Category Archives: Libraries

Teen Rights in the Public Library

As of now the staff of Ontario Public Libraries are my heroes!

“Why Matt why?” I hear you cry, “Why are those crazy Canucks your heroes?”

Let me tell you why! Have a read of this:


Young people are valuable members of our library community who deserve the same respect, dignity and human rights as all library members. This document provides a framework for developing library services to teens that meet the educational, informational, and cultural and leisure needs of young people in ways that are developmentally appropriate.

Each public library has a different community to serve and therefore different priorities and needs. although specific services for teens have not been well established in all libraries, these goals are created in the belief that young adulthood is a unique life stage and that young adults are entitled to the same quality of library services offered to other age groups in the population. (adapted from the IFLA Guidelines for Library Services for Young adults, 2006 and the YAlSA Guidelines for library Services to teens, ages 12-18, 2006.) the goal of library services for teens is to assist with the transition from children’s services to adult services and to provide access to both resources and an environment that meets the needs of young people for intellectual, emotional and social development.

Teens in Ontario Public libraries have the right to:


The library establishes clear policy statements concerning the right to free access by young adults to library resources and information sources; and respect for the rights of young adults to select materials appropriate to their needs without censorship, the library’s teen collection, policies and services should be consistent with the concepts of intellectual freedom defined by the Cla, ola and Ontario human rights code.


The library integrates library service to teens into the overall plan, budget and service program for the library. Library service to teens is integrated with those offered to other user groups.


The library incorporates funding for materials and services for teens in the library operating budget and ensures there is equitable distribution of resources to support programs and services for young adults.


The library provides a wide spectrum of current materials of interest to young adults to encourage lifelong learning, literacy, reading motivation, and reader development. the library endeavors to develop collections that encourage leisure reading, support homework and school success and responds to gender and cultural diversity. the library provides unfettered accessto technology including social networking, licensed databases, and other online library resources for teens./ o p l a 23


The library provides identifiable spaces for teens that are separate from children’s spaces where possible, reflects their lifestyle and allows for teens to use this library space for leisure or study, either independently or in groups.


The library promotes friendly, positive, non-biased customer interactions with teens, providing staff development and training and ensures that services for teens embrace cultural and gender diversity and economic differences. Library staff will endeavor to respect the teen’s need for privacy and non-judgmental service and assist young adults in acquiring the skills to effectively access all library resources and become information literate.


The library fosters youth development by providing programs for teens that contribute to literacy, life- long learning and healthy youth development. The library endeavors to provide volunteer opportunities for helping others through community service hours including participating on library advisory Boards, and other projects that help develop a sense of responsibility and community involvement. The library’s teen services initiatives are effectively managed according to best practices in the field of Youth Services.


Library staff is knowledgeable about adolescent development and age appropriate resources for young adults inclusive of those with special needs. The library provides services by teen specialists as well as by others who are trained to serve teens.


The Library works in partnership with other community agencies and organizations to support all aspects of healthy, successful youth development.


All this and more can be found in The Ontario Public Library Association Teen Services Benchmarks and Statistical Report 2013. There is a lot we can take from the report so take the time and read it and maybe pass it on to colleagues and friends who may have an interest in teen library services.

The Arguments Against (and For) Public Libraries in 1850

The Public Libraries Act of 1850 was tabled by Liberal MPs in the face of Conservative opposition.

The major arguments against the Bill were:

  • Although the boroughs were represented by elected bodies, many people argued that the Act enforced taxation without consent.
  • There was opposition to the Act simply on the grounds that founding and maintaining the new libraries would mean an increase in taxation at all, consensual or otherwise.
  • Concerns were expressed that it would infringe on private enterprise and the existing library provision such as mechanics’ institutes.
  • Access to certain publications would neither promote civil society nor act as a form of social control, and libraries would instead become sites of social agitation. This issue was linked to the common concern that extending education to the lower orders of society would lead to libraries becoming working class “lecture halls” “which would give rise to an unhealthy agitation”.
  • Others felt that there were more pressing concerns, and wondered about the necessity for a library when literacy levels were so low.
    The Bill was favoured by many people provided there was a cap on the level of taxation, on the grounds that:

  • Public libraries would provide facilities for self-improvement through books and reading for all classes, not just those who were wealthy enough to afford their own private libraries and collections.
  • The greater levels of education attained by providing public libraries would result in lower crime rates.
    It is amazing how little has changed in 163 years.


