Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What Came First, The Teens or the Teen Programs?

I just submitted my fall calendar for teens.   
For now through December.   

Doing this calendar was like, passing a kidney stone or something, I swear.  Most of my programs are centered around what my teens want to do, so trying to schedule far out, when most of my teens weren't around this summer, was extremely frustrating.   

I watched the youth librarians pull theirs together, with seeming ease, and I have to admit to feeling a little down.  The newsletter deadline was blinking Disney doe eyes at me every day, and  I was stumped.  Being that stumped made me wonder if I was really up to snuff with my programming.  Why was I having such a hard time? 

Thinking about it made me wonder: 
What comes first?  The Teens?  Or the teen programs? 
Does the calendar and schedule encourage teens to visit the library, or does the teen population dictate the programming.  And in either case, which one is better? 

Well, what I've decided is that it's a little bit of both.  And in true teen fashion, my teens came in today (first day of school), and proved me right. 

In our Me:U meeting, (Me:U being the teen service/advisory club), after talking about our  upcoming service events, I started to run down the list of events that I submitted in the calendar.  For the most part they were on board. 

Then I said, "Is there anything that I may have missed, that you all wanted to do?"  
To which they took me up on immediately.  

When they were done tossing off ideas like it was no big deal, I wanted to go back and un-send my calendar list.   They are hilarious in that they ramble on about everything under the sun and then BAM!, out comes something wonderful.   

Thinking about them, and the way that they think, reminded me that I am on the right path in allowing their ideas to propel my planning and programming. Listening, and being intuitive with my initial plans, while leaving space for the lighting in a bottle which is the teen mind,  is the  key to the riddle.   They want to be led towards ideas, but they also want to be given the opportunity share the ones they already have.  

So what are some things hopefully coming up this fall? 
Family Feud (Their idea) 
Bowling in the Library (My idea) 
Breakdancing Workshop (Their idea) 
Breast Cancer Walk & Awareness event (Our combined idea) 
Secret Santa for the Homeless (Their idea - and to my point, this was thrown out in casual conversation as if it wasn't GENIUS!!!!) 

My hope is that the mixture of our ideas will not only attract new teens to our library, but also encourage those we already have, to stay, thrive, and become leaders.

Monday, September 1, 2014

She Has a Spiderman Bookbag and I am Here For It!

So, this weekend, I've been hanging out at my aunt's house.  While there, her grand-daughter, my "cousin-niece" Dootie has entertained me with just about anything she could think of; including, but not limited to, her singing, her new swimsuit, and the board game Cranium, which she referred to as "The Brain Game".

Next week, she'll be starting Kindergarten.  Now, for the past few weeks when I've asked her what she thought about school, she's told me that she is not excited, and is actually very sad to leave behind her friends from preschool.  I've been trying to pump her up about it and tell her that Kindergarten is going to be a cool new adventure that she should be excited about!  This weekend, I was pleasantly surprised that when I asked her if she was finally looking forward to it, she answered with a high-pitched "YES!"

"Can I show you my book bag!?"  She squealed.
"Of course!"  I told her, and off she ran to grab it.  

Look at that face!

"That's great, Dootie!"  I told her.  She then went and grabbed all of her school supplies, which were filled with purples, pinks, princesses, and ponies.  

While she danced and twirled, and sang, there is always singing with this girl, I couldn't help but to start thinking about how happy and free she was with her choices, and how much I admired about it.  In a world full of gender-specification, my cousin walked right into the store and said, "I want Spiderman."  

Now, I know what you're thinking, in your liberated mind,
"Who cares!?  Of course it's okay for her to choose that."

Nice.  But alas, even her own dad and grandad were taken aback.
"That's a boy's bag." Her grandad said. (When she wasn't in the room, thankfully.)

"I'm gonna go get you a different bag," her dad said the day before, thinking that she would be better suited to a Doc McStuffins theme.  
"You'd rather her have what society wants her to have, over what she chose?"  My aunt replied, and that was the end of that. LOL

Her other two grandparents, her dad's folks, thought her Spiderman choice was cool.

