Anyone who has worked with me probably knows that I have a special place in my heart for Tweens. I love tween books and tween programs. At my old branch, we had a Tween Area, and I have even graced a few of my Tweens’ Snapchats.
What I also like about Tweens is that they are a bridge. They are bridge to Children’s Librarians and Teen Librarians, to us and Teen Services- particularly if you are like me and serving as a Children’s and Teen Librarian! In my experience when you say “I’m a Children’s Librarian” to someone, what comes to mind is younger kids. Tweens can sometimes be forgotten or overlooked, making me wonder if there will ever be a Tween Librarian position.
I guess it was a no brainer that I attended YALSA’s 2017 YA Symposium in Louisville, Kentucky two weeks ago. I sat in on sessions ranging from all sorts of topics, including the laws of Teen Programming, and creating a dynamic and irresistible volunteer program at your library. I am still processing much of what I learned, but one thing I found amazing across all of the sessions I attended, was how in different ways all the participants were talking about how do we also include Tweens? How do we build that relationship with them at the tween age, so that when they are the teen age and they have other options (aka: can “literally drive away,” as one person put it), they stay?
While I won’t claim to have all the answers, I believe we must continue to advocate for Tweens, push for their inclusion, while also celebrating their individuality. They aren’t Teens yet, but they don’t always want to programs with younger kids. They are also unique; patron by patron, neighborhood by neighborhood, branch by branch, system by system. The interests and tolerances for things vary. For instance, last year when I did the Edible Haunted House program at the Grove Hall Branch, tweens shared supplies and tables with younger kids. At the North End, the sight of third graders sent my tween boys packing.
It is important that we push to form and maintain partnerships with Middle Schools and that we dispel the myths about some of our collections that I have seen teachers and parents unknowingly perpetuate. I am a firm believer in allowing kids to read from whatever part of the library they want. I’ve found that often times if they feel something is too complex or contains subject matter they are not ready for, then they, the reader, will find something else. I know that isn’t always the case, but I feel uncomfortable telling someone what they can and cannot read, because of their age or grade.
While at YALSA, I had the opportunity to hear Paolo Bacigalupi speak about his book Ship Breaker (2010), and some of his other works. As soon as I heard the premise of Ship Breaker, I immediately thought of B, one of my tweens who I knew would love it. Recently, B has been struggling to figure out where he fits in our library world, both in programming and books. He loves James Patterson’s Middle School series, but at the same time doesn’t find them fulfilling. He’s also unsure if he’s ready for some of the content in the Teen section. Partially from his own thoughts, but also because he said he’s always been told to stay away from that area. You can imagine his surprise when he discovered Ship Breaker said Teen FIC on the spine label. My point from this anecdote? When we forgo the myths and stereotypes around our collections, something amazing can happen.
In the future, I would like to see a push for Tween Services, much like the push that has been for Teen Services. It seems everywhere I look, from the books being published, to the programs being offered, and the discussions being had at conferences that we are trending that way. I hope that is the case, and that we do continue to trend tweenward.
By the way, if you’re interested in viewing slides from the Symposium presentation, check here!