Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

As I Try Desperately to Get Home Again, Not All Children Can. Here’s why it matters.

The news is full of horrific stories of young children being taken away from their families for the sin of wanting to come to a new country to flee the extreme poverty, violence, and whatever else it is that one flees from. There are pictures of babies crying, audio of children wailing and crying out for their moms and dads. We sold them the promise of the American Dream and then when they come seeking asylum and hoping for a better life for their babies, we ripped apart families and put children in cages.

As someone who works with youth, I know and understand the importance of feeling safe and secure in the development of a child; I understand the importance of being talked to, being read to, of making healthy attachments. I understand the long term effects of childhood trauma. These children are suffering trauma compounded by trauma compounded by trauma. The lifelong impacts of this will be devastating for us all.

KidLit Says No Kids in Cages


At the same time, I am dealing with my own family emergency. My Dad is not okay and I am thousands of miles away from him. After a lot of tears and anguish and wrestling with fears and doubts and uncertainty, I whipped out my credit card and booked super expensive tickets that I can’t afford to go out and see my Dad. We leave tomorrow.

Here’s the deal, I have no idea how I will ever pay down the balance on my credit card. I don’t know if my Dad will recover or if he will pass away. I am begging God, the universe and everyone in between to please provide a miracle and if not, to let the girls and I see him one more time to let him know that we love him. Suddenly I am a child again crying at night for her Daddy.

I am a 45 year old woman who is trying desperately to get home to see her father. Many of these children will never have that choice, we took it away from them. And yes, I mean we. This is us. We elect our politicians, we hold them accountable, we are collectively responsible to one another because no man is an island and that’s how society works. We’re in this together.

The woman sitting beside my Dad throughout all of this is my stepmother. She is a pretty remarkable woman and I think often of how much she loves my Dad, how much she loves my children, and the anguish she is going through as she sits vigil beside my father’s bed. She is only able to do so because just a couple generations past, someone in her family immigrated to this country from Mexico.

My parents divorced when I was in the 4th grade, I was around 9 or 10. It was a horrific thing to go through. Nobody handled it very well and there was a lot of heartache through the years. Parents fought, moved, and moved again. Relationships were broken and over time, slowly and painfully, they were reborn. The four years I was in high school, I did not speak to my father. There were legitimate reasons for that and they were the right decision for me at that time. Then over time, people change, healing happens, and new relationships are born. I know every day that I am lucky for the healing that happened between my father and I, for the relationship that we were able to cobble together despite all the hurt and heartache. During the last 15 years, as I parent my own children, I saw him become a man who took genuine care of this new family that he had made for himself. He has been a good grandfather to my daughters. For the first time in my life, I had a home to go back home to with memories and traditions and that sense of an anchor that makes it easier to navigate this world. I love going to my father’s house and sharing childhood memories with my children, taking them to the places that I used to love to go, and watching them return to the same home over and over again and making that connection stronger. I have loved, finally, having a place to go home to.

There shouldn’t be a lot of parallels to what’s happening in the news and what is happening in my own life, but I can’t stop thinking about the two and perhaps it is the nature of the human mind to draw connections where perhaps there shouldn’t be. I come from a broken family and my heart aches to see these families being broken. I know that they are not broken in the same ways, but I know that broken families are destructive forces that leave lifelong scars. I know that I have privilege that allows me to remake a relationship, to keep in contact, to jump on a plane to try to see my father.

These children have none of those things. They are being torn from their families and they often don’t even have the language skills necessary to advocate for themselves, to ask the questions that are burning in their hearts. They are in a new place with no family or friends to turn to for emotional support or stability. I can not imagine the fear and uncertainty. The terror.

Sheer terror and anguish.

Yesterday, Donald Trump declared that he was ending this policy, but by all accounts there is no plan in place to reunite those children already ripped from their parents arms. Some of those parents may already have been deported. Some of those children may grow up never knowing where their parents are or how to get into contact with them. Some of those children may never get the chance to say goodbye to their Dad.

