Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What they don't teach in library school

For those among us currently working with or aspiring to work with adolescents, Teen Librarian Toolbox (TLT) represents an amazing resource.  Effectively, TLT is a blog compiled by 4 teen librarians, one artist, and a teen author/reviewer.  The blog touts itself as a source "for teen librarians short on time, short on money, but not short on passion!" Updated just about everyday, containing relevant and highly browseable tags and subject headings, and completely on top of all the hottest teen trends, it is no wonder that "TLT was featured in VOYA's Trending in Youth Culture: The Best Blogs and Sites for Youth Advocates (February 2012)."

Clicking through this compelling site, I stumbled upon the following post: http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2012/09/10-things-i-never-learned-in-library.html, enumerating the multiple real-life experiences that library school simply cannot prepare one for. Some of the situations described are really frightening.  For instance, the librarian recounts placing the library on lockdown due to the SWAT team raiding a nearby apartment.  Other instances are really shocking, such as the librarian interrupting two teens in the midst of as she puts it, "extra-curricular activities." But most of the things she never learned in library school were unflinchingly human - i.e. how to help kids coming from bad home lives, when to step in versus when to lend a listening ear, how to deal with death, and how to respond to teens coming to grips with sex and sexuality.

It is evident that these are the issues that no amount of schooling can prepare you for.  And although the various scenarios we cover in class are extremely helpful in building a conceptual framework to wrap our minds around how to begin to deal with these issues, even they cannot take the place of real-life, on the job experience.  In actuality, it is very easy to say what you think you would do in a given situation, but until you are thrown headfirst into a complex predicament, concurrently dealing with people, emotions, politics, and professional values,  it is impossible to gauge how you will react. 

While of some of this TLT post was difficult to digest, these types of issues embody the human side of librarianship which corresponds to what attracted me to the field in the first place.  What greater reward can one ask for than building and engaging the community in a positive manner?  Likewise, for whatever reason, it seems as though people have always felt comfortable opening up to me and trusting me with their personal issues - even complete strangers, so I welcome the opportunity connect with young library patrons in this manner, effectively doing my small part to make the world a better place.  In terms of achieving optimal workplace performance, it has often been said that having a strong sense of purpose pertains to one of the best motivators.  Librarians inevitably have a duty to embrace social responsibility, and I think that this core value of librarianship highly resonates with many of the "in the barracks" experiences described in the TLT post.  One thing I have learned though (thank you library school!) is that it certainly never hurts to have the proper policies, forums, and structures in place when it comes to dealing with bewildering or unprecedented incidents.  

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing TLT! I found it a helpful resource. I also read 10 Things I Never Learned In Library School which I found compelling and interesting. I agree that policies should be in place because it will alleviate possible problems when working with teens.