Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

12 Blogs of 2014: R. David Lankes

great communities build great librariesTruth be told, I’m not an avid blog reader. Since the demise of Google Reader, I’ve not devoted much time to finding a new tool to help me organize and track my blog reading. The blogs I do read belong to those people who I can count on to get me thinking and give me some great ideas, and few make me think more than R. David Lankes.

Now that I’ve got some distance from being a full time student, I’m realizing how much I miss the discourse of being in the classroom. I miss the thought provoking readings, the vigorous discussion, learning not just from professors, but from peers. David has, with his blog, recreated some of this. He’s an academic who knows and appreciates the boots on the ground work that librarians really do, and the work we might do, we could do, and we want to do.

Boring PatientI came to know David through his ILEAD keynotes in March, June, and October (which are absolutely required viewing if you are despairing about the importance of libraries). If you do watch these keynotes, you’ll learn about David’s personal journey through illness and into health, which he shares more of in The Boring Patient.

And if you haven’t visited his blog before, this week is a great time to do so. He’s beginning a series of Radical Conversations on New Librarianship, and we’re all invited to join in. This week the topic is Defining a Library. It gives me a thrill like I used to get while sitting in the classroom of a particularly inspiring professor, and I’m so glad I can participate at my leisure with the benefit of my years of practical library work. It’s the perfect way for me to recapture what I loved about being in school, without actually being in school.

Top 5 Take-aways from ILEAD-USA

This year I’m jumping out of my comfort zone of YA fiction and crafty programs and have joined a team that was accepted to the ILEAD USA program in Illinois.  Over the course of the year, our team will design and implement a program using technology to improve service to our patrons and more deeply connect with our communities.  My team, the Techno-Whats, will be exploring simple robotics for children and teens, and structuring staff training so that more people in service to kids and teens will feel comfortable and supported in trying these new STEM programs.

Find out More about ILead

But what I learned at our first in person session is that ILEAD is so much more than technology! Here are my top 5 take-aways from what several have aptly termed “library sleepaway camp” that I think everyone can benefit from.

1. The process is more important than the product.

We were reminded repeatedly that trying is more important than not trying, and the final product will not be as useful or meaningful to the library world in general as going through the process of learning something new. Robotics is something I have so little knowledge of, I was reassured that becoming an expert will not make this a success, but learning something new and working with a team will.  The phrase used frequently throughout the week was Fail Forward. When you learn something new, even if you learn what to never do again, your perceived failure is not really a failure.

2. Where imaginations play, learning happens.

Don’t you love this? This quote from Michael Steven’s presentation gets to the heart of both libraries, and our project. Creating a space within our walls and programs where teens can be imaginative and explore without undue restrictions — where they can play — they have the distinct opportunity to learn something new. They might learn about robotics, or poetry, or how to be a better friend, and they might just learn about themselves.  Where imaginations play, learning happens.

3. Accessible design helps everyone.

Sina Bahram used a familiar example from everyday life to explain how everyone benefits when our programs and services are designed in a way to be accessible to people with diverse needs. Curb cuts, those sloping bits of sidewalk leading toward crosswalks, may have been implemented to help those in wheelchairs, but it’s folks pushing strollers or pulling rolling luggage that use them the most. We all benefit when opportunities and information are offered in as accessible a way as possible. How can we bring accessibility into our web and library design, beyond what our institutions are required to do?

4. It’s not about technology, it’s about people.

This might seem an argument against expanding tech offerings and programs in libraries, but in reality it’s the opposite. We’re not in the book business or the tech business, we’re in the people and community business, and we have such great opportunities to connect with and serve our people and our communities through technology. As we consider trying or disregarding new tech, we need to ask ourselves — are we doing this to serve then tech, or the people? As a sidenote, this lesson was further reinforced to me, and dovetails nicely with point three above, in this Ted Talk about bionics. The speaker, who sports two bionic legs and was part of the team that designed a leg for a dancer who was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, said something beautiful. After suffering a double amputation after a climbing accident, he reasoned that “a human being can never be broken. Technology is broken. Technology is inadequate.” When we use technology to serve people, we are using it right.

5. We may be in sharky water, but we are the sharks.

I’m pretty sure Beck Tench’s talk changed my life. What a great birthday present that was. In it, as she walked us through her suggestions for being an agent of change in your organization. (The formula is small change x time = big change.) The first deeply resonant moment in her talk for me was pointing out that trying new and different things seems scary and hard because of all of the “sharks in the water”… but that those sharks are quite often our own fears and insecurities.  It’s a wonderfully gentle and and brave and affirming talk – I encourage everyone to watch it.
I’m planning to keep all five of these life lessons in my back pocket for a long time. Hopefully they’re useful to others as well!

