Friday, February 23, 2007

Support Systems

As I was sitting blankly in front of my computer monitor this evening wondering what I could talk about, it suddenly struck my that in our reading for this week, Tyrell had a very limited adult support system. His father's in jail, and not the greatest role model. His mother's...well, she's hopeless and hopelessly useless to boot. Of all the useless adults in the book, she was the one who really made me mad. At least Tyrell's father had been trying to make a better life for his family, but I found myself getting so mad at an adult who would put that kind of pressure on her son. Really, the only adult in the midst of this that seems to care is Ms. Jenkins, his girlfriend's mother. Most of the support -- the sympathy and help -- that Tyrell gets is from Novisha (though, in the end, he's disappointed in her, too), Cal (who's dealing drugs), and Jasmine (who understands him, but has a lot of issues of her own). They're 14- and 15-year-old kids. I can remember what I was like at 14, and I sure wasn't ready for this kind of adult responsibility. It kills me that some teens have to deal with that sort of thing.

I wonder, too, if I would be able to be a support for the teens who came into the library needing an adult in that role. If someone like Tyrell came into the library and told me what was going on, what should my response be? I'm sure I could help someone look for a book or for information on a subject. Providing information is what librarians are supposed to do, after all. I guess what I'm wondering is when does helping a troubled teen become beyond what my job/role is? Is it "unprofessional" to start to know the teens and talk with them about their lives, their schools, and other non-library topics at the library? I'm struggling to define the support role that's appropriate for me to take as a librarian. Where do I draw the line between helping inform someone and giving advice inappropriately?

1 comment:

Linda Braun said...

These are big and important questions that are something to be aware of when working in teen services. It's the question of social worker or librarian or bartender or.... As librarians can we ignore the social worker role? What kind of advice can we give teenagers without crossing boundaries we shouldn't cross?

If we listen to what teens have to say this is often less difficult than it seems in the abstract. When listening it becomes apparent who the teen might talk to, what questions you can ask, etc. I know that seems impossible but it's true.

I don't mean to simplify the difficulties. But, practice and listening alleviates them to some extent.