One afternoon, I was covering my library’s teen reference desk. As I was clicking back and forth between planning my next program and checking email, I look up and see a mom trying to get her two tween children to come into the teen department.
Sympathizing with her efforts to try to get her children to find books, I walk over to the family and ask if they need any help.
The mom sighs and places two book bags on the floor and says that her children want new books to read, but they do not want to spend the time looking for books.
I immediately jump into my reference interview mode, and begin to ask the children questions about what types of books they enjoy. After a brief interview, I was able to come up with a stack of books for the children to look at. The children each grab a book and they immediately begin to read.
I knew my work there was done and I begin to wrap up the reference interview when the mom begins to tear up. She describes how she has come to the library for months to get books for her kids, but the kids have never read any of the books that she found for them. I take down her information and offer to send her a list of additional titles her kids might enjoy.
The next week, I begin to get emails from the mom expressing how much the children are enjoying the books. She begins to ask for more book recommendations and expresses interest in other library services and programming.
This interaction with this patron changed the way I interact with tweens, and it has helped me to make more quality interactions with families. As a librarian, I often concentrate on how I can better offer programming and services to tweens, but I am guilty of not always taking into account the parent’s needs. Many parents of tweens are having a difficult time navigating their child becoming a tween. Often, they need resources and support just like tweens do!
To assist with this, I have tried to change the way I serve tweens and their families. As I have tried different things, I have found that these three things helped the most:
1. Make personalized book and service lists when appropriate
Email provides a new way to follow up with patrons and to connect with them. When possible, try to offer personalized book lists or a list of community services that could assist the patron and their needs. Not only is this wonderful customer service, but it also opens the door to build a relationship. The parent has a way to connect with you and you have a way to communicate with the parent and with their tween.
2. Advertise your specialized interests
Share your reading interests, hobbies, and favorite fandoms with your coworkers and with your patrons. One of the hardest things for tweens is finding a bridge to cross over into young adult. Many have an idea of some children’s books they enjoy, but they struggle with finding teen books like that. More importantly, they often struggle finding someone to talk to about it. It is vital that as a library we help tweens and their families connect to library staff to assist them with transitioning to young adult. One way to do this is to connect patrons with library staff that share the same interests. Ask patrons about their interests, hobbies, and types of books they like. Once you have some background information, you can help direct them to a staff member that shares the same interests. By doing this, it will this make the patron feel more comfortable, and it will help the patron to find “their librarian” that can best help them find materials.
3. When doing a tween program, have out an adult book display
At my library, my youth service director always encourages youth staff to include a book display at every program we do. I have always loved this philosophy and during programs, I always try to set out books for tweens. Lately, I have been trying to set out books for parents too, and it has been really successful! I recently did a cosplay program where I discussed fandoms with my tweens and teens. One of the tween parents came in and asked about the fandoms we were talking about. We briefly discussed what we were talking about, and the patron requested a book with an overview of the fandom and wanted more information on how to cosplay so she could work on a costume with her daughter.
I have found that by having materials out for the parents in programming, it helps parents to connect with their tween and with other library staff.
These are only a few things that have worked for me and my library. As a librarian, I am still learning how to serve tweens and their families. How does your library serve tweens and their parents?
Our guest blogger today is Pamela Groseclose. Pamela is a member of both ALSC and YALSA and is passionate about working with tweens at the Library. Visit her blog at tweenlibrarian.blogspot.com
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.