Sunday Reflections: I am not a librarian, I am a champion and the book is my sword
I have been a YA librarian for 20 years. I have worked at 4 libraries. And I have developed ways that work for me to help me achieve my goals. Ways that have helped me outline my goals.
Some of it has developed fluidly. Once a friend, a new library director, emailed me because he had an employee who had been tasked with YA services who didn’t really understand YAs, didn’t really like them, and didn’t understand the need for programming. So I spent a couple of days putting together some information for him and I liked it so much I decided to put together a training notebook. I did it mostly for me, but I have adapted it in unique ways for each location I have worked.
In the early 2000s, I realized how much of our job entails marketing, something that most of us are in no way equipped to do. But we get thrown in, feet to the fire, and do it we must. So I started taking a variety of marketing themed webinars and workshops. I read all the books we had in the library, and when I was done with that I ILLed some more. And just like with librarianship, the terms become a part of who you are. I made another notebook and placed it on my shelf, adapting it for new places and new info.
I’ve learned lots of new things writing this blog. When I started this blog people were just starting to talk about MakerSpaces, so I researched so I could write a post or two. But I liked what I saw and I used all that research to write my own MakerSpace proposal for my library. But the truth is, libraries have always been MakerSpaces. At least they have for the 20 years that I have been a librarian. We have always had programs where we invited kids and teens and often adults to come to the library and make things, we just called them something different.
It would be easy after 20 years to find yourself getting comfortable, losing passion, finding yourself in a rut. But these teens, they remind me every day that the work we do is important. When people ask me what I do and I say I am a librarian, you can see that they don’t really understand what that means. For me, it means I am a champion, an advocate, a warrior. I advocate for teens, for reading, for communities. I am a warrior for our future. Not just mine, not just my teens, but all of ours – the collective future full of intelligent, resourceful, compassionate people who will use their skills and knowledge to make the world a better place. At least that is my hope.
Sometimes, there are great raging debates about the future of libraries. The book is declared dead. But then last night, an amazing thing happened. Last night I went to Dallas to see John Green (and the cast of The Fault in Our Stars movie). When I arrived, there were already thousands of people in line, most of them teenagers. And yes, a majority of them girls. But definitely not all. And as we stood there for a few hours and waited, they talked about books. They quoted books. They debated books. They read books. They were enthusiastic book carnivores. They devoured the words and spoke them out into the ether with an understanding that the right words could craft a mood, a moments, a lifetime of feels.
And these teens, they were there to see an author. The staff at the location said they had never seen such a large crowd, and they were impressed that they were there because of a book.
At one point, they showed the book trailer. And the audience, they quoted the lines from the book right along with the characters. They cheered. They exclaimed with excitement. They knew the words and the words meant something to them. The words had spoken to them. The words had touched them somewhere deep in their soul and they were moved.
And that is why those notebooks set on my shelf, waiting to be written and re-written again. That’s why my passion does not die. Those teens, those book quoting fiends full of hope and desire, they need a champion. And I will continue to take up the call, ever changing notebook in hand.
Filed under: Sunday Reflections
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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