The Myth of Not Enough

The other day, a librarian I really respect was musing on Twitter that she wasn’t doing enough for the profession.  I was so surprised to hear that because I always think of her as super active and doing really great things for her community.  When do you know that you’re doing enough? Are we ever really doing enough?

A few days later, I had to compose an introduction for myself to be used at an upcoming speaking engagement.  Here’s what I wrote:

Heather Booth has been working in libraries since 2001, and has been the Teen Services librarian at the Thomas Ford Memorial Library since 2008.  She is the author of Serving Teens Through Readers’ Advisory, and one of the editors of the forthcoming Whole Library Handbook, Teen Services, both published by ALA Editions.  She is a regular blogger at the Teen Librarian Toolbox, a reviewer for Booklist, and a content contributor at Novelist.  This year she plans to spend her spare time learning about robotics as a part of ILEAD-U, in between playground visits and catching up on Phineas and Ferb with her two daughters since she “only” works part time.

It’s all true, and it looks ridiculous.  It sounds like I’m some kind of 24 hour machine, but I’m really not.  The truth is, I often feel like I’m not doing enough.  I’m not serving on any committees, have let my regular meetings with my beloved PLN lag, don’t read enough, don’t play with my kids enough, don’t blog enough, don’t exercise enough, don’t go on dates with my husband enough, don’t host successful programs enough, don’t attend Board meetings enough.  I sleep next to my phone for the alarm, but also so I can see what I missed overnight as soon as I wake up, drink too much coffee, and regularly walk my daughter to the bus stop in my pajamas.
Despite my misgivings, when I take the time to step back and think about it, I have to acknowledge that I’m doing enough, with the caveat that “enough” is such a loaded term.  Could I be doing more? Do lots of other people do more. Undoubtedly. When do you know enough is enough? It’s easier when it comes to roller coasters and guacamole. Your body will let you know when you’ve hit your limit. But what about those things that don’t have that built in physical feedback loop? Something I’ve come to understand about myself is that I seem to thrive when I’m just a tad too busy, but will collapse as soon as that next thing is added on, which inevitably happens.

Are you doing enough?  I think you probably are, even though I don’t know who you are.  I know this because you are engaging on a professional level.  This tells me that

1) You are doing your job
2) You care enough about your job to reach out for more information.  And maybe someone sent you a link here; maybe you’re not reaching out so much as catching the low hanging fruit.  But still, you’re reading it.  You care.
3) You’ve gotten this far, so chances are you relate, on some level, to the idea that you’re not doing enough.  You worry about it.  You make lists of things you could do, but then realize that you don’t have the time, energy, or patience to do them.  Or maybe you do.  Maybe you’ve optimized your time and gotten exactly where you want to be, in which case I say, that is amazing and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.  For real, no sarcasm intended.

When it comes down to it, I think this Myth of Not Enough has to be related to Impostor Phenomenon.  They both seem to be more prevalent in women than in men, and in highly achieving folks.  We have to convince ourselves that we are not impostors; we deserve what we have earned and achieved because we worked hard for it, just like we need to convince ourselves that our best efforts are just that.  Your days are full, it’s just a matter of how you choose to fill them.  Balance is just as valid as prestige.


Achieve Every Goal Always Forever in Three Easy Steps

If your library calendar is like mine, it’s performance evaluation time.  Which means it’s also the dreaded goal setting time of year.  Will you aspire to increase program participation by 25%?  Bring fiction circulation up by 10%?  Do a classroom visit each month?  Secure five new sponsors for the summer reading club?

Or will you take the opposite tack and create non-goal goals, like maintaining your current staffing level, continuing to be responsive to teen suggestions, or running a summer reading club [like you do every year and have since the beginning of time]?

Please spare yourself the agony and embarrassment and forego both of these types goals.

“BUT!” You’re saying, “What’s wrong with wanting to increase circulation???  Why shouldn’t listening to my beloved teens be a goal?????”

No, I’m not crazy and I haven’t thrown in the towel.

Goal setting is really important in helping us move forward with our teen services – if it’s done right.  And neither of the above extremes quite gets it.  Here are three steps to take that will make your goal setting more realistic, more useful to all of the stakeholders, and more likely to be achieved.  And the best part is, it’s actually going to be easier and make you feel better than setting lofty or wimpy goals would.

