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.

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



3 thoughts on “So What IS a Teen Librarian’s Job Then?

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