I am no longer officially a Teen Librarian.
I might be having an existential crisis about it.
This past Wednesday I started at a new branch in my large, urban, library system. It’s one of the advantages of such a system that changing branches doesn’t mean leaving the system entirely. Each branch is very different, and since I’m moving from the southernmost branch in the city to the northernmost branch, a lot about my day to day experiences are going to be different.
I’m very excited about my new branch! I’m already sure that the Children’s Librarian and I will get along great and collaborate well, that there will be a lot of opportunity for me to learn and grow in responsibility. I know the experience will help me when I’m ready to start applying to Branch Manager positions – as I have accepted this as my probable future. I’m excited to do programing for the large population of queer women in this neighborhood, to potentially turn it a little bit into “the Lesbian Branch.”
I’m excited to do a whole different set of programs – for job preparation workshops and computer classes, for adult coloring and and crafting circles, and to break out my knitting skills. I’m excited to be serving the community where I actually live and have a long term investment.
I’m excited to serve the twenty-something patrons, who are so overlooked and undervalued. To reach out to the colleges, bring new adults into the library. To help a generation that was previously out of my jurisdiction.
I’m excited to get away from certain things that led to my seeking a transfer in the first place. To getting rid of a toxic and hostile co-worker. Maybe more than anything else at this particular moment in time, after 2 years of commuting 1.5 hours EACH WAY, I am exited to walk 15 minutes to work.
I’m excited about all these things, about new relationships and adventures. But I’m sad about leaving the teen department.
Yes we all kind of do everything in the branches, and distinctions are largely irrelevant, except in some ways they aren’t. On Wednesday, I changed my email signature to say “Adult Services Librarian” and I almost broke down and cried.
I have been working with teens since I was a teen. Peer leadership gave way to tutoring high school students when I was in college, which led to teaching middle school/high school after I’d gotten my degree. I’ve worked with teens one-on-one, as a classroom teacher, as a theater director/choreographer, as a mentor and as a librarian. I’ve built my entire adult life around that distinction- I am a person who works with teens.
I work with teens because it’s a magical and horrible time of life. Because teens need us more than anyone and they’re the future of the freaking planet. Because teens are wonderful and brilliant and are generally treated like trash by adults who disregard their incredible gifts and contributions to our society. Because I remember what it was like to be a teen. Because I had mentors to help me through it, and everyone deserves that too.
Leaving the Teen Department feels like a betrayal. It feels like I’m turning my back on Teens. Like I’m abandoning all teens everywhere. It feels like I’m joining the ranks of adults who find teens obnoxious and loud, who don’t care or understand, who don’t take the time to listen to what teens are saying. It feels like I’m becoming one of the large masses of Other Adults against whom I’ve been fighting my entire life. Like I’m just another in a long line of grownups who abandon them when something better comes along.
That’s what it feels like, still, a few weeks after my decision. Even though I know in my head, and also in my heart, that that’s not true.
I know that I’m just moving my fight to a different department, that now I’ll be advocating for the importance of teens and teen services from within the adult services department. And that – even though I HATE the fact that this is a reality – my voice will have more credibility to many people since it is coming from within adult services instead of from within teen.
I know that I’m putting myself in a position to move up, to be a branch manager someday who is intensely supportive of teen services, who will spend a lot of time telling other branch managers the importance of teen services and have the experience to back it up.
I know that I’ll still be a member of YALSA, still sit on the Best of the Best – Teen committee at work, still blog for teen stuff on the website, still present on teen services at conferences. I know that (especially since there is not a teen position at my new branch) I will still do programs for teens, still talk to them about books, still act as a mentor and confidant.
I’m not losing anything, really… well, except my fancy tech toys, those I’m going to miss. Although… my new branch has a very active friends group, so I can probably convince them to buy some cool tech for me
I’m not losing anything, I’m only gaining. I’m playing the long game, and at the moment this is the right move to make.
But still, my heart hurts a little every time I have to go remove “teen” from my title somewhere. So much of my identity my entire adult life has been as a person who works with youth. A tiny part of me isn’t quite sure who I am anymore.
And yet, I have to remember, that you can take the Librarian out of Teen, but you can’t take the Teen out of the Librarian.
So “let us go on and take the adventure that shall fall to us.” Whatever new, strange, paths that might mean.