10 Things I Never Learned in Library School, part 1 (Karen J)
Yesterday Christie shared a fab post about that parts of your job as a librarian that they don’t prepare you for in library school. As someone who works with teens, you often get invited into their inner sanctuary. There is nothing that will prepare you for some of the things that you will encounter while working with teens. Here is a look at 10 situations that I have encountered that library school could never have prepared me for.
I Never Learned About The Grandmother
I once had a grandmother come in asking for a book she could give to her 14-year-old granddaughter so she could learn to “take care of her own needs” and not end up a pregnant teenager. And yes, we have a book for that.
I Never Learned How to Handle The Gang
One day a very large teenager was beating up a very small teenager (at the time I thought he was in 3rd grade). So I called the police. The next day the very large teenager approached me with 4 other teen boys – holding a sledgehammer I might add – while I was sitting in a chair. He put an arm on each chair arm, pinning me in, and said, “You better not ever call the police on me again.” Because I am not always smart, I looked him right in the eye and said, “You better not ever give me a reason to.” I’d like to say that ended the situation, but I once stopped to get gas at a gas station and he approached me again; thankfully the gas station attendant came out because he could see the teen was threatening me. I ended up having to file a harassment report and the teen was permanently banned from the library for obvious safety reasons.
I Never Learned About the Pick-up Artist
I once had a teenage boy who kept calling me “sexy” at my programs. After asking him not to, repeatedly, I finally asked him to leave. His father came in and complained so we had to have a meeting where the father assured me that I should feel flattered. I pointed out that this was in fact sexual harassment but he didn’t agree. In the end they did, however, he did agree that if he was going to keep coming to library programs he couldn’t talk to me that way. He eventually stopped coming around – he probably realized I was actually pretty old LOL.
I Never Learned How Deadly a Pencil Can Be
In the first few years of my after school program, there were some definite behavior issues. One day a young man stabbed another young man with a pencil in the arm. To this day that boy, now a grown up, has a little blue dot on his arm where the pencil tip went in. Why it turned blue I will never know. We shut down the after school program for a couple of weeks to send a message and it really helped to turn things around. Soon the teens began policing each other and overall we had a lot fewer problems.
I Never Learned How to Talk to a Teen About Abortion
One of the saddest incidents that I have ever had to deal with involved a young girl, only 14 years old, who had an abortion at 22 weeks pregnant. I think about her often and hope that she is doing well.
I Never Learned How to Handle a Teen Who Was Possessed
In my early days as a teen librarian, I was completely surprised when a young man came in and asked me for books on exorcism; he believed he was possessed by a demon and wanted to get it out. I am not going to lie, that was a scary moment for me because it was such a delicate situation.
I Never Learned What to do About the Kiss
A couple of years ago, a girl that we knew to be 14 was seen hanging out with a man we knew to be 22 years old or older. Soon, a patron came in and said that she had seen them kissing and that the girl had left with him. We called the police. This is one of those moments when I thought for sure I was going to lose my job but when the police asked if we knew who the man was I said yes. It turns out this qualifies as a crime in progress, exigent circumstances, and I was all good.
I Never Learned How to Handle Suicide
Everyone, including me, was stunned to be touched by the suicide of a teen. Like Christie, I have been with teens after they found out one of their friends had passed away, but having someone you know and care for take their own life can be shocking and traumatizing in ways that we can’t imagine.
I Never Learned How to Turn Graffiti into Advocacy
Honestly, sometimes even the worst situations turn out to have the best outcomes. When we caught a group of kids doing graffiti on our library building, I never could have imagined that one of those kids would turn out to be one of my biggest library advocates and an actual friend as he became an adult.
I Never Learned to Buy My Underwear Out of Town
I love when I am out and about around town and my teens come and talk to me . . . unless I am in the underwear section of my local store holding a bra in my hand. And of course the teen talking to me was a teenage boy. That is how I learned to shop out of town for my privies. No one wants to stand and talk to their teenage patrons in the underwear section of the local department store.
I know you all have your own stories to share, so please do so in the comments . . .
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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