Trump’s Executive Order On Family Separation: What It Does And Does Not Do – NPR

I am a 45-year-0ld white woman, steeped in privilege, who just wants to sit beside her Dad’s bedside and have the chance to say goodbye if that is what this moment calls for. I desperately want this moment to be something else, of course. But in my own personal anguish and desperation and pleading with the universe, I can’t help thinking of those kids. I’m a 45-year-old woman who just wants her Daddy, I can’t imagine what it must be like for these kids.

One of the hardest moments I have ever had working in the library occurred at the Reference desk. A woman came up to me with a name of her birth mother that she was trying to track down. This was after Hurricane Katrina and she knew that the woman lived in New Orleans. I did a little searching and unfortunately found her in the Social Security Death Index, she had died soon after Katrina. I looked up at this woman who was probably the age that I am now and delivered the news. The woman stood before me and openly wept as I told her I was so very sorry. “At least I know what happened to her,” she said. “Thank you.”

How many of these children will never get the chance to know.

I’m not here to debate immigration policy or politics with you. I am here as a lifelong advocate for youth to remind us all that we must do everything we can to minimize the harm that we do to children in every aspect of life because it has lifelong consequences for youth and for our future. Do the research, we will spend millions trying to undo the lifelong damage that is being caused right now as our politicians try and use innocent children as pawns.

Important Resources:

Brain Development • ZERO TO THREE

Childhood Trauma : Long-Term Effects and Symptoms

Immigrant Children Separated From Parents At The Border: NPR

How To Help Parents And Kids Separated At The Border – Refinery29

Dispelling Some Myths about Public Libraries, One Tweet at a Time

teenprogramI have worked in public libraries for 24 years now and every few months (weeks? days?) it seems like another think piece or post on social media comes out proclaiming that we should just shut down and stop funding our public libraries because no one even uses them anymore, or everyone just uses the Internet, or that nobody reads, or that you can just buy your books from Amazon. That happened again this week but this time, the outcome was different.

Earlier this week Andre Walker posted that no one, especially adults, uses public libraries anymore and that we should just take all the books and put them in the schools.

To be clear, Walker is a New York Observer columnist who lives in the UK, so he is probably talking about UK libraries, which I am no expert on. However, this type of sentiment is very common and librarians and library users responded to his tweet. To begin, let’s break his tweet down. This tweet makes a lot of incorrect assumptions:

1. That nobody – especially adults – uses public libraries anymore.

The truth is, public library use is up, especially among millennials.

Public library use in U.S. highest among Millennials | Pew Research

Library usage and engagement by Americans | Pew Research Center

2. That a public library is nothing more than a building full of books.

As I mention, I have been a public librarian for 24 years and even before the turn of the century, public libraries were more than just a building full of books. Yet with the growth of technology and a public that is increasingly reliant on online access, public libraries have become increasingly important as an information portal to their local communities. That’s to say nothing of the programming, services, and resources that public library provides to help meet the educational, developmental, recreational, and informational needs of citizens of all ages in their local communities.

But at the same time that public library usage goes up and local communities grow increasingly dependent on their libraries to meet a wide variety of their needs, our culture, which seems to be growing steadily away from the idea of the collective good, continues to decrease or even suggest un-funding public libraries. This puts our most vulnerable populations at risk as they are the most dependent on the library for computer usage to search for and apply for jobs, as well as the technology training that many local libraries provide, supplemental materials for school work, and even just safe places to be social and engaged. But it is not just our most vulnerable that libraries serve in our collections, programs and services, but the entire public. For example, The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (where I work), hosts a Great Decisions series where we invite the public to come and discuss current and relevant topics with informed speakers and reading materials. This week alone we will host a 10-hour family Halloween movie marathon, story times, safe Trick or Treating, and our Teen MakerSpace will be open for teens to come in and safely explore topics like coding, robotics, electronics and crafting in a safe environment with access to a great variety of tools and resources that they may not have at home.

And yes, we have books. A lot of them and in a variety of formats on a variety of topics to meet a variety of needs and interests. Books to help you fix your car, apply for college or jobs, learn a new skill, decorate your home, etc. etc. etc. Oh, and to read for fun. Because reading for fun is valuable too: 10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day.

