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What I’m Thankful For by Christie G

Thanksgiving is a tricky time of year.  Most librarians will be off Thursday and Friday, yet your library will be open Wednesday and Saturday, so if your family is further away than a traditional Thanksgiving song there is no way you’re seeing family for the holiday unless they’re coming to you.  As a holiday, it means different things to different people and cultures, and traditions can run deep, as can feelings.  The basic premise, however, is to be thankful, and so I thought I’d share, in what has been a spectacularly manic year, what I’m thankful for from 2012.

That Guy.  That Guy is the guy that I fell for my freshman year in college, and we’ve been together ever since.  I lucked out in that he gets me, he gets my passion, he supports anything and everything that I want to do, and thinks that all my ideas, no matter how strange or weird they might seem to others are worth it.  He helps chaperone teen lock-ins and run library programs, he volunteers, he deals with my craziness and keeps me sane.  I don’t know where I would be with out him.

Family and Friends.  I am thankful for the family that supports me, including my parents and brother, parts of That Guy’s family, and the uncles that I have just gotten back in touch with after too long of an absence   I am thankful for my friend/family that is always around, no matter when I need them- they are never more than a text/phone call/tweet away when I need an encouraging word, whether they’re in Chicago, New York, Oregon, Washington, or nearby in Texas.

Books.  I am thankful for books and words and authors, and the many forms that books take, from MG to YA to adult, from mystery to sci fi to western to contemporary fiction.  I am thankful that I adore books and that my house is full of them, and that I’ve found like-minded people who love them as much as I do.

Chocolate.  I am thankful that I live in a world where chocolate exists, and that I have the means to procure it when I need it.

My Job.   I am thankful for my job.  I love what I do, and the position that I hold, and I know that it is extremely unique in the library world in that I get to hold a manager hat while also holding a teen and youth services hat, so while at times it can be a lot, I have the best of both worlds.  I am thankful that my place of employment is supportive of my desire to be an advocate for teens, and as such I can attend ALA Midwinter and ALA Annual without taking vacation time, and be on committees and do awesome things that I hope are making a difference somehow.  

And if I didn’t have this job, then I don’t think I would have this last thing to be thankful for…

This blog.  I am extremely thankful for the opportunities that I have been given to sound out and sound off through TLT, and that I’ve found a heart-sister in the other bloggers here, as well as like-minded advocates who have a passion and drive for teen services like I do.  I was looking for a way to express thoughts and feelings, and was given a chance to use this as a sounding board, and I think we’re doing good things.

And that’s a lot to be thankful for.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, and share what you’re thankful for in the comments below.

10 Things I am thankful for . . .

Today is a day of thanks, and I have plenty to give.

I am thankful for . . .

1) The opportunity to get up every day and do what I love both as a teen services librarian and as a blogger. I know that I am inordinately blessed to have found myself doing exactly the things I am supposed to be doing in life.

2) Stephanie, Christie, Heather – fantastic partners in crime and working hard to make a difference in the lives of teens. Plus, they are totally cool.

3) The sometimes TLTers who share booklists, book recs, book reviews, program ideas and more.  Kearsten, Maria, Karen D and Eric Devine are all honorary TLTers – to name just a few – who help cover topics that us regular TLTers don’t consider our best topics.

4) The authors who write fantastic books and make our jobs so much easier.  I love nothing more than hearing a teen come back and say, “I loved that book you told me to read.”  With your words, you make a difference.

5) The publishers who help make this blog possible by sending ARCs and making sure we know about upcoming titles.  The truth is, blogging has made me a much better teen services librarian because I have grown so much in my knowledge of collection development tools and resources like Edelweiss and Netgalley.  And I have found that ARCs make it so much easier for me to decide whether or not a book title will work in my community.  The publishers I have met are just as passionate about books and stories and the power behind the words as most librarians are.

6) Everyone who does guest blog posts.  It’s nice to get different points of views, hear different stories, and hear about new books.  Also, sometimes it is nice to take a day off of blogging (I never knew how much “work” this would be) and spend time with my kids.  A special thanks to the authors who take time out of very busy promotional schedules to write a guest blog post.  You make me feel like a rock star for a day.

7) Blog readers! You give me a forum to share my passion, get different points of view, and, let’s face it, it’s so much more fun and fulfilling when you are talking with someone.  I talk to myself sometimes, it’s much less fun than talking to you.

8) My teens, of course.  I love getting to be a part of their lives and being invited in. They are smart and witty and they our not only our future, but our here and now.  Library services to teens matter because teens themselves matter.

9) The Mr., who is incredibly supportive and sometimes a participate in all things TLT.  When he picks up a book and reads it, I get his two cents.  And he gives up a lot of time and energy to support me and my passion for TLT.  He has also opened his wallet on occasion to pay for prizes, shipping prizes, and sending me to conferences.  All in all, he is a good egg indeed.