1.  Think about what your teens, your library, and your community really need, but don’t discount what you really need.

 We often look to the Library’s mission statement and past patron requests when it’s goal setting time.  Have teens been begging you to get a gaming center at the Library?   Are you all tasked with enriching the cultural experiences of your community?  Has your library been on an environmentalism kick lately?

Maybe what you really need in order to do your job well to focus on is none of the above, but instead build up your PLN.  Maybe it’s been five years since you’ve attended a conference out of state and been exposed to new ideas from other regions of the country.  Maybe you’ve been throwing yourself into new technologies and it’s time to get back to the books for a season.

Don’t lose touch with what makes you great or your motivations for doing the job.

These are YOUR goals, not DEPARTMENT goals.  How will these goals help YOU be a better librarian, a better resource to your teen patrons, and a better colleague to your peers?  If you are personally motivated to achieve the goals, instead of motivated simply by the idea that it’s what you should do, you will be more focused on working toward meeting the goals.

2.  Only set goals that you have control over.

This is why setting goals that hinge on increasing X by Y, or those that rely on someone else to make a final decision are wrongheaded.  You could do everything right, and never increase a collection’s circulation by a single checkout if external factors limit the community’s access to or interest in the material or format.  You could do everything right, but wind up in a situation where the Powers That Be have decided that public librarians shouldn’t be doing booktalks in the local school.  You could plan the best program session ever and have it fall flat if your core group of attendees decides that they’d rather play intramural basketball or work on the school play instead.

These things are out of your control.  But it doesn’t mean you can’t work toward them.

Reframe your goals into manageable chunks that you can accomplish:

  • Increase circulation by 10% becomes 
    • Weed the collection, 
    • create focused thematic displays each month, 
    • create five new lists of readalikes for popular titles.
  • Boost program attendance by 5% becomes
    • Increase marketing efforts by including program announcements on social media and in popular off-site hangouts.  
    • Do a survey of local teens to figure out what types of programs are of the most interest
  • Visit at least 4 classrooms each month becomes
    • Make contact with a teacher, librarians, or other liaison at every school in my service area.
    • Create a handout describing the full range of support I can provide. 
    • Follow up with school relationships that have been successful in the past.
  • Create a makerspace becomes
    • Research potential setups and requirements for a makerspace 
    • Get feedback on makerspaces from other libraries 
    • Host a teen focus group.  
    • Create a budget and proposal for the Board to review next January.

3.  Change course when needed.

This is NOT cheating.  Let’s say one of your personally relevant, achievable goals is to attend more of your local region’s youth librarian meetups in the next county over.  Then let’s say that the weather all winter long is just horrible and you hate driving on snowy roads and your car is making that weird noise again.  Change course.  Adjust your goal so that you’re gaining similar skills and benefits in an online environment.

Or perhaps you detailed the ways you would do outreach in small ways across a variety of locations in your community, and then you are invited to be involved in the monthly teen night at a community center and need to devote more time and energy to that project.  It’s not a failure if this becomes a new goal and the initial goal gets set on the back burner for a while.  It’s actually a success, because clearly some of that early outreach must have worked really well!

And that’s it.

If your goals are personally important to you, achievable by you, and changeable by you when you need to change them, the likelihood of you actually wanting to work toward making them happen is going to increase significantly.  And if you actually want to focus on those things in your work life, you probably will find the time to do so, despite the many directions we are pulled in every day.

Plus, if you’ve written these things down as goals, and your supervisor knows they’re goals (because they’re in your performance evaluation) if you need more time away from a different project to work on these things (remember! things that YOU WANT to do!) you are more likely to get more time at work to do them! Because the truth about your manager is that if you do well at achieving your goals, she will look better to her manager too.  This is how we all succeed together.


12 Blogs of Christmas: Hi Miss Julie (Heather)

Blog #4: Hi Miss Julie

We spend a lot of time thinking about what it means to be a librarian serving young people.  At least I do.  I think about how my work life may be different from others in my profession because of my gender and the demographic I serve.  I think about how we are perceived, how it could change, and if it matters.  And so does Julie.  Though Julie Jurgens works with a younger group than many of the TLT readership does on a regular basis, her blog is still great, even essential reading.  First, those little kids will, if we’re lucky, become our teen users before you know it.  It’s important for us to understand what’s happening with youth services so that we can understand the library environment in which our teens grew up.  Second, Julie is a great writer and is really able to pinpoint some of the big issues facing our profession, specifically women in our profession, and discuss them eloquently, pointedly, and in a way that encourages rather than shutting down conversation.  Read Hi Miss Julie.


