The Transparent Library: Embracing Service to Teens

MS: Comments on my blog ranged from the forward-thinking, right-up-Ranganathan’s alley and the “Anonymous” who said, “Of course that crap should be banned” to the thoughtful critique and commentary of Ian McKinney from cutting-edge Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN. He reminds us the problem was specific kids, not technology. Indeed, I worry the teens in Mishawaka won’t care about the library and that will hurt the whole community. Were other solutions considered?

MC: When we advocate bringing teens into the library, we don’t acquiesce to rowdy teen behavior, as some suspect. Behavioral problems are never acceptable in the library. Foul-mouthed teens need to be booted out for the day, and problem teens for longer periods. Sometimes this means hiring security guards, and sometimes this means setting a firm tone at the beginning.

But don’t misunderstand; teens will be teens–they need to talk and socialize–so don’t expect a library with a lot of teens to be quiet. Carving out a teen area is great, if you have the room. If not, try to find an area that can be kept relatively quiet and offer it to those users who need a sanctuary.

Issues with teens are often larger community challenges. Kids need interesting and safe things to do. The entire community should be a part of the solution.

Read the whole column here

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4 thoughts on “The Transparent Library: Embracing Service to Teens”

  1. I just finished “Embracing Services to Teens” in LJ. Great article – I just wanted to add to “If we don’t get them in as kids and keep them as teens, we likely won’t see them later in life.”

    If we don’t get them in as kids and keep them as teens we as a library won’t survive in the 21st century or beyond. These are our future taxpayers. If they don’t believe the library is relevant to their lives they are not going to vote with their dollars and we are going to need their dollars. We need to create great experiences for them and I personally want them to be life-changing experiences. You mention lots of great ways to serve teens in your article and I know that we can serve teens without ignoring the rest of our community – we just need to be creative and think outside the box.

  2. Establishing relationships with teens before they become a problem is key. If that’s too far gone, identify some of the most problematic teens and having a conversation about their needs goes a long way. It shows that the library cares about their interests there may be some solution just by talking.

  3. I work at a small inner citybranch library in a large library system in a midwestern city. We were having trouble with asocial behavior with teenagers, gangs of teens trying to turn the library into their clubhouse, and, as a result, declining circulation and other patrons complaining and afraid to come in. We decided to tackle the problem by writing up 5 rules for the library. The rules were “No food or drink”, “No bad language” ” No loud voices”, “No roughhousing”, and “Follow the coomputer rules”. It also stated that if they broke one of the rules, they would have to leave. We started going over the rules with each child or teenager that comes in without a parent (this was almost all of them). We asked them to sign the rules so that we knew that we had told them about them. Then, whenever someone broke one of the rules, we did not give warnings or threats, which told them which rule they broke and that they had to leave. We were consisten with all of them. It was a big effort. But we have had 4 straight months of increasing circulation, the neighborhood is happy with the situation, and we actually have more teens than we used to. They are now the teens that want to use the library for the library. They were afraid to come in before. It was the best thing we have done. We just had to be brave and take the bull by the horns.

  4. Yes it cannot be avoided that there would be noise in a library full of teens because teens love to interact and socialize. Librarians just have to impose stricter rules so teens would not abuse.

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