Posts tagged ‘teens’

5 Reasons why you should be gaming in your Library

“We’re pleased to have Justin Hoenke, Teen Librarian at Cape May County Library guest posting for us this week. -Peter Bromberg

This past month, my library (Cape May County Library) was named the first place winner of the New Jersey State Library’s video contest “Solving Life’s Problems.” The video follows a timid young boy named Trevor whose family cannot afford to buy him the latest video game system. Instead, his family takes him to his local library where he quickly becomes a fan of the weekly game night program. In turn, Trevor and his family become regulars at the library. (So regular that Trevor now gets high fives from the librarians!)

Needless to say, I’m super proud of our staff (Lisa Alderfer, Technology Librarian and Mike Trout, Technology Assistant) for putting this video together. It clearly shows the many ways a library can be there for its patrons if we just take that extra step. But video games…in the library? I always get quizzed about how odd this idea seems by friends, family, and library patrons. I tell them that the answer is simple…we’re a public library and the public wants video games so…we give them video games! In 2008, video games sales topped $21 billion dollars(http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28682836). Now I’m no expert with money, but that seems like a lot. Enough that we librarians should take notice.

If you’re on the fence about video game programs or circulating video game collections in your library, here are five reasons why you should just go for it.

1. Welcome to the 21st Century!
Video games are part of the new media. Corporations are using video games for product placement. Movie stars are starring in their own video games. That old cliche of video games making kids lazy and unsocial can be thrown out in the trash. Video games help people learn how to solve problems, develop hand/eye coordination, and now with games such as Wii Fit, provide exercise. Please check out all of your excuses at the door thank you very much.

Welcome to the 21st Century, where video games are a relevant source of information and media. If you choose not to have any kind of video games in your library, you’re living in the past.

2. Gaming builds community.
Since my library (Cape May County Library) initiated our Game Night program in January 2008, we have seen around 20-30 teens attending our weekly Game Night program. Looking at this crowd, you see a wide range of personalities; the hardcore gamers, the metalheads, the anime teens, and many more. Over the past year, I’ve watched all these personalities mix, mingle, and become good friends. Teens have told me that because of our Game Night program they now have more friends at school. This is what the 21st century library is all about…building community. The public library of the 21st century should bring together all sorts of people and provide them with the stuff they want.

3. You will see all sorts of new people in your library.
My desk is situated about 30 feet from our entrance. I get to see a number of folks stopping in the library on a daily basis. They’re usually the same people, but since we got our circulating video game collection things have changed. I see a lot of new faces coming in every few days to get a new game. Once they find out I’m the one buying the games, I become sort of a pseudo celebrity. The cool thing about this story? These are people I’ve NEVER seen in the library before. Just think of all the patrons that are out there that are not interested in books. This is one way to reach them.

4. You couldn’t ask for an easier way to get teens interested in the library.
I call video games the “gateway drug for getting reluctant teens interested in the library.” It almost seems too easy. Have video games and they will come. That’s it. As I said in #2 above, every week I see a wide range of personalities mixing it up for two hours over Rock Band. These teens started out just coming to our game nights. I casually introduced them to our other teen programs and all the teen books and graphic novels we had. I didn’t beat them over the head with this other stuff…instead I just said “Hey, take a look at this other cool stuff.” Slowly but surely the teens were coming into the library on non game nights. They were checking out books. They were coming up to my desk and requesting new books. As a matter a fact, they helped initiate a new collection of video game strategy guides in our teen room.

Now, our teen circulation is through the roof. All of our teen programs are very well attended. And it all started with video games in the library.

5. The initial cost may be high, but the return investment is priceless.
Wow. That was such a cliche line. I’m sort of proud of myself for writing it. Anyway, video games cost a lot of money. Playstation 3 games regularly go for $59.99. Ouch. Especially in a time when so many libraries are getting budget cuts. Here’s something to think about though; You’re not plopping down all this money for nothing. You are creating life long library users. These patrons will see that and they’ll become supporters for your library. They’ll be the ones to fight for you in the future if you face budget cuts.

Are you also gaming in your library? If so, comment below and share what is working best for your library.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions:
Twitter: http://twitter.com/justinlibrarian
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/justinhoenke

August 27, 2009 at 12:16 pm

5 Surprises from first year as an MLIS

One year ago next week, I received my MLIS from Rutgers University. Over the past year, I have learned a great deal, found I need to learn much more, and am truly thankful to those who have helped bring me to where I am today. As many of you may know, I am a career changer who had not worked in libraries until library school, so many of the things I learned have been quite unexpected.

