One of the hardest parts of my job is the fact that sometimes I have to step into a more authoritative role with teens. When I first started my career as a teen librarian, I was laid back to a fault. Anything goes in the teen library because, well, they’re teens and we should just let them be that way! I quickly found out that way didn’t work out that well. The attitude of the community towards teens didn’t change much. They were still pesky, smelly, loud, and disrespectful. Clearly, I was doing something wrong.
Over time, I’ve learned to hang onto my laid back approach yet at the same time, in the words of my father, grow some balls. Keeping myself in the teen library environment day in and day out was the key to getting to the point where I am now. You have to go through major ups and downs, but in the end you achieve balance. I’m not shushing teens left and right and throwing them out for being 15 year old hormonal messes (I say this in the nicest way possible), but at the same time, I’m not dealing with a lot of unacceptable….crap.
Yesterday, our teen library was beyond busy. We saw 147 teens throughout the whole day with most of them coming into the library between the 2:00-4:30pm range. It was loud, hormonal, smelly, and all that stuff, but it was just a busy day and everything was normal. It got difficult when one teen jokingly punched another teen in the arm and exclaimed “you’re a fucking faggot”. Now, yes, I can see that the two are clearly not brawling but, something’s still wrong. That’s a very, very, very hateful phrase to use. I immediately kicked the teen out of the library for the day without thinking.
I spent the next few hours wondering if that was a knee jerk reaction or if I did the right thing. I’ve always wanted to achieve a balance with what I do in the teen library, but had I upset that balance? I came to the conclusion that my decision to kick the teen out was fair.
On occasion, we’ve gotta be the “bad person” when something happens that requires the teen being asked to leave…..AND IT IS OK.
Our job as teen librarians is not only to provide them with really great materials, services, and more, but to also help them grow up. We’ve all been there. Being sixteen and full of emotion and confusion is not a fun thing. I like to think that when we ask a teen to leave for something like this, we’re giving them something to think about. Should I have used that language? What does it really mean to call someone a fucking faggot?
This is the most important part of our job: We’re helping teens become adults