Learning on the Job: From Zero to Teen Librarian

10 Dec

Many library staff who end up working with teens don’t have much experience leading groups of young people. When I assumed the role of teen book group leader two years ago, I was scared stiff. Working with teens wasn’t part of my job description, and the only experience I’d had with young people was a few months teaching experience (ages 8-11!) and misty memories of having been an adolescent myself. Although I’d asked managers at my library for the responsibility of helping out with teen programmes, I felt completely out of my depth.

I was daunted by the lack of current information on teen services (at the time I wasn’t aware of Teen Librarian‘s existence, nor was I yet a member of YALSA). So I scoured the Internet for relevant websites, hunted for books about teen library services, and searched for relevant training courses in the United Kingdom. As I gained experience, I discovered gaps in the available information about UK teen library services, so I started this blog.

In the first year of working with teens, I floundered and was frequently discouraged. But I discovered that however inexperienced, I really enjoyed working with the teens themselves. I formed strong connections with teens who use our library service and discovered that they appreciated my attempts to advocate on their behalf. I kept reading, went on training courses, applied for grants, attended conferences, and proposed an expanded offer of teen programming in my library.

For anyone who’s starting out, or who feels lost or unsupported or just plain inexperienced: it’s normal to feel scared or frustrated. I still feel that way sometimes; I’m still learning how to be an effective teen librarian. If you’re connecting with teens and learning from your successes and mistakes, you’re contributing positively to teen services and teen literacy. It’s by making an effort to provide for teens, by accessing resources like this blog, and most of all by learning (as much from mistakes as from success), that we become great advocates for teens and for literacy. In this way, we can become not just a few scattered enthusiasts, but an organised body of experienced teen librarians.

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6 Responses to “Learning on the Job: From Zero to Teen Librarian”

  1. Emma @ Asamum Booktopia December 10, 2010 at 13:03 #

    I am so glad I found your blog. Wonderful service for teen librarians like myself. Thank you.
    Are we from the UK able to join YALSA.
    I admit to being quite envious of the American Library system

    • Young Adult Library Services UK December 10, 2010 at 13:24 #

      Hi Emma! It’s really inspiring to hear from you and other librarians who work with teens. Sometimes the teen library service field seems to quiet, but there are actually quite a few of us!

      It’s possible join YALSA from the UK but as far as I know one has to become a full American Library Association member in order to do so. I’ve just emailed YALSA and asked them to clarify (in case YALSA-only membership is possible!). It looks like the cost (ALA+YALSA membership) is $128 for international members, which is £80. I’ll let you know when I hear back from YALSA.

      I’m hoping that in time the UK will have an organisation similar to YALSA.

  2. Matt December 10, 2010 at 13:09 #

    I think we all learn on the job. It is the joy (and downside) at being at the cutting edge – making it up as we go along and learning what works by trying something new ^_^.

    • Young Adult Library Services UK December 10, 2010 at 13:39 #

      Good point! All the learning and invention it’s part of the fun of the job too, isn’t it? And there’s that thrill when you realize you’ve hit upon something that’s really successful.

  3. Emma @ Asamum Booktopia December 10, 2010 at 14:59 #

    It would be fantastic to have a similar operation to the the YALSA here in the UK.
    I have been forwarding your posts to the other school librarians in my area 😀

    • Young Adult Library Services UK December 10, 2010 at 23:45 #

      Thanks for spreading the word! If you have any ideas for articles that would be helpful/interesting to school librarians, please let me know.

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