To highlight what public libraries are doing, I asked my fellow librarians on Twitter to share with us the various ways that their local public libraries were helping their communities using the hashtag #PubLibsProvide. Libraries are doing amazing things, from lending mobile hotspots and bikes to creating seed sharing libraries. This is in addition to the daily task of providing quality reference assistance, computer access, technology training, and, of course, access to a wide variety of books, materials and resources.

3. That school and public libraries are interchangeable.

I think it’s also important to point out here that school and public libraries each have very different functions and service focus, both equally important, and that communities need both. Research shows us time and time again that students who attend schools with strong libraries are more successful: Strong School Libraries Build Strong Students. Their goals are, rightly, focused on the students first and foremost. Research also reinforces the knowledge that communities with strong arts programs, including public libraries, thrive and are more attractive to both business and new residents: How Arts and Cultural Strategies Create, Reinforce, and Enhance Sense of Place; Why Public Libraries Matter: And How They Can Do More – Forbes; Making Cities Stronger – Urban Institute. The hours, types and breadth of the collections, and types of programs and services at a school library aren’t meant to serve the entire community in the same way that a public library is and does. So while moving the books from a public to a school library may be beneficial to the students in the schools that receives those books, it would not benefit the entire community in the same way that the local public library is and does.

The outcome to this story is, however, slightly different then the outcome of most of these stories. You see, the response to Mr. Walker was so loud and with such a positive outpouring of support for public libraries that he changed his mind:

Thank you to everyone that Tweeted. Even I learned of some innovative new ideas that I want to go and talk with my admin about.

Support Libraries, Save the IMLS


Earlier this week, the newest proposed federal budget was introduced and it included massive cuts to many services (see link below for a complete look at the budget in the Washington Post). Included in those potential cuts would be a complete elimination of the IMLS, the Institute of Museums and Library Services. The IMLS provides a variety of grants that provide quality and unique programs that serve local communities. TLTer Heather Booth tweeted at length in support of the IMLS by sharing a variety of projects that are funded by the IMLS. You can read those Storified tweets here: https://storify.com/TLT16/heather-booth-on-saveimls and see the many ways that the IMLS benefits local communities.

Trump budget cuts: U.S. federal funding 2018 – Washington Post


The ALA released a statement regarding the proposed elimination, which you can read here.

I spent some time tweeting about libraries, the 40 Developmental Assets and in support of the IMLS as well. You can read those Storified tweets here: https://storify.com/TLT16/support-libraries

Because I work at a library in Ohio, I see library budgets being attacked in several directions. In Ohio, public libraries receive state funding and Governor Kasich is proposing cuts to the state library funding at the state level. This is not the first time that Ohio libraries have been in this position and I am sure it won’t be the last. In 2010, the year after Thing 2 was born, I stood on the steps of the state legislature with The Teen as I shared how I had used library resources, including Inter Library Loan, to help better understand some of the health related problems my newborn baby had. I’m not just a fervent library supporter because I’m a librarian, but because I myself have used the vast resources of libraries at many times in my life to help navigate a crisis, to meet the special needs of my children, to help me cope with the loss of a pregnancy, and more.

In support of libraries, I spent the day today designing a variety of postcards to send to my representatives at all levels to share my love of libraries. If you would like, please feel free to download them and use them as well. Save them as an image and upload to Word, or another graphics program that you may use. Make sure they are 4×6 size to be postcard size; you can print 2 per page. Print on card stock so they can travel through the mail. jTo give them a personal touch, on the left side of your postcard on the back you can share your own stories. On the right, address and provide postcard postage. If you are interested in making your own, I use the postcard templates available in Canva to design mine. Please note, from everything I have heard calling your representatives is best, but I’m calling and sending postcards.

postcard44 postcard45





Serving Full T.I.L.T. : Talking Up Teens

For our final piece in our Serving Full T.I.L.T. (Teens in Libraries Today) series, Eden Grey is talking about advocacy. Next week we’ll here from you.

Why is in-house advocacy important?

We all see advocacy at a national level, in social media blasts by ALA and YALSA, awareness campaigns by School Library Journal, fundraisers by the We Need Diverse Books group. What we don’t see as often are the ground-level, grassroots efforts to increase awareness about Teen Services and the needs of modern teens. Much like the Serving Full T.I.L.T. series, initiatives by a small number of librarians are just as important as national endeavors by organizations with million dollar budgets. The advocacy efforts of individuals in their own library systems and consortiums can have a very important impact on the awareness and support of Teen Services in libraries.

