Real World Lessons Learned Post MLIS: A Gen Y Perspective

Victoria Vanlandingham is a 26 year old Young Adult Librarian at Los Angeles Public Library in Los Angeles, CA.  If you have any questions you can contact her at: vickiv922[at sign]yahoo.[dot]com.

For the past year or so I have been working in my first post-MLIS job as a Young Adult Librarian for a large metropolitan public library system in California. Gaining an enormous amount of experience in a short time, I have learned lessons in what it takes to being a good YA Librarian who has positive rapport with her teens.  I have also experienced what it is like to be a Gen Y in a workplace of much older generations and how people still hold onto the stereotype of the frumpy Librarian in glasses. Last but not least, I have come face to face with the realities of working in a public library. The following numbered list will hopefully provide some honest insight to any young people who are considering embarking a career in this profession.

1. Despite the recent media coverage about the “changing face” of librarians, people do still think of a Librarian as an old grouchy woman who is shushing library patrons. I have been asked numerous times “Do you work here?” , “Is this a part-time gig?”, “Is this your internship?”, etc.

2. On the other hand, being a young librarian means that patrons are more interested in coming to you with questions about troubleshooting the library computers, current bestsellers, as well as quick service.

3. The sad reality as a young librarian is that if you are the Librarian-in-Charge for the evening and people ask who they can speak to about an issue, they will not believe that you are the person to speak with and will demand to talk with the person who is. Ouch.

4. Public libraries are obsessed with statistics in terms of circulation, patron count, school/community outreach visits, and attendance at programs. Every workday is a mission to think of how you can increase your numbers.

5. Being successful at YA programming turnout involves being proactive in the right way with teens. Carve out time the day before a program to remind them of a program you are holding the following day  (I find late afternoon works best). Remember that most teens live moment to moment and you have to go according to their “teen time clock” to reach them effectively.

6. A public librarian is in many ways a quasi-social worker. You encounter a wide variety of people and some of them are lonely, desperate, suffering from health/mental problems, and/or economic hardship. Remember to remain professional and enforce boundaries no matter what sob story you hear.

7. Do not fret if you work in a library that has a large number of non-English speakers and you can not easily communicate with patrons because of language barriers. 99 % of the time, other patrons are more than happy to help you translate so that the patrons’ needs can be met.

8. For anyone interested in being an effective Young Adult Librarian, it is really important to find a healthy balance of authority and being personable. Also, a sense of humor is crucial.

9. When it comes to selecting YA materials, it’s good to be a step ahead and not be easily discouraged if something is not immediately flying off the shelves. Even if you select a material that initially has low circ stats, check that material again a couple months later. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that you selected something that now has a large number of holds on it and gets requested all the time. A job well done. :)

10. Know that as a “Young Librarian” your enthusiasm can be refreshing to the general public and your older generation colleagues.

Do you have a concept you would like to be featured on the Young Librarian Series?  Send an email with your idea to: younglibrarianseries@gmail.com or visit the SUBMISSIONS page for more details! Thanks for reading and we’ll see you next week!

4 thoughts on “Real World Lessons Learned Post MLIS: A Gen Y Perspective

  1. This one’s mostly for Jen. Same experiences for you?For me, I think only 2 or 3 even apply. I actually have never had that issue as the person in charge (I handled a Very Angry Patron quite well, I think, and she totally respected me on it), I don’t think anyone has questioned my being the librarian vs. an internship/etc. Maybe because this is a large system and seeing librarians of one generation is more common because there are more than in a small system with fewer people? I’m not sure.

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