Even beyond her choice to have a "boy's" bookbag, I was also so in love with how much of her personality was reflected in her school supplies.  Spiderman, My Little Pony, Princesses, pinks, purples, chevron stripes; every single piece was so HER.  Not what anyone else thought of her, but who she thought of herself.  

Somehow the conversation turned to what to do about classmates who may say something rude about her bag.  My cousin asked her, "Dootie, what will you do if someone asks why you have a Spiderman bag?"

"I have it because I wanted it."

"And what will you say if they try to make fun of that?"

"It's my choice.  I can have it if I want to.  I like it."

Man, if adults had that same clarity.

The more I thought about it all though, I started to get annoyed for another reason.  Let's say she didn't want Spiderman, but still wanted a superhero?  Where are the Batgirl bags? The Wonder Woman bags?  The Black Widow, without the rest of the Avengers, bags?  
I know they exist, but most are available through speciality stores, not the local department store that most kids are going to get their school supplies from.  

But I digress.

I'm so excited about this new chapter in her life.  I have fond memories of Kindergarten, and still talk to some of my classmates!  I wish her all the best, but above all, I hope she keeps that same spirit of individuality and freedom, forever. 


Monday, August 25, 2014

YA Review: Beautiful Music For Ugly Children by Kirsten Cronn-Mills

 When you think about it, I'm like a 45.  Liz is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side - not played as often but just as good.

There really was beautiful music here. 
Gabriel Joseph Williams struggles with talking to people.  Every conversation and interaction brings about anxiety and frustration, and most at school know him to be quiet and reserved.  Very unlike his best friend since kindergarten, the very popular Paige.  But after hiding all day at school, he comes alive at night on his new radio show "Beautiful Music for Ugly Children", on the town's low-budget radio station.  With a catalog and musical knowledge of everything and everyone from Flo-Rida and Jay-Z to The Rolling Stones and The Sex Pistols, the show is an instant hit and there's seemingly nothing standing between Gabe letting his personal coolness out in his everyday life. 
Except for the fact that most of the world knows him as Elizabeth Mary Williams.  And he is slowly but surely falling in love with his best friend.  And his parents won't make eye contact with him anymore. And his little brother thinks he's a freak.  And his only other best friend in the world is a 68 year old man who just may have one day been the most important DJ in America.   
Kirstin Cronn-Mills handled the very serious moment of a young transgendered man growing into himself with so much grace and honesty in this book.  I felt so much for Gabe.  It's has been a long time since I've read a main character who I didn't want to smack.  Gabe was not a selfish or pushy person, but he was determined and steady and actually very patient in willing those closest to him into respecting him AS a person.  Gentle reminders to his parents when they'd purposefully call him "Liz", or refer to he and Paige as "The Girls". 
My dad glances up. "How are you today...Elizabeth?" 
              "I'm Gabe. How are you?"  
Moments where he's honest about what the cost of him being himself has brought onto his family, 
 Instead of storming out, which is my first impulse, I close my eyes and breathe because he's right; this is hard on them.  I may be young and stupid, like he said, but they're confused and hurt.  Because of me.

And also sad and lonely moments where the vulnerability of knowing that perhaps nowhere is safe, 

 She'll tell me to go to the police, because she believes in law and order.  I, on the other hand, believe the police won't care about someone like me.
The friendship between Gabe and John, his beloved mentor and next door neighbor had that Doc Brown and Marty McFly-ness that was familiar and instantly loveable.  Their mutual love and respect for the safety and passion that they both found in music was absolutely palpable.  And on the subject of music, while this book did remind me of quite a few others, "This Song Will Save Your Life" for example, it was really awesome to see multiple genres overlapped without some jarring explanation, as many books seem to do. For playlists that spanned from Prince to Souljah Boy and back to Elvis, it never felt weird or contrived. 
The subject of Gabe's "guyness" was also handled very honestly, even allowing itself to have the humor that sexuality just naturally has sometimes, to trickle in.  Searching for ways to use a urinal.  Choosing a loose enough shirt that doesn't show the chest binder underneath.  It was a very vivid but not heavy-handed look at the worries and cares that Gabe has to live with every single day just to be, and how much those who don't have to live in bodies that don't agree with our minds, take for granted.  There was much to be found here about identity's and people not always being who we expect them to be.  
Both also very integral parts of the story were the Ugly Children's Brigade - a group of Gabe's radio fans who listen every night and act out the positive affirmation actions he proposes, and the Twin Cities Vibe Radio Contest - which could be the key to a life outside of this town, and a job. While both of these had some fantastical and YA cliche'd elements to them, neither were very "Fairytale" in execution, and readers of the "New Adult" genre will appreciate the author's aversion to wrapping either of them up with a neat bow.   
The afterword also includes a pretty interesting note on sexuality and gender, as well as some information on where to go for support and information. 
This book made me happy, and sad, and most importantly, aware.   
I loved it. 


