At some point, between running a one-day comic convention for my library and hosting a Doctor Who party at the launch of the new season, I realized that I’m not categorically a “young adult” librarian. And most of the time patrons wouldn’t recognize me acting as the assistant director, since I am usually running a program for one or another age group during the monthly board meetings.
I’m beginning to see myself more as a pop culture librarian. I have a teen section that isn’t just for teens; a lot of the pop culture in our library finds its way there, from manga to Wired Magazine, simply because it doesn’t seem to ‘fit’ anywhere else. In a certain way, harboring the Batman comics over near the John Green and The Hunger Games serves in a way to (hyperbolically) ghetto-ize it. There are two sides to the coin: the impression may be that the BBC Sherlock Casebook is too immature, or of too low quality for adults. And on the other hand, when adults go into the Young Adult section to pick up the latest Sword Art Online or Wonder Woman, they’re making the teen section just a little less teen-friendly.
Is there a solution? I don’t know. I’m planning a massive renovation of the area in an attempt to give the teens the space they need, but still give access to graphic novels and other pop culture interest items to the rest of the library patrons. I curate those collections carefully, trying to make sure they’re the best they can be.
It’s not just that sort of collection development that has moved me away from being a general Young Adult librarian to a pop culture curator and librarian. I run programs. A lot of programs. From programs every afternoon for school-aged kids, to teen, adult and family programs. We painted faces for Halloween. I’m perfecting my creepy doll, and my years of doodling the Batman symbol in my high school notebooks is finally paying off. We have adult movie night, where I am (hopefully) showing the original Night of the Living Dead and discussing it, because I feel it has literary and movie history merit. Doctor Who Club, Anime Club, a Minecraft Crafting day… and that’s just a few of the things this month.
I’m also holding NBA 2016 hostage in my office until some of the older boys make few behavior improvements. There is a story by Spike Lee incorporated into the basketball game, so I look forward to watching them play it, as much as I enjoy watching them play the Batman Arkham games. For the plots. The same reason I read Playboy. I swear.
And as the assistant director, I get to justify having two game systems in the library, and why I am holding NBA 2016 hostage, and why our library is much louder than it used to be. It can make being an administrator strange sometimes, especially when you try to delve into the evolution of libraries in the 21st century as a lively community space for learning and growing, as opposed to a gatekeeper of culture, as it used to be in the last century. The last person I explained this to didn’t like that answer. Nor did they appreciate the suggestion that they use the computer lab as a quiet study area since that is what it was designed for.
I do my fair share of telling kids not to run in the library, not to yell, not to knock over a zillion DVDs like they are Kiva blocks. And I am telling them constantly that their shoes are untied, or that they have to wear shoes in the library. You wouldn’t think that would be a problem, but it is. I want you to feel at home in the library. But not so much that you run around in stocking feet (or worse, with the pre-teens, sockless and with great stench) or fall asleep on our furniture. I encourage the staff to kindly set kids on the path of righteousness, which includes walking in the library, wearing shoes, and not screaming as if they are being eaten by lions.
Still, kids get excited. Especially when we have things happening in multiple parts of the library. They often have to pass through the usual quiet spots, and our library’s beautiful arched skylights echo every voice in the building. So I do understand why some people are put-off by the chaos. But I will still defend kids. Not just ‘my’ teenagers, but all of them. We aren’t a playground. But we’re also not a penitentiary. If they’re running or whooping, it means they’re excited by what is going on, and maybe, just maybe, excited about learning. I know that can be hard for older patrons to sit with. It’s hard to remember what it was like to be that age and be so enthusiastic about something as simple as a paper doll craft.
The adults who are a bit younger seem to be kinder toward the new face of the library. Especially the ones that have shown up at our Star Wars and Doctor Who parties, and whom I expect to see again at the new Anime and Doctor Who clubs. Next weekend we’re going to keep with the Halloween theme and watch High School Live, which is the second scariest anime I have ever seen, and the 4th Doctor Doctor Who episode “The Pyramids of Mars”, due to the high volume of mummies and people in masks.
I’m also looking toward other months and other programs, like a Star Wars celebration for the launch of the new movies, a Frozen day, some sort of Transformers program (at the request of the pre-teen boys) and all the way into the far future with summer reading programs about sports for adults, where I may be permitted to unleash my unholy knowledge of the history of baseball upon some unsuspecting patrons (I’m convinced that leaving the Red Sox is what put Babe Ruth’s life into a downward spiral) just for the fun of it.
So, no. I’m not clinging to the classical interpretation of the library the way I probably ought to. I got rid of all the “classic” young adult literature, and non-fiction that was ‘good’ for them. I’ve tossed a lot of things from other collections that may have been classics, or of some use to someone, but weren’t circulating. My apologies to Asimov and Sagan. No apologies or explanations given to Heinlein or Hubbard. I even have a theory I could get rid of every book in the library by Tolstoy and no one would notice, not even the other librarians. People just aren’t into stark, bleak and tragic Russian literature, like they once were. I’m not sure, exactly, who I could sell the story of Anna Karenina to. Here, have this depressing book that ends with suicide by steam train (spoilers). It will make a great holiday fireside read. If your family is super-depressing it may cheer you up.
I love history, I love science. I have a special place for classic literature (though I take the dead white men with a grain of salt) and I try to cram that into as many heads as I can. I know a lot about it. And I know a lot about this other area that is important to our patrons: The Walking Dead, the final issue of Naruto, making Light Sabers out of pool noodles, the entire history of Doctor Who, Golden Age Flash, the sadly deceased Dresden Files TV show, and how to paint a zombie that looks like its face has half fallen off. I’m chock full of these things. Maybe it’s my age (I’m one month older than the cutoff for millenials) or my general lack of enthusiasm for the literary and art history of dead white men. Or I am a super-massive nerd who was suckled on stories about Batman and Spider-Man before I could even talk.
But at the end of the day I want to watch The Muppets, try to level up my Pokemon and write a little fanfic for this show and that. I’m not really a responsible adult, I just play one on TV.