Monday, April 25, 2011


Understanding Teen Environments!

Creating a teen friendly library atmosphere where teens feel welcome and safe is something that was very present in my mind when we were opening our new library. Now, maintaining and improving this type of environment is something that I'm constantly working on. As a Youth Services Librarian, working with teens has been one of the most rewarding and fun experiences of my career thus far. I'm a huge advocate of teen library services because I know how important it is to reach this underserved population. I feel lucky to have many teens visiting and using our library as well as participating in our programs. It can be challenging at times to maintain the interest of teens and get them involved in library activities. Anyone who has worked with teens knows that this requires a tremendous amount of patience and flexibility but it is worth every effort.

At our library we offer various teen programs such as music lessons, teen council activities, art classes, dance classes, short story programs, monthly dance and music showcases, video game challenge, tutoring, and reading programs. Our library has become one of the teen hang out spots in the community. When we first opened our branch we were having problems with some of the teens. I think they were testing the boundaries and wanted to see how much they could get away with. After a couple of months of dealing with some behavior issues, teens started establishing a level of trust with staff and vice-versa. I got to know many of our teens through our programs but what I believe has made our services for teens successful is that everyone on staff is on board with programs and services for teens. I believe that enthusiasm towards serving teens can be contagious and that has proven to be true at my library. Recently, when our teens were working on the video for the ALA "Why I need my library" contest, I witnessed just how involved we've all been with our teens. Most of them know us by our names, and depending on their interests, I almost feel like each of them has a favorite staff member. During the filming of our video I witnessed things like our security guard lending his laptop to the teen music group so they could use his software for the video, and our library clerk, who's hobby is video production, giving tips to our teens on storyboarding and on how to shoot the video. Our entire staff was so proud of the teen music group for creating the video and they all encouraged them and made it known to others how proud they were of the group.

Recently, the area around my desk has become the "unofficial" teen space area. At times it does get a little hectic and I have to let them know when I need some time to work on projects, but I do try to be as available as possible to them and appreciate the fact that many of them feel really comfortable coming to my desk and talking to me about almost anything. In the last 6 months I've had teens come to me with some heavy issues such as the death of a parent, suicide and loved ones in prison. I try to be there for them in the capacity that I can and let them know that their library family cares and supports them. I appreciate the trust they instill in me, to be able to talk to me about their problems or share their excitements and triumphs. I believe that teen council has also played a huge role in this and find that teens that participate in teen council have developed a bond with each other as well as library staff. They are like a family and look out for each other and of course I'm thrilled when they tell other teens how "cool" the library is.

Creating understanding and welcoming teen environments can go a long way with teens, give them a sense of pride and ownership as well as motivate them to advocate for themselves at the library. Hopefully teens sharing their enthusiasm for the library becomes contagious as well!

1 Comment:

Sarah Allen said...

Great post! Its important to understand our readers.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)