    On receiving this information, Lucius Apronius, successor to Camillus, alarmed more by the dishonour of his own men than by the glory of the enemy, ventured on a deed quite exceptional at that time and derived from old tradition. He flogged to death every tenth man drawn by lot from the disgraced cohort.

    Tacitus, Annals, 3.21

    De-ci-ma-tion Historically, the meaning of the word decimate is ‘kill one in every ten of (a group of people)’. This sense has been more or less totally superseded by the later, more general sense ‘kill, destroy, or remove a large proportion of’, as in the virus has decimated the population.

    While on a national level since the cuts began two years ago one in 10 libraries has not been closed (yet) on a local level a number of councils have cut their library services down to mere shadows of their former selves.

    In 2010 and 2011 when the first cuts were announced there were rumours of closures and redundancies; and, in many cases the reality was worse than the rumours.

    I was one of the early casualties of the library cuts – in 2011 my post was abolished after months of being reassured that it was an essential part of the service and I was the first to leave.

    In a way I was lucky as I did not have the opportunity to apply for remaining posts and have to go toe to toe with colleagues who remained, there was also the fact that the day after I was cut I was offered a post in a school library where I am still working.

    After two years of austerity measures library staff are well-aware of what is going to happen. Libraries have had what fat they had trimmed away. In some places the cuts have been down to the bone. For any more meaningful savings to be made from libraries more branches will be closed, staff will be axed and hours reduced. Library staff that are still in post would, in many cases, have gone up against colleagues and friends for the jobs they have, they won and now they have to do it again. Council staff are demoralised, after tow years of uncertainty they will be pared down again, I have been chatting to a friend about the bunker mentality that some librarians are adopting and focusing on services in their branches at the expense of team-working across their local authorities.

    Between 2010 and 2016 most library services will lose 30% to 40% of their budget. The extent varies, but few organisations can take a hit in their budget of that size and carry on unchanged

    Once the dust has settled we will be lucky if it is only one in 10 libraries that have closed.

    A Major Problem with Libraries

    The problem with libraries is not generally with libraries (well not with most libraries anyway).

    To get an idea of some of the things that librarians in libraries do, the inspiring Lauren Smith in 2011 wrote a list that you can read on the Voices for the Library site here.
    A major problem that libraries have is the perception that many people have about them; people do not value things if they do not know the true value inherent within them. The root of this problem lies with the staff – Librarians and others who work therein. If you have read the list above you may think “Wait a minute, how does that work?”

    Let me tell you.

    As a profession we excel at doing things with a minuscule budget, we are good at providing services, training and making welcoming spaces for the community. Unfortunately we are generally absolutely abysmal at promoting what we do. We know what we do, the people that use libraries know what we do (as far as it intersects with what they need).

    I was at the Youth Libraries Group Unconference on Saturday and saw old friends and made new ones and in the discussion groups that I attended I heard some of what people were up to in their branches. They were doing amazing things, simple but wonderful things, and generally they felt that it was nothing special. This attitude of I am just doing my job and nobody will be interested in what I do is one that I have run into many times over the past eight years that I have been running Teen Librarian and it makes me tear out what is left of my hair in frustration.

    I speak to a number of people across the country that I have met over the years (both virtually and in real life) and keep tabs on what they are doing with regards to running teen programming in their libraries. When I meet new people who share my views on teen library services I have begged and pleaded for them to write something for me to share what they are doing with others so that there is a pool of knowledge that will grow into a sea. Sometimes people are constrained by time and – hey we are librarians I think we all know how limited that particular resource can be but usually they do not think they are doing anything amazing or that anyone else would be interested in hearing about it.

