I’ve noticed a particular phenomenon among teens that I don’t see as much in children or adults. Actually, it’s two things.
1. Often, when I see a teen searching for a book on the shelves, and I approach her and ask if I can help her find what she’s looking for, she says no–even though it’s pretty obvious that she’s having trouble locating the title she wants.
2. When a teen asks if I have a particular book and we don’t own it, I always offer to buy it for him. Many times, he will decline. The same goes for offering to put an item on hold–he will say “no, it’s no big deal, don’t worry about it” very politely, but very definitively.
Why does this happen? And what can we do about it?
I don’t think I’m really qualified to delve too deeply into the teen psyche, although I suspect it has something to do with confidence. That said, might it also have to do with not having much experience with librarians (or other “authority” figures) offering to go the extra mile?
We need to convince teens that not only are they worth it, it’s no big deal for us to buy the book they want. In fact, we like doing it. Maybe one way of making this process a little less painful is by giving teens a way to anonymously request books–either in paper, through a book suggestion box, or virtually, through an easy online form.
As for teens who say they don’t want help, my reaction is to back. off. It’s so easy to scare off teens who just want to be inconspicuous and independent, and the worst thing in the world is to yell across a group of their peers: “do you need any help?” I have definitely made this mistake, and the look of terror/annoyance in their eyes is pretty telling. Instead of interjecting, I suggest making your collection really easy to both search and browse–with friendly signage overkill. I arranged my collection by genre to make browsing easier, but I also have to make sure that someone who is looking for a specific book can find it easily. Otherwise, they walk out the door and I’ve lost my chance to connect with them.
Do you have any ideas on how we can reach out to, and connect with, teens–without being overeager or scary?