24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Tag: safe spaces

Show Off: Crisis Contacts

I’ve seen nifty posters for where to find help in the library on tough topics floating around the internet. Sometimes, these resource lists will be on bookmarks, instead. I love the idea of these lists — we know people, teens included (or especially) will avoid asking right out for these kinds of resources. It can feel embarrassing or cause other distress. But when we tape posters in small print with this information or put out bookmarks, we require a person to go up to the poster and examine it in full view of whoever else might be in the library in order to get any use out of it. This is a step toward anonymity, but we can do better.

So I had the idea to post some resources in a much larger font in the teen area at Alexandria Public Library in Alexandria, VA. The theory was that teens visiting the area could be easily sitting at the table in the middle of the bookshelf-enclosed space and easily be able to glance up and see a resource and a phone number or simple URL without being obvious about it if they preferred to do it without notice.

The door included both local and national resources for the topics that I felt would be most relevant to the community. This, of course, doesn’t mean I didn’t miss some potentially important resources. The placement of the door and the fact that past “displays” had a history of being destroyed or marked up with crayons (particularly lower pieces) meant I was pretty severely limited with size. And because it was important to me that the text was reasonably readable at a distance, I could only fit so many resources on the board.

Another challenge was making the board interesting. Because of the serious nature of it, I didn’t want to go overboard with cutesy designs or glitter. Instead, I went with simple speech bubbles with encouraging phrases like, “I hear you,” and “You are important.” The orange borders complemented the blue accents on the resource pieces.

I gave the display a title of “You Matter.” Looking back, I might use a different phrase, since I later realized this might be seen as an attempt to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement, which was of course not my intent. I left this up longer than I do most displays on the door, and ultimately chose to permanently keep the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at the top right corner of the door regardless of what other displays I put up.

The limitation of space kept me from including more variety in the forms of resources. While online chat and text resources exist, they were not largely featured in this list of resources due to those limitations. I can’t offer any kind of indication as to how successful or useful the board was since much of the point of this resource was anonymity, but I hope it helped a few at least. I’ve since left my position at Alexandria Public Library, but hope the suicide prevention number remains. Any library considering a similar project should consider how to improve anonymity and access to these resources for their own community.

Why I Want to Be a YA Librarian

When I was growing up, my mother brought my brother and me to libraries frequently. I spent a lot of time at the Derry Public Library and the Taylor Library, both located in Derry, New Hampshire. Not only were the libraries a fantastic escape from the heat and humidity of New England summers, but there were books everywhere and I could take them home for free.

As I aged, I began to appreciate the services my local libraries offered to young adults. Writing clubs, craft nights, summer reading programs, and a sense of peace that I struggled to find with my peers at school. At the risk of sounding dramatic and angsty, the library was a place of refuge for middle and high school kids who couldn’t find a place to fit in. What was more, I knew the librarians and people manning the circulation desk wouldn’t judge me. I check out A Midsummer Night’s Dream one week and Twilight the next and no one would so much as sniff at it.

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Libraries open new worlds, both physically and mentally.

I parted from the library for some time while I was in college. Despite studying for a BA in English, I rarely stepped into the campus library or the public library in Roanoke, Virginia. Like many other college students, I couldn’t find time in my schedule to do many of the things I enjoyed so much in high school, including reading for pleasure. Since graduating, I’ve redeveloped an appetite for fiction and a new interest in non-fiction.

My main interest remains, however, in YA fiction. The more I become engaged with “Tumblr activism” and issues of diversity, the more I realize how important representation — seeing one’s self represented accurately, in this instance — is. If I had not read so many dozens of books with characters with whom I identified in high school, I doubt I would have such a strong sense of and comfort in who I am now. While many people assume I want to become a YA librarian solely for the sake of interesting non-readers in reading, this isn’t true. I certainly hope to help find the right book to hook new readers, but I am more interested in providing a safe and non-judgmental space for the population we call “young adults” to read, learn, create, and grow. It was this space that was so important to my development, and so it must be for others. Many young adults do not get the support they need from school, parents, or peers. Librarians can play a huge role in providing mentoring, encouragement, and assistance in the lives of young adults. If I can pick up a few new readers along the way, fantastic. But first and foremost, I want to find the lost boys and girls. Then, I want to open new worlds for them, and help them open their own new worlds.

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