I had a conversation recently that gave me pause. Here’s how it went. I made a somewhat provocative comment that I frequently make, and said to a few librarians I was mingling with, “You know, I think libraries shouldn’t have any children’s librarians and only have teen librarians. Parents will bring their children to the library even if there isn’t a children’s librarian, but teens don’t come quite so easily.”
Before anyone sends me hate mail and posts hate comments on this blog, I don’t really believe that libraries shouldn’t have children’s librarians. But, I do think there is a disparity between the number of children’s librarians and teen librarians in libraries. (I don’t think anyone can fight me on that.) And, I do think, teens, and our communities, would be better served if there were more full-time librarians dedicated to serving teens – right along side full-time librarians dedicated to serving children.
I have used this provocative statement before, and it has engendered some interesting conversations with people about why teen librarians are far from as common in libraries as children’s librarians. It’s also led to useful conversations about why it’s important to have staff dedicated to teen services. Children’s staff have given me some really good insights into their work. And, I think, I’ve been able to give them some insights into the importance of teen librarians.
Recently, when I provoked, we had an interesting conversation, but one particular comment pretty much stopped me in mid-conversation and that was, “I can’t imagine living without our children’s librarian.”
Why was this so conversation-stopping to me? Because, I realized, this is a sentiment in many libraries when it comes to children’s services, but I don’t think it is as common a sentiment when it comes to teen services. There’s no doubt we’ve made great progress over the past several years in helping communities realize the importance of teen services, and of having a full-time teen librarian on staff. But, obviously, there is definitely more work to do.
That work entails getting out and talking with people in the community – and not just in the library – about what teen librarians do. It means going to parent teacher nights and talking about teen services. It means going to town department meetings and talking about why libraries need to serve teens with full-time dedicated staff. It means participating in events like Library Legislative Day and talking with elected officials about teens and library services for them. It means writing articles for the local newspaper about the important role librarians play in teen lives. It means not being afraid to stand up and speak-up about the great work that you do.
Children’s librarians, I definitely appreciate the work that you do every day. I know it’s important and of great value to the community. But, I plan to continue to provoke all librarians – children’s teen, adult, reference, directors, and trustees – in order to help them realize how and why it is important for every library to have full-time dedicated teen services staff.
I can’t wait until the day when I hear someone say to me, “I can’t imagine living without our teen librarian!”