What they didn’t teach you in library school: burnout edition

Let me preface this by saying I love my job.  Really.  When I imagine a world in which I needed to choose a different job, even the same job in a different library, I end up just sitting there with a puzzled look on my face as if I didn’t understand the question.  I. Love. My. Job.



But just because you love your job, just because you have found a niche that suits both your needs and interests, it doesn’t mean you won’t feel burnt out now and then.  And here’s the lovely Catch-22 that’s both the cause and the solution: when you love your job this much, it’s going to get to you after a while.  You can’t throw yourself into anything with complete abandon, day after day, year after year, and not hit a wall and feel burnt out eventually.

Unlike burning out on a hobby or a casual relationship, you can’t just put it aside or take a break and see if the spark is still there in a month.  Teen librarianship burnout requires you to power through. Here are a few strategies.


Coasting is not giving up or throwing in the towel.  Coasting is still moving forward, just relying on momentum and the things around you.  Don’t reinvent the wheel.  If you need a little more personal time, need to dedicate a little more mental space to other aspects of your life, or just aren’t bubbling over with great new ideas, it’s ok to fall back on what’s been done before.  Need programs?  Pull up a list of your best loved, most attended programs and do a “back, by popular demand” series.  Summer Reading got you down?  Use a prepackaged program that comes complete with graphics, lists, and logs like the Collaborative Summer Library Program or your statewide reading program.  Use the Teen Programs in a Box that you’ll find on this site.  Pull your book lists from this or other reputable blogs, libraries, or publications (crediting when necessary, of course).  People create these resources for you!  Use them!

Recruit help

Is your TAB ready for a little spark too?  Entrust them with program creation or summer reading themes.  Give them parameters to work with that you will be able to carry through on (no more than X programs/week, no more that X dollars/program).
Maybe there is a local library school or LTA program from which you could draw a skilled volunteer to make new book lists, design a logo and materials for a SRP, or puzzle out the particulars of an idea that you have but haven’t been able to make happen.
Alternately, recruit some librarian partners!  Maybe what you need is to be reinvigorated by librarians nearby, or by the ideas and innovations happening across the country.  Work on developing your PLN, or find a local, regional, or national library conference or meeting or book fair to attend.  It’s the difference between the 200th mile on a treadmill that same mile in a beautiful nature preserve.   It’s rejuvenating and opens new possibilities.

Take a break

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and if you’ve been months and months without a day off, now is the time to draw on that personal day, vacation day, or upcoming long weekend and totally unplug from the library.  Check back in with yourself.  Do you have a nonfiction book you’ve been meaning to read?  A recipe you’ve been meaning to try?  A project you’ve been meaning to finish?  We serve our teens best when we are whole, complete people.  Don’t forget that you are more than your work.  Your teens are out there pursuing their interests and that makes them the interesting people we love to work with.  Be an interesting person to them; don’t neglect your own interests.


Part of taking a break means unplugging from your job, but also from the library world.  That means take a Twitter holiday, force yourself not to check your work email, and don’t even check this blog.  One thing that can contribute to burn out is the constant social comparison we are able to do, that we do without even thinking, because of the ubiquitous access we have to other librarians and their successes.  It’s easy to feel inadequate when it seems that everyone around you is doing amazing things.   (Erfolgtraurigkeit anyone?) It’s easy to feel insufficient when your situation doesn’t allow for the big WOW FACTOR programs or prizes that you see elsewhere.   And it’s easy for those feelings to lead to feeling burnt out – that the small things you do just aren’t good enough.    But that’s totally not true!  Just think about all of the libraries that don’t even have a teen librarian, or even someone on staff interested in teen services.  You – just by showing up to work and sitting at that desk – are improving access and service to teens in your community.  Good job you!  Now stop paying attention to what you’re not doing and focus on what you are doing.


If you have tried your best to get out of your burnout funk and it’s just not working, think about what drew you to teen librarianship to begin with.  Is your life’s dream?  Did it just happen?  Do you need a change of scenery? Clientele? Work? … Career?  If your passion is really archives or teaching or fine art or writing or, gosh, gardening or accounting or roofing – you’re not serving anyone well, yourself included, by forcing yourself to love teen librarianship.  Our time here is too short to spend it languishing in a job you dislike (or is it too long to spend in a job you dislike?  It’s both.) so make it count!


