A few hours ago I received an email from a library school student that included the following:
I’m on the board of our small public library – we were doing a goal setting exercise – I brought up enticing more teenagers to use this library (they don’t). I could not believe the negative reaction that I got – It was a why do we need that generation here kind of reaction.”
Every time I hear a story like this I feel so sad. Every day I am reminded of the great progress we’ve made in guaranteeing that teens are supported in their libraries. But, then again, at least once a week I’m reminded of how far we have to go.
I ask myself, how does a community get to the point where they think that it’s OK to say no to teens in the library? I wonder, how did some libraries get to the point where they think if they say no to teens today when those same teens become adults they will come back to the library? (By the way, those teens should never return to any library that treats them that way.)
If you encounter a library, librarian, or community member who thinks it’s OK to say no to teens, what can you say to turn things around? Will it work to:
- Explain that the teen is a future taxpayer and that it’s important to serve the teen today so they will vote for your budget tomorrow?
- Talk about the developmental assets and the role libraries play in helping teens grow-up successfully?
- Focus on the library as a place where teens can learn how to use technology tools in positive ways so they know how to be smart and safe while online?
- Reflect on the ways in which libraries can serve teens through youth participation programs?
These are of course just a few of the ways to help circumvent the negative attitudes that sometimes still exist when it comes to teen services in libraries. If you have other ideas or best practice suggestions, submit a comment for this post.
We need to remind the blue-haired old ladies that today’s teens will be providing their social security to them soon. Seriously, we need to promote more intergenerational events. Many teens are really great to have around and very intelligent. Maybe teens could do an oral history project in the community. The teens could record the interviews and make a podcast for the community or an audio archive on the library website. I think most older people like the teens they actually know. They just need to realize that their relatives are not the only civilized teens in the world.