I’m liking— a lot—the new blogger I’ve discovered, a librarian by the nom de Web of Miss Julie. If you know me, you know libraries are one of the few institutions that warm the cockles of my heart and librarians are some of my favorite people. But, as in any other profession, librarians represent a cross-section of humanity. Miss Julie is the Lewis- Black-meets-Vivian-Gussin-Paley of librariandom. I’ll have more to say about Miss Julie’s Blouevre* another time. For now I’ll give you a taste:
It’s easy to love babies and toddlers. They’re designed that way–big eyes, easy smiles, chubby limbs. It’s hard to love your average teenager. They slouch, they sneer, they argue–but they’re designed that way. They’re trying on personalities along with their clothes and hairstyles, and they’re trying to find out who they want to be in the world. Once they know who they are, they’ll find out what they want to do, and begin to take a wider interest in the world. Teens are designed to have an intense preoccupation with the self, because they are trying to figure out who that “self” is. And is there a better place to pursue this self-discovery than the library?
The best libraries and best librarians know these things about teens, mostly through observation. Just as it would serve children’s librarians better to take child development courses, it would serve teen librarians better to do the same. 2 Adolescence is a turbulent, fascinating time in human development, and if you don’t know what it entails and why it happens the way it does, you’re going to be confused, and that confusion will lead to anger, irrational behavior, and bad choices.
Erikson has a concept called “psychosocial moratorium”, which is a concept that adolescents need a time-out from “the sort of excessive responsibilities and obligations that might restrict the young person’s pursuit of self-discovery” What does that mean? Teens need time to hang out, without being told what to do, as a developmental NEED. They are not lazy; they are not stupid; they are not purposefully trying to ignore you; when they sit there, with their friends, being obnoxious, they are actually HARD AT WORK, BECOMING PEOPLE.
Steve Teeri 3 understands this, and is doing good work in Detroit supporting teens’ need to discover, push boundaries, and explore. He also makes a good point about remembering your own time as a teenager, and the stupid crap you probably did/said/wore:
Young adults are at a pivotal time in their lives. As they near adulthood, teens try on different personas and identities, in an attempt to figure out just who the heck they are. When I was a teen it was the exact same process. For me it was being preppy with my letter jacket and khakis one day. Doc Mart[e]n steel-toe boots with a black shirt and jeans another. Maybe a Hypercolor color-changing shirt and cut-off pair of jean shorts that we won’t talk about any further. Matched together with this quest for identity, is a rush of hormones and limitless teen energy. It’s enough to make any settled adult run for cover.
He also issues a challenge to those who are not passionate about the work, a gauntlet which I’ve tossed down so many times on this blog that my hand is starting to hurt:When speaking about our teens, I try never to say “the teens,” it is always “my teens” or “our teens.” I take full responsibility and ownership of their experience and growth as people when in my department. It sounds basic, but I have heard stories about YA staff who do not want to interact with their teens. If that is the case, hit the eject button and get out of YA immediately.
*You heard it here first on KidLitVulture, in the first week of January 2012. Apologies to the French, who will put me in butter sauce for that.