Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth

Welcome to ALSC's Media Mentorship page, a list of resources--publications, professional development, and more--designed to assist librarians in embracing their role as media mentors to children and families.

Bibliography | Blog Posts | Publications | Professional Development | Surveys


To Tech or Not to Tech [PDF - 91kb]

This bibliography was created for ALSC by Kathleen Campana, J. Elizabeth Mills, Marianne Martens, Claudia Haines, and Tess Prendergast, presenters of the ALA Hot Topics presentation, To Tech or Not to Tech: The debate and the research around technology, young children, and the library, held during the 2018 Annual Conference in New Orleans.

Blog Posts

ALSC blog posts on the topic of media mentorship and screen time

A New 21st-Century Job: The Media Mentor: Two books out this fall help to define this new type of educator (by Lisa Guernsey)

Sparking a Love of Lifelong Learning Early at the Public Library (by Claudia Haines)

What Happens When Storytime is Over? (by Claudia Haines and Cen Campbell)


ALA Editions Book

Becoming a Media Mentor - book cover imageBecoming a Media Mentor: A Guide for Working with Children and Families by Claudia Haines, Cen Campbell, and ALSC

In a time of rapidly changing technologies, the role of the youth services librarian has expanded to include the realm of digital media. Supporting children’s literacy now means serving as a media mentor. This book empowers youth services staff to confidently assist families and caregivers as they navigate the digital world, guiding them towards digital media experiences that will translate into positive and productive lifelong learning skills, regardless of format. Melding the latest research and key messages from a variety of experts with replicable examples, this book
  • defines what it means to be a media mentor, providing historical background and context;
  • outlines three types of media mentorship: media advisory, programming, and access to curated media;
  • outlines the implications of media mentorship in libraries, focusing on a shift from the notion of “screen time” to “healthy media decisions”;
  • draws on detailed case studies from a wide variety of libraries and community partnerships to showcase inspiring media mentorship in action with ages 0-14;
  • provides guidelines for working with diverse families and caregivers; and
  • explores management issues around media mentorship, ALSC competencies, suggestions of additional resources, and professional development.

White Paper cover imageALSC White Paper

Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth [PDF – 4-color, designed 3.67MB]

Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth [PDF – Black & White, 353KB]

This paper, written for the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) by Cen Campbell, Claudia Haines, Amy Koester, and Dorothy Stoltz; was adopted by the ALSC Board of Directors on March 11, 2015.

White Paper Launch at 2015 Annual Conference

photo caption: ALSC President Andrew Medlar, Amy Koester, Dorothy Stoltz, Past President Ellen Riordan, Lisa Guernsey, Cen Campbell (left to right)

Attendees of the Leadership and ALSC session enjoyed a presentation by Lisa Guernsey, Director of the Early Education Initiative of New America. Guernsey is the author of "Screen Time: How Electronic Media - From Baby Videos to Educational Software - Affects Your Young Child". She touched on how librarians' work as media mentors aligns with other disciplines who share the common goal of supporting children and families, in developmentally appropriate ways, to bolster ongoing academic success.

Resources from Lisa Guernsey's presentation

Slides from Lisa Guernsey's Presentation [PPT, 33.88MB]

Professional Development

In an effort to assist ALSC members as they prepare to serve their community as media mentors, ALSC is offering the following archived webinars free to members through July, 2015.

Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth: A Primer

The ALSC Board recently adopted the white paper "Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth." What does media mentorship mean, and how does it fit in with the types of services libraries have historically offered children and families? This webinar will explore the current landscape of children, new media, and libraries before examining what it means to continue to support families in a digital age. Instructed by Amy Koester, Youth & Family Program Coordinator, Skokie (IL) Public Library

Best Practices for Apps in Storytimes

Parents are faced with ever-expanding media options to share with their children, and many children’s librarians are beginning to incorporate apps and eBooks for young children into their collections and programming to satisfy the growing need for reader's advisory in the app space ("Appvisory"). This webinar will explore why and how incorporating digital media into our collections and programming is now an essential part of children’s librarianship, and tips and tricks for translating traditional storytelling techniques into the digital realm. Instructed by Cen Campbell; children’s librarians and founder of

Young Children & Media: Libraries in the Multi-Screen, Multi-Touch Digital World

Chip Donohue, co-author of the NAEYC/Fred Rogers Center Joint Position Statement on Technology Tools and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Programs, will share key messages and guidelines from the Statement and discuss implications for educators, parents, children’s librarians and other adults who care for and about young children. He will address both common concerns about children and technology and the potential benefits when adults select, use, integrate and evaluate technology in effective, appropriate and intentional ways that support development and learning. Obstacles and opportunities for children’s librarians and libraries in providing developmentally appropriate experiences for young children will be explored. Instructed by Chip Donohue, PhD; Dean of Distance Learning & Continuing Education, Director of the TEC Center at the Erikson Institute.

ALSC is committed to making more professional development opportunities available to members on media mentorship. If you are interested in developing a conference, institute, or online learning program that focuses on this topic please submit an online proposal.


Young Children, New Media & Libraries Survey - 2018 Survey

Infographic on 2018 Survey Results

ALSC’s first national survey of libraries and new media, administered in 2014 (see below), demonstrated a strong commitment among libraries to providing a range of technology for families with young children. An updated and expanded 2018 survey delivers exciting results that provide compelling, widespread insights into the changes to this still largely uncharted and disparate landscape.

Young Children, New Media & Libraries Survey - 2014 Survey

Infographic of 2014 Survey Results

Image of Young Children, New Media and Libraries infographic

Between August 1 and August 18, 2014, 415 children’s librarians responded to a survey of 9 questions concerning the use of new media with young children in libraries. The survey was created as a collaborative effort between Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC),, and the iSchool at the University of Washington. Preliminary finding are available through an infographic created by ALSC’s Public Awareness Committee.

Example programs

Libraries across North America are incorporating media mentorship into the services they offer library patrons, in particular children and their caregivers. Below are examples of current media mentorship practice from an assortment of rural, suburban, and urban libraries. This list was compiled by ALSC member Amy Koester.

Incorporating Digital Media into Storytimes — Some libraries are incorporating elements of digital media, like apps, digital music, and/or digital pictures, into their existing storytimes alongside books, songs, felt boards, and fingerplays. Others are developing new storytime programs that use tablets as the primary tool for offering early literacy opportunities that support reading, talking, singing, writing, and playing. In all instances, storytime providers share an aside with attending caregivers about the technology—a brief message about ways to use the technology with children in developmentally appropriate ways to support early literacy skills-building. (rural, suburban, urban)

App Play & Advisory in a Program Setting — Some libraries have developed new programs aimed at facilitating guided play and exploration of high-quality, developmentally appropriate apps. In Appy Time programs, for example, the library offers attendees (children with caregivers) devices loaded with apps curated by youth services staff; the program facilitator guides families in exploring these apps together, explaining the developmental learning benefits of different apps and actions while being available for troubleshooting and questions. In “Appvisory” programs, parents and caregivers may attend with their children or on their own to see a youth services member demonstrate a number of apps and ebooks that are of a high quality and appropriate for a particular age of child. In both these types of programs, library staff emphasize the concept of joint media engagement—that the best digital learning and play scenarios for a child are those in which their adult caregiver participates with them. (rural, suburban)

