This week is Youth Week. The organisers are asking caregivers and parents to make time for their teens and older children and for teens and older children to do the same for adults in their life. ‘Youth’ are defined as 12-24 year olds. I don’t work in a library anymore so have limited opportunity to Make Time For Youth in my working environment. Instead I thought I’d make some time for youth and the people who work with them by asking them some questions and posting the results here.
Firstly I asked a couple of high-school based librarians how they see themselves and their role in the school. My favourite quote from their answers is “we can make their lives run more smoothly” which neatly encapsulates what they see as their main focus.
Fiona and Jayne see themselves as being more approachable than teachers as they’re not asking the students to do assessments and tests. However, there are times when they have to be more authoritarian – especially around computer usage. Their major focus is to provide a safe, student friendly environment and provide books and resources that students want to read or use. They feel that they have a greater appreciation of the total workload the students are facing as they see them for lots of reasons – not just for specific subjects e.g. ‘English’.
They deal with a range of requests from password resetting to photocopying to research requirements all on a one to one basis. The way that students are asking for information has changed over the years. The students are more aware of the process – they want not just the answer but also the why. Fiona and Jayne comment that computers and the Internet are very important to students. (No surprise that Google is a favourite!) This doesn’t mean that books are neglected. Students still like to read fiction books for pleasure and enjoy fact-based books like the Guinness Book of Records etc. These books need to be very visual with lots of pictures and attractively presented.
Their top tips for working with teens
– Don’t expect to be able to get down to their level you are the adult at all times.
– Embrace their potential and give them the ability to make choices in a safe environment.
– Treat them with respect and you can expect the same in return.
– Model good manners and be interested in what they are doing.
Thieir advice is also linked to important skills that they thought schools could teach students.
– How to respect the environment, themselves and others
– How to make good choices
– Be life-long learners, question and think, have some fun along the way
The second person I talked to about Youth Week falls into the Youth age category and works in one of the libraries in Rodney District. I asked for his take on working in libraries.
Craig said “It’s great! I love feeling like the young hip librarian I used to see when I was their age. The lack of age really comes in useful when we need to dish out some discipline, kids usually give the other librarians the ‘you’re-old-why-should-I-listen-to-you look’ and I think they respect me more (I hope!) as I’m able to speak their language.” (I guess it’s difficult to disrespect someone if you’ve hung out with them at concerts!)
I asked whether his attitude to libraries had changed now that he was working in them. He said he used to have the view that librarians “just sat around all day reading books and, honestly, telling people to shush!” That’s now changed to respect for the amount of work that librarians do which library users don’t get to see. Craig had the same advice as Fiona and Jayne for interacting with Youth (as customers or colleagues) “Be friendly and treat them as you would an adult.”
Finally I asked what he thought youth should know about libraries and he wrote this…
“That librarians are no longer the spectacle wearing stereotype who demand silence and swathe themselves in layers of cardigans. We are friendly and intelligent, if a little eccentric, and always willing to lend a hand. There are even males in the profession nowadays, some even enjoy a good metal gig every once-in-a-while. Libraries are a great place to be, full of life and fun. They can still be a good place for you to get out of the rain, even if you don’t want to read.”