BookKids: What is a Modern First Library?

Our Kids buyer Meghan G. kicks off the 2018 Modern First Library series. Over the next few months, we’ll be hearing from different community voices about what a Modern First Library means to them! Learn more about the initiative below.

Four years ago, I got a query from Chris Barton, wondering if there was a way for booksellers and authors to collaborate on helping families look beyond the classics to build better, more diverse, home libraries for our modern world. I thought it was a terrific question to explore together, so we launched the Modern First Library initiative, inviting a number of authors to weigh in on our blog, first for the launch and again for the two year anniversary in 2016. From firsthand accounts of lives changed by librarians to personal stories about shopping for kids in their lives to passionate testimonials about the importance of literary representation, these reflections collectively speak to why the books we share with kids matter—and the journeys that turn people into readers (and writers) at all.

IMG_2849Pooling recommendations from our bloggers and booksellers, we  dedicated an in-store display to the idea of the Modern First Library, blending classic favorites like Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar with other books reflecting the diversity of our world.

Not intended as a strict canon of titles, this permanent display serves more as a visual ode to the value of infusing our youngest readers’ libraries with a well-rounded worldview. What, really, could be more important than showing our children what we hope they see in the world? It seems our customers agree, as the display has become the centerpiece of our picture book room.

We’ve even launched a Modern First Library subscription service to make great first libraries even easier to build at home.


Now, as the program celebrates its fourth birthday, we’ve asked some new friends to think about what a “Modern First Library” means to them. Over the next couple of months, we’ll publish their thoughtful responses, and I’m interested to see how the idea resonates anew. Starting tomorrow (August 18), journalist Sharyn Vane will also begin highlighting her Modern First Library recommendations in quarterly features for the Austin American-Statesman.

So what exactly does “Modern First Library” mean after four years? Honestly, the best thing about the series has been seeing how our contributors all interpret it differently. Fluid and ever-changing and completely personal, like good literary conversations always are, our Modern First Library has always felt more like a springboard than a fixed concept. I talked a little bit in my last post about seeing the influence of our home library first-hand as a parent of young kids. Right now my oldest son is moving into chapter books, and we’re starting the curation process all over again, which is just another reminder that the conversation is never done. It’s one that we need to have as booksellers, authors, librarians, educators, and parents, of course—but ultimately it’s a conversation we have with kids through the books we help them discover.

What I know for sure is that it’s a conversation worth having, and we’re grateful to the Austin American-Statesman for helping BookPeople continue that journey. 

As we launch a new series of blogs over the next months, I encourage you to look for the inaugural Modern First Library feature in the Austin American-Statesman this weekend and to re-read the pieces that got it all started. Then stop by the store, explore our selection, and tell us what a Modern First Library looks like to you.

Happy Reading!

— Meghan G., BookPeople Children’s Buyer and Programming Director

4 thoughts on “BookKids: What is a Modern First Library?

  1. Fitting that a store with prominent displays of radical communist books by Che, Marx, Fanon, etc., replete with a raised red fist drawing, would also be trying to more subtly erase Western civilization on the kids’ side of its store. It’s always funny when virtue-signaling booksellers push socialism / communism, not knowing what always happens (mass book banning / burning) when that type of government eventually does take over. Careful what you wish for, and question “diversity.”

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