Sunday, November 06, 2005

Informational interview with a teen librarian

I met with a teen librarian this week to chat about the nature of the work and get advice on interviewing for a teen librarian position. We talked for about an hour. Lots of good stuff. I went prepared with a few questions, but the librarian was really talkative and answered most of my questions before I had a chance to ask them!

on working with teens:
  • Act on suggestions from teens and the teen advisory group. Teens want to be involved and following through on their suggestions develops trust. Teens are very busy and it's important to reciprocate when they take time to send you an email or come to an advisory group meeting.
  • It can be exhausting, you need to pace yourself.
  • People who are drawn to this kind of work often seem to have an inner teen that fuels their interest and enthusiasm. Find your inner teen!
  • Bigger, one shot programs seem to work best, sustained program series take a lot more planning and it can be challenging to get a good crowd.
  • Teens recognize when the library isn't treating them equally and they stop using the library as a result.
  • Programs scheduled during school hours are very successful. You can book class groups and you have a guaranteed audience.
  • Teens will surprise you. At an event where local high school bands performed in the library, performers brought their families, not just their friends, to watch.
  • It's important to bring passion and vision to your work, and to find a vision that will work for your community.
  • When you visit schools, teens see you as a teacher (a sub!), not a librarian.
  • Look to local organizations for sponsorship. They can help build community support and awareness. A local radio station recently interviewed members of the teen advisory board. That helps build momentum. How something is perceived has a big impact on its success.
  • Don't be afraid to fail. Talk about what isn't working with teen advisors if an event fails.
  • Try programs that don't necessarily seem like "library" programs. Fun programs are important to get them in the door.

on working in libraries:
  • A lot of the work that you do is within the library to build support for teen services among staff.
  • Work with people and follow the procedures that are in place. Policies can be tedious, and it's tempting to sidestep them, but by working through the system you can learn a lot and you build relationships with other staff.
  • Librarians are incredibly generous with sharing ideas, don't start from scratch. Ask for suggestions and people will often send you their entire project plan or press kit.
  • After you've done something, there's a very short opportunity to celebrate. People are always looking to what you have planned next. It's good to have programs on the horizon to keep you focused on your goals for the future.

on interviews:
  • When you get asked really broad questions, they're looking for the steps you take when approaching a project. Talk about the planning process, e.g. consulting with staff.
  • For union job interviews, the questions are usually scored according to specific guidelines, and unless you say it, it doesn't count. Even if you mentioned something while answering a previous question, say it again. Don't be afraid to repeat yourself.

biggest priorities:
  • Collection development.
  • Programming. This is where you spend the most time, but don't do one thing to the exclusion of all else. Rotate duties and try to balance your time.
  • Reading literature written for teens.


At 8:53 AM, Blogger Christine D. said...

Hi Heidi,
I am a YA Librarian working in the field and I think its great that you went to all the trouble of interviewing a YA librarian for tips! Good for you! We need more young enthusiastic librarians to work with this challenging (and rewarding) sector. Good luck with your job search!


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