Serving Young Tweens and Teens: Chapter 2

[ok, now for the actual reflective essay]

As I was cleaning up around the children’s room the other day I ran across a smaller book tucked inside a bigger one – the way people on television will sometimes hide their real reading material behind more acceptable, larger one.  The dummy book was some random graphic novel biography, but the title inside was one of our recently acquired books – an updated version of Joanna Cole’s “Asking About Sex and Growing Up.”

As I was reading Hager talk about her own experiences trying to get the information she was looking for as a tween, I kept thinking about the fact that making sure that your library has a good selection of materials is only half the battle.  The other part is making sure that kids can find the books they need.   This is especially hard when it comes to books about puberty because patrons in general, but especially the younger and more self-conscious tweens, don’t always feel comfortable asking librarians for help finding such materials.  The shyness – or sense of shame – that keeps kids hiding books behind other books makes it nearly impossible for them to ask for help locating such titles.

It’s important to be friendly, helpful, and respectful of privacy when answering reference questions – aside from being important no matter what, it goes a long way towards making the patron feel confident in returning the next time they have a question, no matter what the question may be.  But that still isn’t going to be enough to convince all patrons to feel comfortable going up and asking a near stranger for books about sex.

I’m sure what the solution to this is.  Displays don’t seem quite right, because finding the right book for the right child is especially important when it comes to this topic, and check-outs from displays tend to be impulse check-outs* rather than something that is picked up after looking through all the possibilities to find the perfect title.  (I also work in a fairly conservative part of Southern California, and while I don’t give much though to possible challenges when purchasing books, I do consider it when creating and placing displays.)  I have been wanting to put together topical bookmarks that list several of the titles that we have on that topic [alphabet books, “if you like…” type lists, etc], it might help to do a series on books about sex and puberty.

(now, to only find the time to start this project…)

*I worked in a bookstore for several years before switching to libraries, and I still use some of the terminology – sometimes modified – when there doesn’t seem to be equivalent in library-speak.  Apologies if this means I don’t always make sense.  “Impulse buy” is a common term in retail and pretty much what everything from the displays to the layout of the store was devoted to it.

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