    I am not talking about the Headspace project or the Reading Activist work being led by The Reading Agency although those could also do with having a higher profile. What really annoys me is the teen and youth services librarians, usually working on their own who through ingenuity and/or passion for a particular hobby or interest have fashioned events or clubs that can run on a shoestring and then not think that it is anything special.
    I am not saying that if everyone shares their ideas and examples of best practice that everything will magically become better, I think we all know that our chosen careers will become even more difficult over the years but if we share what we have – the ideas for running events, thoughts on what could work and indeed what has not worked then it will forge closer ties between the staff in the libraries of Britain and make our lives easier. We must also learn to be more proactive in getting the word out about what we do; when council heads show their ignorance as to the rules are regarding service provision that makes me wonder what else they do not know about libraries. We need to embrace the educational aspect of our jobs and tell people what we do.

    Sharing is caring!

    School Libraries & Youth Library Services: a dual threat

    School Libraries are not statutory in the UK and Prison Libraries are; I have heard friends and colleagues making jokes that soon young readers would have to break the law before there would be someone available to help them choose a book.

    The DfES believes “that a good school library service can have a significant impact on pupils’ literacy.” They would like to see “all schools have a well-stocked library and all secondary schools employ an information professional” but they believe that “this should be a local decision, not one mandated by Government. It is up to schools to target resources appropriately according to their individual circumstances and to make their own choices about school library provision and book resourcing.”

    Public Libraries are a statutory service, Local Authorities are required by law to offer a comprehensive library service.

    Over 200 Libraries have closed in 2012 alone.

    Ed Vaisey is still ‘not currently minded‘ to intervene to defend the statutory duty to provide a ‘comprehensive’ service

    Michael Gove believes that pupils should read 50 books a year – the equivalent of about a novel a week and that the academic demands placed on English schoolchildren had been “too low for too long”.

    It is a well-known fact among librarians that we do more than stamp return dates in books, pack away returned items, book people onto computers and baby-sit for parents who need to pop to the shops quickly. Unfortunately it seems that this is not well-known to the general public at large.

    I will not give a complete run down of what libraries offer all segments of the community as this is predominantly a blog about teens, libraries, schools, news and reviews (amongst a few other things) I will focus on some of the teen services libraries offer. The Reading Agency developed the Heaspace programme and from that MyVoice UK. On local levels librarians have developed and run individual reading, manga and library focus groups giving young people a say in what services are offered their libraries, most public libraries have a dedicated teen/YA area, there area gaming groups, homework areas, study spaces, volunteering opportunities. I have been involved first hand with setting up and running reading, manga and gaming groups for teenagers in three local authorities as well as offering training and outreach to library staff in others; I have worked with young people in care volunteering opportunities, as well as developing school outreach projects with colelagues, I have run the youth wing of a library development project. These are just things I have been involved with in public libraries off the top of my head

    For many teenagers and children, libraries are often the only place that they can come into contact with books and people that are willing and able to help them choose something that they will be able to read and enjoy. The library can be found either in their school or the local public library.

    Not every library offers everything for teenagers but most libraries at least offered a collection of books and a safe place to spend some time. Now there are 200 fewer safe places for them to gather and be introduced to new authors, old books and other literary delights.

    When schools are inspected libraries are often overlooked or ignored, the inspectors did not even speak to me last week when they were at my school and I know from some discussion groups that I am part of that I am not teh only school librarian that has happened to. It is from these groups that I have received a vibrant welcome and a lot of truly excellent advice when I was a new school librarian.

    There are many brilliant school librarians out there, some like myself are refugees from the wanton destruction of public libraries that has been taking place since last year. Other school librarians have been blazing the trail for years, and for all the truly amazing school librarians there are running fantastic school libraries there are many more schools that do not see the need for a librarian and in some cases even books – because they have the internet.

    When staff who are against the wire look to the government for help all our political masters do is shrug and say “It’s not my job to make that decision guv!”

    Besides, books are cheap, everyone can afford to buy all the books they need, Michael Gove has made sure that every state school has a lovely King James Bible AND he is asking authors for their lists of their favourite books.

