Teen Librarian Toolbox
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RevolTeens: They’ve Never Needed Librarians and Libraries More… By Teen Librarian Christine Lively

If the last 20 months had been written as a series in a book, I would have thrown it across the room in frustration. How can nobody be doing anything substantial to stop this plague? It would be too infuriating to believe.

Yet, here we are.

I don’t know what will happen this year, of course, but I do believe that teens have never needed librarians and libraries more. Whether you work in a public library or a school library, our jobs are essential, and we are on the front line of survival. This is the time when teens will need us to listen and support them as they make life and death decisions. We can and must help them survive and endure this uncertainty as well as they can. 

Teens don’t have full authority over their lives. If they are under eighteen, they cannot decide for themselves to get vaccinated, however, they can make decisions about going out, wearing masks, washing their hands, and caretaking for family members and friends. Many families are struggling daily with the decision to go back to school in person or online. Some teens are weighing the decision to go to college, or stay home and try to stay safe. The list goes on and the stakes are as high as they can be.

While none of us will be advising teen patrons directly, we can help them to research the most current and reliable information about COVID-19, to evaluate the information, and then to use that information to guide their decisions about how to live. They may be helping their families make informed decisions, and will need to know that they are acting with the best information available. That’s what we librarians must do as they navigate this pandemic.

We must also provide whatever support teens need. In the time before the pandemic, games, crafts, and other activities may have been popular, and they may still be with some teens. Others may need a quiet space to think and be away from home, or a story to help them escape from the stress of school and illness. They may also need to talk and unburden themselves. Having an unbiased and open minded person to listen to them is essential for so many teens. It can be the difference between thriving and struggling. I know that everyone reading this is passionate about supporting teens as they learn and navigate the world. We have to keep this effort going, no matter the obstacles that shutdowns and quarantines put in our way.

If we’re going to continue to support and listen to teens, we also must take care of ourselves. It’s so easy to get caught up in helping others and taking on their burdens that we wake up one day sobbing over a cereal box and wonder what happened. This pandemic does not seem to be going away, and we need to take care of ourselves so that we can endure with the teens we serve. Take some time to think about the things that have helped you get through these last 20 months. Make an effort to seek out the hobbies, meals, movies, loved ones, and pets that have buoyed you. Make that time a non-negotiable time to feel better, safe, and loved. Our national and international pandemic has borne personal grief and loss. If we forget to take care of ourselves, we risk not being able to help those who need us.

We are in uncharted territory every day, but that’s what we’re trained to do – chart new territory, and help teens to build the tools and skills to lead us into an uncertain future. We can give teens a space and a face to help them find their way through.

About Christine Lively

Christine Lively a school librarian in Virginia. I read voraciously, exchange ideas with students, and am a perpetual student. I raise monarch butterflies, cook, clean infrequently and enjoy an extensive hippo collection. I am a Certified Life Coach for Kids 14-24 and my website is christinelively.com. Christine blogs at https://hippodillycircus.com/ and you can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/XineLively.

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