This post is an article from the Winter 2017 issue of the OYAN Review and has been edited slightly for publication on the blog. It was written by Rachel Timmons of the Hood River Library.
“I have my cardigan and my sunglasses, so I’m ready for anything!” I said this originally about a day out in San Francisco, but it seems to apply pretty well to being a Teen Librarian. I started as the Teen Services Librarian for the Hood River County Library District in August. There had been a teen services person before me, but I am the first Teen Librarian. While people always talk about jumping right into a new job, for me it was more of a head first dive. When I was hired there was an overnight teen lock-in scheduled and full of participants but otherwise unplanned. I got my desk on Thursday and the lock-in was on Friday. And from that amazing and sleep deprived start, I’ve learned some lessons that they only sort of teach you in school:
- You can get pizza delivered to a closed library at midnight. Really.
- Teens are busy! School, jobs, lives, musicals, sports … Somedays we are there to help them with all that, somedays we are there to discuss Star Wars, and both are important. I was always one of the quiet, shy teens try to be approachable without being in the way. I’m happy to see a teen reading or working or hanging out even if they don’t actively need me. They are also often only sort of in charge of their own schedule. I recently had two valiant volunteers show up on a snowy afternoon only to be commanded home by a mom worried about the storm.
- Teen communication is either rapid fire or nearly non-existent. You might get a barrage of questions, ideas or texts. Or you may be left wondering if there’s anybody out there. Figuring out which I’m going to get is often a mystery and a challenge. I recently planned a program along with our Children’s Librarian for a high school senior to give a presentation about his year he spent studying in India. The presentation was thoughtful, funny, informative, and generally amazing. But the amount of silence I heard trying to plan it was nervous-making.
- Teens are full of great plans and it’s up to me to see if they can also be realistic plans. About half the programs and 100% of the Doctor Who videos we’ve done have been teen-led plans.
- Support and cooperation from other staff is the only way you’ll survive. My job has been a combination of new and inherited plans and a lot of figuring out how to fit into traditions and relationships. While not always easy, the staff around me has been unfailingly willing to help me. And they have also listened to the strange and wonderful ideas that are brewing with open minds. I have been lucky and co-opted one of the clerks (Watson to my Sherlock, as a regular teen described him) who has done everything from be tech support to co-adult afterhours programs with me. When the Teen Council decided he should dress up for our Halloween event as “A hipster lumberjack fairy with wings,” his only reply was that he’d need wing supplies.
- Middle School and High School teens are different. I obviously knew this; there were those classes with the social and brain development discussions. But knowing and knowing isn’t always the same thing. That said, they are both fun and generally supportive of each other.
- You can fit 7 teens in a cardboard Tardis.
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