10) My kids.  Man I love them.  And to be honest, they are incredibly patient when they wake up in the morning and come out to the kitchen and see me typing.  They know that when I say give me 5 more minutes I mean 10.  They ask me about the books I read, and sometimes they read them with me.  A special shout out to the Tween who has appeared in a lot of posts around here, giving her opinion, sharing her art work, and just generally being her awesome self.  And oh yeah – they get dragged to a lot of meet the author events.  They have met Lauren Oliver, Michael Scott and Claire Legrand to name just a few.

These are a Few of My Creepiest Things (Christie G)

The library can be a creepy place, and there are things they don’t teach you in library school.  Here Christie G shares five of her creepiest library stories. Insert scary background music and “wooo” noises here.

SWAT is here to lock-down the building
So I’ve mentioned this one before, but it’s got to be on a top five of the creepiest things I’ve dealt with in library world.  We got a notification from the SWAT commander that they would be raiding the housing complex next door.  Since our parking lot was adjacent to the fence that surrounding the complex, SWAT was going to be IN the parking lot.  We weren’t to let anyone in or out of the building, and they would have an officer there in case something happened.  We had games and crafts for anyone under 18 in the multi-purpose room of the building, which was the one place that didn’t have windows aside from the staff room, and the adult patrons were allowed to stay in the main part of the library as the windows did not face the complex and weren’t deemed a hazard.  Five hours later, we were able to let everyone leave.

Post 9/11 Training
Things have changed, for better or for worse you decide, after 9/11/01, but one thing that I have noticed is that I have gotten a variety of safety training that usually has nothing to do with libraries.  Whether this is because I’m on the management side of things or not, I have been trained by FEMA for catastrophes both natural and man-made.  I have been trained by law enforcement and other agencies to know how to react with bio-hazards, gunman attacks, terrorist threats, and a host of other situations that I don’t think would have crossed anyone’s minds before 9/11 that would involve a public library (at least, aside from dealing with the public restroom stench or clogged toilets).  The only bright side is That Guy has had similar training due to his position as a geek, so I guess we might actually be prepared for the zombies.

One way or another I’m gonna getcha, I’ll getcha, I’ll getcha getcha getcha getcha
I don’t consider myself anything above average, in fact, I consider myself below average.  I’m amazed constantly with the fact that That Guy is still with me, and that I haven’t screwed our relationship up.  So, when I found out that I had a stalker, it didn’t click.  He would be at the library, and would make chit-chat.  I always had my wedding rings on (engagement and wedding band) and they were on the correct fingers, and there really is no mistaking them for anything other than what they are, so I’m not sure what the deal was.  But I am a friendly sort, so we would talk about innocent things.  And then, on my dinner breaks if I happened to be out at say, a certain chain that has a clown and a golden M, he would happen to be there on his way home, and say hi. Then it would be running into him at the local store by work.  Could have been happenstance- I’ve run into other patrons.  But then my co-workers started to mention it, because he’d ask them about me when I wasn’t there. Then he’d mention that I got a new car.  And that I changed my work schedule.  And other things.  And that’s when he started getting more aggravated when he couldn’t find me, because when he came in, I would move to the work room from the desk, and I would start eating lunches in our break room.  Finally he was issued a restraining order from me and from the library because he wouldn’t leave it alone.

Missed the Curb
I never understood how this happened, but one branch I worked at was across the street from a post office, and we had a wonderful view of it from the windows in the public area.  It was a nice little post office, with large windows in the public area.  I had decided to spread out some work that I was doing on a table out there, and had a view of the beautiful spring day, and saw this car idling at the light.  Then all of a sudden, they hit the gas, and turned left, jumped the curb, went through the parking lot and smashed the car through the windows of the public area of the post office.  There were a few people hurt, but no broken bones, mostly cuts and scrapes and bruises, and we never did figure out why the driver rammed the post office.  They hadn’t been in there that day, and it always freaked me out because they could have just as easily turned right and took out the library’s windows instead.

Thanks for Trying and Caring, Because at Least Someone Did
One of the things that will haunt me is the fact that I might have been able to save a life of a teen.  I was scheduled off on a day that a teen of mine that I had been working with called to speak with me.  They had been troubled, and I knew it, and I had told them that if they *ever* needed to talk, they could call me.  I had even given them my home number, but at the time they needed it, either they had lost it or they couldn’t find it, so they called my work number.  Working in a large system, cell phone and home numbers are never given out.  So the teen, having hit the wall of the staff, said, well, just tell her thanks for trying and caring, because at least someone did.  I’ve never heard from that teen again, and I have no clue what happened.  They might have just moved, but I’ve always been scared that they committed suicide because they were suicidal, and that was their reach out. 

Advocacy 101: Be seen, Be heard, Be felt


A person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.

Also, you, the teen services librarian!

Advocacy is the act of making your library’s presence in the community known, understood and valued.  You want to make sure the community knows what your library is doing in the community and why it matters.  Basic literacy, education support, lifelong learning, helping community members find jobs, and more – every member of your community needs to know.  Publishers talk about “impressions”: each time your cover is seen it makes an impression, their goal is to get enough impressions that their book can’t be ignored.  Your job is to get your library – your teen services programming – enough impressions that it can’t be ignored. As your message is repeated and ingrained in the community culture, your community members themselves become your best advocates.  The question is, how do you do that?

