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Librarians in the Field: An Interview with Chrissie Morrison

Chrissie Morrison is the latest addition to the Dewey blog’s series of interviews with librarians in the field. She is the Teen librarian at the East Greenbush Community Library and an avid reader and blogger. Read on to learn more about her valuable insights into the world of public libraries and teen services.

Q: Welcome to the Dewey blog! Tell us a little about yourself:
A: Thank you! I often tell people, as a way of explaining why I like to work with tweens and teens, “I am an adult because it is a life stage of the human body. I will NEVER be a grown-up.��? I read YA books because I like them better, not just because it’s a part of my job, and I can’t imagine a life lived without video games. And even though I am a wife and a mother of two, I still FEEL like a teenager – so working with teens is a perfect cover!

Q: What does a typical day for you at “The Jungle��? look like?
A: It honestly depends on the day of the week. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are days when I typically sit in the Teen Area (aka “The Jungle��?) and try to get some work done while making myself available to the tweens and teens (which I often just call “teens��? for simplicity’s sake) who come in to hang out and/or do their homework after school. Some days are relatively quiet and I will only see a handful of teens; on other days, however, The Jungle will be packed with teens playing board games, working on homework, or just sitting around talking. Tuesday afternoons are when we have our teen programs like Anime Club, Book Group, and Teen Advisory Group (TAG). Friday afternoons are when we have Teen Café – a “happy hour��? of sorts where teens have (free) access to video games, laptops, and popcorn to celebrate the end of the school week.

Q: Why did you decide to go into YA librarianship?
A: I actually fell into YA librarianship completely by accident! I started off with a BS in Elementary Education, with a science concentration, and an English minor. To fulfill my teacher’s certificate, I had to get a masters degree. I decided to skip the “normal��? masters many elementary teachers will get (reading) to give myself some more career options. When I applied to UAlbany, I fully intended to get my MSIS as a SLMS and go back to teaching when I was done. When degree requirements began to change at the state level, I decided to switch to the public library track so I could still graduate “on time.��? I fell in love with public libraries during my required internship, and I even let my teaching certificate expire a couple of years ago – with absolutely no regrets!

Q: What are your favorite – and least favorite – things about working with teens and tweens?

A: My least favorite thing is having to remind people that not all teens are “bad.��? Sure, I deal with some teens who are rude and cause more than their fair share of trouble… But I also work with a lot of helpful, respectful, and energetic teens.

My favorite thing about working with teens is the notion of endless possibility. We all know that teens are the future (as scary as that sometimes seems!), but not everyone has the opportunity to work directly with teens and to help them figure out how they want to shape the future. When I work with teens, I am often awed by their ingenuity and how passionate they can be. My library teens restore my faith in humanity on a regular basis.

Q: You have a great blog called Librarina. Most of your blog is focused on teen book reviews, but there are also a few informational blogs about current events as well as some promotional blogs for library programming. What was your motivation for starting a blog? Who do you see as your primary readership, and how do you try to promote it to them?
A: I started my blog as a way to keep track of my own reading. I figured it could probably be a valuable readers’ advisory tool, too, if I kept it up to date. I don’t have a huge readership, but that doesn’t matter to me. While I had hoped to get my library teens reading the blog for book suggestions, I think most of my readers are likely adults who work with teens. I am doing my best to get more “real live teens��? interested in the blog by linking my blog to my Facebook wall, but it’s too soon to say if that has made a difference yet.

Q: I understand that you were in Missouri last week to present a series of teen summer reading workshops. What workshop are you the most jazzed up about?
A: I am very passionate about promoting the message that teen services are a necessary part of public library services. Public libraries are a community center, and that means that we need to keep our services relevant to ALL age groups! I often hear people complain if the teens aren’t studying or reading books the whole time they are at the library – but we have plenty of adults who only come in to use the free computers and to borrow DVDs. Why should teens be held to a higher standard?

Q: How do you make summer reading programs fun for older children and young adults?
A: The TAG at my library has done a great job helping me revamp our Teen Summer Reading Program (SRP) so that we can keep middle- and high-schoolers reading during the summer. Many schools have required reading during the summer anyway, so we just need to find a way to make sure teens know about our SRP and why they should sign up. We have lots fun programs, like a Karaoke Kick-Off, and great raffles, like $20 cash! To earn raffle tickets, teens simply report on their reading habits and attend teen programs.

Q: What would be your advice for librarians interested in entering the YA world?
A: The most important advice I can give is to be yourself. If you are not genuine, teens will know. They can tell when an adult is trying too hard to be cool, so just face the fact that you aren’t cool anymore and move on! Also, be prepared to develop a split personality. It’s extremely rare to get a job working with only teens, so you’re most likely going to need to brush up on your storytime skills and/or be ready to perform readers’ advisory at the adult reference desk.

The Dewey Library Blog would thank Mrs. Morrison for her participation in today’s blog. This interview reaffirms the flexibility, creativity, and continuous learning required by so many of today’s library positions.

Blog post created by Lauren Stern