by Debbie Raindl and Melody Leak
John Ed Keeter Public Library of Saginaw
When we think of keeping harmony and peace between teen and adult patrons during summer programming times, one word leaps to mind-RESPECT. It starts with mutual respect between librarians and teens and overflows to the interactions between other adults and teens. Based within respect is SINCERITY. Teenagers can spot a fake smile a mile away. If they receive respect from adults, they are likely to respond in a like fashion. Being shown respect is appreciated and edifies their worth as a human being. Don't we all want to feel that others value us as a person? This reaffirms our self-esteem, and we all know what importance teens place on others' opinions of the world and themselves.
Along with respect and sincerity, INVOLVEMENT between young adults who visit the library frequently and librarians is important. Make a point to smile, speak with them and inquire about their lives. Engage them in conversations, especially those who do not attempt to even make eye contact. Let other adults see that we all have a stake in these teens' futures. Use teens as volunteers and role models so adults can see them in different situations. Welcome teens and adults to programs together so that there is some interaction. Advise the teens that they are representatives of the library and you expect certain behavior. Most teens will rise to your expectations.
Ask teens their opinions on general and specific things as to how the library can better serve them. These questions can be asked during casual times or a club meeting. After you receive their suggestions, evaluate them and FOLLOW THROUGH. Be sure to personally show them that you have facilitated their recommendations. This personal attention to detail will go a long way in building a positive relationship.
All the respect, sincerity, smiles and follow-through actions will be the foundation for the teens behaving in a positive manner in the library. If negative behavior or horseplay begins, address it as soon as possible in a way that does not embarrass the teens in front of anyone. Reward their positive behavior. Advertise teen accomplishments by word of mouth and in local papers. A pat on the back goes a long way.
In ending, we have had a wonderful event take place at our library as a result of this very subject. We have a teen who comes into the library daily to use the Internet and who is also involved in our Anime Club and our monthly teen programs. He walks everywhere he goes with home finances being tight. On a recent Saturday, our director found a brand new bicycle locked up by our employee entrance. In the bookdrop was a letter to this teen. The essence of the letter was that the bike was for this teen to reward him for his hard work and leadership abilities. The letter went on to ask him to "accept this act of generosity as a reward for a job well done and to ask him to continue using this natural given talent as a leader." It was signed, "Sincerely, A Town Resident." This generous citizen had to be a person who visits the library often and overheard bits and pieces of this teen's conversations in passing. It is wonderful to see a deserving teen receive an act of kindness and to know recognition was given by an adult. Goodness surely prevails.