You Are Only Comfortable Working with Teens Who Are Similar to You by Violeta Garza
From my experience working in a large urban library system in NYC, this way of thinking could only lead to disaster. There are over 2.6 million people in Brooklyn and they come in all sizes, colors, ethnicities, language preferences and lifestyle choices. If a Brooklyn librarian only worked with teens that looked like them I think that would make for a very boring day.
However, when Garza writes about the pleasures of working with teens who are “already on a spectacular pathway to success or those who are comfortable enough talking with adults” I can relate. It is not because of race, or age or size, but it is much easier to work with teens who are interested in what is going on at the library. These “library kids” attend every program, are always eager to help and volunteer their time, and they want to chat with me about their day and their lives. And while my programs have great attendance, it is easy to forget that this is only a small fraction of the teens the library is meant to serve.
I feel like Violeta Garza has written these tips specifically for me. For the last 4 years I have worked in a library outreach department focused on serving children and teens with disabilities. This job brings me to homeless shelters, special education schools, hospitals, day cares, and community events. These 5 tips brilliantly summarize the lessons I have learned and the experiences I have had working with different groups of people. Working with young people with disabilities, I have seen first hand how making assumptions based on stereotypes can be hurtful and damaging. And how a simple smile and hello, can lead to a meaningful interaction. It sounds so simple but in actuality requires practice and experience. As public librarians we should reflect on these lessons and put them into practice on a daily basis.
Velásquez, J. (2015). Real-World Teen Services. Chicago, IL: ALA Editions.