"Identity Matters" by Sarah J. McCarthey and Elizabeth Birr Moje briefly mentioned a point that was especially important to me as a teen -- how others perceived me because of my identity of "teen." Describing people's reactions when she brought four teens to the mall, Elizabeth says, "Each of these interactions reveal something about how teens, in particular, are positioned on the basis of their identities: They are people who are challenging to be with (you lucky woman), people to be wary of (the wide berth), and people who are not typically sweet of nice (the ice cream treat)" (229).
When I was a teen, a local store instituted a policy of having only two teenagers inside a store at once. (If I was there with two friends, would they have kicked me out?) Recently, two local malls decided that after a certain time, teens have to be with an adult. (What should teens do if they need to buy a Christmas present for their parents and don't want them to see what it is?) It bothered me as a teen, and it bothers me now that the majority of teens gets punished by a few who cause trouble.
So what's the library's role in all this? I think it's important for librarians to avoid labels such as teens as "problem patrons." Even if we don't dislike teens as a group, we need to be aware of our own labelling, and what we expect different groups to be or act like -- the jocks, the nerds, or what have you. When someone identifies themselves as part of one of these groups, all of us have a picture in our heads of what that label means. Teens have their own ideas of the identity "librarian," and I bet it's one we want to change. Finally, by providing a variety of books and programs, we can expose teens to a variety of backgrounds and people groups, and in so doing we can work towards challenging the stereotypes they have of various identities.
McCarthey, Sarah J. and Elizabeth Birr Moje. "Identity matters." Reading Research Quarterly. 77.2 (2002): 228-238.