As teen services librarians we find ourselves doing multi-level advocacy: We advocate to our co-workers, our administrations, our communities.  We want support and resources; we want our front line staff to be our voice; we want our administrators to make sure we have the time, space and money we need to effectively serve our teens.  That is why we must advocate.

Phase I: Making your presence known in the community at large and with your admin/staff

Goals: Move your patrons and community members from thinking of it as “the library” to thinking of it as “my library.”  Creating a sense of pride and ownership on the behalf of the community means less advocacy work for you as they now become your greatest advocates.                                

How? Relationship, customer service, social media and presence

Get your name in the press as often as possible.  Contact the local newspaper and ask them if you can write a regularly occurring guest column.  Attend community planning and development groups.  If they don’t exist, start your own (see Mpact: Building an Asset Builder’s Coalition in the November 2011 edition of VOYA Magazine).  Have regularly occurring programming events that keep your library’s name on the tips of patrons tongues.  These events should range in variety and audience but generate buzz. 

Social Media                                                                                                                                            Facebook, Twitter, Pinterestand more – social media is an important tool in today’s culture.  It helps you build relationships with your teens, community members and increases your presence.  Different types of groups use different types of social media differently, and you really need to be using them all.  Twitter works well for brief blasts, fun contests, chats and more.  Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social media tools that have several advantages: 1) it is visual, 2) it is more easily organized and accessed, and 3) it can be used in such a diverse number of ways.  You can use Pinterest to share booklists, staff favorites, programming information and more.  You can also invite your community to create their own additions which helps generate buy in.  (See the Bookfessions Tumblr for a fun way to involve community members).  Share teen created artwork.  And don’t forget to blog! Daily.

Relational Librarianship                                                                                                                                                        
When members of the community feel that they know and are known by their library staff members – at all levels – we enter into a relational partnership.  Some of this can be accomplished through the library’s effective use of social media. Blogs can be your friend.  At my last two library positions I have created staff picks displays (like all good librarians, I borrowed the idea from elsewhere).  Here, staffs picks are continually put out with a staff name and face to go with it.  Over time patrons find the staff members that they have common reading interests with and seek them out for personalized RA services. 

Customer Service                                                                                                                                           
Good businesses know that quality customer service is key.  It helps you build those relationships 1 on 1.  The simple act of calling someone by name can make all the difference.  Continual staff training and communication is key to good customer service.  A satisfied patron is your best advocate.  Create the best library policies to create consistent, quality services and train your staff not only how to implement them, but why.  Key talking points help staff keep messages on point and keep your patrons satisfied.  Why do we have public computer limits? To help make sure that the greatest number of patrons get to use the computers in ways that are satisfying to them all.  Why do we have check-out due dates?  So that the greatest number of patrons can get their hands on the materials they need in a timely matter.

Phase II: Networking with your community leaders
Goals: Build partnerships with your community leaders and maintain relationships that keep your library moving forward and viable.           

How?: Meet and greet, extend an invitation, and social media

The Meet and Greet
Want to know your community leaders and advocate for your library?  Go out there and meet them.  Or invite them to a meeting.  Better yet, do both.  Visit the leaders in your community; drop them off a welcoming gift and your business card.  Make sure you have a tip sheet (might I suggest infographics) that highlight the who, what, where, when and why of your library and teen services programming to leave behind.  Then, invite them all to the library for an open house with tours, highlights and yes, food.  Don’t just seek out your community leaders, seek to be one.  Remember, show your community leaders how you are helping meet the 40 Developmental Assets of teens; more assets means less risky behaviors and all communities agree that is a good goal.

Extend an Invitation        
Find out where your community leaders are active – Rotary Club, Key Club, Community Foundations, etc. – and offer to be a part.  Regularly attend meetings and contribute meaningfully to the dialogue and goals.  If you see, or hear expressed, a need in your community, create an organization to help meet that need and invite others into partnership with the library.  Let your leaders know that the library is available to help provide information research, meeting rooms, or staff to do programming.

Social Media                                                    
Create unique social media pages to dialogue with your community leaders.  You can have a business oriented blog.  Or a teen services blog open to community organizations that serve teens.  Create a community Wiki where organizations are invited to share information such as hours and contact information as well as upcoming calendar dates.  This keeps everyone in dialogue and has the bonus feature of allowing staff members to know where to send patrons for assistance when questions arise.
Part III: Who does this?
On some level, you – the teen services librarian – has primary responsibility.  But every staff member has unique talents and interests and these can be tapped.  Phases I and II are concurrent and ongoing.  Advocacy is a process and your goal it to do it effectively and continually.  One voice in the wilderness is hard to hear, but a chorus of angels can not be ignored. 
Advocacy motto: Be heard, Be seen, Be felt

How do you advocate for teens in your library and in your community? Let us know in the comments.