Self Defense in the Library

Madeline, Marlene and I worked on creating a self-defense program for the NYPL’s 96th Street branch. We would hope to collaborate with Buzz Martial Arts, a nearby martial arts school, and market it by reaching out on social media, and with various schools and youth groups. We figured this would be successful because:

  • Many teens are left feeling vulnerable, especially considering the past month’s rise in hate crimes and harassment. The teens will likely find this empowering, and can help to stifle some of the repression that they may have been feeling.
  • We hope that teaching teens to defend themselves can reduce violence that they might face, and can know what to do in the case of assault. It’s important to learn how to handle confrontation in a healthy way.
  • The non-traditional program could bring patrons into the library who might not have been patrons beforehand, which is more difficult for less active programs.
  • It’s not a commonly held program idea, but similar programs had been held in other libraries across the countries, just not for teens.

Elevator Speech

Why do I want to be a teen librarian? Because there are so many things that make the teen experience unique and difficult, and it was difficult for me as a teen to not feel alone. I think that librarians are in an amazing position to help people in difficult positions, whether it helps them escape in a book, helping them with relevant information, or just by providing them with a rare communal space to be social. The library is so equipped for a group that have few open outlets, and I want to be the person to supply that space.

I’ve always had a great degree of empathy for others, and to provide everyone with assistance and fairness. I’ve always been an open ear for those who need to talk about difficult problems, and this is sometimes exactly what teens need. Adults who don’t judge them, who don’t make assumptions about them, and make them feel like they belong.

Don’t Forget to Praise Yourself

Carrie Kitchen talks in Question 2 of Real-World Teen Services about the harrowing and stressful experience of being the sole teen librarian in a large library.  There are so many burdens that are put on you when you’re the only teen librarian. You plan the programs; you build the collection; and you take the flak whenever something goes wrong. You’re the cause of every noisy teen or rule violation. It’s an incredible responsibility, but it also has the potential to create an immense form of pride.

You are the sole curator of the teen experience in this library. That means that every time a teen finds a perfect book, that’s on you. Every time a teen makes a new friend at a program you created, you’re the cause. Every time a teen feels comfortable asking a reference question about a really serious and delicate issue, it’s because you were able to make them feel comfortable.

There are so many challenges that you’ll face, and so many logistical nightmares. But if you are in this position, and you’re doing your job, it’s so important to remind yourself how proud you should be.

Works Cited:

Velásquez, J. (2015). Real-world teen services. Chicago: ALA editions.

How to Tweet as a Library

The problem with many library twitter accounts is that they often lack any sort of engagement.  I don’t know about most Twitter users, but most users that I know don’t follow institutions that only post holiday closings and links to their other social media accounts.  (For example, virtually every post on Smithtown Library’s Twitter is a link to their Facebook account.)  It is important to be interesting, and relevant, so that teens will have some incentive to follow the account, and then once they’re hooked – WHAM! – we get them reading.

The library’s twitter account will average one to three tweets per day, plus up to two relevant retweets, if I find something that will be pertinent to readers.  Daily I will post topical (but not political) articles, interesting facts, and information about authors.  Many authors will tweet about libraries, such as Neil Gaiman, and it’s important to retweet that information as well.

Reader’s Advisory is tricky, because it really should be immediate, so the library will have two hours every Friday the library will have 2 hours of scheduled RA from 12-2, where readers can tweet their book requests @FakePL from 12-2 with the hashtag #AskALibrarian, and 2 hours for YA reader’s advisory from 3-5 with the hashtag #FridayYAReads.

November 1 (Tuesday) : Hey, it’s November!  Here are some good #NovemberReads for you to sit down with a blanket, and watch the leaves fall! [Link to booklist]

November 2 (Wednesday) : Going through seasonal depression this fall?  Try these more uplifting reads! [Booklist]

November 3 (Thursday) : So, who’s coming to our #TechThursday today at 4? Tweet us the tech you’re interested in?

November 4 (Friday) : Here are all the pictures from yesterday’s #TechThursday. Those are some cool gadgets!

2nd Tweet: #FridayYAReads starts at 3, so ask us to recommend something just for you!

November 5 (Saturday) : Happy Caturday!  Share with us what books your cats are reading!


November 7 (Monday) : Stressing out about the election?  Here are some good political thrillers to take your mind off them!

2nd Tweet: Need some extra help for a standardized test? Come down for our test prep classes all month!

For examples of how I would handle the reader’s advisory, here are two opposing options on Twitter.  You can either simply reply to a tweet, which is great because you can include pictures, gifs, etc.  Or you can quote a tweet, which displays the RA interview publicly so that everyone can see, in case they want the same recommendation.  Either are good, but I lean towards the latter, as I will personally see RA interviews on Twitter, and go by the recommendations from another asker.  Twitter is FAIRLY anonymous, so I don’t feel this breaches privacy.