I’m nobody! Who are you? Part 1 (Why us teen librarians should talk to one another)

I’m Nobody, who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!
-Emily Dickinson

If you’re the only teen librarian in your library, it can be a lonely job.  You plan programs on your own, or with the hopefully enthusiastic, but sometimes grudging or misguided assistance of a TAB, you order and read books that you might not be able to gush about with anyone else you work with.  You serve a population with distinct needs, and you’re on your own deciphering what those needs are and how to address them through your service.  Depending on when you’re on desk and where that desk is, you may go days without having a really engaging conversation with a teen patron, let alone another colleague who shares your passion and focus.  My library system has recently morphed from a regional system to one that encompasses half the state.  What were once fairly local networking meetings are no longer as convenient – or possible – to attend.

The irony of this is that our job is all about making connections with people, and connecting those people to what they need.

A lot is written and discussed about why and how we can better connect with teens.  But why and how should we connect with one another?

Just like attending a professional conference can give you new ideas and energy, having regular, informal meetings with other teen librarians can do the same.  Why is this important?  Think about your performance after you get home from conference.  Do you try new programs? Order  books you just heard about? Try new approaches at booktalking or reader’s advisory? Change your signage? Explore new websites or technology?  YES, of course you do!  Meeting the librarian down the street or three towns over for a sandwich or cup of coffee isn’t really the same as attending the YALSA YA Literature Symposium or PLA, but it serves a similar purpose.  It breaks us out of our own way of doing things and allows us to share our knowledge and ideas with each other.  It reminds both of us that while we’re doing this alone, we’re not really out there all on our own.

Start me up

Working with teens takes energy.  Some days, it takes lots of energy.  Some days, it takes all of your energy.  But we love it, right?  And for every night we fall onto the couch at the end of the day with our coats on and the keys still in our hand, there are going to be other nights we drive home with the windows down, singing at the top of our lungs because it was so awesome.  Not everybody understands that dynamic, but having someone who does, and with whom we can share these moments can pull us up when we’re down or use the positive momentum to push our programs or services in new and exciting directions.  Who else understands the frustrations and awesomeness of being an unofficial department of one like someone else who is an unofficial department of one?

One is the loneliest number

We need to meet each other not just to vent and pat each other on the back, it’s really important for us to seek out the kind of camaraderie and information sharing that our colleagues in other situations come by naturally.  If there are five people in the Adult Services department, they have each other to bounce ideas to, get a second opinion on a resource, share interesting articles, teach new technologies, and try new services.  Working in a bubble will eventually lead to problems with our service.  Stale programs, missing new trends in publishing, changing the dates and then reusing the same poster session after session… it’s poor service and our patrons will pick up on it.

Tada- now there is more than 1
TLT is a collaboration and we have fun together, inspire one another, & steal ideas
I mean borrow – we borrow ideas!!!

Stop. Collaborate and listen.

Some projects are just bigger than you.  Consider what you could do if there were two of you, twice as many teens, twice as many locations, (and dare we hope twice the budget?), and twice as much energy for the last great program you had.  If you’ve seen programs or services offered elsewhere that seemed not possible because of the limitations of your own situation, think about striking up a partnership with another nearby library to make it happen.

If that’s an overwhelming thought right now, start smaller.  You could collaborate and share information on…

  • Book display ideas
  • Slogans and activities for your TAB
  • A joint book drive
  • Thematic book lists
  • Volunteer responsibilities and guidelines (it’s nice when there are consistent expectations across an area)
  • Excess craft supply or leftover prize swaps
  • What to do about all of these darn series?!
  • Best times for programs
  • Summer Reading Themes
  • What’s hot for teens in your neighborhood
  • Cross-promoting programs

Start by thinking about the areas of service that are difficult for you.  We all have strengths and weaknesses, areas we love and areas we only do because it’s part of the job.  Pick a part of your job that you wish you had a better system for, a better eye for, or a better understanding of, look around at what other libraries are doing in those areas, and make improving that aspect your goal.

So have I convinced you yet?  Ok, good.  Now you’re wondering how to do it, right?  Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll give some suggestions on getting your own local group going.

20 Questions: Teen Librarian 101 part 2 with Karen Jensen

Today we introduce you to a new TLT member and a new feature: 20 Questions. I am so excited to introudce you to Stephanie Wilkes, the Young Adult Coordinator for the Ouachita Parish Public Library in Monroe, Louisiana. She is also working on putting together the North Louisiana Teen Book Festival in April of 2013.  2012 Printz Award Winner John Corey Whaley is set to be the Keynote speaker.  You can read her complete bio on the Meet TLT page. On today’s 20 questions Stephanie and I each answer 10 questions about our experiences as a Teen Serivces Librarian and a reader.  Now it is Stephanie’s turn to interview Karen.  Be sure to catch the first part of 20 questions here.

