Dealing with teens at the public library can range anywhere from rewarding to entertaining to frustrating.  A few recent examples …

I

The artist leading our drawing workshop is talking about incorporating different clothing and hair styles into character drawings.  Talking to one of the girls in the group, he says, “For example, you have big curly hair, kind of like Lucille Ball.”  The girl looks at him and replies, “Who’s Lucille Ball?”  I’m standing at the back of the room taking pictures of the program, and the artist and I look at each other over the kids’ heads and start laughing (this often occurs when he brings up “grown up” topics).  The girl says, “Never mind.  I’ll google Lucille Ball on my phone” and proceeds to do just that so she can compare hair styles.

II

A high school class is visiting my library, and after my presentation is over the students browse our collection while I walk around asking if anyone needs help finding anything.  Most of their questions are general, looking for things like sports books and “scary books, especially about ghosts.”  But then in the midst of these questions a girl comes up to me and says, “Do you have any books about rape?”  I take a moment to absorb this, and ask her some careful follow-up questions.  Is she looking for fiction books on the subject of rape?  Is it okay if the book turns out to be about that subject but it isn’t immediately obvious because it’s revealed later?  After I get a yes to those two questions I ask if she’d read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and she had.  I think about it for another minute and say we should look for All the Rage, which I read recently.  She asks me if the main character is the one who gets raped, and I say yes.  The problem is that I can’t remember who wrote it, so we have to walk all the way across the building so I can look it up in the catalog.  I see that we do have a copy, so we then we walk all the way back so we can find it on the shelf, and then back to the desk to check it out.  She tells me that she’s looking for more books on the same subject, but by this time we’re back at the service desk and I’m surrounded on all sides by other staff members.  I don’t know how forthcoming she wants to be about asking this question of other people, and I’m not about to say SO HERE’S HOW YOU CAN FIND BOOKS ABOUT RAPE in front of my colleagues.  So I take the copy of All the Rage that I’m holding, flip open to the copyright page to look for the subject headings, and see that it has “rape — fiction” listed.  I point this out to her, and tell her that when she has time she should go to our catalog and do a keyword search for those terms.  I’m pointing at the words, but out loud I’m saying, “so you type in that word, and then fiction,” because again, I don’t want to broadcast her question.  I walk back to help the other kids look for sports books, scary books, etc., and by the time I return to the service desk she’s decided that she doesn’t want the book after all and she wants to return it.  There’s this weird vibe going on, though, because apparently she’d had some kind of a conversation with D. while I was away from the desk, and HE’S the one telling me that she doesn’t want the book.  I don’t know what she does or doesn’t feel comfortable saying in front of him, so I take the book to check it back it, and I say, “Just remember what I told you.  Go to our catalog and type in those keywords, okay?  Because there are a lot of books around on that subject, and that’s how you’re going to find them.”  She leaves, and I ask D. about the conversation that I’d missed.  He says that she told him that she didn’t want that book, and when he asked if he could help her find another book, she mysteriously replied that she was interested in books on “that subject” but she wouldn’t tell him what the subject was, and THAT was the weird vibe I felt when I returned to the desk.

Brief tangent:

After over 20 years as a librarian, I’ve had plenty of experience with patrons preferring to ask their questions of one staff member rather than another.  You’re busy dealing with something, your colleague who’s a few feet away says, “Can I help the next person on line?” and the patron doesn’t accept the offer but just keeps looking at you instead.  Then you finish what you’re doing and take their question.  Sometimes you have absolutely no idea why they chose to wait for you.  Do they dislike your colleague?  Do they have a secret crush on you?  Do they feel that you’re better at answering information questions?  Was it racially motivated?  Is the patron hard of hearing and didn’t realize they were being called over?  But sometimes the nature of the question gives me a clue.  Like, they tell my male colleague that they’d rather wait and talk to me, and then when they ask me their question it’s about menopause or sex positions or something else of an explicit / embarrassing nature and I’m like Ohhhhhh, THAT explains it!

