I don't mean to pick on the woman who commented on my earlier post about Gossip Girl, but her response did make me think--what are the differences between school and public libraries? Should there be any?
Certainly, when I start building the teen collection for Darien, I won't be collecting 15,000 adult nonfiction titles to support the curriculum--there's no curriculum to support. And I won't be worried about collaboration with teachers (although I will be reaching out to the schools). I won't have a reference section.
But what will stay the same? I'll still want to create research guides. I'll still want to teach teenagers how to use the library and support their homework and research needs. I'll still have databases and web guides and I'll still educate kids on how to safely use the internet.
I'll buy more YA lit, for sure, and more graphic novels--because they don't seem to circulate here, for some reason. But the kind of literature I'll buy will be the same. I'll still buy high-interest fiction, lots of series books, and see what the teens want. I'll still have DVDs for them to borrow, and fun magazines to browse like Teen Vogue and People and Vibe and ESPN. Fortunately, I won't have to let them login with my username in order to circumvent the Facebook and YouTube blocks, and that will be nice.
Another nice thing will be the ability to let kids wear hats inside, use their cell phones, and eat...
Despite these little differences, I think we should approach both areas of librarianship--school and public--with the same philosophy. I know my point of view is unique because I don't work at a public school, but having been in this field for three years now, I think I would have the same attitude about services to teens either way. I want to give them the books they want to read. I know it's harder to fight parents in public schools and that principals are afraid of lawsuits; I know that budgets are smaller (although, mine's not that great compared to some big public school systems) and that librarians have to make more choices about the books they buy. I know that the attitude of the community can very much influence the philosophy of the school.
So, maybe I'm being idealistic. Maybe, if I worked at a school where I didn't feel supported, was constantly being audited by conservative parents (and yes, our parents are pretty conservative), and where I felt like my last $20 would be better spent on a history book than the latest Clique book, I would feel like schools and public libraries are inherently different. But I'm not sure I would work there very long--either I'd get fired for standing by a book or I'd quit because I was sick of it. I took a class on school library management this fall and I have to say, the picture that is often painted of school libraries is pretty grim. I'm not sure why anyone would go into the field after hearing horror stories about filtering, banned books, restricted budgets, angry parents, and fixed schedules. If we want to recruit energetic new librarians into the profession, shouldn't we be looking at why school libraries are the way they are? Today's library school students want to use social networking sites and read Gossip Girl. They're not going to work in schools--they're going to work in public libraries.
I admit that I'm feeling some guilt over leaving a school for a public library. I'm not trying to say that I'm perfect at my job, but I do think that schools need librarians who treat their libraries like teen rooms--places where students can feel safe and comfortable to be themselves. There are tons of people who want to go into teen services and shake things up, but not as many who want to go into schools and show people how librarianship has changed.
Providing teenagers with popular paperbacks isn't being an irresponsible school librarian; it doesn't take away from the fact that you're also supporting them in the classroom. We shouldn't be, as a parent once said to me, "providing them with a choice between broccoli and carrots instead of a choice between broccoli and cake." If we want students to keep coming into the library after their teacher makes them--if we want them to be lifelong library users--we have to give them the cake.