I always laugh when people assume that my job is boring or quiet when I tell them that I’m a librarian. My best friend is a nurse and I often joke with her that we usually see the same bodily fluids at our jobs. Working with the public in a library setting has a unique set of challenges, and when you add teenagers into the mix, it’s like Forrest Gump’s momma’s box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get.
I offer a fandom program to teens. We generally do a craft and I let them talk about their fandoms, ships, OTPs, et cetera. Usually, I only need to rein them in when talk turns to Doctor Who and murderous threats are made against Peter Capaldi. But generally, although they are energetic and very opinionated, I was never particularly floored by anything that happened in the group. Famous last words, right?
So there we were, folding book hedgies (which is a great craft for a club, because once they get the hang of folding, it’s easy enough to talk and fold at the same time). Chatting about fanfiction. And one of the neonates, who’s pretty shy, announces “I have like so many unfinished stories on Wattpad, but right now I write Bible porn.”
The strange roaring sound in my ears made me think that perhaps I misheard her. Oh, no. There were more detailed descriptions being given. Oh, my.
I saw the faces of the other teens–they were equally shocked–and that snapped me out of it. I said, “Wow, that must be an interesting Bible! Ha! Now, what do you guys think about Clara leaving Doctor Who?” We all managed to move on to other topics–well, except me. I kept wondering what I could have done. I knew that I should have said something further to let her know that this topic wasn’t appropriate, but I didn’t know how I would have phrased it without scaring her away from coming to the club ever again. So I turned to TSU on Facebook.
People had amazing ideas (thank you!!!), and the main gist is to let the teen know that speaking about that topic is not appropriate for the library.
I tend to overreact to situations, as anyone who knows me personally can attest, so I was feeling pretty low. Failibrarian, that was me. Why did I freeze? Why didn’t I have some pithy response ready?
Because you cannot plan for every eventuality. They don’t tell you, in your YA Lit class, that teens want to talk about the Bible porn they write. I didn’t even conceive of that as a thing even though I know about Rule 34 (I even read the book by Charlie Stross!).
The point is, you’re going to be blindsided by what your teens say or do. And it’s okay to gather your thoughts for a moment before proceeding. You might even freeze up, like I did. No matter what ends up happening, you’ll feel better prepared in case that subject, or a similar one, ever comes up again. And then, afterwards, you can get over it, laugh about it, and move on.
TSU Agent Pamela Penza is a Librarian with New Hanover County. All views expressed here are her own and not that of her employers. Pam loves Star Wars, cooking, finding new ways to look awkward at the gym, and reading YA fiction. You can find her on Twitter @Pamelibrariland or on her blog at http://pamelibrarian.blogspot.com.