CityLIS News: Child and adolescent literature, literacy, and library services

We are pleased to announce that we are adding a new elective module to the choices available to our MSc/MA Library Science students. The new module addresses LIS concepts as they relate to children and adolescents, and it will be available from the academic year 18/19.

The new module will be delivered by Visiting Lecturer Jen Aggleton, who introduces herself and the module content in this post.


Jen Aggleton is a qualified teacher and librarian with several years’ experience working in children’s services. She is in the final stages of a PhD in Education and Children’s Literature at the University of Cambridge, and lives in a small flat which she shares with a cat called Mogget and far too many books.


Over the years I have worn several professional hats – a teacher hat, a librarian hat, and a children’s literature scholar hat. These hats all have their own individual style and charms, and like all of the most interesting fashion items, wearing one, or another, or all three at once, made me feel differently about the work I was doing at the time. For the module I will be teaching at City, ‘Child and Adolescent Literature, Literacy, and Library Services’, all three of those hats will be worn, and passed around the students to try on as well.

Any public service which involves working with children and adolescents inevitably comes up against competing priorities. There are the practical concerns, such as organisation of spaces, collection management, budgets. There are the theoretical concerns, such as how we conceptualise literacy and literacies, and the role of the library in supporting these. And above all, there are the ideological concerns. Whose values and priorities do we follow when delivering services? Those of a school, or the current government? Our own professional judgement about what we think children need or want? What about the views of the children themselves?

Readers of folklore or fairy tales will recognise the power of threes, and in this course we will frequently be exploring things from three different angles. Alongside the three concerns mentioned above – the practical, the theoretical, and the ideological – we will also be looking at three main elements at the heart of child and adolescent library services: those of literature, literacy, and service delivery. And because whilst two threes are powerful, but three times three is unstoppable, we will be exploring these themes across three different types of library: the public library, the school library, and the academic library.

Due to the complex nature of delivering library services for children and adolescents, this course will be rooted in debate. We will be discussing the position of children and adolescents within society, and students will be encouraged to reflect upon their own constructions of childhood. We will explore long-established concepts such as Jacqueline Rose’s idea of the ‘impossibility’ of children’s fiction, as well as contemporary movements such as the We Need Diverse Books campaign. We will ask what it means to be literate in the 21st century, and how libraries can support the development of multiliteracies. We will consider how the space and organisation of a library influences engagement, and how we can evaluate and improve our services. Students will be asked to consider the role of libraries in supporting and extending the current and future national curricula. We will engage with ideas about why we read, what Reading for Pleasure really means, and how we can best support it. We will consider whose voices are heard in service delivery, and how libraries can work to respect children’s rights amidst competing priorities.

None of these issues have single, or simple, solutions. This course aims to enable students to engage with these ideas, evaluate them, and adapt them into context-specific working practices which they can apply in their own professional roles. By the end of the course students should be able to identify what hat is in charge of any aspect of their service delivery, and whether they need to swap hats, add hats, or create new hats altogether.


If you would like to study with CityLIS, take a look at our course pages, and look out for announcements about our regular open evenings. Follow us @CityLIS on Twitter.

About lyn

Dr Lyn Robinson is Reader in Library & Information Science, and Head of Department at City, University of London. She established and directs the Library School, and co-directs the Centre for Information Science alongside Prof David Bawden. Contact:
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