concepts for Librarians Serving Children

by Corinthia Price, Librarian, The Green Vale School, Old Brookville, NY

Social-emotional learning (SEL) has evolved within library science over the past few years. It has recently gained more attention as children adapt to a changing world and, thus, a new learning environment post-COVID-19. 

Now more than ever, social-emotional learning plays a critical role in children’s long-term wellness and academic success. After the toll the pandemic has had on students’ mental health, librarians are wise to emphasize social and emotional learning in the library. 

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has identified five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making (CASEL, 2020). 


Self-Awareness is the ability to identify feelings, thoughts, and emotions. I like to start my library classes with a question that allows each student to share a bit of information about themselves. Children benefit from identifying and expressing themselves in a safe space. 


Self-Management is the ability to motivate and control oneself and regulate emotions. Mindfulness or calming exercises are beneficial to children. Where is one of the best places for children to learn and practice mindfulness? The library, of course! What kinds of things can librarians do in the library to practice mindfulness? Well, you can turn off the lights and play some calming sounds for a few minutes or allow children to move to an area to self-regulate when they are struggling with their emotions. 

Social Awareness 

Social Awareness is the ability to embrace diversity, offer compassion, and empathize with individuals from different backgrounds or cultures. Read-aloud exercises are an excellent way to teach the critical SEL concepts of community and diversity. Read-aloud exercises expose children to different people and their various circumstances. They teach that communities are made up of all different people and that diversity is something to celebrate. 

Relationship Skills 

What better way to teach relationship skills than through books? Teaching relationship skills gives children crucial abilities and strategies they will use throughout their lives. Developing effective relationship skills allows children to establish and maintain positive relationships with individuals of all backgrounds. Library lessons and programs that include project-based learning give opportunities for growth in developing effective relationship skills. 

Responsible Decision-Making 

Helping children understand how to make responsible decisions is an important SEL skill. Using read-alouds, librarians can help children understand how to do this. Reading books like The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey or My Magical Choices (The Magic of Me Series) by Becky Cummings can be very beneficial in teaching children this skill. The message that these books portray is that greatness comes by making positive choices toward completing a goal. 

SEL picture books are another great way to teach social and emotional skills and to invite children to reflect on their feelings. In our current education climate, emotional intelligence is at the forefront of all our minds. Providing children with the tools to become empathetic, resilient, and thoughtful members of society will require quality instruction and resources to support it. 

CASEL (2020). Safe and sound: An educational leader’s guide to evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) including the five core SEL competencies. Chicago, IL