    Pretty soon I am sure we will wake up and hear the clocks striking thirteen.

    That was depressing! Sorry, it has been churning in my head for a while and I needed to get it out. As bleak as things seem I truly do not believe that Libraries are lost. Coming up for a decade ago when I first came to the UK Libraries seemed to be on the top of the list of public services that were being expanded and developed. Links to other local government offices were being bolted on to the library service, I was swept into teen services and found it was something I loved and ran with it.

    I believe in the work I do and have done, working in a school I have access to more teenagers than I had when I was in public libraries. For teen library services school and public libraries offer an almost symbiotic service. Public libraries can offer books that school libraries may find it hard to justify while in my experience School Libraries can cover the non-fiction side of the service for students better than public libraries. When both sides are in synch the service can be amazing but with the current butchery going on both sides are taking damage and the service suffers.

    More depressing news is that I have been reading about Dave Cameron wanting to clamp down on and reform judicial reviews:

    Cameron confirmed he wanted civil servants to stop conducting routine equality impact assessments for legislation, which assess the likely effect of new policies on women, disabled people and people from ethnic minorities, and to end cumbersome 12-week public consultations that delayed ministers from pressing ahead with their plans.

    Anti-library closure groups have been using judicial reviews to reverse soem decisons that wee made to close libraries.

    With organisations such as Voices for the Library and the Mass Lobby for School Librarians already standing against the destruction of out libraries perhaps it is time to start forming teen political pressure groups. There are school librarians across the country that have been involved in the Lobby March and VFtL must have youth service advocates in their ranks so if we can start radicalising the teens that we work with we can get a bigger voice – mobilising the upcoming generation of voters.

    It is just a thought…

    Schools Need Libraries by Candy Gourlay

    YA in SA: YA Library Services in Cape Town, South Africa – a guest post by Rudi Wicomb

    Bless Matthew’s soul. The dude (an allowable word if you live near the sea – I do.) totally came out of left field when he mailed me and asked me to contribute to his blog. (Which I hope my superiors never ever read or else I might be subjected to the Managerial Finger Twinge. See my blog for what that means. Plug)

    He asked me to list what we’re doing in teen services in our libraries in Cape Town, South Africa. Also, to discuss the services in our libraries and to mention anything in particular I have done in my library (in Cape Town, South Africa).

    I think my initial response to curl up into a foetal position and stay there until he went back home was probably the best and least painful response. But then, I wouldn’t be a Public Librarian in Cape Town, South Africa, if a little pain was going to be the issue. And although he doesn’t know it, he’s the one who set me on the path to Comic Books and YA ‘stuff’ evangelism. (Stuff here being a technical term that I use interchangeably to make me seem more intelligent. So far, I don’t think it has worked, but it’ll do in pinch). So I, in the total dude sense of the word, owe him. (I still use his method of preparing Graphic Novels for circulation).

    So, what happens from here on can thus be firmly blamed on Matthew. What I hoped was a short little paragraph, turned into something *shudder* anecdotal and slightly personal even. I couldn’t tell you about my experiences with YA “stuff” if I didn’t give you a little bit of background first about me, the Public Library Service in Cape Town and finally, elves bearing gifts.

    And it all started with comics and Graphic Novels….

    Comics get old-school librarians’ backs up. (Think of every horror movie you’ve seen where the plucky heroine/hero sees the big bad in all its horrible glory, now times 10.) As a reader of Comics and lover of the Comic book medium I couldn’t let that stand.

    So, with the fortitude of a young librarian who has not been broken by too much shelving and my trusty power point presentation, I decided to change some minds by presenting a fair, unbiased view of comics to librarians in Cape Town. The emphasis being that there is NO downside to stocking four colour pages of pure unadulterated joy (be they Marvel, DC, Batman, Superman or even Sandman) in their respective libraries.

    It worked!

