The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Hi, Pop Culture Readers! I was really honored when the lovely Pop Culture Librarian invited me to guest blog. But I was also a little bit intimidated. I’ve got a blog of my own, and to be honest with you? It has been kind of sucking lately.

So I wimped out and asked PCL to suggest a topic for me. In a typical PCL display of awesomeness, she sent me a list of six suggestions. I chose Suggested Topic #3:

A List of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Teen Services Public Libraraining

So, I am a Librarian for the Teenagers in a public library. You probably already know some stuff about this job, being fans of PCL and all, but in case you don’t, a typical workday might include recommending books to patrons, making book lists, posting to a library blog, visiting a school, planning an event, working with teen volunteers, or doing about a million other things. It’s a good job.

But anyway! On to the list!

The Good

1. Teenagers

I love teens. (Not in a dirty way. Don’t be such a perv.) I think people who don’t like teens either don’t know any of them, or only know the ones that they made themselves. I’m sure your own teen is probably a pain in the ass a lot of the time, but other people’s teens are a delight. They’re old enough to have intelligent, reasoned opinions, but young enough that you can still mold their little minds like clay.

And that’s where the library comes in. Mind-warping.

Also, I’m really immature, and I like hanging out with people at my own developmental level.

2. Co-workers/patrons

Librarians and other people who work in libraries are often nerds like me. I like nerds. And overall, I enjoy helping the people who come into the library. Corny but true.

3. Reading, television watching, etc.

I can read teen romances or adventure novels, or even watch Gossip Girl on the CW, and call it professionalizing. Beat that! Plus, as a public librarian, pretty much everything I read or learn could potentially be useful in helping other people find information, which is pretty neat. (If you’re a nerd.)

The Bad

1. Teen Services what?

A lot of people don’t know that my job exists—or if they do, they wonder why. “Teens don’t read!” they say. “Teens deal drugs and harass the elderly! They don’t need their own librarian!” It can be kind of exhausting to have to justify your own existence all the time.

2. Bureaucracy

As in any public service type environment (or maybe, any workplace), there are some people in the library who like nothing better than paperwork—the more, the better! I’m sure they miss the good old days of carbon paper and filling things out in triplicate. They make up for it by sending me twenty emails a day, all marked “Urgent!!!” but never actually containing any information that I could possibly need.

3. The Smell

I work in a big urban library, and my reference desk is near a seating area where people congregate. Lots of these people don’t really have anywhere else to go during the day, and I am 100% behind the library’s mission of intellectual freedom and a creating a welcoming environment for all.
But—and here’s where I start to sound like a Republican and/or a terrible person—when you have a lot of people in the same room who don’t necessarily have daily access to showers, it can lead to a certain . . . aroma. Not a nice one. And sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming.
Don’t hate me.

The Ugly

1. People who yell

Sometimes in the library, people yell at you. You’d think that the mentally ill people would be the problem, but they are usually pretty nice. More often it’s the wealthy, entitled patrons who are outraged that their favorite chair has been moved or something. I try to have a thick skin about it, but it gets depressing.

2. The Politics

This is related to the Bureaucracy, but is a slightly different problem. Basically, in order to get anything done, you have to know who to talk to, and then make them like you, neither of which is necessarily easy.

. . . And there you have it! Only two entries in the “Ugly” column. Don’t you want to be a librarian now?


  1. i’d take not-so-aromatic over wealthy and entitled any day. i used to work in the Emergency Room and one person actually had the balls to demand that the hospital pay her $50 an hour for the three hours she had been waiting to be seen for her cough when there had been back-to-back critical-condition patients coming off ambulances in the back. wealthy and entitled people can suck it.

  2. We recently got a new kids’ library here that has a teen loft – no young kids or grownups allowed. I am SO appreciative of the librarians for teens! You can tell they really like being around the kids. Because we’re radical unschoolers, I like being around my teen, too – it’s so great when the feeling is mutual. Kind of rare, even though most teens I know are *awesome* people.Thanks for what you do!

  3. I’ve been helping with our Teen programming lately, it’s been really interesting. Last week we took our Wii to the Boys & Girls Club, it was amazing! They were so appreciative, I even got a hug! (I’m a Librarian by I handle all our online stuff so I don’t do much face to face with the patrons)

  4. Fantastic list–very spot on. I’m a children’s librarian (who tries her very hardest to relate to teens) and I would say the same thing (except the smell I have to deal with is the stinky diaper smell. *gags*)

  5. #3 Under The Good is one of my fav things about being a YA Librarian (and also the job I had with the local Girl Scout council — older girl program specialist — which, sadly, drew comments that were cousins to your #1 under The Bad). I like reading graphic novels and hanging out at the mall all in the interest of keeping up with my patron base.

  6. you now what’s the worst? when the entitled adults patrons get all mad because they are not allowed to sit in our teen area. why is this such a hard concept to understand? when we create a space for teens, we don’t want random entitled adult people taking up all the seats! and there are so many places teens are not allowed to go, don’t they get that it’s nice we have given them a space for themselves?

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