Part 2: In which Stephanie interviews Karen

What made you decide to become a librarian?

Looking back, I always joke that I have a top 10 lists that I was destined to be a librarian. In the 8th grade, I wore a back brace for Scoliosis and couldn’t do PE so they had me work in the library. I used to take all my cassette tapes (yes, really, cassette tapes) and keep them wound to side one and I organized them on my shelves in alphabetical order by the title of the artist and then in release date order. I remember my junior year in high school reading a book called The Murder of a Shopping Bag Lady, a true story, that completely changed my view of the world that I lived in.  All these little moments in my life seemed to be whispering be a librarian.
In college, I was working on getting my youth ministry degree and needed a job. The student services office suggested I apply at the local public library because they were looking for someone to work with teens and my degree seemed like a good fit. I got a job there and just knew that I had found my home. I started as a paraproffesional working with teens at the age of 20, barely out of the teen years myself.  I had the most amazing professional mentor there who is still such an important part of my life.  Every day I am thankful because I know I am one of the people in this world who gets to go to work and do what they were truly called to do.

What made you think twice…everyone has that moment.

I remember at one point horror fiction was incredibly popular. Here I was studying religion and I thought: can I put these types of books into the hands of teens? I remember having a real spiritual and professional crisis. Around that same time a professor shared with us that around 80% of decisions to follow Christ were made during the teenage years. I realized that in order for any life decision to be authentic, including spiritual ones, people had to have access to the information to make those decisions for themselves and truly own them. From that moment on I knew that I was in the right place doing the right thing. And I stand 100% firmly against censorship. People have the right to think and decide for themselves.
Name ONE, yes ONE, author and how they have influenced your library work.

I made these posters last year for Chris Crutcher
and you can find them here.

There are many authors that I love (including the lovely Lauren Oliver as you may have heard), but throughout my career I have been enbolded and inspired by Chris Crutcher. He really dives right in to the teenage life and tells their stories with honesty, passion and integrity. He understands that many teens are living truly horrific lives. He gives them a voice. He helps open eyes and build compassion and speaks truth, truth that many people don’t want to hear. He inspires me to speak the same truth, to love teens unconditionally, and to remember and understand how much the teen years can truly suck.

Favorite debut author?

This year is such a rich year for debut authors, but I read and loved The Downside of Being Charlie by Jenny Torres Sanchez and I am hooked. As much as I love sci fi and fantasy, I also love contemporary fiction that speaks to the heart of teens. I loved and cared for Charlie as a character. I wanted him to succeed.  It’s been a couple of months since reading this book and Charlie still occassionally comes to mind.  That is the hallmark, to me, of a good contemporary fiction title.
Weirdest job you ever worked and how does it help you be a better librarian?

Before working in a library I worked retail, which is great because there is so much customer service involved in the public library. All those skills are necessary and translate well.  My very first job was working in a movie theater, which is of course just another form of storytelling.  It was a glorious first job and I worked my way all the way up to Chief of Staff.  It was kind of cool as a teenager to have a title like Chief of Staff.
Do you listen to music when you read?

I do not but the kids are often watching tv in the background so does the Backardigans singing count?  I am, however, fascinated with the idea of authors and their book playlists; how and what music they listen to as they write.  How the music helps get them get in the mood and sets the tone of a piece.  A lot of the authors I follow on Twitter will mention it and it truly fascinates me.
On that note, favorite bands/songs?

I will always love Duran Duran; they were that Middle School band that you seriously crush on and it just kind of sticks with you.  I am nothing if not loyal. And I love the Foo Fighters and basically alternative rock and pop.  I know I just moved to Texas but I am not a fan of country music (please don’t hurt me.)
What is your ideal teen space in a library?

I want a space with lots of slat walls and a chalk board wall. Technology is a must. The outer “walls” would be the shelves for the collection and inside there would be wicked cool seating, still to be determined. I am a huge proponent of teen invovlement so I want a space to display and rotate teen artwork.  At my previous library we were discussing buying a house near the property to increase the size of our parking lot.  I really wanted them to turn it into a teen branch where teens could have their own space and have a tech room and little performance stage where we could do reader’s theater, open mic and improv.  I often fantasize that I will one day win the lottery and build a teen library where all these amazing authors come visit every month.  Of course, I would have to buy lottery tickets for that to truly happen.
Most successful library program?

