I Used To Be a Teen Library Patron, Too

A week or so ago, one of my Facebook friends posted a link to this:

Lines from Shakespeare Mistaken for 1990s Hip Hop Lyrics

(It’s pretty funny, you should take a look).

Here’s what it made me think of:

I, myself, lived through the 1990s.  I was a teenager then, in fact.

In the suburbs in the early 90s, rap was still considered kind of a teen fad.  A lot of adults thought it wouldn’t last. Many adults also thought that it was “noisy” and “offensive.”

At that time, some librarian at my local public library put up a poster of Shakespeare, wearing those old school sunglasses (you know, the squarish Blues Brothers kind), with the caption “Shakespeare was the original rapper.”

As a young person, I was actually pretty into Shakespeare.  I did theater and had taken a few intensive summer classes at a local Shakespeare festival.  I knew and appreciated that he was brilliant, and his use of rhythm to signal meaning kinda blew my mind.

I thought that poster was the lamest thing I’d ever seen.

Today, as a librarian myself, I can appreciate where that poster-hanging librarian was coming from.  Teens can be inscrutable patrons, and the urge to find some way, any way, of relating to them is very strong.  Shakespeare may not have been the original rapper, but there are definitely some awesome connections between rap and his writing.

I always think of that poster when I work with, or for, teens at the library.

I think maybe the thing to remember, is to meet teens where they are, instead of where you want them to be. As patrons, teens deserve the library service they want, not the service we think they should have.  That means we should ask what they are interested in first, and let that drive purchasing and programming, rather than trying to pull them somewhere.

We don’t need to try to make Shakespeare cool.  Shakespeare is already cool.

We don’t need to try to be cool.  We can just be ourselves.  We’re already cool too.

 

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