How could the library do a better job of telling teens what they have to offer?
Let me introduce myself -- I'm Rebecca Frailich. To clarify that's Rebecca Fry-likh -- it finishes with a guttural "h" sound that we don't have in English. It's pretty unfortunate to have a name containing a consonant that doesn't exist in my native language. It's a pain trying to introduce myself. But my surname does have one charming characteristic, it means "joy" in Yiddish. My name seemed kind of ironic for most of my childhood -- in many ways I was the odd one out and it left me quite unhappy.
As you probably realize, I'm Jewish. But not that Jewish. My family was a little too scandalous for the orthodoxy. I was also home-schooled, and an only child, so for many years, I was in a class of one. The consequence of my childhood without a lot of other children around is that I felt most comfortable around adults; this was a bit of a problem because I wasn't one. I needed friends my own age. Simply, I lacked any real sense of community.
And then I turned twelve and started frequenting the library.
Fast-forward a bit. It was one of the warmer months of 2006, I went to a North York Central Library event that taught how to turn old sweaters into purses. The lady running it, Susan, told me that she was starting a program for aspiring writers and she thought I would be a good fit. I was. We met twice a month, every month and shared story and poem ideas, did writing exercises, and ate an awful lot of junk food. I cringe thinking back to our snacking habits, but the social and creative value was undeniable. We operated as one supportive unit. Each member was special. When one of us was missing, the rest of us felt their absence. I was in Heaven. I belonged.
My newfound place fostered what I expect to be a lifelong love of public libraries. This in turn led me to volunteer. After all, what do you do for those you care about but give? I joined the NYCL's Youth Advisory Group. The YAG gave me my first exposure to working in a panel setting. I've been on many panels since then and I certainly appreciate the early exposure in a friendly environment. It was very rewarding knowing that I was helping to create and maintain the kinds of programs that meant so much to me. I hoped and still hope to spread my love of libraries to other young adults.
Generally, I'm very happy with my library experience, but there are two places I feel it is letting me down. First, there were plenty of well-made programs for me when I was twelve. Now I'm eighteen and I can't remember the last time I saw a library event geared toward me or my peers, not even a book club. I miss that.
Second, if there are any events suitable for me, I rarely hear about them. A couple weeks ago I went to Barbara Frum for a beading workshop. I have librarian friends who know I like to craft, I frequent libraries and other public spaces, I was even looking around on the library website recently, but I heard about this event from my mother a few mornings ago. She only knew about it because her friend frequents Barbara Frum.
So I guess I feel a little neglected by the library right now and am wondering how they could do a better job of telling teens, especially older ones like me, what they have to offer us.
But I certainly still appreciate all the library has given me. I don't doubt that it was a major figure in helping me grow and keep moving toward fulfilling my full potential. I'm a better writer, which I'm sure has helped me become a better student, I'm comfortable being deeply involved in planning committees and the like, and frankly I'm a little more comfortable being myself than I was six years ago, and I'm a little more "frailiche” because of it.