Teen Librarians: Who we are and what we are not

May 21, 2007 at 7:42 am 10 comments

As a Young Adult Librarian, I have made the professional decision to immerse myself in young adult culture; the books they read, the music they listen to, the resources they use for information. I have also taken on the responsibility to provide programming opportunities for the teen community to participate in, if they choose to do so. In other words, teen resources are my specialty.

But I am not the babysitter for every teen that enters the library.

And I am not the only person capable of handling teens’ questions.

I am not disciplinarian for all teens.

Nor are my job responsibilities significantly different from any other librarian.

I am not their babysitter- Teens that come into the library are my specialty, not my responsibility. Just because a teen enters the building, it does not mean they can only be in the Teen Section. Teens have the same rights as all other patrons, they are allowed to go in any other part of the library.

I am not the only person to handle a teens’ question- Listen to the needs of the patron first and then figure out if my expertise is needed. If they know the name of book they are looking for, help them. If they want to find out where the copier is, show them. But, if the teens wants book recommendations, programming information, research help… I’m your person. Remember, I don’t send every old person your way.

I am not the teens disciplinarian- If teenagers are acting up in the library, this is not my fault. Furthermore, don’t send me the rambunctious teen and tell me to “deal with them.” In doing so, you have negated your own authority in the teens’ eyes.

My job responsibilities aren’t significantly different- If you don’t expect the rest of your staff to work multiple nights, then it shouldn’t be expected of your YA Librarian. If your typical Reference or Children’s Librarian does two programs a week, don’t expect the YA Librarian to have programming everyday, or every moment that teens are present. If you don’t expect your other programs to have 100% attendence from members of the library community, don’t expect every teen to show up for every program.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of good Teen Librarians who leave the position because of they discover the job expectations are disproportoinate to other positions in the libarary.

Consider families, consider the lives outside of job and please consider the wear and tear you put on your Teen Librarian when you send them patrons you personally would rather not deal with.
We are programmers, we are selectors, we are outreach and we are staff members dedicated to maintaining the enthusiasm and interest of the library’s future adults, future taxpayers, and advocates.

We do not need a thank you for this… we just ask for your consideration.

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10 Comments

  • 1. Anonymous  |  May 21, 2007 at 9:40 am

    I was struck by the last phrase of Tyler’s first paragraph.

    I am always asking myself why am I a librarian and what is the purpose of a library. I find that my answers to these questions are always evolving.

    When my colleagues associate their roles as librarians with “resources” I wonder how far we have evolved from the monk copying manuscripts?

    For myself, I believe that as a librarian my chief purpose is to be an advocate for the benefits of learning and knowledge. In all that I do as a librarian I am bearing witness to the importance of being able to learn and grow, wether it be playing a game or reading a book.

    Seth Stephens
    Jefferson Township Public Library
    Oak Ridge, N.J

  • 2. Anonymous  |  May 21, 2007 at 9:40 am

    I was struck by the last phrase of Tyler’s first paragraph.

    I am always asking myself why am I a librarian and what is the purpose of a library. I find that my answers to these questions are always evolving.

    When my colleagues associate their roles as librarians with “resources” I wonder how far we have evolved from the monk copying manuscripts?

    For myself, I believe that as a librarian my chief purpose is to be an advocate for the benefits of learning and knowledge. In all that I do as a librarian I am bearing witness to the importance of being able to learn and grow, wether it be playing a game or reading a book.

    Seth Stephens
    Jefferson Township Public Library
    Oak Ridge, N.J

  • 3. Amy J. Kearns, MLIS  |  May 21, 2007 at 10:39 am

    Wow great post, Ty. It brings up a great point about saying “not my job” about anything in the library.

    Thanks!
    Amy

  • 4. Amy J. Kearns, MLIS  |  May 21, 2007 at 10:39 am

    Wow great post, Ty. It brings up a great point about saying “not my job” about anything in the library.

    Thanks!
    Amy

  • 5. Marie L. Radford  |  May 22, 2007 at 7:56 am

    Ty, Your post raises critically important issues for YA (and adult services)librarians. I really have 2 comments to make.

