Friday, May 05, 2006

Frustrated...

I'm feeling frustrated with certain aspects of my "library" life, and I'm a bit bummed about it.

Though I never had any interest in doing YA librarianship (I so thought I was going to be an academic reference librarian), since it is part of my job (sort of), I find that I would really like to have some sort of program that YAs actually care about - yeah, right. There has been no interest in the Teen Reviews program - in fact, a co-worker, who tried to get her girls interested (both voracious readers), said that the kids said that it "sounded like homework." I am guessing that's the general concensus, as no amount of advertising has brought any interest. It doesn't help that the area teachers have no interest in the project, either, and have not gone out of their way to "sell" it.

So, does this mean it's finally happened - that I am old and have no idea what teens are into (besides drinking and sex, which hasn't changed since I was a teen)? I REALLY thought that kids might be drawn by the idea of having their stuff "published," but I guess since everyone has their own MySpace page, there's no cachet in that anymore.

I have no idea how to bring teens into the library, when I have ZERO budget to put on a program. Sure, I guess I could come up with "free" things for a program, but then I would need to oversee said program on my own time, without pay, because I certainly can't take the time out of my miniscule schedule as it is. Sigh. Sometimes I'm not sure why I care, since YA stuff is a not a priority, anyway.

See, here's where I get in trouble: I come from a non-profit service background. Subsequently, I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make my librarian job "service" oriented. I keep trying to "help" people. I keep wanting to bring teens into the library. I keep trying to get the high school teachers to send me their assignments, or create a summer reading list that doesn't stink, or show ANY interest AT ALL in the library, or reading, or PROPER research skills. I keep trying to introduce "new things" (like the blogs)... and I keep forgetting that NO ONE CARES!

OK, rant done.

If anyone has any suggestions concerning any of this (and that can include just shutting my pie-hole), please, weigh in.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Have you had any success with graphic novels? Maybe a discussion group for teens about them?

bri johnson, ya librarian in barrington said...

It's not you.

Like many things in this country (Public schools... Art education... Social Security... Health care...) we are working within a flawed system from the get go.

I am convinced that we need to build a public teen library, from the ground up, in every town in America. (Sort of like a high school but so so so much more interesting and dynamic.) Each library would include several performance spaces, a film/animation studio, a silkscreen studio, a recording studio, a dance studio, a computer lab with fantastic software, (especially for storytelling, animation, and photography) a huge book, magazine, film, and music collection, meeting rooms, a cafe, and a creative full-time staff of writers, educators, musicians, artists, actors, and librarians. And anything else that would be cool that I left out.

That is my dream. (Inspired by ImaginOn in N. Carolina.) Maybe students in danger of dropping out of high school could get an alternative diploma here. It could be the equivalent of vocational school. But they'd learn to tell stories and express themselves instead of learning HVAC or auto mechanics (important, just not for everyone. Like high school.)

Until that day comes, I, like you, have to keep spending enormous amounts of time and energy designing programs, BY MYSELF, that nobody cares about. And accept that this is "good enough" when, really, it isn't.

I feel like I'm working inside a lint-filled pocket of a tight pair of ugly, acid-washed jeans.

I would not attend my own library programs, even the ones touched by talent. I don't really know why, except that they all feel slightly "off" to me. Like Tom Waits playing in the panelled basement of an Evangelical church. (I would attend that, actually.)

Sometimes it feels like we're saying COME TO THIS REALLY COOL PROGRAM (JUST DON'T MIND THE FACT THAT THE SENIOR CENTER WILL BE PLAYING BINGO IN THE SAME ROOM.)

or

GRAPHIC NOVEL DISCUSSION GROUP!!!
THIS THURSDAY AFTER SCHOOL!!!
(PLEASE NOTE: DUE TO FINANCIAL CONSTRAINTS, THERE WILL BE NO GRAPHIC NOVEL EXPERT AVAILABLE TO MODERATE THIS DISCUSSION OR TO INSPIRE YOU. THEREFORE, WE CANNOT GUARANTEE THAT THIS EXPERIENCE WILL BE RIVETING OR MEMORABLE IN ANY WAY. IT IS, HOWEVER, FREE AND OPEN TO ALL.)

Or:

LEARN TO USE FLASH!!! (JUST NOT AS GOOD AS PEOPLE IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR!)

I am frustrated and bummed about it, too. I would love to serve teens well. Every day I think about how to do that. Every day I draw a blank - and that's in a community with a huge amount of support for teens. And in a library where I get to be a professional.

Would a good medical doctor enjoy an empty office? A good teacher keep returning to an empty classroom? An athlete play the game against herself?

And the retort to such complaints is always - so DO something about it. Go FIND patients to treat! People to educate! People to compete with!

But I don't believe it's quite that simple. The doctor, the teacher, and the athlete thrive because of need. Patients need care. Kids need to attend school. Teams need to organize (or the world as we know it would collapse.)

