A day in the life of our young people librarian
  • Wednesday 30 December 2015
Young people librarian Karen Gawen

Vibrant, very cool and engaging – these are just some of the words that describe Sunshine Coast Council’s young people librarian, Karen Gawen.

Karen started working in the library world in 1988 and even had some short stints in England and the State Library of Queensland.

“After taking a few years off to travel the world a couple of times, I came back and started working full-time again on the Sunshine Coast in 1997,” she said.

“I started in the role of youth librarian in 2003 and I was responsible for coordinating programs and events for young people from 0 to 25 years.

“Over the years my title may have changed but at the end of the day my goal remains the same - to stay abreast of any new developments.

“I’m constantly researching, reading, trawling the internet, talking to young people and staying in touch with my inner 10-year-old.

“To keep well informed of what young people want I talk to them whenever, wherever I can.

“It doesn’t matter if they are two or 20. They all have something to say, great ideas and are incredibly smart and talented ─ and they love to be heard.”

When asked to describe a normal day as the young people librarian, Karen responded by saying there is no normal day.

“One day I could be talking to new mothers about the importance of reading to their babies or to high school students about the amazing free online eResources,” she said.

“The next day I might find myself sitting in the office trying to figure out how to make a Steampunk journal for the holiday program out of old books, paper and door hinges. Or even dressing up in character for our pop-up library at events such as Epic Diem or Talk Like a Pirate Day.

“Most days I liaise with the library staff in our eight library branches, meet with authors, educators or community organisations to create engaging programs.

“I’m also in constant contact with our suppliers to find new resources to purchase, research new ideas for programing or work on the young people’s collections.

“This can mean anything from removing old copies of books to purchasing, and importantly quality control testing toys for our diverse collection for our 27,000 plus members aged 0 to 25 years of age.

“The range of books and resources are purchased from all over the world including authors that aren’t well known in Australia. These are the kind of things that local bookstores or school libraries don’t stock.

“We also have different collections including toy library, manga and graphic novels and eResources with films, music and magazines that are all free to borrow.

“We’ve also just purchased OnePlay - an online gaming database that is amazing. Library members can borrow and download from over 3500 games to play on their PC for a fortnight. 

“We are starting to implement new Maker Space programs for young people. The first was our Kids Sew and Sew program where children learnt how to sew over a four- week period.

“This program will be rolled out to other branches in 2016 and we are working on more programs including robotics and coding.”

Karen said this year Sunshine Coast Libraries launched new cards for younger members who included My first Library card for the 0 to five years and the Kids Only card for six to 12 and over age bracket.

The Kids Only card is incredibly special as it has an illustration of Terry Denton and Andy Griffiths from the bestselling Storey Treehouse series and is the only one of its kind in Australia,” she said.

Karen was also keen to share the good news that Sunshine Coast Libraries had just received funding from the Queensland Government to promote early childhood literacy.

“The First 5 Forever initiative is a universal family literacy program aimed at supporting stronger language and literacy environments for young children from 0 to five years and their families,” she said.

“This program will directly support parents and primary caregivers to be confident as the child’s first and most important teacher, and will provide parents with increased access to resources they need through public libraries.

“For the next couple of years I’m tasked with designing and implementing a huge range of programs and ideas to engage parents and toddlers in emergent literacy. Now that is pretty powerful stuff!

“I encourage families to keep visiting their favourite library branch to explore the many benefits of being a member. And while there make sure you pick up the current edition of Kids News.”