This week one of our readings from the ever informative book Connecting Young Adults and Libraries (chapter 4) dealt with the issue of customer service for teens. The chapter outlined ways in which librarians and their staff could better serve the needs of teens ranging from helping them to better define their queries to just saying “thanks for coming to the library today.” The chapter also dealt with what sort of attitude and personality that one working with teens should have and try to convey to the teens to help them feel more comfortable and at home.
Specifically designated teen sections in libraries and librarians for teens are a relatively new phenomenon. This group slowly emerged from being caught between a land of picture books in the children’s section to the at time overwhelming, irrelevant adult section in libraries. With that in mind, it can sometimes be understandable that teens as a specific group needing customer service has been lost in the mix and are still not quite understood. What is unfortunate is that the bad reputation of teens and the bad attitude towards teens just perpetuates the misunderstandings of teens and their needs. What was so refreshing about this chapter was that is basically brought helping teens down to a level that most people can understand: Customer Service. At some point most people have had to deal with a customer service oriented job or task. And the rule was “the customer is always right.”
What’s interesting is that that memo has been lost on teens. Yes they can be obnoxious, loud, and disrespectful in their attitude. But is being disrespectful and patronizing towards them going to help improve their attitude? Most likely not. That’s why bring back providing services to teens as a part of the realm of customer service kind of makes a light bulb go off. Oh yeah, maybe if we treat them nice and earn their respect, then we’ll have some sway.
These teens should be innocent until proven guilty, and even then there is the need for patience with teens. For example, when teens get too loud, its important to remember that especially in many cases, hey are being forced,to patronize libraries where they really don’t have any physical place to call their own. Their still in limbo land between children and adults, where the teen section is almost always an after thought. They often don’t have an adequate place to meet that has sound proof walls and lots of space. A librarian must take that into account and still maintain that they are patrons and respected users who have a right to the space. They also have a right to respect those around them, which at times does call for reprimanding, but that doesn’t always mean yelling at them and threatening to call the police.
The chapter goes much further into specific ways to help with issues like readers advisory or training staff to relate positively towards teens, but fact is libraries provide a service, and everyone who visits the library deserves that respect and help that comes with good customer service.