When You Naturally Set Boundaries, Maybe You Should Work On Openness: A Corollary to Question 9

There is a bit of a librarianship paradox in question 9.  In order to do our job well, openness and empathy are one of the most vital traits that one would need in order to be a successful teen librarian.  This being said, we also need to set clear boundaries so they don’t become too affectionate.  I think it’s fair to say that for some of us, setting up those boundaries aren’t a problem.  It’s not that we lack empathy, but some of us don’t have the personalities or, more accurately, “vibes” that invite hugs that frequently.  Frankly, I love hugs, but only with good friends and select family.

Does this make us bad librarians?  If we are philosophically liberal and free-thinking, does it matter if we’re uptight in other ways?  If we fight on behalf of the rights of the patrons, and even if we’re a bit lenient on late fees, does our bodily tension really matter in our performance?

If I’m honest with myself, there’s a point when it does matter.  A degree of openness is important for the patron to feel that their needs are heard and that they matter.  If they feel that they can they can talk to us, then they can help improve the library and the teen department.  Feeling comfortable that this is an open space is vital to that.

How can we provide that openness?  A large part of it is simply showing that we’re listening, providing eye contact, maybe smiling every now and then.  We have to engage with what they’re saying, and make them feel heard, and comfortable talking to librarians.  Teens will notice if we tense when they come up.  We have to make sure that our body language is one that says “It’s okay to talk to me.  Us librarians?  We’re the good grown-ups.”

This being said, I’ll probably still avoid hugs.

Works Cited

Velásquez, J. (2015). Real-world teen services. Chicago: ALA editions.

Want to be a teen activist? Here’s a pathfinder to help!

In such troubled times, we want to make a stand against things that trouble us in the face of oppression.  Especially when people may be feeling even more marginalized after the election results, it’s important to turn whatever anxiety that we might feel into an organized discourse.  There are plenty of resources to help us organize and take action to better our society, and they can all be found at NYPL!:



It’s Your World–If You Don’t Like It, Change It: Activism for Teenagers by Mikki Halpin

Are you looking for a how-to guide on how to get involved in issues that affect your life?  This book might be the way to go.  It provides tips on speaking out and being effective, but also how to avoid breaking the law.  Each chapter has a list of resources and websites to help you learn further how to be active in your community.


Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters by Laurie Ann Thompson

It’s difficult to have the drive to enact change if you don’t see people like you doing great things.  This book provides all of the instruction on how to make an impact, but with the real-life stories of other teens who were able to make a difference.  It’s easy to read and can teach essential skills, such as grass-roots organizing and working with the media.  Be motivated; be inspired.


Black Lives Matter by Sue Bradford Edwards and Duchess Harris

In order to truly understand activism in the 21st century, you need to look at one of the day’s most prominent activist groups.  Even though it’s more of a textbook, it’s still important to cover the epidemic of police brutality in this country, as well as the misinformation about the movement.



March: Book 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Ayden, and Nate Powell

John Lewis collaborated with writers and artists to turn his historic experience of working with the civil rights movement in the 1960’s into a comic book.  Reading this book, accompanied by Nate Powell’s evocative art, can inspire the integrity and courage that protesters should try to emulate.  If you need an example of “What have protesters ever accomplished?,” then this might be the book for you.


I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick

If you’re not sure what effect teens can have on the world, look no further than Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai.  Under the Taliban’s regime, she stood up for education while becoming a star student herself  amid fear and war.  Her activism caused her to be a target for assassination.  Reading this book should truly inspire the readers.


Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie

These are the tragic journal entries of a real activist who traveled from America to protest nonviolently at the Israel-Palestine border.  She was killed by a bulldozer while protesting, and her journal articles were collected by her family into this powerfully written book, which will definitely make the reader think deeply about the world they live in.


The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

Malcolm X was a gamechanging figure in the fight for African-American civil rights, and this details both his experiences and his spiritual journey from prison to Islam.  He is a controversial figure who is often accused of extremism, but he correctly points out many of the racial biases in the country, and the need to unify.  To make the story even more compelling, it is co-authored with Alex Haley, the author of Roots.




Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Since the PATRIOT Act, many people have been conscious of the constant surveillance.  W1n5t0n (actually a teenager named (Marcus) is a hacker who gets harshly interrogated by the Department of Homeland Security.  When Marcus learns that his whole city is under surveillance, he takes it upon himself to change things.  Reading this should inspire passion in the reader about issues of privacy, but also make them aware of all of the things going on behind-the-scenes on the internet.


Rooftop by Paul Volponi

After so many problems that we constantly see in the judicial system, Rooftop emerges as a novel to reflect that.  After Clay finds his cousin shot by the police on the rooftop, Clay decides to fight against an unjust system.  It tackles the racial bias in the judicial system.  With its gripping and poignant plot, the reader will be constantly flipping pages to grapple with its emotional heft.


