Last week was spring break, which means that this week, teens are dragging themselves back to school and back into their normal lives. I know a lot of them thought their break was much too short--but for me, it was much too long: there was absolutely no one at the library last week and I was lonely!
I should have known this was coming since the public schools also get a week off in February and the library was dead during that week (my library serves a very family-based area, so when the kids have vacation, everyone has vacation), but I'd also been attributing some of the February quiet to the weather being especially crummy and the families who were home wanting to stay out of the snow and ice and ick. I was hoping that spring break would be different.
But it wasn't, really. We're very firmly an after-school destination. The good side of that is that kids come to the library just to hang out, and in getting to know the regulars, I've cultivated a core group of kids that attend nearly every program I put on. But the downside is that if there is no school, we're not a destination--and I think that above all else is the primary thing I want to change in the next couple of years. I want kids to come to the library not just because it's within walking distance of school and they need somewhere to be until their parents get home from work. I want the library to be a place they want to go because there's something specific here for them that they want to do or use or experience. I think part of it is the battle all of us fight to successfully advertise ourselves, but a big part of it is that our programs and services for teens are still really new.
I have some plans for how to do that (though I'd love more ideas if you have them!), but for now, I'm just going to revel in actually having my patrons back in my library after a long and lonely week! I was able to knock out a lot of planning and paperwork while they were gone, but having to do all of that boring stuff and go to meetings without the relief of being able to talk about Minecraft, joke around with my TAB kids, or do any readers' advisory at all left me feeling out of sorts and made me realize that I am definitely in this profession for the kids, not for the library itself.
I'm really into the goals and ideals of our profession and I want to promote all of the great things libraries do that people might not know about and to make information more accessible and understandable to people. I like YA lit a lot and I'm interested in raising its reputation outside the YA world. But what really matters to me is what I can do to make my teens' lives--both right now and in the future--more awesome.
I want to help them find reading material that is engaging to them. I want to help them totally nerd out in their interests and hobbies. I want them to be able to have fun, to have opportunities to grow as people, and to feel valued in our community. I want to be their advocates within the library and to everyone else in the town. As overly earnest as it sounds, I want to use the library as a force for good in their lives.
I was kind of surprised by how bummed a week without my patrons made me feel, but it's shown me that they're definitely what gives my job meaning. I like that I know that about myself now, and I'm really looking forward to building our teen services and getting the word out about what we do.