Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Sunday Reflections: You can’t go home again?

When I began my freshman year of college in Mount Vernon, Ohio, I went to the student office and asked about job placement. I had to work while in college in order to maybe be able to afford college. They asked me what my major was – youth ministry – and they said the local public library had called asking about someone to work with teens in the libraries and I set out on an interview. My major, wanting to work with teens, made me a good candidate for the job. Except that they didn’t hire me, they hired someone else. Then 2 weeks later they called and said they really liked me and had decided to hire 2 people. The rest, as they say, is history.

I worked at the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio for 7 years. I got married to The Mr. while working there. I graduated from undergrad and began working on my MLS while working there. My mentor and now friend became a part of my life here. And I have remained in contact with many of the staff there for these past 15 years.

When I began at PLMVKC, they did not have any YA services. It was in the early 90s and libraries were just starting to really make an effort to serve this population group with intention. My co-worker and I created a YA collection, we put together a TAG, and we put together a variety of programs. We had no idea what we were doing, it was all trial and error, and learning from others. But in the end, we put together a pretty successful program and I cried when I left to take another job.

This is what the YA space looked like in the 1990s when I worked there . . .

During the month of January 2015  I am working to help re-organize and re-evaluate some of their YA services and I will be sharing some of what that looks like with you periodically here. Today we will start with the YA area. Around 5 years ago they moved their YA area. They went about creating a new YA space by tapping into their Teen Advisory Group. Four teens researched and made a presentation to the library’s board asking them for a specific space in the library.

The space that currently houses the teen space used to be the magazine reading room when I worked there.  If the library was a squared shaped donut, the new YA room would be the squared shaped donut hole in the middle of the library. It is an almost fully enclosed room with windows on three sides that is immediately across from the Circulation Desk. You go down a short ramp to get into the room, giving it the illusion of seclusion while being in direct site line of the staff. As far as the footprint of the library goes, this is actually a really great place for the teen area. It’s cool, it’s accessible, and it is inviting.

The view from the Circulation Desk . . .

Down the ramp, which is on the right side of the picture above . . .

Once in the room, there is an entire wall of teen fiction. As you can see, it was originally quite packed with zero room for growth. One of the first things I did was dramatically weed this collection. My goal was to create not only room for new titles but room for face out merchandising of titles.

Before weeding . . .

After weeding . . .

After weeding 700 titles from fiction and nonfiction collection, which we’ll talk about in a minute, a little bit more space was opened. I’m thinking I’m going to have to take another more brutal pass in order to create the space we need for growth. The #1 thing you can do to increase circulation besides ordering good titles is make sure your shelves are not to full and do face out displays.

I was glad to see that they already had a dedicated space for a most excellent graphic novel and manga collection.

On the outsides of the room there is counter seating for laptops and there are a few public access computers which are dedicated to teen use only.

And of course there is seating space . . .

On the outside of the room, on the outside wall of the ramp, there was a small YA audio book and YA nonfiction collection. Because this nonfiction collection was literally 7 steps away from the adult nonfiction collection, it made sense to eliminate the separate YA nonfiction collection and expand the YA audio collection which was kind of tight and had no room for display. The YA nonfiction titles were evaluated and were either weeded or added into the adult nonfiction collection.

I originally left The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in the year 2000, so it has been 15 years since I have worked there. Because of a variety of relationships I have visited on occasion when I still lived in Ohio. Many things about the library look the same as when I worked there, the most dramatic change has definitely been the new YA space. We had a good YA space when I worked there, but this is a great space. It is a space that shows thoughtfulness and intentionality. It is inviting. It communicates to the teens in the community that they are valued at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County.

To be completely honest, I cried so hard when I left PLMVKC. They made me the librarian I am today, and the people became like family to me. Working there this past week really was like going home. And I’m not going to lie, working with a new collection is a tremendous amount of fun.

TPiB: 5 Things To Do With Post-Its In Your Library

With only a few minutes and a couple dollars, you can do some really creative and engaging things.  Check out these ideas, take a look around your space, grab some sticky notes and see what you can do!

