Image Courtesy of James Vaughan
There is a famous line from the Lethal Weapon movies spoken by Roger Murtaugh: â€œI’m getting too old for this . . . .â€ It can be easy to feel this way when working with teens, who are constantly changing their minds. Something is hot one minute and cold the next, sometimes trends are equally hot and cold (ask a group of teens about Justin Bieber or One Direction and pay close attention to the split). It can be hard enough to keep up with what teens are into, but sometimes an age difference of a few years can seem like decades to a teen. Trust me, that divide seems just as vast to librarians. In music alone we have to keep up with J-Biebs and 1D, while deciding whether to give attention to flashes in the pan, such as Baauer. Will Taylor Swift continue to be relevant to teens, or as she matures as an artist will teens lose touch with her material? There are so many what-ifs in pop culture, and how teens relate to pop culture, that it would be so much easier to echo Murtaugh’s refrain and throw in the towel.
However, we know it is important to stay relevant, lest we become obsolete. What’s the best way to stay relevant? Admit you don’t know everything! I’ll be the first to admit, I can be a bit of a know-it-all. I pretend I know everything about everything. Really I know a few things about random stuff. However, I am willing to admit that I know next to nothing about history. I dislike country music. I know that Dance Moms is a television show, but could tell you nothing of its premise. All of these are interests of various patrons I serve. What am I doing to connect with them? How can I expand my horizons so I can better serve them? As librarians ‘ it is just as important to know our weaknesses as it is our strengths. Sure, we could offer a thousand Downton Abbey programs (are librarians still watching Downton? (I know I am!)), but what can we offer our communities that we aren’t already offering?
Luckily the internet exists. Also, I assume, we are librarians ready, willing, and able to research our teen populations’ interests. If they like a television show you have never heard of, try to watch it. If you don’t have cable, try Hulu, Netflix, or iTunes. For new bands, YouTube and Spotify are go-to resources. I’ll provide a few more resources at the bottom of this post. The most important thing to remember with our profession is we are serving teens. It is important that they know we think they are important, and that their opinions matter. Maybe you don’t like their favorites, but at least you tried. Looking at the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents, by just showing we care about their interests we are serving at least three assets. We serve as a â€œnonparent adult,â€ we show that we â€œvalue youth,â€ and we appreciate â€œYouth as Resources.â€ The latter of the three is especially relevant if we use youth input for collection development or to design programming. So I want you to ask yourself some questions: ‘ What do my teens like that I know nothing about? How can I find out about that interest? What resources/services/programs can I offer around the interest?
I’ll leave you with just one more quote, via Thomas Edison, â€œOur greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.â€ Much more profound than Roger Murtagh.
As promised, a few resources to help you along:
The Morning After – Hulu’s snarky show gives you highlights of popular shows, especially reality juggernauts.
GeekSugar – Geek-y stuff is blowing up, and fandoms can be hard to get a grasp on. Also try Oh No They Didn’t for trashier, gossipier, fan-sourced posts.
PBS Off-Book – This thoughtful and inteligent web-series discusses art, internet culture and more. It gives some academic credence to the “fun stuff.”
EW’s Pop Watch – A broad and thorough look at pop culture. If you want better writing and more to think about with your pop culture with a limited scope, try The AV Club.