Giving Thanks for Teens

Dear teens,

You’ll probably never read this post, but that’s okay. I just wanted to write because I’ve been thinking about you lately. Today, Pittsburgh’s loomed with overcast skies and coated us in drizzle. I had some tofurkey with friends earlier, and now I’m back home on the couch, taking stock of my life. You see, I recently read Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It. If you haven’t read it, I strongly suggest it. It’s an evocative–if not emotionally excruciating–account of what happens to a family after an asteroid hits the moon, knocking it out of orbit and toward the Earth. Natural disasters, extreme temperatures, and flu outbreaks ravage civilization, killing countless people across the globe. Meanwhile, the main character Miranda documents it all: the mad rush for food, the volcanic ash blocking out the sun, and the knowledge that anyone, no matter how much you love them, is at risk for death.

It’s a lot to think about. And it got me thinking that disaster preparedness isn’t just having the food, fuel, and tools you’ll need to survive. It’s about making sure that the people you appreciate are reminded that you appreciate them, because–well–you can’t predict the future.

That’s why I wanted to write this post. Because you, teens, are people I appreciate.

Never mind the sensationalized news reports. Never mind the heaps of bitter blog posts about you from librarians that don’t “get it.” Every day, I wake up inspired to serve you. I appreciate your energy. I admire your courage. I wonder at your fortitude. The challenge to hold your attention has had a momentous impact on library services across the board, and has kept me striving to keep up with innovations in how I deliver information to you.

Your questioning about our policies, services, and collections helps me constantly reevaluate what I do and why I do it. Sometimes, I have a good answer for you. Other times, it means I have an opportunity to improve the library. You give me somebody I can talk with about cutting edge literature.

I appreciate that you’re so willing to share. I appreciate your engagement, your care, and your concern for the world around you. I appreciate that no matter what you ended up doing while here (and how much trouble you may or may not have gotten for it), you at one point thought, “You know, the library is a place I want to go.”

So thank you, teens. Thank you for the weeks of long hours, stress, and hard work. Thank you for the excitement. Thank you for the exhaustion. And, perhaps above all, thank you allowing me to never hesitate when answering the question “How do you like your job?”

What else is there to say but “I love it!”

So while you may never read this, I just wanted to put it out there. I hope that the sentiment seeps into the ether, so that when you enter your library, you know that at least one librarian, somewhere, really appreciates you. And that thanks to the efforts of people from Margaret A. Edwards and beyond, there’s an awful lot more of us where that came from.

With gratitude,
Joseph Wilk

P.S. — While on the subject of Thanksgiving, I just wanted to give a quick shout out to Debbie Reese’s blog American Indians in Children’s Literature (see http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com for more information). Debbie’s been a critical voice in reminding us that the American Indian Movement is still alive and relevant, and that there’s a lot to consider when we’re presented with teen books featuring American Indian characters or themes. It’s no secret that many people celebrate Thanksgiving based on historical myths, and that many other myths continue to affect people’s perceptions of American Indians. Debbie’s blog will help you think critically about and untangle those notions, wherever they might exist in the literature that we promote to teens. Thanks, Debbie, for the resources! For answers to more questions about materials, services, and resources, check out the American Indian Library Association.

About Joseph Wilk

I'm a teen library assistant with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Main location. Here, I'm the graphic novel and music librarian in addition to running anime, music, LGBTQ, incarcerated youth, and video programming. I'm happy to serve YALSA as a blogger, member of the Teen Tech Week committee, and as chair of the Music Interest Group. Otherwise, you can find me in da club.
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3 Comments

  1. Great post!!!
    I too enjoy the challenge and the satisfaction of providing and promoting library services to a demographic that might otherwise be ignored or treated with disrespect… so THANK YOU teens for keeping me on my toes, for participating in programs, for listening to my suggestions/ramblings and everything else.

  2. kudos on the post Joseph. You have inspired me to add my own thanks to teens:
    a) As a customer base, teens keep the library in business.
    b) Teens make my job more interesting, because they are enjoyable to work with and I am constantly learning new things from them.
    c) Teens help me do my job. There are a handful that are always looking for things they can do to help out.

  3. Debbie Reese [Visitor]

    Thanks for the shout out, Joseph. I’m pretty psyched lately, that Sherman Alexie’s YA novel won the National Book Award. Any teens reading this blog ought to click on over to my site and watch a clip of Alexie reading from his book. The passages he reads aloud are perfect. Teen boys in a library… One talks about how books give him a boner, and the other says he doesn’t think you’re supposed to get that excited about books.

    Another excellent novel for YA is Richard Van Camp’s THE LESSER BLESSED. It wasn’t actually written for a YA audience, but makes the cross-over very well. Teen male Native protagonist… Painful and beautiful.

    I posted the Alexie video on November 18th. Google “American Indians in Children’s Literature” and you’ll find my page. I can’t figure out how to post the link here… keep getting error messages.

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