Sunday Reflections: In Which TLT Turns 10 and I Reflect
This week, Teen Librarian Toolbox turns 10. I can not even begin to tell you what this means to me. But because this is a Sunday Reflections post, I’m going to try.
Ten years ago, I was quitting a job I loved as a teen services librarian in Ohio and moving to Texas for my husband’s job. Our house had flooded and we had lost nearly 1/3 of our possessions. The economy was still in trouble from 2008. And I knew that finding a new job as a teen services librarian would be hard and I was scared. So, I started TLT as a way to keep myself engaged in this profession that I love to a group of people I have committed my life to serving. And TLT was born.
Over the years, I have had many co-bloggers. Amanda MacGregor, my co-conspirator here, has been one of my longest running co-bloggers and now, deeply meaningful friendships. I can not even begin to express my gratitude for the way she has helped me at key critical times in my life, including recently when my father died. She continues to pick up the phone and listen to me cry (and sometimes cuss) even though it is probably sometimes triggering for her because of her own loss.
And that’s what I have loved most about TLT, the people that it has brought into my life. Some for a season, some for a lifetime. And it’s not just my co-bloggers, but readers, authors and my fellow librarians. You all have helped me learn, grow, change my mind, and more. You have supported me through some mental health crisis, the loss of my father, and helped me raise my kids.
In fact, if you are a regular reader of TLT, and if you have been so for a long time, you have literally watched me raise Riley from the age of 8 through middle school, high school and now on the way to college. In fact, many of you have been so kind and gracious that you donated to a fundraiser to help us get that last little bit of money we needed to help make her college dreams come true.
And you have helped me learn how to parent Thing 2, a reluctant reader with dyslexia and ADHD. You frequently help me make sure she is stocked with new graphic novels with your suggestions. And you helped her do Operation BB, as she spent the last couple of years before the pandemic making sure that kids in need had books of their own.
And, of course, at the heart of all of this we have read books. Talked about books. Talked about teens and how to best serve them. Fought hard for libraries. And learned a lot from one another. And that has all been so amazingly valuable. And I thank you.
Teen Librarian Toolbox is not perfect. We have made mistakes here. We have changed the ways that we operate. We have changed our minds. We’ve changed course from time to time. In 2014, we had the honor of joining School Library Journal and that transition was technically challenging. Some old posts and data was lost or authorship was changed on 1,000s of already existing posts. Which is why we now make sure and put clear authorship on each guest post. Some old photos are lost forever, some of them of my kids. But we continue to be proud of this partnership and what we have shared here.
Another big issue for us here at TLT is that like far too much of librarianship, we are a group of middle aged white ladies. Except for Ally, she’s not quite middle aged yet. She probably wants you to know that. This is one of the reasons that we work so hard to use our platform for guest posts, we want to take this tool that we have created and use it to lift up voices that are traditionally left out of discussions. It’s not a lot, it doesn’t change the world or change the issues, but it’s something that we can do to help raise other voices.
I never knew when I started TLT what it would come to mean to me. On Sundays, I talk openly and honestly about issues, both personal and professional. My two daughters have chosen to join TLT and talk openly about their personal lives as well, wanting to help change the world by talking openly about things like mental health, dyslexia, and just trying to be a teen in this world. I love that we get to do this thing together.
My dad used to ask me on occasion about TLT, “Are you still doing that blog thing?,” he would ask. And we would talk about it. It always meant a lot to me that he asked, that he recognized I was doing this thing and what it meant to me. That he was proud. In 2014 he met me in Las Vegas for ALA as I would receive a Library Journal Movers and Shaker award for advocacy. The photos of that trip are now precious memories and this 10 year birth is in some ways bittersweet, a time of great joy in the midst of my time of great sorrow.
In the midst of all of this, I wrote a book with former TLTer Heather Booth about being a teen librarian. I dedicated it to my husband and kids and when I gave Riley a copy I asked her if she wanted me to sign it. She replied, “You know I’m never going to read this, right?” And she won’t. But she has read 1,000s of YA books and shared her thoughts here and we’ve gone to author signings and she has interviewed authors and what a gift it has been to do this thing with her. She’s even met her favorite author, A. S. King (twice!).
So here we are, turning 10! The 8 year old is now almost 19. The 2 year old is almost 13. I’m almost 50! But this year, the birthday that means the most to me is this 10 year old! What a gift this journey has been. And don’t worry, it is continuing. I just thought we would take a moment to celebrate turning 10!
I thank you. I thank each and every one of you. I thank every person who has shared a post here. I thank every person who has read a post here. I thank those of you who have answered questions, challenged me, cried with me, celebrated with me, and just taken any part of this journey with me. TLT turns 10 because you have helped us every step of the way, and I am thankful.
I hope you will join us this week as we share our favorite moments, our favorite memories, and our favorite books. There are a few treats planned here and there. And we’re going to take a walk down memory lane as we plan for what I hope is another 10 years of talking about books, libraries, and advocating for tween and teen services in our school and public libraries.
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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