When I came home from work yesterday, there was a thick manila envelope waiting on my doorstep. I thought, cool, probably a galley from VOYA or a hardback that I previously reviewed. When I opened it, I realized it was for a book I had co-written a chapter for in regards to work with digital media and teens. Time to celebrate! I do a few jigs around my kitchen and shared it with some people at my library and that was about the extent of it.

Next morning, I wake up to an email that the person I co-wrote the chapter with is leaving his organization. The headline on his email stated, ‘Why I’m Leaving (name of organization) & What You Can Do About It’. It turned my head. It reminded me of a line in The Butterfly Clues, “Everything in me drops, bursting-straight through the earth, straight through to the molten, spinning center.” It made me think about when I leave my organization or working with teens, what message do I want to leave others to help carry on and continue the work that needs to be done.

What will your message be?

This summer, my supervisor for several years, Michele Gorman, took on a new position within my organization. I mention her because many of you are probably familiar with her work with teens and libraries and how she helped to shape the profession. I know her as someone that created structures to enable staff to help change the lives of teens. When I found out she was moving on, I wanted to find and read a cover story she wrote for School Library Journal about Patrick Jones in 2006 titled ‘Mr. Inspiration’. In the article he talks about his legacy as Michele and others mentoring the next generation. “We absolutely have to do this. Sometimes it’s just encouragement or it’s saying to somebody, “Oh, that’s a great idea. You should write that as an article.”

So back to the person I mentioned at the beginning of this post. His name is Barry Joseph. He worked for Global Kids as well as the New York Public Library and several other libraries involved in teen projects. If I tried to sum up his work with teens, I think I would do a great disservice. I think as librarians and educators, we all have the skills to research the work that he did and will continue to do. In his email he summarized 12 key lessons that I think a lot of us can relate to and asked that we continue in supporting this work. They are as follows:
1. Youth Care.
2. Youth Voices Matter.
3. New Literacy Frameworks Are the Key To The Future.
4. The Fast Track To New Literacies Is Youth Digital Media Production.
5. Avoid The Myth Of The Self-Directed Learner.
6. Educators Are Still Trying To Figure This All Out.
7. Find Your Edge Point Then Work It.
8. Make Connections: Person to Person.
9. Make Connections: Institution to Institution.
10. Make Connections: A Network of Collaborators.
11.The Workplace Can Be A Praxis For The Change We Want To See.
12. Youth Come First.

You might not have any idea who Barry is (though you probably should) but I bet you have your own super hero or heroin in mind that’s helped influence your work. How will you continue on their legacy? How will you create your own? Very likely, many of us are relieved to be able to have a break from answering questions on the reference desk or shelving books or even giving programs for teens. We love our jobs but need to take a breather once in awhile. Let that breather be the moment you take time to decide the difference you want to make. To reflect on the difference you are making. Even if you feel you can’t do much are aren’t necessarily changing lives through shelving a book or leading an origami program.

But you are.

You owe it to yourself and your teens to figure out how and to help others carry on what needs to be done.

As Lo in The Butterfly Clues says, “It’s what the universe wants.”

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.

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