1. WHAT THE HECK ARE WE DOING WITH YOUTH SERVICES?
Kids? Tweens? Teens? Teen Spaces? The Children’s Library? All of the division by ages in libraries has really been getting to me over the past few years.
Say you’re an 11 year old. Say your Teen Library is ages 12-18. What if the 11 year old is really into the stuff you have in the Teen Library? Do you not allow them in until they’re 12? Do you make a special secret handshake with that 11 year old and let them in, thus breaking the rules that your library created in the first place? How do you decide which 11 year old is worthy of being in the Teen Library just because they’re really into something in the Teen Library?
I say let’s blow up the whole damn thing and think about how we can reimagine Youth Services. Instead of dividing up our Youth Services by ages, why not focus on interest? Do you like Legos? OK! That’s the Lego area! Wanna play video games? Sure! Anyone between the ages of 0-18 and their caregivers (I’ll get to that later) can enjoy our video games! We can keep books divided by age because that’s really helpful but everything else? I say let’s let them all in to explore and enjoy the library. Think less about the age and more about the interest.
2. RESPECT FOR THE PARENT/GUARDIAN/CAREGIVER CROWD
Like any good librarian that works with folks between the ages of 0-18, I sure don’t want any random adults hanging around in the same space as these kids, tweens, and teens. First up: it’s just weird to be an adult and want to randomly hang out with kids, tweens, and teens in a library. Second: You already have awesome services directed at your age group at the library (and if you don’t, it is time to use your voice and speak up! Tell your library what you want as an adult!). And Third: WE’VE GOT TO PROTECT THE CHILDREN. The line is stale and old and we say it all the time as librarians but it is true: we have to watch out for our kids, tweens, and teens. We are here to make their life better and safety is a huge part of that.
But what if you’re a parent/guardian/caregiver? Does that mean we should take you out of the picture and not let you in our Youth Services areas? Sure, we allow adults to always be in our Children’s Libraries with their kids, but we kick them out of the teen library and other areas reserved for youth. And I’m just not into that. As I said above, we need to think less about the age and more about the interest. So if you are setting things up in your library by interest, why not let parents/guardians/caregivers be a part of the experiences happening in the library? Let the grandmother use the 3D printer with her 11 year old granddaugther who loves Minecraft. Maybe this 6 year old boy can teach his babysitter just how to use the button maker. The kid/tween/teen becomes the ONLY reason that the adult can be on the floor. You wanna see all of this stuff that we have for ages 0-18? Cool! Then hang out with your kid and do things with them in the library!
On another note: Imagine a library that offered adults a library program that did the following: You come to the library. You get to have a few drinks. You get to socialize with other adults. You get to have a great night out at a great program (author talk, maker event, workshop, class, anything!).
BUT WHAT IF YOU HAVE KIDS? You have to think about childcare. How will I take care of my kids and take care of myself? By the time you are done thinking about it all you are tired so you just give up and say “well, I’ll do that some other day when the kids are older.”
Here’s where Youth Services needs to step up our games: PARALLEL PROGRAMMING. I can’t take credit for the name. Corinne Hill (this awesome lady) came up with it during a meeting. Give something to the parents. Give something to their kids/tweens/teens at the same time. Make everyone happy at the library. It isn’t babysitting. It’s helping out your community. It’s thinking big picture. It’s taking care of the community you serve in every possible way. The parents/guardians/caregivers get a night out and the kids/tweens/teens get to run around in a library and enjoy some great things.
This post was a little more “soap-boxey” than I usually like but when I started writing it things just came out this way. These are all just ideas. Recommendations. Thoughts. Try them and see what works best for you. If you don’t like it, don’t try it. I won’t be hurt!