Kids, Libraries, Management, Teens, Uncategorized

Youth Services in Public Libraries (some thoughts that I’m having circa September 2014)

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I think about Youth Services in Public Libraries more than the average human being. That is ok as it is my job and I make a living to provide for my family with these thoughts, ideas, and actions.

My mantra with library services in general is to keep pushing ahead and try new things. To be in a constant state of change is to always be on the top of your game. When you are on the top of your game, I believe that you are better able to provide for the needs of your community. Flexibility enables you to have a quick reaction. Too many times in libraries we are bogged down by the planning and talking about it process. Once that’s over, it is sometimes too late to give the community what it seeks. OK, back to the subject of this post.

Here are some ideas that I have been having over the past few months. Enjoy them, borrow them, modify them, etc. If you don’t agree with them you can just close out your internet web browser and forget about everything I just said.

SIMPLIFY
Youth Services librarians always think big. We plan big. We want our community to have the greatest possible experience in the library and at our programs. Never lose that. That’s what makes you special and that’s why youth services librarians are often looked upon as some of the best people in the community. We give a HUGE crap about our community.

But simplification is, in my experience, not a quality that most youth services librarians have. I know I am in that category.  I see others that I work with in that category. Simplification in this case is a good thing. Think about the resources you have around you. Can you take those resources that you’re using everyday (volunteers, 3D printing, Legos, community members) and copy/paste them into your library and programs? I suggest you give it a try if you are not doing this already. You will be using things that you are already comfortable with and in some cases already prepared. Simplification will give you less stress to knock everything out of the park. Less stress allows you to be a better librarian for your community.

WORK TO YOUR STRENGTHS
What are you most comfortable with in the library? What does your work schedule allow you to accomplish? What are the skills that you have now and wish to develop in the future?

Mindfulness of those particular things allows you to work to your strengths. At my current stage of my professional life, I am most comfortable with the behind the scenes stuff, laying out the big picture, and making sure it connects. For someone that came through libraries working directly with the public for 6 years, this shift was difficult. I initially fought it very much. What that led to was stress and depression. None of that is helpful.

When you work to your strengths, you will approach your day to day work in libraries with a clear set of eyes. This clear set of eyes allows you to focus better on the job in front of you.

FUN
I am a big believer that having fun leads to more learning than we can understand at this point. My son Finn and I were recently interviewed for the Chattanooga Times Free Press about video games. I also point out this great post by Megan Emery (who I work with at the Chattanooga Public Library) titled Learning Through Fun.

The basic idea behind all of this is that fun leads to a lot of amazing discoveries and life moments. I think this approach works really well in libraries. We are in this very unique position of not being a school but also having a mission to encourage lifelong learning in our communities. We can try new things. We can experiment! Yes! I just said that! We are free to be unique.

Fun is a great approach to take. When you have fun at something you create a positive memory. You look back on that experience fondly. It gives you warm fuzzies.  There’s probably some kind of chemical brain thing happening that makes the warm fuzzies and fun so memorable…I don’t know. I’m not a brain doctor smart person type. All that I know is that my head is full of amazingly fun memories and I keep going back to those things.

IN closing….when I re-read this post one thought comes to mind: it is all about simplicity and getting back to the basics. Make things easy, for yourself and your community. Have fun. Don’t stress yourself out. I really believe this to be a great path forward for youth services in libraries.

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