Tag Archives: personal experience

Down with Censorship

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I always have interesting feelings when it comes to censorship, and reading Christine Jenkin’s chapter “Censorship: Book Challenges, Challenging Books, and Young Readers” brought up all the feelings–good and bad.

How can I have mixed feelings about censorship? First, let me assume you’re a librarian (or will be one shortly) and assure you that I’m not pro-censorship, not in the least. But Christine brings up important aspects of ordering materials where you debate in your mind a purchase of something and that you might not end up buying it because of potential issues down the road. It’s not selection in this case but censorship.

Sometimes you have these reactions without even realizing it. I order materials for our YA section (really it’s the middle school collection). My coworker orders for High School. Things that are on the cusp we’re consistently sending back and forth to each other–is this you? is it me? It’s not that we would consider not getting it but we don’t want it to go to the wrong collection–it needs to get into the hands of the people who want to read it. It’s very easy to slip into this way of thinking so you always need to second guess yourself on why you’re not buying something. I’m lucky that I have someone to bounce titles off of. When in doubt, I always order it. I can read it and if it’s wildly inappropriate it can be added to the high school section.

The second reaction I always have to censorship is my reaction to the people who want a material removed, not because they’re worried about their child but all the other children who might read it. Or who might read Harry Potter and want to practice witchcraft. Or who might read any number of things can get the wrong idea.

Now, I don’t have children but a long time ago I used to be one and I still think like one. The things that had the most influence on me growing up were my parents and friends. Not books. And I read a LOT. Do not be concerned about children reading books and getting ideas. Spend time talking to your children and passing along your opinions, morals, and ethics if that’s what’s important to you. Read books together and have conversations about how this fits into your family’s values. Or how the character does something wrong (whatever wrong may be) and what your child thinks they should have done instead. Be a parent.

Imagination is okay. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. Not only is censorship awful because who is one person to decide if something is okay for all children and teens (everyone and every family is different) but remember: the moment you tell that kid or teen that they can’t read something because it’s bad for them, they are going to try extra hard to get a hold of that book and pass it along to their friends.

Okay, rant over 🙂

48 Hours of Awesome

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It’s hard to believe that it’s Monday and I’m back at work. While on one side I’m inspired and anxious to read, read, read after attending the conference but on the flipside I’m back to catching up on everything that happened this week and the feeling of librarian togetherness just isn’t the same as being surrounded by 500+ librarians who are excited about a lot of the same things that you are.

I saw so many interesting panels, got to talk to several awesome librarians, meet and geek out at some of my favorite authors–this event is like a rock concert for librarians. I think I had only two complaints–and neither had to do with the quality of the symposium. Each panel was unique and different and at the end of the sessions on Saturday and Sunday I was beat because my mind was so excited from everything that was racing around in it.

I’m fairly certain I’ll add in another post about what I went to and links to what was talked about, but I wanted to write about the panel that impacted me the most. Surprisingly, it was the fanfiction/art one. Hearing the panelists speak brought back these memories of me when I was a teen. It was 1997 and the TV show Spy Game was on. No, not the movie but the TV show. I loved this show so much I wrote a letter (actual snail mail) to the network begging them not to cancel the show. Heartless people they were, they canceled in anyways. So I looked for people online who also loved the show and discovered people wrote stories where the two main characters got together. Yes, I was “shipping” even back then, even before I knew what it was.

The panelists talked about how teens seek how fanfiction, write it themselves, or create art because they are not ready for the world they have discovered to end. That was how I felt about Spy Game. And just like teens now, I thought I was the only person in the world who felt this way. I had completely forgotten about this time in my life until the panel brought it back to me and I’m grateful.

Before I leave this post for the day, I just want to mention the other moment that struck me from the symposium. It was in the Fickle Future panel, and two authors (Ellen Hopkins and Beth Fehlbaum) made me tear up as they described the teens who approach them after visits, when everyone else has left to tell them how their stories helped them. The authors mentioned how important it is to have stories like theirs in libraries, and to fight for them to stay, because there are so many teens like this, much more than we realize. That broke my heart a bit.

It was these moments of intense empathy and connections with my inner teen that helped remind me of why I love working with tweens and teens. The symposium reawakened my energy and enthusiasm. I’m excited to read more, create more, and engage the people who come to my library. The next symposium won’t be until 2014 in Austin, Texas. I’ll be there–will you?

Teenage Brains….Delicious Brainsssss

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So (sadly?) this post is not about teen zombies. It is however about teen brains. Weird topic right? But two weeks ago I talked about being amazed by learning about baby brains and you know what? Teenage brains and how they function are pretty interesting. It also explains a lot about when I was younger.