    The biggest public library in Cape Town asked me for selection criteria and a list of recommended Graphic Novels for their shelves. It was a vindication for me on many levels which was only eclipsed by the findings of a Canadian educational and psychological study 3 years ago, that stated quite simply: Comics were good for you. Period.

    (The YA ‘stuff’ comes in about now. Thank you for bearing with me.)

    The perfect demographic for comics in public libraries are teens.

    That’s what I told my librarian colleagues and that’s what I believe (and all the scientists and educators agreeing is just gravy). The plan was to get teens excited about reading and keeping them at the library week after week, to grab Comics. Then, when the opportunity presented itself, to slip in a YA novel and hope like hell I didn’t undo this well nurtured enthusiasm.

    The plan played out in my library without an issue.

    I convinced my boss that it was absolutely crucial, to the point of the world ending, that we needed the teen section front and centre, so it’s the first thing you see when you look towards the English fiction section. She needed little arm twisting when I asked for regular buys of YA books.

    And then I did the unthinkable.

    I started talking to THEM, and I asked the staff to do the same.

    If you want to court controversy, ask a public librarian to hold up the queue to ask a teenager if they really want to take out that book as oppose to these three books in the same series, that might or might not be something they might like and then casually mention the Girl falls in love with a Vampire that wants to eat her.

    At the time (and now still) this sort of one on one marketing helped despite no organisational mass marketing tools. Even though most times we received no visible reaction from teens at the desk, the lending stats on titles that we ‘pitched’ told a different story. Still, what we needed was a magic push to get bodies back through the door and short of teleporting a whole lot of teenagers against their will and giving them a ‘read this or die’ ultimatum, nothing could really provide that push we needed.

    That all changed when a Mormon lady decided to write about a girl with a vampire and werewolf fetish.

    Twilight. *sigh*

    If you would ask any public librarian in Cape Town what the significance of Twilight was for our libraries, they would have said something along the lines of:

    ”It was just another popular fad book.” (Or, “junk”).

    This is true. (Except for the junk part though).

    It didn’t have the market awareness and GIGANTIC fandom that Harry Potter had but I believe it still left a lot of public librarians wrong footed because suddenly girls AND BOYS of the Teen persuasion were coming in with their parents. The unseen demographic suddenly got seen and YA sections in public libraries in Cape Town, tucked in their corners, out of sight (and out of mind), suddenly had a whole lot of bodies hanging around them looking for the this Twilight “nonsense”(or so-called “junk”).

    What followed was:

    Thoughtful customer orientated libraries (the good ones) bought the books in good numbers and supplied the hungry masses, while other libraries approached it from the “let’s wait and see” or “if we ignore them they’ll bugger off” approach (the bad ones). The exceptional libraries realised they had an opportunity and moved their YA sections into the light, bought similar titles, and new authors, marketed them (with home-made posters and an overabundance of glitter) and gained consistent numbers in the YA demographic.

    This bore fruit when South African novel Spud by John van de Ruit crossed over from adult to teen reading. In libraries it rivalled Twilights’ circulation numbers. This was due to the word of mouth generated by YA readers, who were now all talking about the books they were reading. The YA demo was staying with intent to loiter and read.

    What Twilight wrought, was a clear indication that YA readers and the Teen demographic, when mobilised by whatever they craved so intensely, could have wonderful positive effects on circulation as well as shape market trends. (The impact on literacy levels and comprehension levels was something no one tried to find out, but, I’d like to believe it was positive.) It also helped that they were vocal about what they wanted to read next, which in my library’s case was a clear call to meet demands to get the YA horde to stay.

    Some libraries took that momentum and used it to cultivate a readership, but others let the tide ebb. YA readers not seeing the books they wanted, left. Or that’s what my colleagues believed. But they were in for a shock when the tide came back in with The Hunger Games. A handful of libraries stocked the book before a movie was even announced, promoted it and used it as carrot for keeping YA readers in the library. So when the wave hit (again), a demand could be met because the exceptional libraries have staff members dedicated to ensuring the YA section is stocked with appetising titles. Unfortunately, in even the exceptional libraries, this staff member usually has to shout very loudly to be given a fair hearing.
    Sometimes, in public libraries popular can be a four letter word.