Okay, tangent over …

So D. asks me if I’ll tell him what the question was about, and I say that I’ll tell him after the class leaves.  After they leave and I’m walking through the office he asks me again, and I tell him.  His first reaction is, “So, do I need to take care of someone for her?” and it takes me a moment to realize he’s asking about beating up the hypothetical guy who hypothetically raped this girl.  And, while I definitely appreciate both the sentiment and the “guy” reaction of “what’s the problem and how can I fix it?” … well, it’s not exactly our place to issue vigilante justice.  But this led to a follow-up discussion about dealing with reference questions of an explicitly or potentially personal nature.  I said that as a librarian, my job is to answer the patron’s question, and that I should be as helpful as possible but I shouldn’t be prying into someone’s personal life.  Now, believe me, there are PLENTY of times that patrons tell me WAY TOO MUCH personal information, which can make me feel depressed / disgusted / nauseated or worse.  I also know that just because someone asks for books that are depressing it doesn’t mean that they’re going to jump off of a bridge (I used to write lots of sad poetry when I was a teenager, and I will never forget the teacher who treated me like I was suicidal because of a poem in my journal).  And I ALSO know that if this girl is going to be reading fiction books about rape, that some if not all of them are going to include resources for rape victims … so IF she does need those resources, she will find them.  I also mentioned a reference transaction I once overheard between Captain Bringdown and a teenager.  The teen asked for information about STDs, and Captain Bringdown asked if he needed it to write a paper or if he needed it for personal use.  I almost threw him out of a goddamned window.

III

I spent an afternoon sharing social media stuff with my teens.  It was cool watching their reactions to the stuff that entertained them the most, including awesome quotes by Oscar Wilde, fake library events, an old Sesame Street video, John Green’s review of the Kendall and Kylie Jenner iPhone game, a shout-out to Narnia, and the 2016 Best Picture Nominees, But With Puppies.

As I was about to go to sleep last night, I had the following thoughts:

Wait.  I’m going to see those high school classes THIS Monday?  Not NEXT Monday?

Hang on.  My branch manager never replied to the email I sent her last week about the visits.

But the school librarian never wrote back to confirm the visits, either.

I still have to memorize my booktalks!

I still have to finish packing my suitcase with books and handouts!

Oh, crap.

So, yeah.  Tomorrow is going to be a hell of a day.  Unless, of course, it isn’t.  So if y’all will excuse me, I’m spending whatever time I’m not watching the Emmys trying to cram a bunch of booktalks into my head.

Lord, it’s been busy.  I haven’t even finished uploading my vacation pictures yet, because there are just SO MANY of them to go through.  Plus, that task got pushed to the back burner because when I got back to New York I had to deal with so many other things …

I had to get my new glasses and sunglasses, which set me back over $2000.  Yes, my frames are stylish, and yes, I discovered that when you get frames from Tiffany’s they come with so much robins-egg-blue STUFF that you can show the whole world just how fancy you are:

Tiffany Stuff

But even though my frames are fancy, it’s the lenses themselves that really set me back.  This explains why I can’t afford to get new glasses as often as I probably should.  But damn, I’ll look good on my way to the poorhouse!

My website problems that were plaguing me for over six months are now finally RESOLVED.  The latest (and clearly the greatest) tech guy finally found the last of the malicious code that had been screwing up my website.  The poisonous stuff that had been hiding in my files was written in Arabic, so between that and the mysterious traffic that had been coming my way from Russian websites, it seems that I was taken out by an international conspiracy.  So the good news is that my website is back up and running again!  The bad news is that I now have to jump-start myself and get back into the habit of creating new content every week.  Oof.  I feel like I need an oil can for my brain, because damn, I feel rusty!

