This is a challenging aspect of a youth service librarian’s job. what is it that the child is looking for? Children are complex and can be misunderstood which makes them a user group that many librarians do not want to deal with. But I find them fascinating, funny, and incredibly smart. It is important that children are able to receive reference service as well because they have very specific information needs.
There are three basic types of service that they need. help with homework and research, voluntary inquires based on curiosity and assistance with personal problems or issues. This is the dilemma for many librarians because they don’t want to be the teacher or parent helping or doing homework for the children. This as an opportunity because if the child is not getting the help anywhere else this is the librarians opportunity to step in. Librarians are trained and specialized in knowing the tricks to research and assisting patron’s information needs, and it is our duty to assist with homework help. The curiosity questions are a bonus. children have a quest to soak up knowledge because they are growing and being able to satisfy their thirst is rewarding. And assisting children in their personal lives can be tricky, because they will tell you your life story and then some. Librarians need to put their own judgement aside and give the best answer for that situation and if needed talk to the parent or caregiver.
Shenton and Dixson’s “Information Needs: Learning More about What Kids Want, Need, and Expect from Research” explains the types of needs that arise and the variables that effect them. This is crucial to understanding how to do a reference interview with a child because they care about accuracy and urgency as well as adults. But children are different in how they act socially and the types of questions asked. The authors came up with strategies for practice and an important one is to develop questions that are not based on preconceived notions but based on the child’s real needs (Shenton, 26). It is also necessary to have open dialogue with the child patron because that way if the need was not met by certain materials the search can be tried again. This is crucial because some children are shy and will not say so, or they do not even realize they didn’t meet their own need.
Children’s reference is rewarding and demanding. Librarians have to know it all and be able to read minds, but not really we can do those things by being friendly, attempting the question wholeheartedly, and knowing the library’s collection.
Shenton, A.K. and P. Dixson, “Information Needs: Learning More about What Kids Want, Need, and Expect from Research.” Children and Libraries 3 (2): 20-28.
The underrepresented users in the library are the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning better known as GLBTQ. Alexander and Miselis in their article note that this group is not represented in the library by the amount of materials offered. There are many possible reasons that explain this including censorship. But why should libraries recognize these patrons?
This user group tends to be teens or young adults and if young adult librarians can reach out to them and offer a welcoming comforting environment then they are likely to become a life long user. Plus public libraries are public spaces and shouldn’t discriminate against any person or user. Society has recently become of aware of this group as a member of society and librarians should include them in their collection development as a whole.
As Alexander and Miselis have proved in their study GLBTQ teens have information needs and the library is a logical place for them to acquire them. YA librarians need to be aware of the collection development policy at their library and how they can obtain materials for these users. Censorship and even self-censorship effects the collection development for GLTBQ material in the library. Administration and YA librarians need to work together to understand the need for materials that can aid these teen’s needs. Because not even considering GLTBQ materials is censorship and librarians have a duty to include all of the different types of users.
There are great materials and book lists provided by the professional organizations that supply great books to add to the collection. This is helpful because it can aid the YA librarian who is unsure what to add, and it is good evidence to the library board and admistration that librarians as a group are thinking about this user group.
Great books to include in your collection that cover these topics:
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson; Peter Parnell; Henry Cole
Putting makeup on the fat boy by Bill Wright and Lauren Linn
I currently work in a small university library in the Chicago suburbs. It has become clear to me how similar college patrons are to teens. The typical college age student is 18- 25 years old, and many of them still have similar characteristics that older teens have. Sex, Brains, and Video Games: A Librarian’s Guide to Teens in the Twenty-first Century by Pierce notes that studies have shown the brain doesn’t reach maturity until twenty-five when it is full developed. This is evidence that proves my assumption that even young college students can be still exhibiting teenager like behavior.
I work at the Reference desk, and I notice that many younger students tend to use the library but not many ask for help. And the younger patrons who do come to ask for help seem shy, nervous, or unsure what to say. So, I try to be friendly, comfortable, and use terms they understand. I know how scary it can be to ask a unknown person at a big desk a complex question in front of your peers. This is why I try to make myself known to them by a friendly smile, and when I do speak I tone down the library jargon.
I have come to believe that the past expediences that these patrons had greatly influenced how they behave today in a library. This is why it is crucial for all librarians not just in youth services understand the importance of children and teens to have a great experience at the library. Those visits to the library as a kid, could make or break them as a frequent library user. I feel that I need to change the opinions of these young minds to think that libraries are not as scary as they seem. I know it may be a big task, but I will take it on one patron at a time.
Working with teens can be a daunting task, but having a plan prepared with resources and books to turn too can make life easier. These websites and resources are meant for teens to help with homework and life in general. But I found them useful so that as librarians we can understand what they look at, and how to use these sites to help them.
The Internet Public Library collects resources for teens but also has other websites for kids and special collections. I found this resource helpful because it divided their collections into sub-genres of school and homework help, Graphic novels, poetry, sports and entertainment, etc. This is very useful for a YA librarian to have in their back pocket to use with teens. http://www.ipl.org./div/teen/
Federal Resources for Educational Excellence is a great resource collection for older teens for homework. This site has a expansive subject list with links to websites about that subject. But I find this can be useful to anyone. http://www.free.ed.gov/index.cfm
iSafe is a non for profit organization dedicated to teaching children and teens about how the internet can be harmful. Their website http://isafe.org/xblock/ is a program for teens to sign up for the iMentor program to learn more about web safety. Even the iSafe website has tools for parents and educators as well.
I am even going to include YALSA’s site for Teen Read Week which is coming up soon (Oct. 14-20). YA Librarians should be programming or promoting this week to get teens involved at the library and to promote reading. The theme this year is “It came from the library” a spooktacular theme for a sometimes scary group. http://teenreadweek.ning.com/