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.