Free? : stories about human rights, edited by Amnesty International

Would you want a powerful, yet easy-to-read collection of short stories about human rights?  Free collects fourteen stories from many different YA author superstars such as Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl) and organizes them into this small anthology.  If you’re not sure if you’d be interested in heavy topics such as asylum and child labor, this is definitely a good book for you to start with.

Online Resources

Amnesty International

Amnesty International is an organization which connects people who want to make change to their world.  They are widely respected, and they are able to help youth start clubs for activism in their schools.

Youth Venture

Youth Venture makes it its mission to assist young activists, and help young people make positive changes to their environment.  They have a plethora of skills including teaching organizing skills and job placement for these relevant fields.

Anti-Defamation League

The anti-defamation league started by fighting anti-Semitism in the United States, but now fights human rights violations of all kinds.  They provide resources for young people to use to make their impact effective and heard, and it can teach how to talk to others about these sensitive and controversial topics.

Justice Duckling

Want to get involved in something today?  Justice Duckling lists protests going on all across NYC on any given day.

Global Youth Connect

Global Youth Connect helps young people make a difference, and have their voices heard across the world.  It works to stop human rights violations in countries that need our help, and helps foster a healthy dialogue between world teens about issues that affect hundreds of millions of people.

Works Cited:


(n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2016, from

10 Books for Young Activists | DonationPay. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2016, from

10 Ways Youth Can Engage in Activism. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2016, from

Barnes & Noble (n.d.). Political Activism & Particpation – Teens, Politics, Government & Law – Teens, Books. Retrieved November 19, 2016, from

Corrie, R. (2008). Let me stand alone: The journals of Rachel Corrie. New York: W.W. Norton &.

Do Something – Books about Making a Difference for Young Adults. (2013, October 11). Retrieved November 18, 2016, from

Doctorow, C. (2008). Little brother. New York: Tom Doherty Associates

Duckling, J. (1970). NYC PROTESTS. Retrieved November 19, 2016, from

Edwards, S. B., & Harris, D. (2016). Black lives matter. Minneapolis, MN: Essential Library, an imprint of ABDO Publishing.

Fight The Power: Books For Youth Activists. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2016, from

Free?: Stories about human rights. (2010). Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

Global Youth Connect. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2016, from!

Halpin, M. (2004). It’s Your World–If You Don’t Like It, Change It: Activism for Teenagers. Simon Pulse.

Lewis, J., Aydin, A., & Powell, N. (2013). March: Book One. Top Shelf Productions.

Make Your Voice Heard! : Youth Activism. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2016, from

Parrot, K. (2016, July 9). Librarian Creates #BlackLivesMatter Booklist for Teens … Retrieved November 19, 2016, from

Students and Youth. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2016, from

Thompson, L. A. (2014). Be a changemaker: How to start something that matters. New York: Simon Pulse.

Volponi, P. (2006). Rooftop. New York, NY: Viking.

X, M., & Haley, A. (1992). The autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballantine Books.

Yousafzai, M., & McCormick, P. (2014). I am Malala: How one girl stood up for education and changed the world. New York: Little, Brown and Company.


It seems that the undercurrent between the two questions that Velásquez raises is that treating people with respect is generally a good idea.  I think most people, librarians or not, have worked in a workplace with co-workers who have been disrespectful to the people we were supposed to be working for.  Coworkers will, while at the desk, either trash-talk patrons, or be rude and non-engaging to patrons that are actually there in the library.

This definitely applies to how we treat teen patrons, because for whatever reason, our society seems to have a mindset that teens are an age group that it’s socially acceptable to disrespect.  Obviously this is something that most people (except for the most misanthropic of us) claim that they don’t do, but it’s still a pervasive aspect of our society.

Part of the solution is being an advocate.  We need to be able to show our fellow librarians that teens are some of the most creative, innovative, free thinking, and passionate patrons we’ll ever have.  It’s a cliche, but sometimes librarians need a reminder of the power and potential of our teen patrons.

And not to undervalue the flak given to teens, but if we see co-workers disrespecting ANY patron, not just teens, we should find a diplomatic and tactful way to approach that person to try to steer them in the right direction.  I often see frustrations from co-workers, especially towards ELLs.  In general, it seems that those who are the most in need of our services are those who are the most poorly treated.  Respect and helpfulness are two of the primary aspects of librarianship.  Although it is natural to get frustrated in any person-to-person interaction, we can’t let it show, lest we give patrons the impression that they’re bothering us.  If we make patrons reluctant to use the library, we are only furthering the road to library obsolescence.

Works Cited:

Velásquez, J. (2015). Real-world teen services. Chicago: ALA editions.