When should you actively be advocating?

Seizing the opportunity whenever it arises sounds good in theory, but isn’t so good in practice. As an advocate for Teen Services, you’ve got to choose your battles wisely. Not every department meeting and program planning session is a good time to talk up your teens and your outreach stats. Instead, here are some specific opportunities for actively talking up your service to teens:

Seize (almost) every opportunity for sharing a warm and fuzzy story. Don’t do it every day, but every few days if you see an opening to share something heartwarming one of your teens said, or a nice outcome from an outreach visit, go ahead and make it into a story. These stories should be shared most often with your supervisor and other administrative officials, but can also be shared with your other co-workers. Your boss will most likely share the stories with others, even with his or her boss, and word about your teens and how you serve them will get around.

Ask to have meetings with your supervisor that are just focused on your services to teens. Make it clear that you want to talk about how you’re doing, what your numbers are like, what’s working and what’s not, etc. Show your supervisor everything you’re doing, and why it’s important. These meetings are all about you – and the focus should stay that way if you make that clear from the outset. If you have a good supervisor, he or she will understand the purpose and meaning of these meetings. If that is not the case, take the meetings to the next level – maybe meet with a department head, branch manager, or even ask to speak to your director if you are not being heard by others. These meetings should happen at least twice a year, but don’t be afraid to ask for more frequent meetings if you feel the need to.

Techniques of In-House Advocacy


It is so important to keep track of as many numbers as possible. Number of programs, program attendance, number of students, teachers, and librarians served at outreach, circulation of the YA collection, number of teens who use the board games in your teen area, teen volunteer hours, and the list could go on.

 Just recording the numbers isn’t enough. Put them in spreadsheets or tables and keep track of annual data.

Stories & Anecdotes

Heart-warming stories go a long way toward changing the perception of teens in libraries. If you have a good memory for stories and enjoy telling them in other aspects of your life, you’ll have no problem recording a bunch of anecdotes to tell your boss and coworkers. However, if you’re like me and are extremely awkward and hesitant when it comes to telling stories, here are some tips:

  1. Keep it short. Stick to the point or result of the story.

  2. Include names and other specific information.

  3. Jot down details of the story in your program reports or where you record your attendance or other numbers.

 For example, my regular group of teens has a couple of ringleaders that my coworkers are very familiar with. Nate and Maine are a little bit infamous at my library. However, when a new person shows up at programs, I can count on those boys to welcome them, show them the ropes, and introduce them to everyone. The new kid immediately feels welcome, and like part of the family. Whenever this happens I make sure to tell my boss about it – it shows just how caring, responsible, and kind my teens are. See also: Sharing Stories by Heather Booth.


If you don’t submit monthly reports to your supervisor, you should seriously consider asking them about it. While it may lead to your coworkers seriously resenting you, it will be worth it in the long run for everyone. Creating monthly reports of your programs and services shows just how much work you’re doing for Teen Services, and allows you to compare your work to previous months and years. Annual reports just aren’t enough when you’re dealing with the wide variety of tasks that Teen Services Librarians do.

 Turn the numbers you record into reports. Compare numbers from previous months and years. Ask how devoting time to one aspect of your job affects the results of other aspects: Has program attendance increased since you started working there? What about since you got into those new schools or classes? Has circulation gone up or down since you implemented those new programs?

 Take the answers to these questions and present them to your supervisor/s. Show them the clear-cut results of your hard work. If you submit a monthly report, include the tables of data and your conclusions. Those reports will be read by your supervisor’s boss, and most likely looked over by the library’s director as well.

 Public Relations

 Taking photos at programs and while teens are volunteering is also a great way to share a quick “anecdote,” and not only with your coworkers, but with the rest of the community as well. Recently my library’s head of PR sent out a reminder that she is always looking for stories. She keeps them in folders in her email, shares them with the library director, and uses them for community and media outreach. Sharing those stories with the media may lead to a local newspaper wanting to spotlight one of your teen programs or teen volunteers. Your library director may share stories from your outreach visits when he or she is at a committee or council meeting in the community. Having photos to go along with the stories means PR can share them on social media or the library’s website.

