Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bittersweet Symphony

This summer has been a difficult one for me. In addition to the fact that I hate SRC, as mentioned in my previous post, I have been trying to forget that 5 of my primary TAB members have graduated and are leaving at the end of the summer. CB, current co-president of TAB, has been my assistant in a computer program that we run for younger kids since he was 13. Tonight was his last night doing that program, and I now have to face the fact that they're really leaving.

We have graduations every year, of course, and I miss all of the teens who have worked with me, but this year is especially hard. 4 of the 5 teens who are leaving this year have been working with me for 5 years. They were there when I started TAB, and have been an integral part of running it, serving as officers, creating programs, and providing guidance to the younger members. All of them have been summer employees, and two have been worked for me year-round since we opened the teen department in October 2005.
Five years is an incredibly long time in the life of a teenager, and that they've spent so long with me and at the library - well, the way it makes me feel actually defies description. I've literally watched them grow up from goofy 13-year-olds to mature, responsible, intelligent 18-year-olds (who are, let's face it, still goofy). I look forward to seeing the adults they'll become, because they're all pretty amazing as young adults, and I can only imagine that they'll just keep improving as they grow older.

I'm proud of them all, but man am I going to miss them.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The End of Summer Reading Club

So basically, I'm a horrible blogger. I don't even have an excuse. Work has been crazy, but it always is. I think I'm just lazy. Is anyone still looking at this thing?

We're coming up on the last week of Summer Reading Club, and it's time for me to share a dirty little secret that probably makes me a horrible teen librarian.

I hate Summer Reading Club.

Hate, as they say, is a strong word, but it's actually not strong enough to describe my feelings of intense loathing for SRC. I know I can't be alone in this, but I realize that I'm probably a distinct minority. Every time I go to a conference, talk to other youth services people, or read blogs, I see people chatting about how amazing their Summer Reading Club is, and how fabulous it is to see all of the kids and teens using the library.

I understand the reasons for Summer Reading Programs. Reading over the summer helps kids maintain their reading levels, they get people into the library, they provide a great public service for kids and teens, especially lower-income kids and teens (which most of our population is). We give out some pretty sweet prizes in the teen department, so quite a few people sign up and do a lot of reading, which is great.

So theoretically, I think SRC is a great thing. In reality, however, it is incredibly annoying. My hatred of SRC begins in approximately January, when planning supposedly begins. The planning for this summer's program was the most
disorganized it has been in the 7 years I have worked at this library. The two women who were supposedly "in charge" are hard-working and well-intentioned, but are also the most disorganized, inefficient people I've ever encountered. Since my TAB members are responsible for making all of the copies of fliers and reading logs, putting prize packets together, and stuffing the goody bags we give away to registrants, I spent most of the months between January and June begging other people to do their work so that my TAB members could do theirs. When things weren't ready 3 days before SRC, guess who got blamed? My supervisor, P, actually asked me why "my kids" weren't ready when they had had so much time to work on things.

In retrospect, it's amazing that my answer didn't get me fired.

Moving on to the summer itself. For some unknown reason, P can't
see any reason for us to move to an online registration process. Instead those working at the SRC registration table (again, my TAB members) have to write down all of the information (name, age, library card number, address, etc). This hand-written information is then typed into an Access database. We do this for over 3,500 kids and teens every year. Not only is this a bunch of extra work and a huge waste of time, the database is actually useless in many ways - for example, if I try to print mailing labels for teens, it prints out mailing labels for everyone who has ever registered for the teen program - including people who graduated five years ago, people who have moved, etc. Many of the other reports that are generated are also useless, because apparently nobody in our entire library system knows how to use Access, except one woman who only works every third Tuesday or something.

In addition to the annoyance of the Access database, there's also the reality that a bunch of teens in the library is, well, a bunch of teens in the library! And since our administrators, in their wisdom, gave the teen department fewer computers than any other area in the building, ridiculously hard and uncomfortable furniture (I think it was originally designed for prisons), and dim lighting, the teens get justifiably bored and spend their time wandering aimlessly through the rest of the building, carrying on conversations at the approximate decibel level of an idling semi truck. Strangely, they're much louder and more obnoxious in other departments, because my staff and I have all developed versions of "The Look" which is guaranteed to stop 90% of obnoxious behavior before it even starts.

So outdated procedures, extra teens, bratty children who try to hide in the teen department (we kick 'em out until they turn 13), obnoxious parents, and the constant calls from increasingly irritated staff in other departments all combine to make me loathe SRC. I am not alone in this. Several of my TAB members have suggested that we have a ceremonial bonfire and burn all of the leftover paperwork on Saturday after our final SRC program.

I told them no, of course, but if some items happen to fall into a completely spontaneous bonfire at our end-of-SRC party, I can't really hold anyone responsible, now can I?

Friday, July 6, 2007

Stupid Parent Tricks

I have come to the conclusion that I have never met a child or teen who can possibly irritate me as much as the adults, especially parents, who come in to the library.

Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of caring, involved, intelligent parents out there, many of whom I've had the privilege of meeting. Unfortunately, there's something about summer at the library that brings out all of the idiot parents. Here are just a few that I've had to deal with lately.

1) The "my child is a genius" parent. So far this summer I have had to explain to three different parents why I wouldn't register their eight or nine year olds for the teen book discussion. I don't care how high her reading level is, I'm not putting her in a discussion group with 17-year-olds. End of discussion.

2) The "my child never does anything wrong" parent. No matter what the issue is, it is always somebody else's fault. The kid who brought a knife in and threatened a staff member? Clearly the staff member shouldn't have made the kid mad! The child who pushed another child down the stairs? Obviously, the other kid should have moved faster.

3) The "she's really responsible" parent. I don't care how responsible your six year old is. You still can't leave her in the library for seven hours while you go to work. If you leave this building, I'll call child protective services. Also, a ten-year-old can't be left in charge of three toddlers and a baby. And why are all these kids in the teen department, anyway?

4) The "he needs something to do" parent. Yes, I agree that we live in an area without a lot of good services and activities for teens. However, your teen has done something which meant that we banned him or her from the library for a period of time. I will not change that banning period because she's bored, or because he "really wants to come back." Perhaps next time he or she will think twice before cursing out a staff member, damaging library property, or having sex in the stairwell.

5) The "more, more, more" parent. When we plan programs, we try to be as accommodating as possible - offering two different times for the same program, adding extra sessions, etc. If you can't make it to any of the programs, we feel bad. However, we will not schedule a special program just for you because Susie has a swim meet or a birthday party on the original day of the program.

6) The "late but whiny" parent. I can't sign your kids up for the computer program, book discussion, or the annual lock-in because they're full. We have a limited amount of space. We buy 24 books for the book discussoin, and there are 24 kids signed up. We only allow 25 teens at the lock-in, and they're already signed up. See how that works? No, I won't take someone off the list because "my son just wants to go so much!" Other kids want to go too, and they actually signed up on time. Next time, call ahead.

7) The "it's not good enough" parent. Here's the thing, lady (it's always a woman). The summer reading program takes us months to plan. We get sponsors, we plan programs, and we work our butts off so your kid can have a good time. And it's completely free for you. So if you come in ONE MORE TIME and complain that the prizes are "crap," the books you want aren't here, and the library is too full of "dirty little kids," I am going to do something drastic. If you don't want our "cheap, crappy prizes," don't sign up. There, see how easy that was?