Casey Rawson and SILS master’s students author new textbook on teaching and learning in public libraries

November 5, 2018

What do you do when you can’t find a textbook that comprehensively addresses the topic you want to teach? If you’re Casey Rawson, Teaching Assistant Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), you collaborate with SILS master’s students to create a new text and publish it online as an open educational resource.

Book cover with title and photos of children participating in activitiesThe book began as the final project for Rawson’s fall 2017 course “Instruction for Youth in School and Public Libraries.” She and 12 students from the course continued to work together during the spring 2018 semester to edit and prepare the text for publication this fall. 

“As an instructor, this was an incredibly rewarding experience and well worth the extra investment of my time compared to a more typical final course project,” Rawson said. “Both the students and I were excited about having an authentic purpose and audience for our work, and since the website was published we have heard from several librarians and other public library stakeholders who are reading and enjoying the material.”

The text, Instruction and Pedagogy for Youth in Public Libraries, encourages public librarians to embrace teaching as a core part of their professional practice. Each chapter includes real-world examples of libraries and librarians who have implemented effective programming to help educate children and teens.

“Public librarians, library assistants, and other library staff have been doing instruction for years but haven't been talking about it in that way,” said master’s student Ness Shortley, who not only wrote a chapter but also helped copy edit the entire book. “I was excited to be part of a project that would be a one-stop resource for them.”

Coming from an educational background, Jim Curry (MSLS’ 18) said he was surprised to discover how public librarians have been using “hidden curricula” to supplement formal learning and support the lifelong learning of patrons. Now a youth services librarian at a public library in Arkansas, Curry said he is working to establish partnerships with school media specialists in the city to understand what students are learning in their classrooms so he can build programs and collections that support those efforts.

“Whether it’s a storytime or a STEAM workshop, I’m constantly asking myself who my audience is and how I can tweak my teaching styles to meet standards and best practices and to best serve my patrons,” he said.   

Current master’s student Mara Rosenberg said she is already putting her research on critical learning theory to use as she creates lessons for her field experience and her assistantship with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Rosenberg said contributing to a project with a larger purpose was an effective approach.

“We all had to conduct our own mini-independent studies,” she said. “I think our learning was deeper and more impactful, and we have the satisfaction of knowing our work will help other librarians with their practice.”

Rosenberg, Rawson, and Shortley will be leading a YALSA webinar in December focused on the project, and Rawson has submitted a proposal for next summer’s ALA Annual Conference focused on the book’s message. The book can now be read online and downloaded as a pdf at You can also purchase a print copy of the book from