Messages Specific to Caregivers of Young Children — A number of libraries are equipped to offer parents and caregivers of young children messages of information and support pertaining to new media use with those young children. Some libraries compile this information in the form of a print brochure, which may include an explanation of joint media engagement, tips for evaluating the quality and developmental-appropriateness of content, and/or examples of positive practice using technology. Other libraries train youth services staff to be able to share messages with parents and caregivers in both programs and informal conversations. These messages focus on encouraging caregivers to be observant and reflective of how they use technology with their children, being mindful of when technology is a best choice versus when it is not. Examples of “best choice” technology use include: video messaging with a long distance friend or family member; or during important, short conversations, such as with a doctor at the doctor’s office, when the caregiver needs a few uninterrupted minutes to complete a task and the child might otherwise be disruptive. An example of when technology is not the best choice includes when a caregiver is interested in the child acquiring new vocabulary; in this situation, the best choice is for the caregiver to interact and converse with the child rather than have the child watch a video or play a game meant to increase vocabulary, as children learn better from interpersonal interactions. (rural, urban)

Programs Utilizing Technology — Libraries offer a wide range of programs that utilize various technology to promote informal learning, skill-development, and content creation. Some libraries designed programs for early elementary-age children, sometimes with their caregivers, that use specifically-chosen apps to promote learning and discovery on a program topic, such as space or dinosaurs. Other libraries offer programming for elementary, middle school, and high students that focus on developing children’s technology skills, such as coding. Many of these programs (with names like Digital Craft Time and TechArt Studio) involve an aspect of content creation, where children are able to put their new skills to use to create something, be it a video, a game, an enhanced photograph, or another piece of content. These programs emphasize technology as a tool, focusing on the myriad ways a user can apply technology skills to learn and create. (rural, suburban, urban)

Mounted Devices in the Library — A number of libraries offer the patrons, in particular children, access to digital technology in the library through the use of mounted devices—those affixed to a shelf endcap, a table, or another unit. These libraries may restrict access to a specific app chosen by library staff, so that users on any given day engage in a single app or digital story; others curate a collection of age-appropriate, high quality apps so that children may choose what app to engage with. In both instances, mounted devices are accompanied by signage that explains the educational benefits of a particular app (for example, connecting an app with an ECRR practice); invitations for caregivers to engage with their children; and/or other information about using the device in positive ways. (rural, suburban, urban)

Circulating Devices at the Library — Libraries that circulate tablets within the library building or for use outside of the library curate the contents of a device for a designated type of user; for example, some circulating tablets may be aimed at early literacy-age children and their caregivers, while others are geared at school-age children with homework needs. These devices are restored to a standard user profile after each circulation so as to remove any personal information that may have been entered on a device. Many libraries that circulate tablets in this manner accompany those tablets with a verbal message about the technology or an informational brochure during the check-out transaction. (suburban, urban)

Curated Lists of Apps & Other Technology — A range of libraries offer curated lists of apps and/or other technology tools, like educational websites, for customers of all ages; these lists are akin to traditional booklists and bibliographies on a theme or for a particular age or type of reader. Some libraries offer these curated lists in paper brochures or printed lists; others host lists on the library website for ease of use by patrons at home. Some libraries even curate apps by age and/or theme using Pinterest boards. (rural, suburban, urban)

Training Teens as Media Mentors — Three libraries in particular shared that they offer opportunities for teens to receive training in technology, whether general knowledge or specific skills, with the end goal of these teens serving as mentors to other patrons in the library. One suburban library trains high school students to operate, facilitate, and teach the technology in the library’s flexible STEAM space, which may include 3D printers, tablets, microscopes, and more. These teens become mentors for the space, staffing it during drop-in hours and introducing library patrons of all ages to the technology and its applications. One urban library operates an ongoing training program for teens in which they learn about, and how to teach, common technology such as ereaders, word processing, and troubleshooting smartphones and tablets; these teens then volunteer at the library as resident tech help, supporting patrons—in particular many older patrons—in being more effective in their media use. Another urban library offers an annual two-week summer technology institute for teens that provides them with training and information on different types of media. Many of these teens then utilize their new skills at the library, serving as assistants in library programs using technology or as one-on-one technology help for patrons. (suburban, urban)