Encourage teens to write poems to share on a wall or window, or encourage them to copy favorite lines and share them like the Durham County Library did.

Stick secret notes into favorite books for teens to discover, or add to.  Reading is social, even if it’s secretly social as this Post Secret submission reminds us.

Get some heart shaped notes and stick them on book covers for a Books We Love display, and add a line or two about why you love the book.  This could also work for star shaped notes to highlight Award Winners.
Nyan Cat!  Stacey at the Naperville Public Library explains how she did it, but you could use the technique for any other pixel art project you can think of.
Use them to write crib notes to yourself when you do booktalks.  It’s easier than note cards because it’s less to hold and allows you to pick up any book and instantly have your notes attached.  I can’t be the only one who can never remember how old characters are, or needs a few key words to jog my memory of the fabulous hook I want to leave for teens, right?
Got some more good ideas?  Share ’em in the comments!

Salon and the Shushing Librarian

Things I Never Learned in Library School: To Shush or Not To Shush?

Just the other day I mentioned that I thought, perhaps, maybe, there should be a little more shushing in the library.  I know – it seems such a treasonous thought and sets back the fight against stereotypes 100s of years.   See: Renegade Library Thoughts.

Then today, I open up my browser and cruise online to find THIS article entitled Bring Back Shushing Librarians at Salon.com. (by Laura Miller)

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, shall we?  Seriously, speaking of stereotypes, could they have found a more stereotypical picture to illustrate this piece? At least they mention that we are “highly skilled, well educated and socially aware.”  Moving on.

Salon is referencing the latest finding of a PEW study that looks at what library users want from libraries and fourth on that list is “quiet study spaces for adults and children.” 

How a library can meet this need depends a lot on a library’s space.  The library I currently work at is a smaller branch to a main library.  Like most branches, it is one open space.  It’s a beautiful building, but spatially and architecturally challenged (the entry way is an echo chamber).  There is no space for smaller, private study rooms, which is typical of most branch libraries.  And to be honest, we can be very busy.  At times, I have counted over 60 people in our building with almost every chair and table occupied.

Libraries are busy places, and that business involves things like group studies, library employee and patron interactions at a variety of desks, parents reading to children, and more.  Families and children coming into the library have a different dynamic and need than an individual coming into the library looking for a quiet place to study, and not all library buildings are designed to meet both of those needs well.

Some libraries are better designed to meet the changing landscape of libraries today.  They have smaller, independent study rooms.  Their children and teen areas are a more reasonable distance from areas designated as quiet study areas.  But older buildings don’t always retrofit well to the changing needs of our library populations.  Perhaps nowhere do we see this more clearly than in teen services; how many of us have had to try and find a sensible place to put a new teen area in library that didn’t previously recognize the need for teen services?  You have to consider things like noise levels, line of sight, location in reference to both the children and adult collections, funding we don’t have and more.

In the end, I’ll admit it, I think that there are a few steps that libraries can – and should – take to create a shared space for a wide variety of people that have different goals.  Teens coming to use your teen area are often coming to work on group projects (which are being heavily emphasized in the schools) or be social, while others are looking for a quiet oasis to read and reflect.  For example, I am a huge believer that cell phone conversations don’t belong in the public spaces of the library.  Can we ever really stop them? No.  But I think when we overhear patrons talking loudly on their cell phones, it is perfectly acceptable to ask them to please take their conversation outside or end their call.  There is something about talking on a cell phone that seems to make people talk 10 times the normal volume.  And to be completely honest, I have asked a patron to turn their sound off so we didn’t hear their every click of the keyboard as they texted in the “quiet area”. 

As Salon mentions, libraries are changing and there is an emphasis on things like programming, being a community space and more.  In many libraries there is a sense of pride that we are no longer those quiet, stodgy relics of the past.  But sometimes, we stray too far from our mission and forget that we should also be that place for an individual to come in, browse the shelves and have that serendipitous moment with a book. So yes, let there be shushing, but as I mentioned in my Sunday Reflection, it needs to be consistent and polite.  And please, let’s dispense with the librarian stereotypes – even when shushing.