 Advocacy Takeaways

 Maintain a balance between talking up your teens and your own work, and just working hard. Take the right opportunities to share your work, and if those opportunities don’t arise on their own, ask for meetings with your boss.

 Don’t just record numbers every month; turn those numbers into meaningful data. Make reports tracking everything from program attendance to outreach numbers to board game and video game usage. Share those reports with your library’s administration whenever possible, and use the numbers to back up your own needs and use of time.

 Always be advocating. Seize the opportunity to talk up your teens to a grumpy coworker. Share information about your teen volunteer program to an overworked teacher or school librarian. Chat up people in the community about the library and the things you do for teens. Don’t assume that people know what you do at your job – enlighten them, whether they’re the cashier at the craft store or your weekly game night friends.

For more on advocacy, check out our various posts on advocacy under Professional Development

Serving Full T.I.L.T. (Teens in Libraries Today) series:

January 14 By the Numbers, making the case for teen services using basic demographic information (Karen Jensen)

January 21 Sarcasm, Spice and Everything Awesome: The Developing Teen (Rebecca Denham)

January 28 Teen Brain Science 101 (Heather Booth)

February 4 Asset Building 101, How using the 40 Developmental Assets can help us plan and evaluate teen programming (Karen Jensen)

February 11 Diverse teens, diverse needs (Eden Grey)

February 18 Sharing stories, how knowing and sharing the stories of our teens can help make the case (Heather Booth)

February 25 Empathy, remembering what it means to be a teen and how it makes us better teen services librarians (Karen Jensen)

March 4 A Teen Services 101 Infographic (Karen Jensen)


The amazing folks at Ferguson Library (I’m a big fan!) recently started the hashtag #becauseofapubliclibrary. It turned out I had a lot of thoughts about what happens because of a public library. Please do hop on Twitter and look at lots of the great responses about what has happened because of a public library. Below I share some of my tweets with you, I also shared a few from YALSA and one from the awesome librarian Stephanie Wilkes.










Snapshot: Portrait of a Library Today

I worked at the Marion Public Library in Marion, Ohio for 10 years. It was in many ways one of the best work experiences of my life. I loved the library, I loved the people, and I knew that we were doing great things for the community. It was also clear over those years how much libraries were struggling to stay afloat in the midst of financial crisis. In the times when our communities needed us most, we had to look at cutting staff, cutting services, and decreasing the amount of materials we purchased and the types of programs that we offered. But how much it was struggling was made clear to me in this recent article in the Marion Star, Books Rely on Budgets.

Some of the interesting facts presented in this piece including the following:

When I worked at MPL we had a staff of around 80 people, today the staff is 31 people.

When I worked at MPL we had the 1 main library and 4 branches, while I worked there they closed one of the branches. Some of the branches are now only open 1 day a week for very few hours.

When I worked at MPL our operating budget was close to $3 million dollars, in 2013 it received $1.85 million.

When I worked at MPL the book budget was around $450,000, this year’s book budget is $165,000.

The last few years I worked at MPL we went through staff lay offs twice. The first time 12 people we laid off, the second time an additional 5 people were laid off. It was one of the most stressful things I have ever experienced in a work environment. My friend, another 10 year employee, was laid off and it took her 3 years to find another job. In those 3 years she had to move out of her apartment and move in with family. She recently found a full-time job in a library, right as her sister whom she is living with was herself laid off from work.

Marion Public Library is a great library in a struggling community doing important things. They had 20 public computers when I worked there and they were constantly full as people looked for jobs, completed homework, and tried to use the many services that moved to online only.

And that budget is a devastating decrease in book purchasing power. That means that residents of Marion County, around 50,000, will have less access to materials. And in a town where the median income is around $25,000 a year, those resources matter a great deal. We keep telling people to get a good education and find a good job, but the reality is that we don’t support funding the services that communities need to help people make that happen. We don’t support our local schools and library systems, but our communities desperately need them. Our future depends on them.

