The following is an excerpt of an interview I conducted with two teens, one 17 years old and one 14, at my library. They were working on homework and waiting for their mother to pick them up, so we only spoke for approximately 15 minutes. After reviewing their answers, I have many more questions. In hindsight, I would have developed these questions to be more open ended and asked follow up questions to expand on their answers. If we had more time I would have liked to asked them about the TV shows and movies they watch, the thoughts on different social media platforms and what teen programming should look like at the library.
Do you have a favorite book, or a book you like a lot, and why?
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. She is the best! I like how at the end she speaks up for herself. Oh, and The Skin I’m In (by Sharon Flake) because in the end she learns to accept her dark skin and she’s beautiful and she doesn’t care what people think of her. I thought she should’ve done it sooner but it was amazing
“Yes I love Laurie Halse Anderson and The Giver! I like how Jonas rebelled. Its an awesome message of leadership. Fight for what you believe in.”
Do you think librarians can recommend a book that you will like
“Now that you told us you have to take all these classes to be a librarian! I just thought they sat there and found books and stuff. I don’t know. I’ve never asked. I just come here to get books for class and do my homework
“I think maybe they can but they don’t usually pick the right one.”
What do you think about going to the library?
“It’s good. You don’t have to spend lots of money and like 10 extra dollars on shipping. But I always have fines on my card, I just don’t know how it happens. It’s like $17 now. That’s like Chinese food money!”
“I like to go to Barnes & Noble. If I own the book I feel like I can read it as many times as I want to. You know like lots of people steal books (from the library) that’s not fair.”
- Librarians are viewed as unapproachable. It was clear to me that these two teens did not view the library staff as approachable. They didn’t feel comfortable talking to librarians or asking questions.
- Talk to the teens in your library! These teens only use the library for assignments and safe place to do homework after school. They were unaware of teen programs, online resources on the library’s website and free mobile hotspots that can be checked out with their library cards.
- They do not have a “reading problem”. They easily described their likes and dislikes and read a wide variety of materials. They both read for enjoyment, relaxation, and information.
- Library fines are a barrier for teens. The 17 year old was worried about her algebra test the next day, and she could not check out the study guide she was using because of $17 worth of fines.
- Teens need welcoming spaces. Developing relationships with teens and talking with them about their interest and their needs is crucial in providing YA library services.