Like many teen librarians, I am forever grateful to the Harry Potter series for getting teens reading and for some great programming through the years. I have always had great success with craft programs, interactive mysteries, and video gaming. My hugest success has been the Teen CoffeeHouse.  This was a loosely organized drop in program where I would weekly have 50 to 70 teens drop in for this informal program. That is how I learned to value simply hanging out.  Here I could build relationship with my teens, talk to them as an informal teen advisory group, and even tap into them for some of my programs.  Ironically, years after starting the TCH, I began an Asset Builder’s Coalition and one of the things we discussed was teen programming.  Every group around that table indicated that they found through the years that what teens most wanted was a place to “hang out” and have choices on how they spend their time within that space.  Without a doubt the least successful programs I have always had were those that involved a speaker – not an author – on some topic that I think has value in the lives of teens but they just don’t want to leave school and come to the public library and hear someone lecture to them again.  For example, I once had someone come speak about teen dating violence; an important topic, but only 1 soul turned up.  I find that making a program interactive, giving teens choices, and making sure they walk out with something in their hands is the best way to get teens participating.
Where do you see YA services in 10 years?

Relationally, teens will always need places to gather and adults to relate meaningfully with them. Teens will always need access to information and story. We may see the vehicles by which they are delivered change, but the need will always be there. As librarians we must continue to be open to what is happening around us culturally and incorporate that into what we do. If we stay open to change and are responsive to the needs of our teens and our communities, we will be doing exactly what we need to be doing – exactly what we are doing now – just in different ways.  I think it is really important for teen librarians to advocate not only for teens, but for libraries.  Everyone seems to think that libraries are going away because of computers and e-readers, but I am reminded every day that there is a significant portion of the population that can’t afford these things and if we want them, and by extension our communities, to be successful then we must provide for them the tools they need to be successful by funding our public libraries.  Education and democracy demand access to information to thrive.

Be sure to check out Part 1: In which Karen interviews Stephanie. Also, want to have some fun with us? Leave your answers to any or all of the questions in the comments.

20 Questions: Teen Librarian 101 part 1 with Stephanie Wilkes

Today we introduce you to a new TLT member and a new feature: 20 Questions.  I am so excited to introudce you to Stephanie Wilkes, the Young Adult Coordinator for the Ouachita Parish Public Library in Monroe, Louisiana.  She is also working on putting together the North Louisiana Teen Book Festival in April of 2013.  2012 Printz Award Winner John Corey Whaley is set to be the Keynote Speaker.  You can read her complete bio on the Meet TLT page.  On today’s 20 questions Stephanie and I each answer 10 questions about our experiences as a Teen Serivces Librarian.

Part 1: In which Karen interviews Stephanie

Why teen services? How, and when, did you know you wanted to be a teen librarian?
When I was working in my first library job, my boss handed me Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. I was raised in a small Southern town and homosexuality was NOT discussed in my town. So, when I read this book, I read it with eyes wide open and an open mind. And I found that my world was so much bigger than what I had ever known and immediately began to wonder what else I had been shielded from. Two days later, as if by fate, a boy came into my office who served on my Teen Advisory Board, shut the door, and said, “Miss Stephanie, can you give me a book about…a boy that likes a boy? I think I like boys”. Never would I have been able to do that, in fact, I may have even have talked him out of it, had I not read Levithan’s book. So, I handed him Boy Meets Boy and it was right then that I realized that I wanted to connect teens with books and the right book. It was also then that I realized how imperative it was to enhance a teen’s world view by letting them read about far off places, about issues that they may not be familiar with, and about life in general so that they can find themselves and find a connection through literature. I still remember my teen as well and he is happily with his partner of 3 years and they live in Atlanta and we talk often. 🙂
What do you wish that your teens knew about you or what you do?
I wish my teens understood how much I care about them. Like seriously care about what is going on in their lives. Most of them talk with me and I talk to them but I go home and pray for them and I think about their drama throughout the day and I carry a piece of them with me wherever I go. I wish they knew how much they influence and inspire me to come to work each day and to be there for them. They really are amazing.
What do you wish that administrators better understood about teens or teen services?
I wish that administrators understood that you cannot just place someone into a teen position without them having an extreme love for teens. If you don’t like them or the books published for them, then you need to work somewhere else. Teen Services in a public library is special because we are not bound by the rules that school teachers and school librarians are and we can openly discuss things with these teens. That is a big plus for me because I can talk with them about real problems and give them real opinions and sometimes advice but you have to have the right person in the job. The wrong person can ruin your entire teen department and run it into the ground if they can’t make that connection.
What has been your most glorious moment so far as a teen services librarian?
Hm, I have two. My second year working in teen services and before I became an actual librarian I had a 200% increase in attendance for our summer reading program. That was when I knew I was doing something right. And I was only 20…so it was a glorious moment to pack a room at the end of the summer party and know that it was because of my hard work that kept these teens attending programs and interested in the library. Self-fulfilling but awesome.

