Being a Teen librarian - and loving it.

My first professional library job was the one I hold now – young adult librarian in a small to mid-sized public library. It has been a joy to work there. But the administration has changed, and it may be that I won’t be a teen librarian from this summer onward. (*note. I was removed from my position in April) If that is the case, I want to list what I accomplished in my position over the last twenty years.


  • School – library cooperation:

I got the entire fifth grade to the library to hear Marybeth Weston, a local author, read her play, The Squaw with Blue Eyes.

 Along with the fifth grade teachers, I instituted the kid’s choice awards. Children suggested and then voted for their favorite books in a variety of genres, designed bookmarks, and chose their favorite designs. The bookmarks were professionally printed for distribution in the school and the public library. We did this for several years.

 I contacted the high school geology department and arranged for author Mike Mullin to do a booktalk centering on the Yellowstone supervolcano.

 The middle school librarian and I (and later the elementary school librarians and I) arranged for me to come into the school library every month to do booktalks with the kids. This is something I did for several years.

 The Interact Club at the high school worked with me to hold a Halloween parade and costume judging every year at the end of October. This, too, was a regular program for many years. This brings me to:


  • Unique and dynamic programming

 The book parties I developed with my sister (a youth services librarian in a neighboring town) are famous throughout our area. They give teens an opportunity to help and teach younger kids in a fun and playful way. It’s great for teens to work with slightly younger children – I’m a big believer in multigenerational programs.

 I’m also a big believer in creative programs. I had the first “Makerspace” in Westchester with the digital film club, which gives kids hands-on experience in making movies.

 We were also early adopters of gaming, though we had to try three times before that program took off.

 We’ve had lots of hands-on programs for young teens – crafts, cooking, creative writing and songwriting, and so on. Except for a popular Chinese cooking class, I’ve varied these from year to year.

 I’ve offered a forum for talented teens. Open mike nights, Jazz, wizard rock, hip-hop and rap – we’ve had all of these in the library.

 I founded the first Parent- Son book group in the county. A reporter from a local paper came to observe the group and interview me and some group members because it was so unique.

 I also ran a Mother- Daughter book group and an informal SF and fantasy discussion group. These groups continued for several years.

  • Volunteer Opportunities for teens

 Teen volunteers make our book parties possible, but that’s not all! Over the years-

Teens helped me design the web page,

Cataloged short stories in anthologies and graphic novels,

Helped with film production and multimedia,

Tutored younger children,

Designed and ran programs such as the Halloween parade and Junior Astronomy club, and much more.

I’ve supervised three teen interns and dozens of volunteers. I so appreciate all that these young men and women have brought to the library and the community.

I've also worked with several Teen Advisory Boards, and conferred with the young people as we renovated the teen room. 

  • Creative use of tech and multimedia

 Teens documented library programs. We got a youtube channel and eventually began filming for the local TV station.

 We had the second podcast in our county* – teens helped get this going, and taught me how to write music with Garageband. *(My sister had the first.)

 Along with my sister and her colleague, I’ve conducted Skype visits with authors.

 I took a class in html and hand coded the very first web page for the our library.

 I’m continuing to produce videos and podcasts as well as the teen web page.

 I researched web design software for this purpose, bought it, and also got a hosting service.

 Last year, I was asked to teach my fellow youth services librarians how to get a digital film club going  - something I’d be happy to do!


  • Innovative ideas continue!

 In September, 2012, I instituted the Teen Volunteer awards. In September and in May, 2013, the town officially recognized the efforts of seven teens who’d volunteered in our libraries. I hope the awards will continue.

 I suggested getting a 3-D printer for the library, if and when we can afford it. I’ve been researching various models and their pros and cons.

 I also suggested getting iPads for the teen room. I’d like to make film club a youtube club, and have kids film and edit directly on their smartphones or on the iPads. Of course, we’d also offer computers and cameras, as we always have!

 I downloaded and began teaching myself game designing software. I’m happy to report that two young men have volunteered to teach other kids game building. They’ll be better at it than I would be!


  • All this is just the tip of the iceberg. It doesn’t include my day to day work:

Reader’s advisory


Collection development

Summer reading

Book reviewing

And so much more!

 Nor does it go into detail about some of the remarkable work teen volunteers have done.

I am proud of what I’ve accomplished in twenty years serving teens. If I truly won't be working in the YA room after this spring, no one can take from me what I have done for the kids, nor what the kids themselves have done for the library. It’s all about the kids, really. My goal was to give them the tools they needed to grow and shine. I believe I have done exactly that.


 Mary Johnson, Young adult librarian, November, 1993 – ( ? Spring, 2014)