“I don’t work with teens,” he said wishfully.
He was wrong. You work with everyone you see. They’re all customers: The patrons who come through the doors or call you on the phone; The employees you work next to or hardly ever see. How you respond to all these people impacts their experience of the library.
Valerie Davis gave a great talk at yesterday’s Staff Training Symposium at Dayton Metro. She’s a Teen Services librarian, and she knows that teens can be a difficult to welcome into the library. But if other library staff don’t also take the initiative to value teen patrons, teens pick up that they aren’t wanted. And as Valerie pointed out, these are your future patrons and your future tax base.
Valerie has plain-language rules with teens that follow the guideline that you’re responsible for your own actions. Like, “Don’t be a jerk.” Other patrons are held to these standards, too, even if the list of rules looks different. When an unruly adult crosses the line, she asks him to leave. Likewise, when one of the teens she’s good friends with is being disruptive and doesn’t respond to a warning, she kicks that teen out for the rest of the day.
For Emily Steele, the librarian at Beckfield College in Florence, Kentucky, teaching her students technology skills is one of the most important things she can do for them. Emily supports both young adults and the returning adult student, many of whom lack the technical skills they must have in the workplace today.
At our recent Innovation Cafe, one of the groups dealt with the questions, "What happens when something fails? How do you respond?" When it's not our failure, it's easy to see that when you're willing to take risks, you must be willing to deal with failure. We can not know with certainty what will occur despite our best efforts.
The group began with the usual suspects:
- Assign blame
- Get angry
- Take it personally
- Fix it
- Ask, "why"?
But pretty quickly (they had 15 minutes!) they came up with a much better approach based on a model of Learning.
As Cindy Foley, Director of Education at the Columbus Museum of Art and our facilitator, shared at our recent World Cafe Event: Innovation in Libraries, it may look like a comfortable chair with a back and arms in the middle of a gallery. Sounds simple, right? Only it's anything but, because the museum had to do some hard work, figuring out what they wanted to be and who they were there to serve. Libraries also have some hard work ahead, to question our assumptions, tackle barriers to innovation, and boldly go where it is we want to go.