    At present I believe we are at a tipping point in our public libraries.

    The YA ‘stuff’ is not going away despite some of my colleagues’ best efforts to not care. The short sighted need to still believe in the “preservation of the library” against so called unworthy material is censorship, plain and simple.

    Nothing exists in a vacuum. The deeper significance is ultimately not so deep: we keep pushing away a customer base in a time and place where we can’t afford to. Doing so, when all available data indicates that people are reading less, opting for alternative methods to get their bibliographic fix and buying fewer books due to high prices, is tantamount to negligence.

    You see, the stuff of YA ‘stuff’ in Public Libraries in Cape Town, South Africa is one of potential that is for now unfulfilled. The why of it is particularly complex and terribly involved and would in effect require a full time study, 3 bags of ice, a best of Barry Manilow compilation and red bouncy ball. Since the budget is simply just not there at all, I have taken a stab at explaining the whole thing and have decided that the reasoning for the (non)state of YA services is in fact:

    Reasoning, the First.
    What the Public Libraries lack in Cape Town is an effective marketing tool/methodology/magic wand to market the material that sits on our shelves. The drive gets channelled to other pursuits that are equally worthy: reading, comprehension and basic literacy but effective marketing would have a positive effect on those initiatives as well. (And the City’s Public Libraries footprint on social media is about the size of an ant’s indentations across a block of butter. But I can’t say more: Managerial finger twinge.)
    The skill (be it technological, biological or mineral) to take a book, track its market potential, communicate to users about its merits and allow users to comment and interact just isn’t there.
    The thing is, we are good enablers of reading but what we are crappy sustainers.
    What that means in not so indistinct terms, is that we’re reacting to what our patrons want and not being proactive.

    The difference being: that 15 people will have to ask for 50 Shades as oppose to having it waiting when person number 1 walks in the door.

    Reasoning the Second:

    Imagine this sort of reactive behaviour applied to YA books/services and a demographic that at the best of times is tolerated in a Public Library/ies.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that NO YA books are bought for and by libraries.

    Not at all.

    What I am saying is that YA books in public libraries in Cape Town end up in libraries because;

  • a quota of the money for books needs to be spent.
  • not all the monies can go to study materials.
  • it made a bajilliion dollars and some pimply faced ‘person’ wants to read it.
  • a staff member recommended the book because it was good, well reviewed and would circulate knowing the demographic, circulate well.
  • If you wondering, the last reason is the one that public libraries in Cape Town should use to buy YA books.
    The hard realisation which I am trying to soften with all these snarky asides and failed attempt at humour is that YA services in Public Libraries in Cape Town, don’t exist.

    It’s a hard pill to swallow. The Library and Information Services Department’s specialised groups have been established along lines of Children’s and Adult Interest groups amongst our librarians. YA has a small representation in the children’s groups but not in any meaningful sense. These groups generate a lot of genre based content ranging from reading lists, all the way to developing basic marketing strategies but none seem to touch on the specifics issues or needs of the YA demographic.

    Instead, what we have is more like a movement that exists despite the uninterested that seems organisationally hardwired into the existing work structure. (Any more explanation about that and I’d be shot.) There’s a movement of public librarians within the Public Libraries in Cape Town, who not only keep in touch and recommend and talk about (lament) books, but also try to persuade, cajole, wheedle and just plain nag the Powers That Be to give a little ground about starting a YA interest group, developing better marketing tools and branding for libraries and its services, making eBooks available for cell phones and getting the Public Library “Institution” seen on Facebook, Twitter and Mxit. (Something the Local Authority wants to prevent with all their might).

    It’s not ideal, but grassroots movements have been known to foment great change, and we wouldn’t be public librarians, Cape Town – South Africa, if we didn’t think we could try.

    …and Elves bearing gifts: Just say no* .


    *Thank you Terry Pratchett. Just because.

