Libraries Youth Services

8 Signs You Don’t Belong in Youth Services


Given the library job market and youth services being a typical entry level position we occasionally see people that really shouldn’t be here. All of us can use a reminder of what kind of attitudes lead to success or failure. This post is inspired in part by Marge’s Top 12 Ways to be a Bad Selector and part by More Than Dodgeball’s post Pizza Church.

You might try a different specialty if:

You do all the talking and none of the listening where patrons are concerned.

If you truly want to offer great customer service to your patrons you need to listen to them. Do your best to offer them the programs they are interested in at times they can attend.  Provide the materials  THEY find useful, entertaining, or informative.

You consider enforcing library policy, and sometimes additional rules you’ve created, your #1 priority.

Structure and consistency is important, but if this becomes your main function you will make everyone miserable including yourself.  Don’t have rules for the sake of having rules. Is the behavior actually unsafe or dispruptive (actually disruptive to users and not just annoying to you)?  Who cares how many people are sitting at a table if they are safe and relatively quiet.

You make assumptions.

If you put kids and teens in neat little boxes based on first impressions you will never build authentic relationships with young people. Teens and children, being individual humans and all,  are more than one thing.

There will always be the super needy kid and the perfect volunteer, but if you spend all your time with them you are missing out on other relationships. Teens especially are trying on all sorts of identities which creates wonderful opportunities for us to provide information if we’re paying attention.

If you are shy and find it hard to break the ice be seen at a football game or school play. Kids and parents will notice.

You only offer one level of engagement.

I’ve seen it both ways. On one end of the spectrum you have the those that offer only traditionally educational and book related programs. On the other end either the bar is lowered because of assumptions about your patrons, or the librarian is stat-padding by offering only casual fun programs.

Instead of this we should be offering a range of engagement to meet our patrons where they are. Just like YouMedia programs have students go from “hanging out” to “messing around”, to “geeking out” our programs can offer points of entry at various levels and encourage young people to be more involved.

You don’t read widely. 

This one just blows my mind. There are plenty of types of librarianship where you don’t actually have to be an avid reader, but youth services isn’t one of them. Read good books, read popular books, read books you wouldn’t normally pick for yourself.  You will never be good at your job if you don’t know your collection.

Your degree was the end of your education, not the beginning. 

Let’s face it, most of us had a handful of youth services classes in library school if that. Even the best professors (shout out to Dr. McKechnie) can’t teach us everything we will ever need to know. Technology evolves, best practices change, and publishing trends come and go. To give our patrons the best service we need to keep learning and improving.

You think children’s and teens’ culture is beneath you. 

Contempt for those you are supposed to be serving is not attractive. Information needs come in all varieties including the birthdays of One Direction. Marketing your programs and collections means tapping into things kids love. On the other hand if you don’t mind an excuse to watch a little Disney Channel now and then you might be in the right place.

You were looking for a desk job. 

Youth services is an out on the floor, visit the schools, shake your sillies out kind of job.  You need to be visible and enthusiastic in your library and your community. This of course refers to a sit-on-your- ass attitude, not actual physical differences.

Do you disagree? Have one I missed? Want to write a guest post going into more detail on one of these?  Speak up.

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