I hadn't gone to a professional conference in a while. Michigan has two annually that should interest me in theory--the Spring Institute which has a focus on children's "stuff" with a side of teen business, and the annual conference which is for all kinds of librarians. I've gone to both in the past, and even when I was a shiny new librarian I had a feeling that I wasn't being told anything I didn't already know. How many times could I be told that I could use a cookie sheet as a magnet board during storytime? I am lucky enough to work in a building that has a magnet board, so this info wasn't particularly helpful the first time, nevermind the second and third. So I stopped going, and instead looked for more unconventional opportunities.
The offerings about teen stuff were often similar. "Your library should have graphic novels!" the presenter will say. Yes, right. We do. Lots of them. "Video Games! IN THE LIBRARYOMG!" uhhh, yup. Weren't we in Library Journal when we started doing that nearly 10 years ago? I know that these things are probably new and crazy ideas for some libraries, but for a lot of us they aren't. I realized that I wanted to hear from EXPERTS in the field, people who were doing NEW and interesting things, who had teens like mine who are ravenous for things to do at the library. And then I realized...maybe I can't learn from a lot of presenters because I AM an expert at this. It was quite a moment, in terms of grownupness.
And so I recruited a friend and we put together a proposal and it was accepted. We figured out our talking points, made our Power Point presentation, and rehearsed together. The day of our presentation we were nervous, but excited to talk about our amazing library teens to the two or three people we figured would show up. We called our presentation Beyond Duct Tape: Programming for Todays Teens. When our presentation started, it was standing room only. Turns out we weren't the only ones looking for more. People took notes, asked great questions, and stayed well over the allotted time. We've gotten follow up emails. It was amazing.
I started the presentation by saying "The first year I was the FT teen librarian, the summer reading program had about 200 participants. The second year, which was the first year I planned it myself, we have about 440. Last year I had 660 teens do my summer reading program. I know what I'm talking about."
And I do. I don't know how I got so lucky that this is what I get to do professionally, but it's become obvious that it's what I was meant for, and that is the real secret to my success. Other, lesser secrets, are pizza and candy.
Crap, I gave them all away!