Learn About Real World Teen Service at the SJSU iSchool
Published: December 14, 2016
So you think you want to be a teen services librarian? SJSU School of Information instructor Jennifer Velásquez wants to help you become the best teen services librarian you can be. So much so that she even wrote a whole book to do just that.
Real World Teen Services (ALA, 2015) draws on her 20 years of experience working with teens and librarians to give readers an idea of what really goes on in the library when it comes to teen services and programming.
Teen Services—Advocacy and Outreach
As in her book, Velásquez’s Info 261A Programming and Services for Young Adults class focuses on teen users and constituency and the knowledge librarians bring to their community through human interaction. This includes educating fellow library staff members (former teens) that teens are humans, too. Velásquez recommends that teen services librarians have staff meet the regular teens and those who serve in leadership roles. Being articulate about what teens need and why they have unique programming needs, enables library staff to explain that too. “As teen services librarians, we help management articulate a kind response to help the public understand the need for teens to have unique programming,” says Velásquez. “We need to articulate a ‘library-ness’ to what is going on in teen programming—so that the decision-makers can see the rationale behind the choices of the teen librarian. Advocacy is huge!”
Not all libraries have a dedicated teen services librarian, but instead lump teen services in with adult services or children’s. When this is the case, teen services can sometimes get left behind when the librarian needs to take care of the youngest set. Here again, advocacy is huge. If you find yourself hired as the first teen services librarian at the branch, you’ll have to do a bit of outreach and planning. Velásquez stresses the need to really know your clients and constituency. “You have to find your potential market.”
Knowing What Your Interviewer is Looking For
Is teen services librarianship right for you? Well, first of all you have to love working with teens. The iSchool has this nifty page for filling you in on the responsibilities of different positions within the public library setting. This page, as well as the rest of the information within the iSchool’s career pages, is a great place to start assessing your career goals. Once you know what you want to do, who you want to work with and what kind of environment you want to work in, then you’ll need to polish up that old resume and get started preparing for an interview.
As a hiring manager, Velásquez is a great resource for insight on how to score big and articulate your ideas clearly as you start interviewing. In Velásquez’s Programming and Services for Young Adults course, she and students talk about job interviewing for Teen Services Library positions. “There are things you need to articulate,” says Velásquez. Here’s one of the questions that she finds separates the qualified teen librarian from the flock:
“What difference if any, is there between a reference interview with a teen and a reference interview with a child?”
“‘Squat with a tot, lean with a teen,’ said one memorable candidate,” she recalls excitedly. “This person gets it! Teens are a unique user group with unique needs.”
It is necessary of course to be able to work not just with teens but with tots and retirees and everyone in between. Velásquez recommends having an understanding of serving all ages and segments of the population, you are likely to be more of an asset to your employer and this is something essential to communicate in an interview. It’s not all about experience either. “Always show your desire to work with teens with openness, kindness and patience,” says Velásquez. “Come with these soft skills and express your flexibility to learn on the job.”
Teen services are a great way to get involved in the lives of teens, facilitating their exploration of the world and their positive participation in the community. If you have a deep passion for doing library work with teens, then you know you can get the real-world skills and knowledge you need with outstanding iSchool teen services instructors like Jennifer Velásquez.
For related topics, check out these articles:
Exploring iSchool Career Pathways: Youth Services
Images courtesy of Jennifer Velásquez and the ALA