Last night I went to a panel discussion called "How to survive as an artist." At the end, the man sitting behind me said, "The trouble is, people don't NEED art. not like they need water."

I disagree with him. But I live in America. Our culture doesn't prioitize art.

I think YA librarians are on the front lines of that uphill battle. With few back-up troops, no armor, inadequate ammo, and dampened spirits.

rant over.

jessica j said...

this is a frustrating area, since getting teenagers to do anything you want them to do is inherently frustrating: the fact that you want them to do something makes them not want to do it.

i do think it's important, though, since i can tell you from my experience teaching that the young people today can't do research and they can't write for shit. seriously.

to the extent that i have any advice at all, i recommend contacting teachers one at a time to see if you can get them interested in using the library to teach kids to do research, which should include learning to evaluate web-based sources, since that's where they're going to do most of their research regardless of how you might try to talk them into opening a freaking book. teachers who might be inclined to ignore or forget about a mass mailing may be convinced to participate if you can explain how such a program might fit with their specific subject. i know this requires additional work, but it might actually yield some results.

as for getting the kids to write, have you considered contests? if you can get local merchants to donate stuff the young people might actually like to have, you might be able to get them to write for you, and, if the prizes are good enough or the program becomes popular enough, you might even be able to get them to let somebody teach them a thing or two about introductions, supporting sentences, and conclusions -- you know, real writing as opposed to a randomly assembled string of inchoate thoughts, poorly spelled and altogether unpunctuated.

Michael Casey said...

I sympathize with your dilemma. My teen programming budget (for my branch) is very low, so anything I plan needs to be self-supporting (something the teens themselves can basically run). Not an easy task. However, I firmly believe that the first thing libraries need to do is to simply give the teens a space of their own where they can be, well, teens.

Good luck.

bri said...

Hi.

A comment above suggests: "i recommend contacting teachers one at a time to see if you can get them interested in using the library to teach kids to do research."

and I wonder: What about the school librarians? Aren't they doing that? Or supposed to be doing that? The public library is, unfortunately, ONCE REMOVED from school, which means, in the public school mentality, NONEXISTENT. Short of offering them a million bucks, no strings attached, what on earth would make a public school teacher jump on my bandwagon? (Apologies for the cynicism.)

Also, "as for getting the kids to write, have you considered contests?" ah, Have I Considered Contests. Yes. And I am currently one hundred percent ANTI-contest, unfortunately, which makes me a terrible match for my current position, since contests are sometimes considered a lure (ing).

Finally: "if you can get local merchants to donate stuff the young people might actually like to have, you might be able to get them to write for you, and, if the prizes are good enough or the program becomes popular enough, you might even be able to get them to let somebody teach them a thing or two about introductions, supporting sentences, and conclusions -- you know, real writing as opposed to a randomly assembled string of inchoate thoughts, poorly spelled and altogether unpunctuated." First, that's a lot of "ifs" and "mights". IF you can get local merchants to donate stuff the young people MIGHT actually like to have: well, most local merchants turn me down, even when I bat my eyelashes. Worse than that, I don't blame them. Worse than that, they wouldn't give me anything the young people would ACTUALLY like to have. Perhaps even worse than that, I refuse to solicit corporate (or local) donations, because I refuse to spend my time begging business owners for incentives to bribe kids to read. I'm sorry. The STORY is the incentive to read. Right? If not, I need to leave this profession.

Also, IF the prizes are good enough? -- well, they couldn't be good enough. I work in an affluent town. Plasma tv's and over-priced gaming platforms MIGHT be good enough. But probably not. We'd probably give them the WRONG console. Or toys from the WRONG superstore. And, anyways, GOOD ENOUGH? My programs must depend upon whether prizes are GOOD ENOUGH?

I can't do that.

And, "(IF) the program becomes popular enough": in my experience, it hasn't yet. In 4 years. I know why, but I'm not allowed to talk about it.

So. I am quite possibly doing something wrong. But I also believe I am not working with much of anything workable to begin with. Combine the two, and you'e got a pretty major uphill battle.

If this is what being a public YA librarian is all about, then I am going to have to sing "Take this job and shove it" at the top of my lungs. I can't play it like a game.

Jessica said...

Seems like Bri and I are feeling a little stressed right now!

Naturally, I went to the school librarian first. And while he's a nice guy, he's completely overwrought, has no budget, reference materials from 1976, and constantly thwarted by the "powers that be." For instance, ALL blog sites are blocked at the school - no reason, no policy, and no movement for change. He often comes to the PUBLIC LIBRARY to use our computers because he cannot get work done on the school computers.

The response from English faculty was underwhelming, to say the least. After jumping through hoops to get the review program "approved," I sent flyers and posters to the English teachers. According to a couple of students, only two of the eight teachers mentioned it, and few posters were put up. In spite of that, a story was done on the program in the school paper - but I still have had no interest.

Sigh.

Oh well. Is it too late to find an academic reference job?