Serving LGBT Patrons

Symons and Freeman’s article details how, despite milestones such as marriage equality in the U.S., library services to LGBT patrons are inadequate. While librarians passionately promote intellectual freedom, they are still afraid to give LGBT patrons the services they need. These services include more books, both fiction and nonfiction, on LGBT issues, and making the library a space that allows LGBT patrons to feel safe and comfortable. Most importantly, the articles states, LGBT patrons don’t want to have to specifically ask for these services. And why should they? Other patrons don’t ask for the basic rights of feeling comfortable in their environment, and for access to materials that suit their needs. Libraries owe LGBT patrons these same privileges.

The article discusses how LGBT patrons are often overlooked because they make up a small percentage of the population. This argument is week. The argument tends to also add that because libraries only have so much money, it’s not logical to spend money on small populations. However, the LGBT community tends to be especially ostracized, more so than other groups that also have small populations. As Symons and Freeman (2015) state, “Children under the age of 5 represent only 6.5% of the population, but few public libraries place storytime on the chopping block” (p. 6). Ignoring a population simply because it is small in size is a poor excuse.

Libraries are supposed to be a shelter, and librarians have a history of provided services to less privileged groups. If we want to continue this tradition, it’s time to open our doors for the LGBT community.

Symons, A., & Freeman, J. (2015). Serving everyone: Welcoming the LGBT community.  American Libraries, 46(6), 30.

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Surviving Teen Programming

I have to agree with Velásquez’s advice on programming; the aim of the game is to create fun and consistent programs that keep bringing teens back into the library. This is crucial for teens who aren’t avid readers. If we as librarians want to be youth advocates, programming is a way to draw in teens who aren’t already going to the library for books. Unfortunately, not everyone in the library can always cater to our most important goal. Teens can tell you what programs they prefer, but sometimes budgets won’t allow for them. If my community profile is indicative of libraries in general, teen programming is often given significantly less attention than children’s and adult programming (and I’m inclined to believe this, having visited multiple libraries on Long Island and seeing the Young Adult rooms).

In order for programming to succeed, librarians have to work with the PR department. A balance of power must be made, and teen librarians need to learn how to be accomodating while not losing sight of the most important goal: being a support system and advocate for young adults. As Velásquez (2015) states, “What is important is that there is a growing and thriving teen programming effort, not a uniform and standardized calendar” (p. 106). Organization is key here. As a future teen librarian, I want to push for the programs that I truly believe will attract teens and encourage them to keep returning to the library. It is equally important to be organized and well prepared for my programs. If I push for a particular program, then I better make sure that PR and the rest of the YA department sees that I am more than prepared for the program with planning, supplies, and marketing the program as much as PR wants me to.

Teen librarians want to make the library as welcoming a place as possible for their patrons. As much as we may enjoy doing the fun part of the job, developing programs our teen patrons will love, we also must remember to keep our heads level and do the parts of the job that feel like work; such as organizing programs, obtaining approval from PR, and keeping track of dates. Organizational skills can be as important as good communication and enthusiasm for working with teeens.

Velàsquez, J. (2015). Real-world teen services. Chicago: ALA editions.

Floral Park Public Library Community Profile

For my community profile, I researched the Floral Park Public Library. Here’s what I found:

1. Floral Park is extremely safe. It has been voted one of the safest places to live in all of New York State, with a less than 1% chance of property theft. The school system is good too. You can definitely get the sense that this is a privileged community.

2. By that logic, you’d imagine a pretty big, impressive library, right? Wrong! The Floral Park Public Library, while lovely on the outside in a beautiful brick building with a lawn in front, is actually pretty small. Furthermore, the teen space is just a tiny  corner upstairs. It’s not a room at all.

3. Teens are given significantly less attention than children or adults at the library. They have fewer programs and less space. Since reading interest drops as kids grow older, this can only encourage that. More programs would definitely help bring teens into the library!

