Why Knowing What “Speidi” Means Makes You a Better Teen Librarian

As teen librarians, we have to connect with our users–and this may be true for us more than other library professionals. Teens are great at seeing straight through us, and being fake is no way to earn a teen’s trust or get them interested in using the library. With that said, there are some easy ways to learn about things that interest teens.

Stay up-to-date on local high school sports and theater, and watch as many movies and TV shows as you can. I really can’t say enough about watching Gossip Girl if you want to connect with teen girls. Use Pandora or another music app to learn about new music. Another good way to see what teens in your area are into is by reading their info pages on their Facebook profiles…I know, I can’t stop talking about Facebook!

When I lived in a dorm with teenage girls, all they did was watch the Disney channel and MTV, for hours on end. You may feel like your brain is leaking out your ears if you follow this model, but it’s important to at least know what’s being broadcast and who the important people are. And that’s where the gossip blogs come in. I’m not sure I can advise you to do this on company time, as not all employers may see reading gossip blogs as professional development, but if you have 15 minutes at home, this is a great way to be able to talk to teens about one thing that matters to them. It may take you a little while to figure out who everyone is…but that’s what Wikipedia is for! Gossip blogs cover people who are of the ultimate importance right this very minute, and trust me: teens read them.

Here are some must-reads. Be warned that the content on these sites is constantly changing, and there may be posted photos or text that is not particularly safe for work.

Perez Hilton [okay, full disclosure, I actually loathe Perez Hilton, but his blog is definitely the most popular and therefore cannot be avoided]

Pink is the New Blog

Oh No They Didn’t

Go Fug Yourself [not so much a gossip blog as a catalog of terrible outfits that celebs are wearing]

TMZ

Just Jared

Yeah, this stuff is incredibly superficial, and sometimes it’s terribly mean-spirited. However, we can’t ignore the force that is celebrity gossip and teens’ (and many adults’) obsession with it. If you don’t want to feel like teens are speaking a second language or that they live in a world populated with people you’ve never heard of, perusing these blogs is a good way to crack the code.

(And for the record, “Speidi” = Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag, the arch-villains of uber-reality show The Hills on MTV. They’re the king and queen of trashy celeb gossip, the ones you love to hate. So dive in, and gossip your heart out!)

About Sarah Ludwig

I am the Academic Technology Coordinator at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Hamden, CT. Prior to that, I was the head of teen, technology, and reference services at the Darien Library in Darien, CT. I started my library career as a school librarian at a small boarding school in Western Massachusetts.
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7 Comments

  1. With a headline like that, I’m shocked this wasn’t written by Linda Braun…

    One other thing I would stress (and you touch upon it in your second paragraph), particularly for those of us working in school libraries, is to get involved in what teens are doing themselves–even if it’s just as a spectator. If you have the chance to be a faculty advisor (or just an “adult member”) for a group or club, do it. I bought a sweatshirt during the girls basketball fundraiser, and next week I’ll be going to a student concert as part of Winterfest.

    It’s great that I can talk to my students about Twilight and graphic novels, but I think it’s even better that I can show them I want to support their passions and ambitions outside the library too.

  2. I totally agree, it’s great for school librarians to get involved in non-library activities. And even if you’re not a school librarian, attending events at the local schools is a great way to show your genuine support. I was always surprised (and touched) by how much it meant to my students when I went to their game, concert, or play performance.

  3. It’s very true that teen librarians need to be aware of what teens are interested in. After all, we all have interests that overlap with those of our teen patrons, and being able to talk to teens about those interests does help form connections. But as MK alludes to, I think it’s even more important that librarians show passion when they talk with teens. While the teens in my library might be fired up about Heroes, I’m not going to watch a show that I don’t care for like Heroes. Instead, I’m going to trumpet my love for Supernatural, because showing that I understand their enthusiasm–because I have it myself–is equally valuable.

    As with so many things in life, it’s about finding a balance. Most of us work long hours and take home extra work. So in order to connect with teen patrons, I need to find the one or two things I can read or watch that keeps me up-to-date without feeling overwhelmed. A little bit goes a long way, and helps me keep my work-life balance in equilibrium.

  4. I like this article as it provides room for thought. I don’t own a TV. Haven’t watched one in years. So I guess I’m out of the loop as far as teen pop culture goes?? I do read People blog tho’. I also ‘friend’ teens from my library on facebook, but I don’t read their profiles as this article suggests. I feel it is intrusive; but maybe it isn’t considered such by teens? I don’t mind if they read my profile tho’. I’ll have to ask the teens what they think about adult/teen privacy and boundaries on facebook. A good subject to broach with them. I’ll also ask them how important it is to them that I stay ‘up’ on the latest pop culture trends. I’m curious to know. I prefer just being myself, even if it means dorky and out of the loop. I will subscribe to the links provided; if only to occasionally scan them. Gotta change, grow, keep an open mind. Librarianship is constantly evolving and morphing.

  5. Being savvy about Speidi and Gossip Girl prevents embarrassment at the Reference Desk, too. Teens will notice if you can roll with their requests (“The Jonas Brothers? Sure thing. Which is your favorite?”), instead of making them spell out the names of their favorite celebrities.

  6. Love this information – thanks!
    shelli
    http://faeriality.blogspot.com/

  7. There was a Twitter meme “I’m a bad YA librarian because…” with responses like, “I don’t like anime/gaming/knitting/loud libraries/myspace.” I played along, but stressed that it’s not about US – we don’t have to love or even LIKE what out patrons do, but knowing about it (or how to spell their favorite band’s name) is critical.

    I bring this up in my Pain in the Brain class, too– just knowing what teens are into can be a bridge to building relationships, which helps nip bad behavior in the bud.

    A few more sites, recommended by participants over the years:

    Alloy.com. http://www.alloy.com/
    Fashion, celebrity gossip, horoscopes and quizzes.

    Beloit College. “Mindset List: 2012.” http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2012.php.
    Puts the current crop of teens experiences into context.

    Billboard. “No. 1 by Genre” List. http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/charts/genre_index.jsp .
    iTunes top 100 is also a good indicator for music, so are top ringtones

    Brookover, Sophie, et al. Pop Goes the Library. http://www.popgoesthelibrary.com
    Librarian oriented, pop culture you need to know about.

    Cartoon Network. http://www.cartoonnetwork.com.
    Website supports the cable network by the same name – games and more.

    Fan Fiction. http://www.fanfiction.net.
    There is a number next to each category that indicates how many stories have been submitted.

    Helmrich, Erin. “Teen Pop Culture Quiz: Update 25.” VOYA. August 2008. http://pdfs.voya.com/VO/YA2/VOYA200808PopCulture.pdf
    The newest one, #26 is in the December issue – a great barometer for how well you are keeping up!

    “Japanese Schoolgirl Watch.” Wired Magazine. http://www.wired.com/.
    Cutting edge gadgets, gizmos & practices from Japan- search for past columns.

    Pew Internet & American Life Project. http://www.pewinternet.org.
    Focus is technology, and they do research on the teen demographic.

    Teen Reads. http://www.teenreads.com/.
    Reviews of teen books, & author connections

    Tokyopop. http://www.tokyopop.com/.
    Manga publisher website that supports fan content creation.

    YPulse. http://www.ypulse.com/.
    Website about youth marketing

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