    The first is that I believe that frequently teens are sent by other librarians to the YA librarian because others don’t know what to do about “rowdy teens” as Mary K. Chelton wrote. Their strategy is to avoid encounters rather than to learn how to turn a negative encounter around with a positive approach.

    Part of the YA person’s responsibility is to educate others about teens, others similarly have the responsibility to learn about teens and how to deal with them in a reasonable, fair, and open way.

    Secondly, I notice that you said “Remember, I don’t send every old person your way.” My research has indicated that the two top “problem patron” groups are teens and the elderly. These groups have remarkable similarities such as: usually not having jobs or much money, being dependent on others (parents or adult children), having more leisure time, having a different orientation to time, and being less inhibited in speech and action. I could go on…

    I agree with Ty that with all types of challenging library users we need to take more of a team approach rather than dividing groups up by department. This team approach allows librarians and staff to work cohesively to diffuse problems and to provide excellent service to all. Of course, a highly functional team doesn’t happen by accident but must be cultivated and supported by the library administration and by the entire staff.

  • 6. Marie L. Radford  |  May 22, 2007 at 7:56 am

    Ty, Your post raises critically important issues for YA (and adult services)librarians. I really have 2 comments to make.

    The first is that I believe that frequently teens are sent by other librarians to the YA librarian because others don’t know what to do about “rowdy teens” as Mary K. Chelton wrote. Their strategy is to avoid encounters rather than to learn how to turn a negative encounter around with a positive approach.

    Part of the YA person’s responsibility is to educate others about teens, others similarly have the responsibility to learn about teens and how to deal with them in a reasonable, fair, and open way.

    Secondly, I notice that you said “Remember, I don’t send every old person your way.” My research has indicated that the two top “problem patron” groups are teens and the elderly. These groups have remarkable similarities such as: usually not having jobs or much money, being dependent on others (parents or adult children), having more leisure time, having a different orientation to time, and being less inhibited in speech and action. I could go on…

    I agree with Ty that with all types of challenging library users we need to take more of a team approach rather than dividing groups up by department. This team approach allows librarians and staff to work cohesively to diffuse problems and to provide excellent service to all. Of course, a highly functional team doesn’t happen by accident but must be cultivated and supported by the library administration and by the entire staff.

  • 7. Anonymous  |  May 22, 2007 at 10:51 am

    “a highly functional team doesn’t happen by accident but must be cultivated and supported by the library administration and by the entire staff”

    I am proud to work within a system that provides fabulous YA/diversity training opportunities to all its employees (Librarians and support staff). I am dismayed, however, to see dismal attendance at these YA/diversity trainings by staff members working in areas other than YA services. Whether this is the result of poor support by branch managers (denying staff the time to attend) or lack of interest, I can’t say. But I have observed in my branch a true disinterest by staff members to attend. They simply do not see the benefits of YA services nor do they care. And nothing I’ve said has changed their attitudes toward teens even if they grudgingly admit YA services are important.

  • 8. Anonymous  |  May 22, 2007 at 10:51 am

    “a highly functional team doesn’t happen by accident but must be cultivated and supported by the library administration and by the entire staff”

    I am proud to work within a system that provides fabulous YA/diversity training opportunities to all its employees (Librarians and support staff). I am dismayed, however, to see dismal attendance at these YA/diversity trainings by staff members working in areas other than YA services. Whether this is the result of poor support by branch managers (denying staff the time to attend) or lack of interest, I can’t say. But I have observed in my branch a true disinterest by staff members to attend. They simply do not see the benefits of YA services nor do they care. And nothing I’ve said has changed their attitudes toward teens even if they grudgingly admit YA services are important.

  • 9. Saleena Davidson  |  May 22, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    Wow! You took the words right out of my mouth….I thought I was the only YA Librarian feeling like this….it’s just nice to know that you’re not alone sometimes.

    Saleena Davidson
    South Brunswick Public Library
    Monmouth Jct, NJ

  • 10. Saleena Davidson  |  May 22, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    Wow! You took the words right out of my mouth….I thought I was the only YA Librarian feeling like this….it’s just nice to know that you’re not alone sometimes.

    Saleena Davidson
    South Brunswick Public Library
    Monmouth Jct, NJ


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