Yesterday morning one of my students sidled up to the circulation desk before first bell and asked, “Were you, by any chance, at roller derby this Saturday?”

I was, in fact, and I had a great time–but instead of thinking about what fun I had with my friends, inwardly I started panicking.

Had I been drinking? Was I swearing publicly? Did I wear something I wouldn’t wear to school?

(For the record? The answer is “All of the above,” although we happened to be surrounded by small children so the swearing was probably at a minimum–instead we entertained the other adults in our area by gruffly shouting polite encouragement, like “I’M SO PROUD OF YOU!” and “I LIKE WHAT YOU DID THERE!”)

Running into a teen you serve in your library when you’re both somewhere else can be lovely, weird, or some combination of the two. Whether it’s at the grocery store or a roller derby bout, you’re suddenly off-duty and the dynamic shifts. What if you run into teens while they’re doing something you wouldn’t allow in the library? What if teens run into you while you’re doing something you wouldn’t do in front of your boss?

We’re all allowed to have lives outside of work. Some of us may relish the chance to interact with teens from our community in a different setting, whether it might be at a pride parade, a sporting event, or just a local restaurant. Others of us may shy away from the spots where our teens might be, hoping to keep our personal lives private or to just avoid the pressure of being “on” all the time.

Whether it’s a chance encounter or a planned excursion, your interaction with a teen outside the library could actually help your relationship–remember how seeing your elementary school teacher out in the world changed your view just a little?–and it could raise some interesting questions the next time you meet at work.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s great for my students to see me and their teachers from time to time outside of the school building. I like that they get the chance to see us as regular folks. But just as I wouldn’t want to butt in where my teens are trying to hang out and just be themselves, I’m grateful that I have social spaces to just hang out with my friends and be an adult who isn’t worried about writing passes or giving lessons.

Have you had a “run-in” with teens from work? How did you handle it?

About mk Eagle

I'm the librarian at Holliston High School, a bit west of Boston. In my spare time I advise my school's yearbook and Gay Straight Alliance, write about food, and root for the Red Sox.

10 Thoughts on “Get a Life!

  1. Funny you mention this..I actually play roller derby, and on several occasions have seen teens I work with at bouts, or at the skating rink before practice, etc. Yep, most definitely wearing clothes I don’t/can’t wear at work, and I’m not going to say the culture of derby is free of swearing and other ah…vulgarities. So, I have felt nervous and afraid I’m going to hear from a parent or something.

    But, usually what happens is the next time I’m visiting a school and I run into a student or teacher who knows about my alter ego and favorite pasttime, they are very excited to talk to me, tell their friends where they saw me, etc. I am often called “that librarian who plays roller derby.” I’ll take it!

    When teens see me out and about, I don’t feel the pressure to be “on,” like doing a quick booktalk in the grocery store, but I do often say “it’ll be great to see you at school” or “come see me at the library and we’ll find you something good.”

  2. Kate Pickett on March 23, 2010 at 11:23 am said:

    I live about 20 miles from where I work so I don’t run into my teens a lot but I have had a similarly interesting situation that involves roller derby and libraries. I play roller derby (just started actually) and I was booktalking at a school for a teacher who happens to be a friend of mine. She was introducing me as the teen librarian at the public library (yada yada) and then all of a sudden she says “and she plays roller derby!” This was not something I had planned to share with the students that day but I just ran with it. At first it was uncomfortable and I thought about asking her to drop that particular tidbit from my introduction for future classes. But as I shared this personal part of my life with them I could feel the classroom connecting and coming together and when we jumped into books based on Romeo and Juliet (totally connected I swear!) they stuck with me. I haven’t run into one of my teens at a roller derby bout yet and I have a feeling it will be awkward if I do, what with all the glitter and fishnets. But I am really glad that it was something that I shared with them on that day, its good for teens to know that librarians can kick butt too!

  3. Megan Frazer Blakemore on March 23, 2010 at 1:05 pm said:

    Oh gosh, when I lived and worked in the Boston area I was always running into students. One would invariably ask, “Are you going to bar?” No matter the time of day. Now I often see kids where they work — grocery stores, etc. I’m never sure if I should I go to their checkout lane or if it would be weird for them to scan my groceries. “Wow, Ms. Blakemore sure likes cheese!”

