A lot of times I think we get caught up in library stress and just get completely overwhelmed- a bazillion meetings about programs and summer reading, policy strategies, material orders, reference shifts, actual programs, and everything else that goes on within teen services goes on day in and day out and we get into a routine and we get lost, and sometimes lose sight of how important our work is.
We work with teens and touch their lives every day, and you never know what moment might reach these teens and become a defining moment for them. I went to the Maverick panel at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference and listened to Jeff Smith (Bone) talk about how he had the Bone characters from when he was 5, and when he was 9 he went to the library to try and get his drawings to look like those in the newspapers, and he just couldn’t do it. He went to the librarian, and she mentioned that she thought that they were inked, and found a book about the art of cartooning and comics, and it described how cartoons were paneled, inked, and colored, all the lettering, and the steps- that book opened up the world of comic creation for him, and set him on the path that he is now on. And this year we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of Bone. Yet if it weren’t for this librarian taking the time with him to find that book, he’s not sure where he’d be.
Ray Bradbury has made no secret of how he educated himself after high school in public libraries- he would be what YALSA is now terming ‘young adult’ and what the publishers term ‘new adults’. Neil Gaiman fervently expresses his love of libraries and librarians:
They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read. They taught me how to order books from other libraries on inter-library loans. They had no snobbery about anything I read. They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help. They treated me as another reader – nothing less or more – which meant they treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old.
Think for a minute what would have happened if these three authors were treated differently by their librarians? And these are just three authors- EVERY SINGLE AUTHOR I’ve every heard talk or I’ve ever talked to has a story about how libraries or librarians have influenced their lives.
Yet we as youth and teen services forget this when we get buried under the everyday life of work. We are important, not only for the services and programs that we provide but also for the everyday interactions that we have- the ones that we do every single day, that we may not think are any different, but that may be the all important turning point for someone else.
So when everything gets you down and just sucks, remember, you are important to someone out there.