Also, what I think many authors fail to realize, is that as a teen services librarian, when we find a book that we believe in, down to our core being, we feel as if we are part of that book. Obviously no where near as important as the author, after all they wrote it, but by putting the book in people’s hands and watching people connect with the books that we are passionate about. Recently, I had the honor of witnessing a friend win a very prestigious award for a book that I had been actively promoting throughout the library world before it was even published. I was one of the (many) librarians who nominated the book for the award. And, when I found out that the book won…it was a purely amazing moment to share that with someone who was a friend and with a book that I loved so much it felt like a friend. Kind of weird to explain. But seeing and sharing in that was an amazing moment for me.  

If you and I were trying to survive in the zombie apocalypse and running for our lives, we would have to pack and travel light so which 1 teen fiction book would you keep with you?
Seriously? Just one? First, being the librarian that I am, my thought is to pick a book that would be something I would want to share with the world if all the books disappeared…HA! Secondly, I would want to pick a book that I just could read over and over again. I think that book would be The Perks of Being a Wallflower with Looking for Alaska running in a very, very close second place. (Karen loves both of these books as well).
What are your future goals as a teen librarian?
My future goals…loaded question again. My dream is to have a library branch devoted primarily to teen services and college/job prep skills. I want a library that teens feel free to hang out, drink a coke, and talk about life. A library where they can learn how to use Photoshop and play guitar, destroy the high scores on popular video games, and feel as if they are not in the way. I also want this library to help ready the college-bound students for college and for those who aren’t college-bound, because let’s face it…college is not for everyone, to connect with area businesses and trades and learn more about how to train and proceed into the job force.  
You are currently involved in planning a teen book festival in Louisiana. What made you decide to take on this project?
After I attended the AMAZING Austin Teen Book Festival, I wanted my teens in North Louisiana to have that same type of experience. North Louisiana is 4 hours from New Orleans, 3.5 hours from Baton Rouge, and at least 4 hours from Dallas and Jackson. These are tour stops for authors. My teens do not have the same experience to meet authors and connect with them. So, I wanted to bring the book festival experience back to Louisiana, especially North Louisiana, and to put us on the map to the publishers when they are looking for places to send authors. (Shameless self promotion here: Visit us on the web at www.northlouisianateenbookfestival.com, follow us on Twitter @nlouisianatbf, and search for us on Facebook.)
What did you read when you were a teen? 
I was a voracious reader when I was a tween, so I had already devoured all of the Fear Street and Christopher Pike books, which was what was available for me in the ‘teen’ section. So, when I was a teen I read John Grisham. He was my all time favorite author and I still own every book he has ever written. I also liked biographies and memoirs of people in the entertainment industry.

If you were to write a teen fiction title of your own, what genre would it be? Tell us what it would be about.

It would be contemporary and a coming-of-age novel written through a young adult’s perspective looking back at the high school years and how it developed the character. I envision it would be small vignettes, or snapshots, of memories about high school from freshman year forward that would give a glimpse into my MC’s life and how she adjusted, what she would change (if anything), and how it made her who she was today.

If you could go back in time and visit your teenage self, what would you tell you?

I was an overachiever in my teenage years and I missed out on a lot of things. I would have told myself to not take life so seriously. To relax, live a little, and carpe diem…something that I didn’t learn until much later in life. That you don’t want boys to pay attention to you because of your looks but because of your brain, even though you may be lonely sometimes. That you will never see at least 80% of your high school graduating class and that your ‘friends’ aren’t really that awesome, just keep a few near and dear. ALWAYS go with your gut…if you have that ‘umm…idk’ feeling, it’s probably right. And that the tattoo on the lower back, while pretty, wasn’t the best of ideas. Especially the smiley face in the center.

Be sure to check out Part 2: In which Stephanie interviews Karen.  Also, want to have some fun with us?  Leave your answers to any or all of the questions in the comments.