On the eve of this anniversary, I thought I would share the top five most surprising things I have learned and comment on each. Keep in mind, all of these pertain to Public Libraries because that is where I work and public librarians are who I tend to socialize with. Also, these observations are not all about MPOW—they come from discussion with many different librarians from many different libraries…

Top Five Library Surprises.
#1) Meetings: Corporations have long since abandoned the long meeting with many people—they are generally expensive and non-productive. Librarians love long meetings with many people in attendance. Each week there is at least one meeting to attend—usually far more than one. They tend to run long and much of what is covered could be communicated via e-mail or memos.
My reaction: Wow, this is insane, please stop!

Next time you are at a meeting and are bored (and you know you will be), look around the room. Calculate an average hourly salary (oh come on, we all know you look at the Asbury Park Press database: http://php.app.com/NJpublicemployees/search.php ). It doesn’t have to be exact, in fact low-ball it at $20/hour and plug it into this formula:
(hourly rate)*(# of people at meeting)*(number of hours for meeting) = real $ cost of meeting.
Pretty staggering isn’t it (now consider how many times these meetings happen in one year!).
Do you really think this is the best use of our resources? And this does not even count the opportunity cost—think of all the stuff you could get done if not at the meeting, now think of all the stuff everyone could! Meetings—which generally produce nothing but to-do lists—are really just a practical alternative to actual work.

Now before you all write in to say we have to have meetings – yes I know that. Short, focused meetings are critical to working efficiently. Likewise, employees should have a chance to speak to management in an open forum. I am not advocating for no meetings. I simply would like to see some business-like principals applied to library meetings and fewer meetings in general:

  • Have an agenda with approximate times for each topic.
  • Stick to the agenda: if time runs over too far, perhaps a sub-set should meet for further discussion instead of the entire staff being held hostage to one topic; when topic drift begins, return the discussion to the topic at hand and consider the drift items as topics for another time; if one person is dominating and dragging things out—offer to speak to them later one-on-one.
  • Be sure the agenda items need face to face discussion—if it can be done via e-mail, do it. Again, I totally agree with having meetings—simply not as often and never as long as the typical staff or department meetings in libraries.
#2) Customer Service: Every meeting, every conference, many training sessions, and loads of articles, blog posts, tweets, and chats focus on Customer Service. We love to talk about customer service.

My Reaction: I agree! Customer service is incredibly important. Now let’s put that into practice.

  • More weekend hours! Weekends are when the most patrons use the libraries, but it is the first place people cut when trying to slash budgets. Many libraries are not open at all on Sundays. Why?
  • More staff during the busiest hours—yes, this means working more weekends and nights and more than one librarian on a desk a peak times. Every library I have worked in or been to has a skeleton crew on weekends! Long lines & cranky burned out employees do not equal good customer service. I know this is unpopular, but it is true.
  • Sundays are a day just like any other day—why do we open so late?! We are public institutions that should NOT schedule based when church is over (the only possible reason I see for the late start). Our patrons should not have to wait half a day to get to the library.
#3) Marketing: Every time I brought up marketing while in library school, fellow students bit my head off—some wanted to boil me in oil for using the dreaded ‘M’ word. To be fair, many libraries and librarians now use and promote marketing. They deserve credit because they do still get tons of flack for being too ‘business-like’.
My Reaction: Marketing is important–Deal with It!
Don’t believe me? A recent ‘help for job seekers’ program in my library had no promotion, two people showed up (come on, in this economy!). Attendance at the same program when it was promoted? SRO. You can have the best library, best staff, best resources, and best programs–if people don’t know it, they won’t use it.

#4) Adult Service Librarians Hate Teens/Teens Hate Adult Services Librarians: I hear this everywhere—from Youth Services Librarians, from Adult Service Librarians, from teens at the library, teens in my personal life, and adults in their 20s who were treated poorly while in high school. It is astounding to me how true to the angry mean librarian stereotype this is.

My Reaction: STOP THIS NOW—JUST STOP IT! Every patron should be treated with respect and not judged because of age, gender, ethnic background, etc.

