This is an important topic for youth services librarians to be aware of. Children and teens are coming in contact with more technology and media than ever. when they come into the library for help or pleasure we can use this as an opportunity to teach them indirectly or directly. Pierce’s Sex, Brains, and Video Games instructs librarians that their job is to educate teens and parents on how to be information literate.
The librarian could do this many ways by acquisition of materials, classes for teens and parents on this topic, and instruction at the reference desk or through print or online resources. Librarians should not only provide the resources but the education of it as well in how to use them. It is also critical to work with the people who also interact with teens, their parents or caregivers, teachers, education professionals, and community leaders. With a combined vision of how information literacy should be taught to this group can greatly increase the chance of a positive outcome.
Pierce also recommends that librarians always be on the lookout of new information and technology so we can stay on the cusp of popular media and are able to provide information and instruction about the newest technology. It is imperative for librarians to stay ahead of the game. This way we can be the information provider to children and teens, which in turn will lead to more returning patrons.
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.
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.