Sunday Reflections: You can’t go home again?
When I began my freshman year of college in Mount Vernon, Ohio, I went to the student office and asked about job placement. I had to work while in college in order to maybe be able to afford college. They asked me what my major was – youth ministry – and they said the local public library had called asking about someone to work with teens in the libraries and I set out on an interview. My major, wanting to work with teens, made me a good candidate for the job. Except that they didn’t hire me, they hired someone else. Then 2 weeks later they called and said they really liked me and had decided to hire 2 people. The rest, as they say, is history.
I worked at the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio for 7 years. I got married to The Mr. while working there. I graduated from undergrad and began working on my MLS while working there. My mentor and now friend became a part of my life here. And I have remained in contact with many of the staff there for these past 15 years.
When I began at PLMVKC, they did not have any YA services. It was in the early 90s and libraries were just starting to really make an effort to serve this population group with intention. My co-worker and I created a YA collection, we put together a TAG, and we put together a variety of programs. We had no idea what we were doing, it was all trial and error, and learning from others. But in the end, we put together a pretty successful program and I cried when I left to take another job.
This is what the YA space looked like in the 1990s when I worked there . . .
During the month of January 2015 I am working to help re-organize and re-evaluate some of their YA services and I will be sharing some of what that looks like with you periodically here. Today we will start with the YA area. Around 5 years ago they moved their YA area. They went about creating a new YA space by tapping into their Teen Advisory Group. Four teens researched and made a presentation to the library’s board asking them for a specific space in the library.
The space that currently houses the teen space used to be the magazine reading room when I worked there. If the library was a squared shaped donut, the new YA room would be the squared shaped donut hole in the middle of the library. It is an almost fully enclosed room with windows on three sides that is immediately across from the Circulation Desk. You go down a short ramp to get into the room, giving it the illusion of seclusion while being in direct site line of the staff. As far as the footprint of the library goes, this is actually a really great place for the teen area. It’s cool, it’s accessible, and it is inviting.
The view from the Circulation Desk . . .
Down the ramp, which is on the right side of the picture above . . .
Once in the room, there is an entire wall of teen fiction. As you can see, it was originally quite packed with zero room for growth. One of the first things I did was dramatically weed this collection. My goal was to create not only room for new titles but room for face out merchandising of titles.
Before weeding . . .
After weeding . . .
After weeding 700 titles from fiction and nonfiction collection, which we’ll talk about in a minute, a little bit more space was opened. I’m thinking I’m going to have to take another more brutal pass in order to create the space we need for growth. The #1 thing you can do to increase circulation besides ordering good titles is make sure your shelves are not to full and do face out displays.
I was glad to see that they already had a dedicated space for a most excellent graphic novel and manga collection.
On the outsides of the room there is counter seating for laptops and there are a few public access computers which are dedicated to teen use only.
And of course there is seating space . . .
On the outside of the room, on the outside wall of the ramp, there was a small YA audio book and YA nonfiction collection. Because this nonfiction collection was literally 7 steps away from the adult nonfiction collection, it made sense to eliminate the separate YA nonfiction collection and expand the YA audio collection which was kind of tight and had no room for display. The YA nonfiction titles were evaluated and were either weeded or added into the adult nonfiction collection.
I originally left The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in the year 2000, so it has been 15 years since I have worked there. Because of a variety of relationships I have visited on occasion when I still lived in Ohio. Many things about the library look the same as when I worked there, the most dramatic change has definitely been the new YA space. We had a good YA space when I worked there, but this is a great space. It is a space that shows thoughtfulness and intentionality. It is inviting. It communicates to the teens in the community that they are valued at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County.
To be completely honest, I cried so hard when I left PLMVKC. They made me the librarian I am today, and the people became like family to me. Working there this past week really was like going home. And I’m not going to lie, working with a new collection is a tremendous amount of fun.
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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