Transforming libraries for children
Brodie and Byerly. Byerly and Brodie. Mention their names in any school or public children’s library in Ohio, and you’re sure to see a librarian’s face light up. Individually and together, Drs. Carolyn S. Brodie and Greg Byerly have transformed youth librarianship in the state and beyond.
Brodie and Byerly
Brodie, a professor at Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science, came to the university in 1989, when the education of Ohio’s school and youth librarians was in a state of crisis, according to a 2008 article in School Library Journal. The same article heralds Brodie as “the wizard who revitalized Ohio’s youth services,” citing her “deep knowledge of children’s literature, an enthusiasm for technology, expertise in both school and public libraries and a terrific dedication to the professionals who work with kids.”
But Brodie is quick to share the credit with Byerly, an associate professor whose background in school and academic libraries was similar to hers. Together they have brought in more than $6.2 million in grants — particularly from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums — to advance the education of librarians who serve the youth of Ohio.
The fruits of their collaboration are many and varied. Perhaps the most evident — not to mention the most lively and colorful — is the Reinberger Children’s Library Center, partially funded with a grant of $240,000 from Cleveland’s Reinberger Foundation, and the Marantz Picturebook Collection for the Study of Picturebook Art, which received $249,000 from the Reinberger Foundation to house the 21,000-book collection of Dr. Ken and Sylvia Marantz. The two areas together create an unparalleled teaching space for future librarians and youth services professionals.
“When I first came to the school to teach, there wasn’t even a children’s book to be found,” Brodie recalls. “How could we teach someone how to be a children’s librarian without the proper tools?” So she set about to change that. And she and Byerly did in a big way, transforming both the School of Library and Information Science and library education at the same time.
Sarah Thornbery, a school librarian in Springboro, Ohio, and president of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association, says, “Drs. Brodie and Byerly continue to be innovators in the field of school library media. They continue not only to research best practices, but also to present professional development to active school librarians throughout the state and nation. Their sessions at our conference are some of the best attended and well-reviewed. They are valued gems in school library media.”
In recent years, Brodie and Byerly have turned their attention to recruiting more minorities to the profession and to bridging the gap between schools, libraries and museums. Three Institute of Museum and Library Services Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian grants totaling $1,521,866 since 2003 have provided full scholarships for 56 students interested in working with children and young adults to receive their Master of Library and Information Science degrees. A fourth grant ($626,632) enabled Brodie and Byerly to offer workshops around Ohio for 540 K–12 educators, school library media specialists and museum professionals
“These grants have given us the opportunity to provide scholarships to students interested in school library media and young adult librarianship,” Byerly says. “Our last two grants, however, have added a new component – our goal now is to integrate museums and other cultural organizations into librarian education.”
Why museums? As mentioned, Brodie and Byerly have primarily gotten funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This agency funds projects for both libraries and museums, but it really likes projects that combine the two. Brodie and Byerly are now known in IMLS as library educators who recognize that “there is an M in IMLS.” This will undoubtedly mean more grants for this duo.
The impact of Byerly and Brodie’s efforts has extended far beyond the state borders. Brodie has chaired or served on numerous prestigious committees with the American Library Association (ALA) and Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), including the Newbery, Caldecott and Notable Children's Books committees, the ALSC Board of Directors and the ALA Council. She publishes extensively on children's literature, youth librarianship and school libraries, recently completing a chapter on Appalachian children’s literature for an anthology. For more than 20 years, she has co-directed the Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth at Kent State University.
Byerly, whose research interests include technology and information literacy, publishes regularly on Web resources for children and young adults and has directed the school’s distance learning program since 2001. He oversaw the creation of statewide networks for school (INFOhio ), public (OPLIN, the Ohio Public Library Information Network) and academic (OhioLINK) libraries, which have become national models.
Together and individually, they have presented hundreds of workshops and programs on youth literature, information literacy and librarianship.
Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2003 they were named to the annual list of “Movers and Shakers” by Library Journal. In 2008, Brodie received the Scholastic Library Publishing Award from the American Library Association (ALA) for “extraordinary contributions to promoting access to books and encouraging a love of reading for lifelong learning,” and in 2011 she was elected president of the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), the world's largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children. The school’s youth librarianship program is ranked 13th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.