Work has been work, and over the last two weeks since I’ve been back I’ve had to deal with most of our heavy hitters in the problem patron department.  The cat lady has been in with her cats that she’s not supposed to bring into the library, and Crazy Ms. H. with her endless DVD holds, and the Evil Weatherman has been ESPECIALLY evil, and on and on.  It’s like the bus from Crazytown was circling the block and waiting for me to get back from vacation so it could drop everybody off at our doorstep.  Then again, I also believe that ice cream trucks lie in wait for me just so that they can play their annoying jingles when I walk by.  So you might want to take my paranoid theories with a grain of salt.

We’re working on a library-related project that set me going back through my 2014 and 2015 photo archives to track down pictures.  That led to an evening of deep melancholy as I sat at my computer scrolling through pictures of Logan (my late great cat), my mother’s memorial service, and all the weird stuff I found in my mother’s apartment.

I’m also getting ready for class visit season, because outreach is great!  And we need to strengthen our alliances!  And boost our stats!  Woo-Hoo!  Well, most of the time as a young adult librarian, my outreach consists of picking 10 books that I can booktalk backwards and forwards, packing those in my rolling suitcase along with a boatload of handouts, and telling all my classes about those ten books over the course of several days or several weeks.  Well, because of an emergency situation at my biggest local school, I just learned that their library is being used as emergency classrooms so I can’t conduct my class visits there.  Instead they want to bring their classes to visit my library.  That will be great for my circulation statistics, but it’s much more labor-intensive for me and for my staff, and it also means ordering multiple copies of books in advance and cramming WAY more booktalks into my head since I have to be prepared to talk about new books with every class.  So this is gonna be exhausting.  I mean, the good kind of exhausting, but STILL …

Okay, there’s other stuff going on, too, but that’s the stuff that’s sticking out of my brain right now.  I promise that I’ll share more updates when I have time, more photos when I have time, and more thoughts when I have time.

I had another long day of visiting classes at a local high school, which was only briefly interrupted by a fire drill.  On a related note, it never rains but it pours.  Or … on class visit days it will rain or it will snow or there will be a frigging fire drill!

The highlight of the day was the girl who came up to me at the end of the period and told me that she needed to get another bag to hold all the books she was going to carry home from the library.  Awwwww … CUTE!

Anyway, I came home and wanted to go right to sleep, but my need to shower was greater than my need to sleep.  So I showered and then read for a while while my hair dried.  Now we’re watching The Voice, and I’ll probably conk right out afterwards.  Then I’ve got more class visits tomorrow!  Woo-Hoo!

Today was one of the days that we had enough staff that I could be spared from my branch for an entire day, which hardly ever happens anymore.  So I was able to conduct more class visits than usual at one of my local high schools — a bunch of morning classes all in a row, then enough time to scarf down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the librarian’s office, then another class in the afternoon.  Then I came home, ate some more food, and promptly fell asleep for three hours.  Now I’m all woozy and disoriented, trying to get fully conscious again so that I can do things like catch up on all the email I didn’t have time to write all day.

Urgh.

I did have several positive experiences today.  I mean, just getting to visit this school was positive in the first place.  First their librarians were all “excessed,” and then their school library was closed for several years, so just getting my foot back in the door was great in itself.  The library hasn’t had its “official” opening yet, so it still looks lovely and the kids were all impressed by how roomy and spacious it was (a bunch of dividing walls had been removed since the last time I’d visited, it has all-new furniture, etc.)  And the kids were well-behaved and enthusiastic about the books!

Oh, and my most heartwarming moment of the day was during the third or fourth class just after I’d just finished presenting my booktalks.  The kids were all milling around looking at the books when one of the girls said, “This is the first time I’ve ever been hyped to go to the library!”

That brought me a flash of the happiness I needed to lift my spirits and restore my energy.  And so of course I grabbed my iPod so I could write that down and record it for posterity.  Positive comments from teenagers are sometimes few and far between, so it’s always a good idea to write them down.