4. The library seems to be focused on assisting other demographics. An adult reading room at the library is currently under construction, a room that will specifically exclude teens. Why not use the space to give teens more room? Or how about just a “Reading Room”, as opposed to one designed for adults?

5. The fact that this is a privileged community has really made me think about the library’s role in Floral Park. I’ve often heard that libraries act as a shelter, especially in poorer communities. Floral Park citizens don’t really need a shelter, at least most of them don’t. The library is closer to taking on the very modern role of a community center.

That’s the summary of my community profile so far. Overall, the library caters to teens but doesn’t necessarily prioritize them. I think it’s important that libraries help people navigate the massive amount of information we find on the internet, and that libraries work to make people aware of the fact that a quick Google search can be filled with all sorts of incorrect information. That, perhaps, is what the Floral Park Public Library can focus on when considering its role in this privileged community.

So What IS a Teen Librarian’s Job Then?

In Velasquez’s (2015) answer for question 4, the discussion is about what a librarian should do if we’re faced with a teen who simply doesn’t care about reading. I found one line especially surprising, and I’m not sure I entirely agree with it, “Our job is not to proselytize and convert teens into readers” (p. 105).

Let’s break this down. On the one hand, I absolutely agree that a heavy handed attempt at encouraging someone to read is a bad approach. Most people don’t like to be told what to do or how to think. Multiply this outlook by about a million and you have teenagers. If you come off as too preachy, you will not only fail at converting teens into readers, but you may discourage them from entering the library at all. That’s a huge step in the wrong direction.

On the other hand, is encouraging reading really not our job? I would think reading motivation is, in fact, a pretty big part of what we do. I agree with the idea that preaching is a big mistake, but I don’t think I would go as far as to outright state that conversion isn’t our job. It is our job. It’s just not our only job, not by a long shot.

If you have teen patrons who are strongly against reading (which will probably happen at some point), then don’t push it. Talk to them about things they like. Be a support system for them. Then, maybe down the line, suggest a book. If they like you and have grown to trust you, what’s the worst that’ll happen if you recommend a book? They’ll say no. At that point, you’ve already established a relationship with them, so you likely won’t have to worry about offending them.

Picture this scenario: a teen patron comes into the library every day. She loves anime, but doesn’t read manga. You like anime too, and you start swapping favorite series together. Pretty soon, you’re actually watching each other’s recommendations. If you then recommend a great manga series to her, what are the odds she’ll check it out? If she does and loves it, maybe you can even get her into best selling young adult novels, especially consider the series that might be similar in style to anime that she likes. It’s worth trying!

If you still have doubts, I’ll end on this note: I have a friend who I’ve been recommending books to since high school. Earlier this year I finally convinced her to read a favorite of mine, and she loved it. It was a fantastic feeling. You’ll also feel extremely powerful.

References
Velàsquez, J. (2015). Real-world teen services. Chicago: ALA editions.

 

Generation Like is Both Very New and Nothing New

Generation Like discusses how  social media has created the “like” culture for teens. It can be both empowering and exploitative. Tyler Oakley, a teenager featured in the documentary, has a YouTube channel that boasts over five million subscribers. An aspiring singer, Daniela Diaz, was also featured in the film. The “like” culture is absolutely contagious, especially for people who are into specific “fandoms”. As a teenager, I didn’t know many peers who were nearly as into books like S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones as I was. That all changed when I took to the internet, where forums and fanfiction sites made me feel like I’d found a community that I belonged in. I was past my teen years when I finally created my own personal Twitter account, but even I will admit I was slightly obsessed with gaining followers in the beginning, before I felt silly and calmed down.