  4. Oddly enough, it’s entirely possible that my student who saw me at roller derby knows how much I like cheese–Cabot was there giving out samples.

    The only time (so far) that I’ve run into a student in a retail situation I had no choice but to have him serve me. It was either that or no cupcake. And I am way too committed to cupcakes to back down in that situation.

    (As an aside–I love all the library derby love!)

  5. Penny Johnson on March 23, 2010 at 2:38 pm said:

    I live in a small town, so I see “my” library teens often outside the library. I always enjoy observing how they react to me. Some are very friendly and come up and greet me. Others ignore me, especially if they are with their parents, which I find quite interesting. I love the interaction in other settings. I like the additional connections.

  6. Alissa Lauzon on March 23, 2010 at 3:01 pm said:

    I live in the community that I work in, so I run into my teens a lot. I see them a lot at the movies and it is always a great converstation starter for my friends when we run into a teen who comes running over going “hey, you’re the lady that threw me out of the library” and starts to chat with me (the non-librarians can’t understand why a kid would be excited about seeing someone who threw them out). Then there are the teens who will smile and nod but not speak to me, but the next time they come in come over and ask me what movie I saw and if I liked it. I even have kids who visit the library and live in my apartment building, so there are days when I’m doing reader’s advisory sitting on the back steps. I also find myself frequently doing reader’s advisory at Starbucks on Sunday nights when I am there for my knitting group- a couple of the teens working there are regulars who love to chat about books with me.

    The only time I’ve not been happy to run into a kid was when I came home from work one day and a particularly problematic teen boy (the kind you don’t want knowing where you live or what your car looks like) was sitting on the outside steps of my apartment building. I don’t mind being social when I see most of my kids, but I don’t really want them knowing where I live (one of the reasons I only have a cell phone is I’m not in the phone book when a kid is especially mad at me).

    I generally take my cues from the kids when I run into them. I may smile and nod or wave, but unless they speak to me, I just keep on with whatever I was doing. I’ve thought some times about avoiding their lines at the grocery store, but then I think it does give them a chance to see me as a real person with a weakness for chocolate milk 🙂 Makes me a little less intimidating to speak to at the library that way.

  7. Kelly Czarnecki on March 23, 2010 at 6:43 pm said:

    I work at a homeless shelter in addition to the library. If I see teens at the shelter that I know from the library, it’s usually a great encounter but of course I’m strictly bound by confidentiality and can’t share with anyone that I know they’re at the shelter. Not that I’d ever want to but even in casual conversation I can’t.

  8. Kelly, that’s a really good point. I often see students from our Gay Straight Alliance (which I help advise) in the library, but I’m always very careful not to say anything along the lines of “Hey, we missed you at GSA this week.” (Occasionally they bring it up first, in which case I’m happy to talk about GSA things.)

    This is behavior I try to model for the teens–we remind them that some people have certain assumptions about what being a part of GSA means, and that even casually mentioning you saw someone at a GSA meeting (or any other queer event) could have really serious social and familial consequences.

  9. Adrienne on March 25, 2010 at 8:43 pm said:

    This reminds me of a time I was tested by a group of teen boys on a high school school visit. We had a no profanity policy in the library, and while I was not that great at enforcing it (it didn’t always register in my brain), these boys must have thought I was. They kept swearing at school in front of me just to see what I would do. I told them, “You do realize that I have no jurisdiction here, and therefore do not care, right?” I went on to tell them what I always told them in the library, that the reason we have a no profanity rule is because their talk and behavior is disturbing to other folks in the library (and has nothing to do with my personal taste). It still makes me chuckle though…

  10. At MFPOW I used to run into students outside work; most of them just ignored me, but some were all “hey, great to see you/what are you doing”. The ones I thought I’d see most I told that to call me by my first name (theory being neither of us are on duty, so let’s be informal). Luckily I was never doing anything ‘bad’! The last time it happened was at JFK this past November; student in question asked if she could use my first name, then chatted away about common friends/teachers until our bags showed up. Then she friended me on FB.

    If you worry overly much about what you’re doing when they catch you (or what you look like) then it’s usually going to be embarrassing for all involved. I just assume that they don’t think I sleep in the library, that I have a life, and that they know they just intruded in it (and vice-versa).

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