Wednesday, September 23, 2015

On Becoming "Youth Services"

There have been changes afoot in my library.

New Teen Scene!
Back in April, our Reference Services and Circulation/Media departments undertook a big move. They moved all the media materials (DVDs, CDs, etc.) and public computers upstairs and moved the Teen Scene downstairs. Basically, these sections flip-flopped in order to create a teen area that is MUCH bigger, allows the space for teens to talk and hang out, has teen-only computers (that we can actually enforce), is close to the Children's Room while still being a completely separate area, and has its own reference desk.

I LOVE our new teen area.

In June, we merged Teen and Children's Services to create the Youth Services Department, which I am now supervising (previously I was only supervising the Children's staff). It was a move that makes sense for us, although I know some librarians would argue for keeping Teen part of adult services or making Teen its own department.

Teens can actually make noise here!
The staff employed in Children's are a good fit to serve as back up and support for our teen librarians. Because the teen area is across the hall from Children's, it's easier for us to help patrons and work hours on the desk than it would be to bring someone down from Reference. Our middle schools have students in grades 5th-8th, so Children's and Teen were working together to serve them with booktalking visits anyway. We also work together on our Summer Reading Club offerings. It was a natural evolution to merge our areas of the library and all work together serving our young people.

It's been a very positive change, but it hasn't always been easy. We had to carve out office space for our teen librarians (previously their only work stations were at the public desk, which is just not super feasible for some kinds of work). We are now covering two desks with no additional staff, which means that everyone is working a lot more desk hours (including me! I am not used to this!). We're trying to make evening and weekend scheduling as fair as possible (hard to do with no additional staff), so everyone is working extra evenings and weekends for the time being.

Luckily, I have amazing, hardworking, talented staff. They have faced this challenge head-on with me and everyone has been extremely positive and flexible as we've made these changes.

Teen Reference Desk!

I have worked hard to get our Children's staff comfortable with working in the teen area. I brought in a trainer from our State Library to do a workshop on teen behavior and another trainer to do a Reference workshop. (Teens' projects can be a lot more involved than elementary projects!) We have been consciously scheduling "Children's" staff to work the teen desk so that everyone becomes familiar with where things are located and starts to feel more comfortable interacting with and helping teen patrons.

It's been a learning curve for patrons, too. For the most part, patrons LOVE our new teen area like I do, but we do have occasional complaints about the adult computers being moved upstairs. We have been fighting the good fight for our teens to have this dedicated space.

(I just want to tell all the adults that adults get the WHOLE WORLD, so they need to respect that we have carved out this one room just for teens!)

Students-only computers!
Adults are, of course, welcome to browse and use the teen collection and check out teen materials. They are restricted from setting up shop in the teen area (unless they are working with or supervising a teen, i.e. tutors or parents) and they are not allowed to use the teen computers.

Slowly but surely I am getting used to supervising additional staff (I am now supervising our Youth Services page, too), trying to figure out our crazy schedule, and making notes of changes we need to make, supplies we need to purchase and procedures we need to work out. I know it's difficult to change supervisors and that I manage a department differently from our Reference supervisor, so it's a new experience for all of us.

It has been a lot of work. It has taken a lot of my time and energy to take on this new challenge, but it is so, so worth it. Youth Services for the win!