The documentary features several teenagers who discuss how the internet makes them feel empowered and gives them a sense of belonging. It also shows how companies are aware of this and use it to market to teenagers. For example, Oreo cookies catered to those fighting for LGBTQ rights by making a gay pride themed cookie. This cookie gained much attention, which was good for the company. Social media also has negative conseuquences, however. Diaz, the young singer previously mentioned, especially suffered. “Days after Generation Like premiered, Diaz began receiving hateful comments on her YouTube channel and eventually decided to delete her account” (Lavelle, 2014, para. 10)

A few things come to mind here. For one thing, I believe that those who consider the internet to be the downfall of our society are at best, dramatic, and at worst, ignorant. The exploitation of teens is, sadly, not extraordinarily new or shocking. Speaking from my own experiences, I didn’t use technology as much when I was a teen as I do now (I didn’t even own a smart phone. Gasp!), but still feel that the media tried to take advantage of me every chance it got. When browsing through teen magazines, swimsuit models that made me overly paranoid about gaining weight, and that’s just one example.

This is why I feel technology is not to blame. Social media is, like most things, defined by what our society makes of it and how we choose to use it. The one thing that is important to note is that technology makes it easier for teens to be exploited, because they are now being used to help companies market their products. It also makes us more aware of it, because it’s there on the internet for all of us to see (and raising awareness is the one good part about this). The documentary’s narrator evens says that “liking” products defines this generation’s culture, in the same way that a T-shirt or poster defined his culture as a teen. Still, social media does make it easier for corporations to take advantage of teens, and we need to be aware of this.

Lavelle, M. (2014, August 5). What Did “Generation Like” Think of “Generation Like”? Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/what-did-generation-like-think-of-generation-like/

Rushkoff, D. (2014). Frontline: Generation Like.

The Digital Divide, Why It Matters, and What Teen Librarians Should Do

Most people who are privileged enough to have access to technology don’t even think twice about the digital divide. However, imagine living in a world that is completely dominated by technology, and having no access to it. The schoolwork you stress about, the emails you haven’t responded to yet, and more stressful responsibilities all suddenly become a challenge before you even begin, because access is the first obstacle. Sadly, there are people living in this reality. That is why libraries are as important as ever, despite misconceptions that technology has rendered them obsolete. Libraries provide free computers, free access to internet, and many set up programs that teach patrons how to use technology.

Teens are no exception to the need for access. They’re just as dependent on technology as any other demographic, if not more dependent. While we like to picture teens as lazy and glued to mindless games or Facebook news feeds on their phones, many high school classes require internet access. Teens need a space that provides them with this access. Libraries must keep this in mind when creating their website and YA space. This point is emphasized by Hartman, Hughes-Hassell, and Kumasi:

At the most basic level, school and public libraries must provide access to technology for teens—not just desktop computers for 30 minutes, but the kind of technology that more privileged teens have such as laptops, tablets, e-book readers, raspberry pi’s, video and photo editing equipment, still and video cameras, drawing tablets, etc. (p. 11)

For my community profile assignment, I reviewed the Floral Park Public Library. The Young Adult “room” at this library is actually a corner on the second floor, where there are chairs to sit in, book shelves, and framed pictures on the wall. There are computers in the library, but these are open to all patrons. There are no computers reserved exclusively for teens in their space. However, the library has iPads in the teen zone.

The Floral Park Public Library’s website has a special tab for teens, aptly titled “Teens”. This page of the website is clear and easy to navigate, with a menu on the left side that includes links to homework help, a teen events calendar, a list of the newest YA books added to the the library’s collection, and more.

The teen space at the library is small, but the library does its best to utilize the space it does have. The iPads were a smart approach; the library has technology that the teens can call their own, while also making use of the what little space they have. The library website also has resources that teens can take advantage of.

My suggestion is that the library make a point to advertise their technological resources. This includes the iPads, the computers, and the website. I feel that this is very important because not many teens immediately resort to their library when they want homework help. They instead use Google, which isn’t always reliable, or someone at school, but schools aren’t open 24/7. The library’s website, however, is more reliable than Google and always there. I don’t think teens think of the library website an option. I myself didn’t ever think to use my library’s website when I was in high school. It’s important that we make teens aware of these resources, both for their benefit and to guarantee that libraries can continue to be an integral part of their communities.

References

Braun, L., Hartman, M., Hughes-Hassell, S., and Kumasi, K., with Yoke, B. (2014). The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action.