Karen’s Guide to Working with Your Local Radio Station, adventures in creative marketing

For 7 or 8 years, I got to be on the local radio station every Friday morning. It was a glorious thing for me. So today I’m going to share with you how that relationship came to be and some of my tips for working with your local radio station. I highly recommend that if you have a local radio station, especially a smaller, independent station, that you reach out to them and find ways to work with them to promote your library.

I was really lucky in that our local radio station had great hosts and we developed great working relationships over time.  We developed a rhythm, but they always made sure to have a brief segment where we talked specifically about upcoming library programs.  All the rest we made up as we went along. It was exactly like the morning shows you hear as you drive to work, except I wasn’t as funny. I’m just not good at funny.


Here are my radio cohorts: Host Rob Whalen, Intern Paige Dunham and Intern Margaret Emily engaging in a cricket spitting contest. Emily is filming and narrating the video for live broadcast. From the WDCM Facebook page.

If you have a local radio station, make contact with them and offer to do a weekly show with them.  Be open to what they need.  Simply talking about books doesn’t necessarily make great radio.  So I stayed on top of current news and pop culture tidbits, and then when I found and opening I would swoop in and make that library tie in.  Are they talking about J-Lo joining the cast of American Idol?  Mention she is on the cover of this week’s People and you can come to the library and browse the magazine collection.  Are they talking about The Walking Dead?  Be sure and mention all the great zombie titles in your collection.  You have to be quick and stay on your toes. But you also have to remember that every single thing you say doesn’t have to be library related; simply by being there as a representative for the library you are getting the library recognition outside of it’s four walls in a creative way.

Keep in mind that your local radio station also may be available to do a remote broadcast; this is great if you have a big event coming up.  They do sometimes charge a fee to do a remote broadcast, so make sure and get all the details before hand.  A remote broadcast is a great idea for a SRC kick-off party, library anniversary celebration, or author event, just to name a few.  Be sure to meet with your broadcaster beforehand to discuss when they will do breakaways and arrange a variety of people for them to talk to during your event.  If possible, have prize giveaways.

When Working with Your Local Radio Station Keep in Mind: It’s Their Show and You are the Guest

WDCM Marion, Ohio was the radio station I worked with while at The Marion Public Library

They are running the show, so get the 411 beforehand.  There are things that you can not say and huge fines involved.  We all remember what happened with Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl.  You don’t want the on air equivalent of a wardrobe malfunction.  And you don’t want to offend your hosts. You are in their space so please try and respect it. Ask them point blank and establish clear boundaries: what can I not say?

Talk to your administrators to discuss their rules on that end, too.  You want to try and avoid talking politics or anything that will reflect poorly on the library.  You don’t have the same freedom that the radio host does.  It is really easy when it is just you and the radio host sitting in a room talking to forget that the microphone is there and people are listening. Let the radio hosts know ahead of time of specific topics that you aren’t allowed to discuss and make sure that you make your boundaries clear up front.

Make sure you have the personality for it.  If you are not the right fit, then this is not the right marketing vehicle for you.  That’s okay.  The radio station hosts will be able to tell right away if it will work or not.  Trust them, they know what they are doing.

If you can, try and make it a regularly occurring segment on a regular day of the week at a regular time.  If people know when and where to find you, they will tune in. As I mentioned I went every Friday morning like clockwork.

When Working with Your Local Radio Station Keep in Mind: The Ins and Out of a Radio Show are a Delicate Dance, Learn the Steps [Read more…]

Books, privilege, and how libraries are the only way some children will get to read a bedtime story tonight

Libraries are the Beating Heart of Our Communities

You may be aware, but Amazon is currently in some kind of a negotiation war with the publisher Hachette. There are a variety of  houses and authors who publish and are distributed by Hachette. Amazon has cut any price discounting for Hachette titles, they are delaying shipping, and there is no longer any way to pre-order titles that have an advance publication date.

So in the midst of this, last week several people took to Twitter and urged people to buy their books from a brick and mortar store, an Indie store even if possible. A few hashtags sprang up, I think perhaps #BuyHachette. I even Tweeted several times about this, recommending a few titles here and there.

Then yesterday, an article appeared on Book Riot reminding us all that for some people, a bricks and mortar store isn’t a real possibility. It maintained that if you had a bricks and mortar store in your community, or a car that you could afford to put gas in to drive to one, then you were speaking from a place of privilege. The post then when on to talk about how for many people, Amazon IS the only option to buy books for a variety of reasons.

