Libraries, Online Identity, Social Media, Teens, Things

Things that happen in a Teen Library

Recently, I’ve been asking myself the question why am I here? in regards to blogging, social media, and sharing.  I’ve felt a bit off with blog writing recently, both at this blog and at Tame The Web, so I’ve took some time to think about why I originally started writing about libraries.  The answer came pretty quickly to me: one of the reasons that I originally started writing about libraries was because I wanted to share my experiences working in a teen library so other could learn about what it really takes to provide excellent service to teens.  With that in mind, I started this blog post.  It’s an ongoing series of observations that I made while working in the teen library over three days in December 2012.  I wrote these observations as they happened (hence any grammar or formatting errors):

  • Got a stack of surveys given to the library by an outside organization to see what teens who are seeking mentors are really looking for.  A lot of our teens are very interested in having a mentor to guide them through the later years of high school.  I had a bit of a hard time getting the teens to fill out the survey.  They wanted the mentor RIGHT NOW and didn’t really understand why they needed to fill out a survey.  I explained it this way: before this outside group helps out the library and sends mentors to be in our space, they want to know about the teens they would be helping out. I said that it was a case of Help me help you!
  • On Wednesday the high school closed one hour earlier than expected due to a water main break that shut off water access to the entire city.  We tend to always be busy on Wednesdays, but this week it was a big rush one hour earlier than expected.  I worked alone in the teen library until 3pm that day and I spent a lot of time talking with teens about their day.
  • At 12:28pm on the Wednesday mentioned above, we had 49 teens in the teen library area.  25 of those teens were on some form of technology (13 on netbooks, 3 on phones, 1 on a portable video game device, 8 on desktop computers).  7 of those teens are wearing headphones (which they own themselves; the library no longer provides headphones).  Out of those 25 teens, 23 of them are connected to Facebook (meaning that they have a browser window open with Facebook running)
  • Every day this week, I gave out a lot of high fives and fist bumps to the teens as they walked by our service desk.  It’s very interesting to see which method of saying hello teens prefer.  Most teens really like the handshake for some reason…I haven’t been able to figure out exactly why.  Is it because I’m a librarian sitting behind a desk?
  • Our study rooms have been quite active this week.  There are two different types of study room user.  The first is a single teen who is accompanied by an outside mentor/tutor.  The other group are teens who are mainly in the library to hang out and use the space.  They always use the rooms in groups of 4 or 6 and often go in and out of the rooms to let other friends in once they have reached the maximum attendance.
  • Backpacks of highschoolers are still huge.  It looks like they are carrying rocks in them.
  • Consistency works: like clockwork, the first question the teens ask me every Wednesday is “game night is tonight, right?”  The answer is always yes.  The teens always know this event happens on Wednesday.  However, I am seeing a trend that while the teens know the event is on Wednesdays, they generally do not have any idea of the time that the program starts or ends.  Is this because there are not many visible clocks in the library?  Do teens pay attention to clocks?
  • Being a teen librarian requires balance.  You need to be the right kind of laid back with the teens while at the same time maintaining control over your area.  Teens in large numbers can be overwhelming.  They know that when they travel in groups they can get away with more (one teen distracts the librarian, the others do what they do!).  You have to understand that teens will be teens and that sometimes you just have to overlook some of the things they do.  Also, you have to realize that sometimes you need to stick to your guns and hold them to the rules.
  • I had a great conversation with two teenage girls about identity.  One identified as a Muslim, the other Asian.  They talked a little bit about their traditions, how they approach life in America, and what their culture means to them.  It was a really insightful discussion and I learned a lot about the teens and how they approach life (I see both of them every day and I didn’t know any of this stuff before).
  • Today we participated in the Snowflake Project for Sandy Hook project.  It was really great to see teens and library staff come together for this awesome project.  You can read about the project here.
  • Monday was a slower day for the teen library.  We saw 70 teens between 10am-7pm (with most of them coming in after school between 2:10pm-4:30pm).  More time was spent actually talking to the teens about their lives that day.  I really appreciate those kind of moments.  I like to know why the teens are here in the library and what they really think about everything.

1 thought on “Things that happen in a Teen Library”

  1. Justin- You’re great. I loved this update. For those of us that work with high schoolers- this is really relevant and reflective. Thank you.

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