But doesn’t that mean the teens will start coming in?

May 20, 2009 at 10:06 am

An Ethics professor once told me the best way to test our bias and prejudice is by replacing your intended subject with a different one. Her particular argument was against the use of generalized statements but it fits this situation just as well. Replace the word ‘teen’ (but make sure to keep ‘the’) in the title with another age group, race or religion, political belief, etc.
Try to say it aloud or, better yet, walk up to someone and say it to them.
Did it feel weird?
So, why was it okay to say about ‘the teens?’
The title of this post almost reads like a joke and, in fact, I did get a few good laughs when I repeated it.
But it wasn’t a joke…
It was something a librarian asked me at the NJLA Conference… right after stating how wonderful a gaming program would be for the children and seniors of her community.
The question took me a bit by surprise, I guess I thought most libraries had gotten over this hump. I thought, in a time when we fight to justify our relevance and existence, we would strive for as many patrons as possible. Then I thought of the question I should have responded with;
 
“Well, if you don’t want them to come in as teens, when do you want them to come back?”
 
I wonder how the desired life-cycle of this library’s patrons is supposed to happen. They start their life as a child full of wonder and excitement, eyes gleaming at the expansive collection of books with silly pictures of cats, dogs, bunnies and ducks (my daughter’s personal favorite). The child returns to the library in order to nurture their love of reading and, perhaps, even help another child learn their own first word. The children are always welcome to return and grow their love of books…
until they develop an opinion and interest in a social life.
At this point, The Teenage Years (or The Rebel Era if you prefer), the still-child is cast out into the lands. He/she will learn to fend for themselves in the jungles of peer pressures, learn how to find weaker prey and attack with stunning emotional-precision and develop new languages built around four-letter words and the slang of 30 years ago. Think Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
But eventually, these teens will persevere. They will develop the skills needed to make it in the adult world. They will move on to attain college degrees, grow more children and learn how to live and respect the social expectations of ‘decent society.’
At this time, they may return… and please bring their children!

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5 Surprises from first year as an MLIS Freemium (or should libraries charge for services?)


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