    Rudi Wicomb is a South African Librarian based in Cape Town. You can find him blogging at or follow him on Twitter:

    What I have learned after a year of being a solo practitioner (an incomplete list)

  • There are possibly five people in the school apart from me who have any idea about what I do (two of them are students)
  • I am on my own (in the school)
  • In the UK I am one of many (twitter, e-mail)
  • In the year that I have not had them I have developed a lot of respect for the backroom teams of cataloguers, book processors and those that handle orders in public libraries – I miss them!
  • It takes me approximately 10 minutes to process a softcover book – from cataloguing to covering
  • Time is NOT on my side
  • It has taken me a year to *almost* be happy with the layout of the library (I have changed it six times during the year)
  • Students will never tell you that they like a particular layout but once you have changed it and they finally notice it is different they will complain
  • The Justin Bieber biography is one of the most popular leisure reading non-fiction books in the school
  • The One Direction biography is the most requested non-fiction title (I have not bought it as my budget did not allow)
  • The English Department is my friend (but they can’t have my budget)
  • Chewing gum is the work of the devil (but I knew that anyway)
  • National Geographic magazine has not been opened in the year that I have worked at my school (bye bye)
  • Tips on Working with Teens: Props are Important

    Props can be broken down into three categories:

    Active, Passive and Inbetween/Interactive props

    Active Props

    Active props are those that you can use to initiate conversation with a teen or group of teens, these can be books, magazines or things as simple as a sign up sheet for a group activity.

    A book is perhaps the easiest and simplest prop to use. If you are new to the library you do not want to go out brandishing a book; the first thing to do is find out where the teens lurk in your library. These days it is usually the Teen/YA area. You need to be in that area before the teens arrive, working not just loitering as (unless you are a teen yourself) hanging around a teen area can give the wrong impression. Once they have gotten used to your presence and started treating yu like part of the furniture you may be able to pick up on their interests and reading habits. The next time they come in to the library you can have a book in your hand that tallies with what you gleaned from their activities previously and when they start chatting you could insert yourself into their conversation with a “If you like that then you may enjoy this!” and showcase the book. Even if they do not take the book you will at least have been able to initiate conversation which can make things easier in future.

    A piece of paper can have many uses, firstly it can be used to take notes after you have said something along the lines of: “Hi I am [insert name here] and I am the new Teen/Youth Services/ Young Adult Librarian and I am hoping to run clubs and activities for young people in the library, what sort of groups would you like to see here?” Then you could either jot down what they say, or give each of them a sheet clearly marked with a space for names and ideas.

    Passive props

    These are generally things that you wear or can have on your desk or around you if you are working in the Teen Area.  They can also be more exciting and in some cases unique.

    The most successful passive prop I own is a Domo-kun lanyard that I used to use to hold my library name badge, there was a massive manga reading group of young people that used to come in and when they saw it they invariably asked where I got it, and, could they have it?







    More recently I have become the proud owner of a Mockingjay pin; now that gets a lot of attention – from teens as well as adults who are in the know, I have received the usual questions as to where I got it and can they have it, not only that but I have created a dystopia novel conversation group in my library based on a single pin (and the multimillion advertising for the movie and the books).
    Hats can work as props, but are more limiting indoors, clothing can also be used but depending on the dress code where you work your mileage may vary!



    In-between or Interactive props

    These are props that fall somewhere between Active and Passive ones, they can include musical instruments, games consoles and even plush furry toys.

    The furry beast is a prop that I used infrequently and mostly when one or more of the kids I worked with were upset – giving I teen a hug is just about acceptable for a female librarian but for a male member of staff it is the sort of thing that can get you reported for improper behaviour, but having something plush for them to cuddle until they feel better is a lot safer all round.


    My ukulele has attracted a lot of attention in my current library as I take it in to practice during my lunch break but games consoles will give you an automatic audience no matter where you are!














    Any number of props can be used to engage with young people, especially if it is something that you are personally interested in or know a lot about.  They do not have to be big or expensive – cheap and cheerful items work just a swell as long as they are eye catching then that is all you need.

    We Love Libraries – The Movie

    Courtesy of