Sitting in a local coffee shop and talking with a colleague about the library might be a great way to connect with teens in your community. A few weeks ago, I sat in a coffee shop looking at blueprints of a new children’s space with a children’s librarian.’  As we got up to get ready to leave, one of the teen boys sitting at a nearby table asked what we were up to. We told him and when talking with him we discovered that he was a college student studying theater, lighting design, and such.

Yesterday, when on the phone with the same children’s librarian, I found out there was a new teen volunteer helping out in the library. At one point the librarian’  said, “Oh wait, it’s Hugo (name changed) remember he’s the teen we talked to that day in the coffee shop.”

I got really excited learning that Hugo took our friendly conversation as something of real interest, and, as a result, walked into the library and asked how he could help.

Two things are clear to me from this story.’  First, making the work of the library visible within the community – for example by having a meeting in a coffee shop – gives librarians the chance to show community members what the library is up to.’  Librarians who spend time in the businesses within the town or city in which they work, are able to start conversations and informal discussions that might lead to some positive unintended consequences. (A new volunteer in the library, a donation of some sort, etc.)

Second, all it took to connect with Hugo was our willingness to talk to him about what we were doing, and the willingness to find out a little bit about him and the things in which he is interested.’  When he asked what we were working on we didn’t hedge anything. We specifically told him about the library building project and the kinds of things we were trying to figure out for the children’s room. (Of course we didn’t get into nitty gritty details.)’  We also asked him what he was up to and showed a sincere interest in his interests. We didn’t try to get out quick. We chatted for several minutes.

It’s pretty much a no-brainer that informally talking to teens, and other members of the community, can have a direct & positive impact on services provided. However, don’t forget that even small experiences and small conversations can have positive unintended consequences.’  There might be quite a few Hugos in your community. You don’t have to go looking for them. Just be willing to seize unanticipated opportunities to meet them.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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