If there’s anything I’ve learned from realistic tween fiction it’s that being the new girl can be hard. Really hard. Roving bullies, countless social faux pas, missing friends and family, it’s really just a wasteland strewn with mortification and terror. Growing up I never exactly “fit in”. My clothes were different, my hairstyles were different, my sense of humor was different and the things I liked to do for fun were really different. (If you’ve just moved to a new town I do NOT recommend jumping straight into imaginary downhill skiing on your roller-skates in front of the cool kids.) When we moved to Maine I was nine and I had all of the aforementioned things going for me. It was like walking straight into one of those novels except there was no turning the page when things got too hard to read. I couldn’t finish the book and be glad I wasn’t in some other girl’s shoes. I embraced the strange though. I liked standing out as a societal rebel, I took pleasure in scaring the other kids with my sense of humor and while my lack of friends bothered me I didn’t want to compromise who I was. After about a year of this I found Rachel, another outsider, and we took solace in one another’s company. All of a sudden the world with bullies didn’t exist anymore, all that was real was the world we created for ourselves.
Some folks have been asking what my first week has been like since joining the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library. There’s interest about having gaming equipment for teens available all day (even if teens are skipping school), there are questions about letting kids have access to expensive equipment like our 3D printer, there is wonder about the fact that we have 14,000 sq feet for JUST ages 8-18, and there are questions about what we’ve got up our sleeves, what big, crazy things we want to do next.
The fancy equipment is wonderful to have right off the bat, but it’s not the best part. I’ve always pushed to get games in my previous libraries and the responsibilities libraries have to reflecting our communities and bridging gaps makes it easy to justify the need for 3D printers or maker spaces in grant funding if you can’t find room for it in your budgets.
We have lots of space to grow, be noisy and even run around if we want to which is incredible but it’s also not the best part. This week we had the room to create music and a gigantic 20 foot jellyfish at the same time. When the kids excitement led them to get rambunctious they were encouraged to run, no, stampede to the other end of our floor to get drinks of water and burn it off. I know space is hard to come by for many libraries but even at my first library when we didn’t have enough space to run around we could go outside to burn off energy. At my last library when we needed to burn energy we occasionally just let the kids be kids and run if needed. There can be creative ways to deal with small spaces and locations that don’t have the great outdoors at your disposal.
The best part about working in the Chattanooga Public Library and specifically on the 2nd Floor is being in a building filled with people like me. People who have also had their programming ideas received with raised eyebrows, people who might not look like other librarians and certainly don’t talk like them. It’s like I’ve found a hive of Rachels and we’re just getting started in creating those big, crazy programs everyone is waiting to hear about. I am supported, I am inspired, I am encouraged and I am flourishing. That’s what it’s like to work here.