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pieces of Programming: Otaku Training Day

Teens are interesting creatures.  They have absolutely no interest in you until you're not paying them any attention.   
I've learned to use this to my advantage. 

If I visit the teen room and just start doing something, that's the easiest way to get them to wander over and investigate.  I try to remain as aloof as possible, or at least appear as though what I'm working on is truly no big deal and right when they start asking questions, BAM!, I've got them. 

Occasionally, they get me too. 

I am not an Anime or Manga enthusiast.   
By any means. 
In fact, whenever I see it plastered into teen services guides, I usually flip right past it. My teens here are very big on Anime and Manga, but our relationship has pretty much been that I won't bother them about it, if they don't bother me about it.  We live and let live in that way. LOL 
However, my teens don't care that I don't like anime.   
What they saw in my indifference, I've found, was an opportunity to teach.   
So I decided to exploit it.  

On a random day of being lovingly bugged about watching or reading an episode of whatever their latest fandom is, I finally offer them an olive branch; 
"What if I give you all a whole day to just completely engross me in all things Anime/Manga?"   
Eyes got wide.  Activity began to buzz.  There were monsters being created. 

As the weeks rolled on, I began to gently drop little pieces of responsibility on them: 
"You need to come up with a schedule, you know."  I'd say. 

As they began to see how serious I was about it, they would also have tasks for me: 
"We would like a projector and a laptop for the day." They would tell me.  They'd bring me choices to circle, so that they could meet together and decide on their plan. 

These little repartee's continued, and I have to say that their excitement did two things for me: 
  1. It made ME a little excited about it also. 
  2. It reminded me that it really didn't matter what the program was going to be about.  The most important thing was that these teens had an adult willing to sit and listen to them about something that was important and valuable to them, for an extended time period.  It was the driving force behind most of their excitement, and the ownership of it, made them not want to take it for granted.    
On the day of training.  I made sure that all of my work was out of the way.  The teens were in charge of schedule, setup, and even snacks.  At exactly 1:30pm, they were standing in my office giving me the "It's time", face. 

They served popcorn, arranged seating in our activity room to accommodate everyone, and setup the projector and laptop.  A couple of them greeted me by calling me an "Otaku Cadet".  By the time I came into the room, they had tabs open for each anime title they wanted me to view.   

Here's what they shared with me: 
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood  Fairy Tail Reborn Akame Ga Kiru Squid Girl  Medaka Box and Sword Art Online  
Some I liked: FullmetalAkame Ga Kiru 
Some I was kind of put-off by: Squid Girl, Medaka Box 

Three anime titles in, I asked, "I thought you all were going to show me Attack On Titan"?" A room of disgusted faces turned it me and said: "Nooooooooo, Miss Regina. Too mainstream." Then one put a hand on my shoulder and whispered, "Too mainstream..." 

So how did it go? 
I think it went exceptionally well.  There were over 16 participants(with males and females!), including two off-duty staff members who stopped in.  I was so proud of how they handled this event and a couple of hours in, I even ordered a couple of pizzas and sodas as a thank-you.  Throughout the day, they repeatedly asked me my thoughts on what they were exposing me too.  I tried to be honest, but was also careful to be mindful of their feelings, and particular shows they felt strongly about. 

At the close of the event, to show that I was fully respectful of the time they'd taken, I also took a moment to put in orders for any titles they'd shown me, that we didn't have full seasons of in the library.  I also offered them the opportunity to reinstate the long dormant Anime club.  They are going to get back to me about that. 

A full program executed by teens, reverse teen-advisory, and a crash course in Japanese.  Time well spent, I'd say.