Let’s go to the book: Sex, Brains, and Video Games by Jennifer Burek Pierce. I loved learning about Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, Harvard researcher, who looked at “teen and adult abilities to interpret facial expressions” (35). What she learned is that teens frequently couldn’t interpret nonverbal cues between fear, anger, and other emotions. In fact, the younger the teen the more they got it wrong. In contrast, adults could correct read people’s faces. The conclusion was that adults use their prefrontal cortexes to figure out expressions but teens’ weren’t involved as much. Teens therefore were using another part of their brain to figure out what they were seeing.

The author suggests that since surveys keep bringing up that teens see librarians as being mean and we’re told to be friendlier, it’s possible that teens are misreading our faces and thinking that our “concentration” face is really our “I’m pissed” face. Isn’t that interesting?

I think back to an experience I had at the YS desk. We always get middle school boys on the computer that sometimes get too loud or use inappropriate language for the kids floor. One evening, after being told once or twice to keep it down, everyone was great for the rest of the evening. I thought since we were always “yelling” at them to keep it down that I should tell them that they were really great. When I walked over and told them it was wonderful how great they were this evening and we really appreciated it, a regular tween looked at me with suspicious and doubt in his eyes and said “Are you being sarcastic?”

I thought this was so funny. I was being sincere and heartfelt and he didn’t get it. And you know what? Now I have a better idea of how he might have been reading me.

Does knowing about teen brains help our interactions with teen patrons? I think it will a bit. Understanding how they develop can help us in understanding what they are going through. It gave me insight into the exchange I related about. It makes me pay attention to my facial cues. What else is going to help our interactions? Remembering what we were like as teens.

Youth Services: Do You Have it in You?

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Recently I read Elizabeth Bird’s cover story in School Library Journal entitled ‘Role Call’. The subtitle sums it up pretty well: “Want to work with kids in a public library? Here’s the scoop.” In the article she gives gives a breakdown of your options (public vs. school), LIS classes she found useful, salaries and job prospects, and the importance of networking. She touches on the kind of personality it takes to be a public librarian.

I would have loved to have seen this article before I started school several years ago. While I started this program set on being a Youth Services librarian, it’s always great hearing another person’s perspective on what you need to know and it’s a nice overview. I’ve been working as an assistant in the YS department for four years now and I’d like to elaborate more on the skills (personality and inner strength-wise) you’ll need to have in you.

Patience

Of course, this seems obvious. Patience is something we all need. Betsy used a great phrase in her article “Have a short fuse?” If you do, than YS might not be for you. You might have a child come up to you 17 times in one night asking for Barbie DVDs and though you’ve showed her exactly where they are 16 times earlier on that 17 time you need to still have a smile and be enthusiastic.

Quiet vs. Kid Quiet

The kids department will never be “library quiet.” There are always babies laughing or crying, toddlers who don’t know how to talk quietly, middle school age kids who can’t be quiet, and a wide range in between. It’s a mix of voices and excitement but it will never be like the adult floor. So don’t expect pure silence. Also, be prepared for the few adults who will complain about the volume of your floor.

Know the Classics

Not the classics like Alice in Wonderland. Every library will have the top series that every kid seems to be reading. This was one of the biggest pieces of advice I got when I started in the department. Once I knew where Geronimo Stilton, Magic Tree House, Judy Moody, and Amelia Bedelia books were things started going smoothly.

Forget Summer

Summer is classic for vacations and relaxing, but not for Youth Services staff! This is when our customers are here. Again it seems obvious, but don’t expect to get much done through June and July. You’ll be running from one program to another if you’re not constently at the YS desk. You might forget what your desk looks like buried underneath your projects. Summer will fly by like that and the best part: it’s a lot of fun.

Plan for Summer in January

Seems early but it will save you a lot of stress come May. And since I’m a person who’s not the best at planning ahead, trust me on this one.

Be Friendly and Have a Big Smile

This goes with tip 1, but you should be super friendly and smiley when you’re on the floor. Say hello and have a nice day to everyone. Having a bad day? Fake it till you feel better. Kids do not care. But they will remember if you were grumpy. Besides, even if you’re having a bad day I bet you won’t be when you way goodbye to a toddler and they respond by blowing you a kiss. See? Things are looking up already.

Do you have anything you feel are key skills or things new or soon-to-be YS librarians should know? Please respond! And make sure you check out Betsy’s article “Role Call” by clicking here.