#MHYALit: How Libraries Can Help Teens, by Librarian Dawn Abron
Today an experienced teen librarian shares with us some of her tips for helping teens who want to investigate mental health issues with anonymity navigate the library.
As a teen librarian, we get to know a large number of teens. Many of the teens in our library see us as a nonjudgmental confidant and they come to our office and to talk about their home life, their friends, and their relationships. Through observation and conversation, we’ve learned that several of our teens suffer from depression.
Two years ago we learned that one of our teen regulars and volunteer was in the hospital. We later learned that it was a suicide attempt and that she was currently on anti-depressants. When she was well enough to return to the library, we didn’t ask her about it; we instead offered her a safe place to hang out and talk.
It’s been two years since her diagnosis and I’ve heard her talk to other teens about her suicide attempt so I was comfortable asking if books helped her deal in any way and what she said was eye opening. She said that during that period in her life, she read upbeat books because books about depression made her feel worse. Now that she is open about her mental illness and her suicide attempt, she likes to read more serious books especially books about abduction. At the time of our discussion, she was checking out Bone Gap by Laura Ruby and Pointe by Brandy Colbert.
My degree is in recreation and I was new to the library world when I started six years ago. I thought working with teens in a library would be programming and reader’s advisory. Little did I know that I would meet teens with such “adult” problems. However I’ve learned that working with teens in the library means being a soundboard and a friend. When teens come to us, we don’t sensor their speech and we don’t offer advice unless we’re asked. What we do is listen.
Other things we do in our library to help teens deal:
1. We have an infographic on the YA stack that list social sciences and their call numbers. These issues include sexual assault, drug abuse, bullying, and mental health. The infographic also informs teens that they may use the self check out for confidentiality.
2. We have a reader’s advisory binder in the stacks that include fiction books about specific mental health issues including OCD, depression, schizophrenia, etc
3. We have a poster on the door of our office, which is in the teen room, that contains various hotline numbers. See example here.
4. Do no not allow harmful speech in our teen room such as gay, retarded, stupid, etc
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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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