The Lonely World of Teen Services Does Not Have To Be Lonely After All

By Ray Ceo Jr.

During the Great Recession, many library systems had to make tough decisions. For many libraries, this included eliminating staff. For the library I work at now, this meant promoting all but one of the teen librarians to administrative librarians, and not replacing them for nearly three years, and leaving just one part-time teen librarian for our entire library system.

I am sure all of us have a story to tell about how our library system had to make tough calls during the recession. It is, quite simply, what had to be done.

Working in teen services can be a lonely job. I can imagine how hard it was for our part-time teen librarian to have a world of ideas, a great deal of enthusiasm, and an unrelenting drive, but with neither enough time nor any teen-focused help, unable to do everything she wanted to do.  I imagine being in her shoes would have been lonely.

In fact, I can imagine it, because in many ways I feel her pain today. At my library, I am the only full-time teen staff member. I am thankful to have a wonderful teen librarian who, while she isn’t here full-time, she is present enough for me to not feel quite as alone. At our other two branches, there is only one teen staff member per branch. And while other staff members can and do pitch in and do teen programming to a degree that should not and could not be overlooked, not having a teen-focused staff member to bounce ideas off of, plan things with, and get into trouble with, can be lonely.

But the truth is, we aren’t alone. We’ve never been alone. There are countless teen staff members who have been working to provide the world to the teens within their community.

Lucky for us, soon, all over the state, teen librarians and teen staff members, as well as school librarians and school staff will have the chance to come together and explore the many intricacies of teen services. I am, of course, speaking of the upcoming state-wide Young Adult Summit.

While at the last Arizona Library Association Conference, I had the idea for a state-wide conference dedicated simply to teen services. Because while I loved my experience at the last conference, and learned lots, I really wanted more sessions on teen services. It had been years since I worked as a teen programmer, and I was fairly new to my position. Frankly, I wanted –no, needed—fresh ideas and motivation to get me excited about teen services all over again. So, when I entered a session, I recognized the chair of the Young Adult arm of AzLA from a previous session and strategically sat next to her. I struck up a conversation and pitched my idea to her.

Naturally, she took it to the next level, as I had hoped. She assembled a group of very talented and passionate people, and now we are working on organizing the event. An event I wouldn’t miss for the world, and you shouldn’t either.

Theme: Teens Transform!

Libraries are increasingly finding a need to reach out to the young adult community.  Libraries are transforming from places that provide resources into places that provide community.  The young adult community requires a place free from judgment where they can be themselves, and the libraries are transforming into a place where they can safely gather for fun, education, and companionship. Library staff who work with teens, whether in a public library setting or a high school setting, have a passion for what they do.  But they can’t do it alone!  How are you transforming your teens, your library, and your community?  How can we engage teens to transform their lives?

 So far, we have confirmed Suzanne Young – the New York Times bestselling author of The Program series and Tom Leveen, the author of Party and Shackled and others.

Dates: January 26–28, 2017

Location: Prescott Resort and Conference Center

More information will be forthcoming, so stay tuned!

Ray Ceo Jr. is Library Assistant, Lead – Specializing in Teen Services, and Teen Volunteer Coordinator at Glendale Public Library.

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