But if you take it a step further, being able to buy books via the Internet is also coming from a place of privilege as well. In fact, being able to buy books at all means that you are coming from a place of privilege. If at the end of your paycheck you can afford to pay your basic bills, feed your family and buy extra things like books, you have it better than an estimated 20% of the population. Having a computer or device with Internet access in your home, also coming from a place of privilege.
Every time someone tweets about watching Game of Thrones, they are doing so from a place of privilege because that means they can afford cable with HBO even.When we talk about driving our cars, turning on our heat or air, going to the movie theater to see a movie and even going to the grocery store, we are doing so from a place of privilege from someone else’s point of view.
Having books in the home is a huge monetary issue for many people and there are a variety of social activists who work hard to raise funds and try and get books into the homes of families struggling with poverty. Some children will never own a book they can call their own. And if we want to raise a nation of readers and thinkers and innovators, having access to books is a powerful thing. Scholastic has a good discussion about how lack of access to books can be an issue for school readiness.

Which is why we need libraries. It is also why libraries need to do better jobs of reaching out to their local communities and reminding parents about the importance of regular trips to the library, reading together, and having books in the home. It’s why we need things like 1,000 books before Kindergarten. It’s why we need things like every child ready to read. It’s why we need things like YA librarians and youth programming.

My library, like many libraries around our nation, is currently researching how to better reach the needs of our growing homeless population. There are libraries employing social workers and job counselors and writing grants to provide food for children living in poverty this summer who will go without a free school lunch. Libraries help children have access to the Internet, complete homework assignments, and have access to books they would never get to read if their only options was to buy them. Some people don’t have the money to buy books period.

I work part-time. I struggle from paycheck to paycheck to buy groceries. The nearest local bookstore is an hour drive for me. To be completely honest, I don’t buy a lot of books. Not from the bookstore. Not from Amazon. Not online. Mostly, I check my books out from the library. Because every time I choose to buy a book, the money for it comes out of our food budget. It is the only place in the budget that has any wiggle room. Sometimes we make that sacrifice and we eat a few extra peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Usually it is so my kids can have a book they want, not me. Luckily, the Tween wants a lot of the same books that I do. But even knowing this, I know that for many of the patrons I serve, I am still coming from a place of privilege. I buy books more often than they will ever be able to consider buying a book.

So I buy books for the library. Not just the books I want, but the books that my patrons want . . . and need. Because for many of them, that is the only way they will ever get to read a book.

So yes, buy books. Buy them whenever and however you can. Support your local bookstore sometimes if you can. And if you believe in the importance of books and reading, support your local library as well. Libraries matter. For the 1 out of 5 children going to bed hungry each night, libraries are the only way they’ll get to read a bedtime story tonight.

Talk about Sex, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

 Let’s talk about sex, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let’s talk about sex

Let’s Talk about Sex, Salt ‘n’ Pepa

I confess. I am not a parent. I have no kids. Never had, never attempted, never will. I have nieces and nephews scattered across the country, and I am a psuedo-parent to the teens and kids that come into my library. I check homework and I will throw them back to school if they try to skip a day and show up at the library.

However, I don’t need to be having sex talks with them. I realize that I may be the person they’re most comfortable with, but in all honesty, I am not the proper person to be having this conversation. Yes, I am more than knowledgeable about how things work. Yes, I am a trusted adult, and unless there is something going on that needs reporting I will keep confidences, but this should be a parent’s duty, not mine.

Please let me tell you, your tween and teen know about sex. Really, they do. NO, the public or school librarian is not handing out the books to them to corrupt their minds, nor did the 5th grade teacher who separated the outward genders for “the talk” start all the swirling in their heads.  The sex ed course that you could have opted your kid out of did not do it either, even with the banana.

Nope, it goes with all the hormones and flirting and media and music and everything else they’re surrounded with (you had it too, don’t deny it), and it starts younger and younger. They’re hearing about it from their friends, from conversations at school, from TV and radio and commercials. And they’re coming away confused if you’re not talking to them.

Remember that scene in Kindergarten Cop?

