My First Four Months as a Teen Services Librarian

Monday, March 3, 2014

I just passed the four-month mark in my first professional library job. I work as a teen services librarian for a large system in Washington state and I split my 30-hour week between two small branches, with a couple shifts a month at a larger branch for reference desk coverage and one shift a month doing outreach visits on our small bookmobile. The biggest learning curve has been learning the system’s policies (and there are many!) and culture. I look forward to continuing learning and developing as a librarian!

What I’ve Been Working On

Programs at Branch 1

My “home” branch has some history of teen programming, though it took a bit of legwork to get info about past events and I have only anecdotal info about attendance. This is a small branch, not really near any schools, so it doesn’t get tons of traffic from teens. On any given afternoon/evening, I might see 5-10 teens in the library using the computers or checking out books. They are often with families, though we do see some independent teens hanging around.

Weekly drop-in gaming program: This is a long-standing program that most branches in the system offer. We don’t have a dedicated teen space in my branches, so for two hours, once a week, I set up our meeting room with video game systems (Wii, XBox360, PS2) and teens can drop in to play. So far, I’ve run this for 10 weeks. Most weeks we have one or two teens stop by, though two weeks we had six. This seems to be in line with how this program went before I took the position, so I’m not sure if this is worth the time investment on my end. I will keep it going for the rest of the school year to possibly build up interest, but will probably re-think gaming programs for next year.

Book club: Oh, I so want to have a thriving book club! I have twice tried to hold a book club without a specific book to discuss (just come talk about any book!), but haven’t had any takers yet. I will try one more time before scrapping this plan. I have some feelers out at the middle school and high school in my service area about doing an after-school or lunchtime club at the school, but those plans might have to wait until the start of the school year due to some scheduling issues.

Craft programs: I am trying out doing once-a-month craft programs. My first attempt was a duct tape program in February, which brought out one very interested teen. I’m doing a BrushBots program for Teen Tech week in March, hoping to get some more takers!

SAT Prep: The system funds free SAT prep classes twice a year, so we are trying them out for the first time at this branch in the spring.

Volunteers: I’d really like to get a few volunteers at Branch 1, so I’ve been working on some materials related to that and will be doing at least one info session at the local high school to drum up some interest.

Programs at Branch 2

This branch is a tricky one! It’s one of the lowest use branches in the system, both by circulation and door count. It’s also on an Indian reservation, though it’s not exclusively for use by tribal members. The tribe has its own state-of-the-art teen center, so it’s difficult to draw teens into the library when they have transportation and friends already at the center. I have had some success with bringing programs there. I did a repeat of the duct tape crafts there and will be bringing a break dance group next month. As with any collaboration, there are some communication and scheduling issues with this as well.

I have had two presenter-led programs at the branch, one poetry related and one a craft program, that were not very successful. One very enthusiastic teen attended the poetry workshop and no one showed up to the craft program.

Outreach

I am actively working with the school librarians at the local middle and high schools (one each in my service area) to come to the schools to do presentations on databases and get students signed up with library cards. Right now, at the high school, I am lined up to do lunchtime visits related to eBooks and volunteer opportunities, and an after-school session about our free homework help resources. I will likely do some book talking in the late spring to prep for summer reading. I am also working with the other teen librarian in my area to meet with other community groups who work with youth to discuss collaboration. Luckily, the system is very interested in outreach, so we have a lot of time and freedom to leave the library and explore partnerships. This is both the most important and most challenging part of the job!

Collections

We have central purchasing, but I am in charge of maintaining the teen collections at the branches. I did a full weeding of both collections when I started, since they hadn’t been looked at in about six months. Now I do a scan about once a week for books in poor condition and a monthly look at specific sections. I can also request new copies of popular titles, so I have a tiny bit of purchasing power! The system is lucky to have a healthy collections budget and a great teen materials selector, so I have yet to come across essential titles that we are missing! The biggest challenge with collections is not having the books you want to recommend to teens right there on the shelf any time you want them, but that’s a problem in all libraries. Some teens are on board with holds, but I’ve found that most want something to read immediately. I definitely need to keep improving my knowledge of less-popular titles to recommend in reader’s advisory.

System-Wide Projects

So far, I’ve gotten involved with my system’s Mock Printz group and am on a team working on developing new RA services for the whole system (across children’s, teen, and adult). I will also be working on an advisory group for a new system-wide teen website to be launched in conjunction with summer reading.

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2 Comments

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