My boyfriend just called to see how I was doing.  The last time he called I was still in bed and my brain was still in the mushy stage.  He pointed out that the way my classes had been scheduled — four periods in a row before a break — was against the teacher’s contract.  I said, “Yeah, but I’m not a teacher and I’m not under your contract.”  He said, “Now you see why teachers can’t be scheduled for more than three periods in a row!” and I agreed with him while I was still yawning.  Still, though, it’s a big boost for my statistics that I’ll be visiting a dozen classes like this, even if I do feel like a wrung-out dishrag afterwards.  Oh, and I’ve also been invited to speak at the library’s “official” opening ceremony, which will also help my statistics but will be WAY less labor-intensive.

Okay, I’ve got one more day of class visits followed by sleeping tomorrow.  Then just morning visits after that, and getting back into a “normal” work routine.

Off to catch up on reading and email and stuff …

I spent the beginning of the week conducting class visits at one of my local schools, so I’ve been in big-time booktalk mode (high job-satisfaction plus high panic levels).  It was also a little overwhelming in the “problem student revelation” department, getting inside information about some of the boys who were being loud during my presentations.  Apparently, one of the rowdy boys occasionally takes his penis out in class … so I was lucky THAT didn’t happen … and another one of the boys is often “high as a kite” and is known for selling drugs in the neighborhood.  YIKES!

I’ve been going back and forth to my mother’s place each week, but there’s a log jam in the paperwork because I’m still waiting to get the copies of her death certificate.  So until I get those, I’m still in the weeding/cleaning stage.  I’ve been sorting through my mother’s stuff each time I visit, and last weekend I brought home some of her clothes that should fit me.  My coworkers have been making educated guesses about when I’m wearing my mother’s clothes (hint: I’m dressed more presentably than than usual).  Also, a book I’d reserved through my library system, The Executor’s Guide: Settling a Loved One’s Estate or Trust, just came in today.  Soon I’ll learn what I haven’t been doing correctly or what I didn’t do quickly enough.  *SIGH*

This week I’ve been trying to catch up on some stuff I let fall by the wayside over the last few weeks, like reading books and writing book reviews.  I’m still not as caught up as I’d like to be, but I’m making progress.  I need to do some Tumblr updating on my branch account soon, as well.  Plus I’m all geared up for some more class visits to my library, but the teachers who were so psyched to schedule them with me several weeks ago are now dragging their feet about confirming those classes.  And so, in the meantime, I’m trying to catch up with everything else …

I visited my mother this morning, and dealt with the usual stuff — picking up and dropping off books, dropping off food and picking up empty containers — but then there was a new twist.  That was the part where she asked me if I believed in an afterlife, and we talked about her seeing her family again when she dies.  My mother has always been a very unsentimental person, so this was an unusual and awkward conversation for us to have.  My boyfriend drove me there, and then afterwards we went out to brunch and went shopping at the H Mart to try to reset my brain and cheer up.

I’ve been spending the last hour emailing back and forth between several teachers from a local high school who all apparently decided last week that they needed to bring all of their classes to visit my library THIS week.  I’m assuming this was based on a directive by their higher ups, but since they have visited me before (usually in April), I wonder what the rush is all about.  I mean, I work here all year round, and they could have contacted me MONTHS ago.  Why do they all need to come NOW?  Anyway, what that means is that I’m trying to wrangle all of their 9th, 10th, and 11th grade classes into the available spaces when our community room isn’t being used for something else.  Oh, and did I mention that they’ll be bringing about 45 students per visit?  And did I also mention that I have less than a week to start cramming high school booktalks into my head?

Ugh.  I mean, hooray for my productivity and statistics, but ugh for my head!

Plus, these days are going to be extra hectic because I have a bunch of branch managers who want their staff to observe class visits in a library setting, so I’m probably going to be observed by a bunch of staff members from other branches while I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  So, you know, no pressure …

Now I’m finishing listening to an episode of the Nerdist podcast, then I’m going to do some reading, then I need to start cramming those booktalks in my head, then … well, then it will be time for dinner and the season premiere of Game of Thrones!