Teen Librarian Roars!
Welcome to Library Lions Roar! Celebrating libraries and the outstanding librarians serving youth in schools and public libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest, Stephanie Zero
Hi! I’m Stephanie Zero, Teen Services Librarian at Redmond Library, one of the busiest libraries in the King County Library System. Redmond, WA is the home of Microsoft, and there are families who move here from all over the world. I serve two middle schools, two high schools, and one college prep private school. I also do outreach at a shelter for youth experiencing homelessness, located just three blocks from the library.
The most satisfying part of my job is building relationships with Teens and being a dependable adult outside the home. Whether I’m working with Teen volunteers, facilitating a Young Author’s Club, or even doing reader’s advisory, there’s a huge payoff when they share their appreciation that you really listen, value their opinions and perspectives, and that you recognize them as a valuable asset to the community.
A Lion’s Pride of Programs
We have a Teen Advisory Board that helps me create my line-up of teen programs.
One of my favorite teen programs is Young Author’s Club. It’s such a simple format: the teens generate writing prompts (great way to create a sense of ownership), we free-write for 10 minutes, and then they share out what they’ve written. Another writing activity is to do a round-robin. Teens write one sentence, pass it to the person on their right and the next person continues the story with one sentence, and so on until their story makes it around the table. This can result in hilarious non-sequiturs, as well as complex introspective stories. Sometimes we do Bad Haikus. We’ll pick a theme like “your favorite tv show” and then try and write a really bad haiku about it. You never know what you’re going to get. The teens create the content and then get to participate in sharing. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I host a monthly CoderDojo for kids to learn computer programming, and a Teen Hackerspace for teens to explore new STEM technologies like Arduino and Raspberry Pi.
I host MAGIC tournaments,
and Cosplay events
And I’m also starting a regional queer youth advisory board for queer youth and allies from around the Eastside of King County to meet and socialize.
A Mighty Roar!
The public library uniquely offers our young patrons the same First Amendment rights to read and receive information as our adult patrons do. Some people try to limit young people’s access to information in order to protect their moral and emotional development. In the words of ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, “Limiting access… does not protect the young from the complex and challenging world that confronts them but can deprive them of information that is important to them or even vital for their learning and development as maturing persons.”
Public Libraries are also uniquely equipped in the community to be a place to gather, learn new ideas, share ideas, and participate in our democracy. This is a time where people, including young people, want to work to make a difference in the civic life of their communities. The public library helps them develop the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference.
Sarah Houghton and Andy Woodworth of Operation 451 articulate it well in their manifesto:
“Librarian values of knowledge, service of others, and free expression of ideas …stand in direct opposition to the forces of intolerance and ignorance that seek to divide neighbors, communities, and the country.”
I hosted a Teen Book Club for three years at my library with teens in from different grades, different schools, and different school districts. They were brought together by their love of books and discussing ideas. It was a close-knit group that built trust over the years so that we could fluidly talk about issues of race, gender, and sexual diversity, death, self-worth, etc. One very high-achieving student confided to me at the last meeting that, “Stephanie, you corrupted me just a little bit.”
This was the highest compliment I could receive and also cracks me up!
My perfect author visit is one where the author hosts a program and the audience participates. For example, poet Daemond Arrindell MC’d a poetry slam. He gave the poetry judges the format for judging, he generated excitement in the audience, he created a safe environment for the poets to share, and people loved it!
Another example of an author hosting a program is when I invite an author to host a National Novel Writing Month program. Both Audrey Greathouse and Lish McBride have come to talk about how to start your novel, facilitated a writing prompt, and answered questions about how they wrote their first published novel. (Audrey and Lish below)
One Last Roar
In a suburban/rural library system, there can be few opportunities for LGBTQ+ youth and allies to gather to socialize in a safe space. There may be counseling services that provide support, or Gay Straight Alliance groups in schools, or there may be none of those services. I am starting a regional board of queer youth and allies to create social events where teens can meet each other from different schools and school districts, and strengthen the network of support between social service agencies, schools, and the public library. To this end, my Teen Services Librarian cohorts are reaching out to their local school GSAs and community agencies that serve LGBTQ+ youth to recruit teens to be on this advisory board. These relationships will also build the audience to promote the social events.
Thank you, Stephanie, for giving us an inside view of the great youth programs at Redmond Library!
Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Email Janet via the Contact page on this website to set up an interview.
Note to Authors: If you’re interested in Roaring for Libraries on this blog, contact Janet.