Teens are future adults. At MPOW, they ask the meatiest reference questions because they are doing research papers without the benefit of an academic library. They are generally polite, helpful, and respond well when told to keep their voices down. Adults on the other hand, yell into their cell phones (teens understand you don’t have to yell to be heard). They yell at staff when asked to stop behavior that is not allowed (there is always a reason for rules not to apply to them). Yes, there are problem teens, but there are also problem adults (see #5!).
Ever notice that after high school, people tend stop going to the Public Library and don’t return until they have kids of their own? Gee, I wonder why?

#5) Drunk People At the Library: While I openly admit much about this job is like being a bar tender–people bring you their problems and want to talk, this was simply a shock when I first became a librarian. It happens so often, now it is just a regular thing.

My Reaction: Really, drunk at the library?! Now, I will admit it—I’ve had my share of drunken times in my life. Not once—not even in college—did I ever say ‘hmmm, now that I am wasted, I should go to the library!’
  • No amount of customer service, communication training, or any other ‘technique’ works with these people. They are rude, clumsy, and smell bad.
  • Ask management for help–well, sure if they were in the library at the time. Since most drunks who are a problem show up at night, on weekends, and near Christmas, I have yet to encounter a drunk while management is on duty.
If you regularly deal with drunks (or other substance abusers) at your library, let me know what you do! At the very least, know you are not alone. I feel your pain.
I could go on and on–so many surprises, so little space. What have been your biggest surprises @yourlibrary?
To those of you who graduate from Library School this month–congratulations and good luck! It is a terrific profession, but also a really strange one. It is never dull. At the very least, working with the public means you will always have an entertaining story to tell at the bar! Just please do not go to the library after you are done drinking!

May 15, 2009 at 1:28 pm 24 comments

2007 Summer Reading Program… in Review

This time of year is always a happy and sad time for me. I’m sad because the summer is so close to ending, and I have an annual tradition of regretting not doing more outside. But then again, I am happy because the frantic pace of our Summer Reading Program is over… and that means I can actually take a moment to relax a little, perhaps breathe a bit as well.

All in all, it was a great summer for me. This was the first time that I had full reign of our teens’ Summer Reading Program. I packed it with programs, volunteers, last-second planning, fix-ups, movies and an occasional-running-with-scissors moment… if you know what I mean.

But how did it all go? What worked and what didn’t? Let’s review it in a hot/not fashion.

Hot- The average number of books read by teens who signed up for the Summer Reading Program was 18!

Not- Actual number of participants in the Reading Program was down.

Hot- The “You Never Know What You Can Do With Duct Tape” program. We made wallets, cell phone holders, a couple flowers and even attempted sandals. It was probably my most attended program on a week to week basis. By the way, if you try the sandals, make sure you don’t accidentally expose the duct tape adhesive to the hair on your toes… Yowwww!

Not- The whole “YNK” theme. Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed silly. People may have used the theme but few actually used it as “YNK” (and not without having to clarify what YNK stood for).

Hot- The End of Summer lock-in. It was the first after hours party we had at our library. The teens ate about 8-feet worth of subs, partied heartily and every single one of them was actually picked up on time!

Not- The one single teen at the party who decided to push the boundaries and threw her piece of cake into the face of another person.

Hot- The Shoprite Deli. Originally, the store lost our sub order for the party. So, Dan, the Deli-guy, made good by not just making 10 subs but only charged us half-price because of the mix up.

Not- Shoprite in general. I’m sorry, it’s a Marrazzo’s thing.

Hot- My teen-volunteer coordinator’s ability to have all but 5 of our teens complete the required number of hours and set a record for most volunteers sign-up and completed.

Not- The teen volunteers constantly referring to me as “Hey Mister!”

Hot- The song “Hey Delilah” by the Plain White Ts being constantly played.

Not- Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” being constantly overplayed.

And finally….

Hot- Our brand new Teen furniture finally came in!

Not- Gaylord messed up the color of the furniture and has yet to fix it. But they did offer to let us keep the furniture they sent us in lieu of having to send the right ones.

So, how do I rank the summer on a whole? I’ll go with an 8/10. Better than average but let’s leave some room for improvement.

September 8, 2007 at 9:19 am 2 comments

Teen Librarians: Who we are and what we are not

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.

May 21, 2007 at 7:42 am 10 comments


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