I’ve been the recipient of that conversation.With the 5 year old. And getting a crying 9 year old to let me know that her period showed up unexpectedly, and we called her parent, while I tried to answer questions without overstepping boundaries that should be the parents’. And having a pair of 15 year olds beg me to take them to the local drug store to buy a pregnancy kit.

If you think your kids are going to be safe in whatever bubble wrap you keep them in, I hate to tell you that you might be wrong.

From the Facts on American Teens’ Sexual and Reproductive Health (June 2013) from the Guttmacher Institute:

By age 15, the % of teens who are having sex starts doubling:

And while use of contraceptives is increasing with first time sex, it’s not nearly enough:

And yes, I heard that “lovely” statistic where teen pregnancy rates are going down due to Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant on MTV.  However, take a look at where the pregnancy rates are highest- the abstinence only taught states for the most part.

So what do you do?

TALK TO YOUR KID, PEOPLE. PLEASE?!?!?! And not just a one time, awkward conversation but a real dialogue about what happens.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970204358004577032421571545382

If you need resources there are plenty out there, even based on your own personal viewpoint:

Important facts to go over no matter what:

  • You will love your child no matter what action they choose
  • Everyone goes through changes, and what those changes are, and that this is NORMAL
  • No means no, and they are allowed to fight to defend themselves
  • Touching is only right when it is consensual- doesn’t matter if it’s hugs, kisses, or more
  • Peer pressure can be hard to resist, but it is ok to resist it.
  • Never leaving drinks unattended at parties
  • They can talk to you about anything at any time and there will be no judgement

Recommended books to share with your tweens and teens:

    Sunday Reflections: Nameless Wonder

    Do you remember a librarian from your teen years? I do.  One had kind of mousy brown hair and wore patchwork vests, and led a group of us in a radio play in which I did the sound effects.  It was the first group of kids my age I spent time with after moving to a new town.

    Then there was the librarian at my high school who, while I was working on a personal social justice project, helped me get the full text of a bill that was working its way through the legislature.  She had it faxed to the school for me in this pre-Internet era.

    Another was a bearded fellow who helped me navigate the clunky databases I needed early on in college, and later was a quiet presence, waiting to offer a hand, as I worked on the computers with an elementary school girl I was tutoring.

    I don’t remember any of their names.

    While I don’t remember their names, what I do remember of them has certainly served me well.

    The first gave me a place in a group when I was new to town, painfully shy, and knew no one.

    The second showed me the power of information and libraries as a place of democracy, and went above and beyond to get more than the answer to the question I asked – she got the information I really needed.

    The third I remember mostly for his kindness and repeated, though never pushy, offers of help, suggesting simple adjustments that worked wonders despite my stubborn insistence that I would do it myself.

    While being someone’s favorite librarian is nice, what we do is more important and longer lasting than who we are.  

    In teen librarianship, we talk a lot about community building, relationship building, being the person that teens can turn to in times of need.  While not all of us have been the person to step in and find a crisis line, been supportive witnesses to a teen’s coming out, seen an insecure ten year old grow to a confident eighteen year old, most of us have been that person who found a teen a book she couldn’t wait for, or fixed a weird margin problem ten minutes before close so that a senior could print his last paper of the semester, or called out some homophobic language we overheard in the teen area.  And this can be just as important and transformative for our patrons – even if they don’t know our names.

    Don’t discount the work you do, just because you don’t share inside jokes with a TAB.  Don’t underestimate your importance just because you aren’t invited to graduation parties.  Don’t sell yourself short if the only way they know your name is if they look at your name tag.

    You serve your teens by ordering diverse books that they can find at their leisure, without pressure.  You serve them with welcoming gestures like relaxing and sharing a genuine smile when you see them walk in the door.  You serve them by making eye contact with them and directing your follow up questions to them instead of their parents as they stand together at the reference desk.  You serve them every day by demonstrating the most important tenants of our work: democratic, nonjudgmental access to information and the places where the information lives.  You serve them by treating them like the people that they are: people worthy of your respect and efforts.

    So wear your name tag, keep extending invitations to your programs, build relationships, connect with your community, and remember that your name is not the most important thing that they will learn about you.