In my first few weeks as a full-time high school librarian, I was very conscious of the atmosphere I created (or encouraged) in the library. I was convinced that the success of my program–a brand new program in a school used to a very different library ideal–depended in no small part on whether or not my students felt comfortable with me, both as a person and as a teacher.
How do I make my library a welcoming environment? How do I gain students’ trust? What do students and teachers want from their library? These were the questions that I asked myself over and over again.
But now, at the start of the second semester, all I want is a custom t-shirt that reads “I AM NOT A DOORMAT.”
For public libraries, the tension between providing teens with what they want and what they need may not be so pronounced. You may not have the money to install a a full arcade in your teen room, sure, but you can probably provide programs and other resources for your gamers.
In a school library, on the other hand, much of our programming and collection development is tied to curriculum. When what students want is too far removed from what classroom teachers and administrators want (or require), we’re often put in the uncomfortable position of playing bad cop.
The new semester can be a great time to turn over a new leaf in your library. When new classes started this week, I decided to be more firm with my study hall policies: no pass, no library. The herds of wandering students originally sent to the cafeteria can no longer saunter into the library midway through the period and hop onto computers.
It’s a clear example of the disconnect between my expectations and what the students want. I want students to actually use the time productively, or at least not distract their classmates from doing so; many of the students, on the other hand, want a social space or to avoid classrooms they don’t like.
How do you balance teens’ needs and wants in your libraries with those of the adults in their lives (and yours)? Do you rule with an iron fist, or are you a well-loved doormat?