The Teen Librarian Toolbox

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By: Karen Jensen, MLS

Youth Services Librarian, Betty Warmack Branch Library
Reviewer for VOYA magazine since 2001
Teen Librarian Toolbox
Follow Karen and TLT!
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Your Online Orange Toolbox
“Hand me that screwdriver,” my father would say.  And as a child, I would be thrilled to put my little hand in his big orange toolbox and search for the right tool to help him do the job.  It was these childhood moments that I thought of when job changes forced me to rethink how I would participate in the library profession.  When I started my website, Teen Librarian Toolbox, I wanted to create a resource where teen librarians could come and find the right tool for the job they were doing, whether it be book reviews and booklists, RA posters, or information about marketing and advocacy.  I simply took my 19 years of experience and put it together online, creating an online toolbox that teen librarians could reach their hands into and find the right tool to be successful at the job they were trying to accomplish.
When the Economy Fell
But why? In 2008, the economy fell. At the time, I was working as a teen services librarian at Marion Public Library in Marion, Ohio.  During the next few years MPL would face two lay-offs, cuts in service hours, and reduced budgets.  Like people everywhere, we were tightening our belts while trying to maintain the quality of services and materials we prided ourselves in.
At the same time, the economy was beginning to affect my family personally and the only place my husband could find a job was Texas.  For the first year, he drove back and forth on the weekends.  I dug in my heels, I loved my job – my library – and I just didn’t want to leave.  But after a year, and floods and illness and more, it became clear that this long distance thing wasn’t working.  So with tears streaming down my face, I cleaned off my desk, packed up my house, and said goodbye to Marion, Ohio.  It was not an easy goodbye.
If you read your professional journals, you know that this is a hard time for libraries and librarians across the country, and I worried how hard it would be for me to find another library job.  I knew that I couldn’t do anything else.  Being a teen librarian is the heart and soul of who I am, it is at the very core of me. So I decided to take my show on the road – and online.  Thus, Teen Librarian Toolbox was born.
Who We Are
Although TLT was initially just me, it is now the home and voice of 4 MLS Young Adult Librarians, including Stephanie Wilkes from Louisiana, Christie Gibrich from my library system in Texas, and Heather Booth from Illinois.  Together, we review books, talk issues, and share programs. Our belief is simple, through TLT we are serving not only our local teens and local communities, but teens and communities across the nation.  Sometimes even around the world.  And by sharing, it makes us really think about the things that we do as librarians, the way that we do them, and ways that we can maybe do them better.  And we re-ignite our passion daily; we hope we do the same for you.
What We Do
What can you do at Teen Librarian Toolbox?
Our motto is simple: for teen librarian’s short on time, short on money, but not short on passion!
If you visit us, you’ll see that we post almost daily.  And because we are librarians, we like to make sure everything is indexed and in our table of contents.  Our primary areas of focus include: Advocacy and Marketing, Autism and Libraries, Teen Services 101, Teen Issues, Teen Programs in a Box (TPIB), Book Reviews, and our Top 10 lists.  Because I like to design things, I also share a variety of RA posters and Library memes that you can download and use in your library or share electronically.
As I sit typing this, there is a blizzard coming down here in Marion.  Two days ago I came home, crossed over the Ohio border and felt that heart tug.  The four of us are already planning some activities for 2013.  In fact, in January, we will be spotlighting teen mysteries and in February we will be spotlighting teen romances, because romance makes sense in February.  We are currently in talks to become a networked blog VOYA magazine, the first ya librarian tool I ever used when I began my career at the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Mount Vernon, Ohio.
We are also looking forward to tracking teen lit trends once again in 2013.  In 2012 we saw a huge increase in mermaid titles, more paranormal romance and of course a tremendous amount of dystopian titles.  I think in 2013 we will see an increase in teen mysteries, historical fiction and a resurgence of realistic fiction.  It will be interesting to see what trends we track in 2013.  You can download our Teen Fiction Trends posters from 2010, 2011 and 2012 a www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com and clicking on the RA posters link on the right hand side bar.
Libraries are the Beating Hearts (of our communities): http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2012/08/libraries-are-beating-heart.html
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