While many of you were at Annual, I was in the process of moving and changing jobs. I have gone from being a school librarian in a K-9 school, to a YA librarian in a public library. Over the course of my budding library career I have worked with teens and I have worked in public libraries, but this is the first time I am working with teens in a public library. Which is a convoluted way of saying theoretically I know what I’m doing, but in practice I am still inexperienced.
I think the acknowledgement of transitions is important in a profession where many of us have several different jobs over the course of our careers. This transition has landed me exactly where I want to be. Aside from an Anime club that plans to start back up again in the fall, YA services here is pretty much a blank slate. I have a lot of freedom, but I don’t have a lot of direction. It feels good and I think it will prove useful in terms of growing the YA program, but for the moment, I’m not really sure where to begin.
I started writing this post as a list of all the ways in which school libraries and public libraries are different, but for one, you YALSA folks can most likely guess at all of those, while I, having only been at my new job for just under two weeks, am not sure I actually know all of the differences. I find that I am focusing more on the similarities: books, technology and young people. These are what I care about and devote my energy towards learning about. And these are still the heart of my job.
Perhaps I have answered my own question…
In today’s YALSA webinar, Risky Business, Linda Braun talked about taking risks in teen services, and that teen services as a concept is really all about taking risks. Our teens take risks all the time, at school, both academically and socially, by learning skills they’ll need as adults, like learning to drive, by speaking their minds and being themselves. Growing up is risky. (Or, as Bilbo says, It’s a dangerous business going out your front door). To be a true advocate for teens and engage in dialogue with them about their risks and their growth is a risk. One of the main points of Linda’s talk was to ask ourselves what will happen if we don’t take this risk? Maybe that question applies to some specific aspect of teen services: Do I try out a a circulating collection of video games? Do I buy urban fiction? Do I advocate for unfiltered access to the Internet? Do I talk to teens about topics that might be uncomfortable, like sexual identity? Ultimately it boils down to this: If we don’t risk, we’re not serving them. If we don’t risk, we lose them.
And so I answered my own question: You begin with the teens.
My stumbling block for the moment is : How do I break the ice? It was easier when I was a library teacher (like a gym teacher or a music teacher), you’re there and the kids are there and it’s library time, so you just do it. In the summer a lot of teens have jobs, some are on vacation, some lack the transportation options they might have during the school year (parents in tune to their schedules or merely a crisp fall day that inspires a walk to the library as opposed to summertime heat and humidity, which may inspire staying home with the AC cranked up). I haven’t been seeing many teens. My colleagues keep telling me to wait for fall. When I do see them my shyness prevents me from accosting them and proclaiming: I am your teen librarian! I command you to tell me how to make the library more awesome!
Though, in all seriousness, maybe I should just go over and say hi.
What do you think?
- How do you break the ice?
- How do you recruit teens for a Teen Advisory Group?
- What kinds of programs work in the summer when teens are not in the library as much?
- What else do you think I should know?