I am noticing a big problem at a lot of libraries – mine in particular, since, you know, I’m there a lot.’  The problem is that the teen patrons only talk to the teen librarian. When I’m not there, reference questions go unasked.’  Books stay missing.’  Computers go unused.’  They are scared to talk to anyone else.’  A girl approached me that had been looking for a book for three weeks that was sitting on the shelves the whole time because she was too intimidated to ask anyone but me what the call number meant.

The kids, being kids and all, come in after school and are noisy.’  Shocking to all of you, I know.’  Since when are kids noisy?’  It bothers other patrons and usually ends with a staff member scolding them.’  This scolding is usually the only time the teen patrons interact with any other members of the library staff.’  They only know people I think of as helpful and kind as yelling, angry adults.’  Thus, they avoid them.’  I am in the YA room nearly every day for multiple hours, so I am a familiar, friendly (I hope) face.’  I have talked to them, so they know that they can talk to me.’  The rest of the staff are all really fantastic people that would be happy to help the teen patrons, but the teens are afraid and refuse to approach them.

I’m doing my best to encourage the teens to go to the staff with their questions.’  I have supplied the other reference librarians with book lists and summer reading lists so that they are well-equipped for reader’s advisory and other YA questions.’  As you all well know, the teen years are when libraries lose most patrons.’  I want to make sure that we are showing these kids that the library is a place they are welcome to be in.’  If they feel welcome, they will keep coming here well past their teen years.’  The question is how to get my staff involved?’  I am guessing that many of you have dealt with a similar problem.’  What did you do?’  I’d love some advice to make my teen population feel more comfortable.

2 Thoughts on “Getting the Rest of the Staff Involved

  1. Your guess is as good as mine on that one. Fortunately, I have an assistant who is in our YA area when I’m not, so our area generally has a face they know in it.

    But I tend to have the same issues. If I have to step out for whatever reason, other staff members come down and are cranky with the teens, leading them to promptly vacate the library.

    I happen to think that there are just some people who are good, nice people, but they don’t deal with teens well. I told a co-worker a few days ago that teens are still children but they aren’t cute like babies or younger kids, so you don’t have that instinctive desire to be gentle with them or remember that they aren’t adults yet.

  2. Linda W Braun on August 25, 2011 at 6:18 pm said:

    You might check out YALSA’s white paper on the Whole Library Approach to Teen Services. The idea of the paper is that in order to provide high quality service to teens, all staff members have to be trained to work with the age group. The approach requires that administration support the idea that all staff are required to serve teens with good customer service. If it’s not clear from the top down that teens need to be respected and supported throughout the library, it’s not easy to make sure that all staff treat teens as they would with any other customer. You can find the white paper on the YALSA website.

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