Being a Fanbrarian Part 1- Know your Audience
When you are a Teen Librarian embracing geek culture is part of the job description. Teens geek out over pretty much everything under the sun. Their fandoms change weekly and keeping up with all of them can be a bit overwhelming. In the past year I have binge watched all of reboot Doctor Who, spent an entire weekend sorting out Homestuck, skipped my way through countless anime shows on Netflix, and skimmed the internet for tidbits on fandoms that I have no intention of following but need a basic information about to create programs. It can be exhausting.
So, where do you start if geek culture is not your thing? In the next few posts I am going to highlight my journey into teen fan-culture and personal geekdom.
First of all, here are some handy definitions that will pop up in my posts. These are taken from the Urban Dictionary and Google definitions.
the state or condition of being a fan of someone or something.
“my 17 years of sports fandom”
the fans of a particular person, team, fictional series, etc., regarded collectively as a community or subculture.
“the Star Wars fandom”
A term used to describe fan fictions that take previously created characters and put them as a pair. It usually refers to romantic relationships, but it can refer platonic ones as well. (Just think of “shipping” as short for “relationSHIP”.)
Fanfiction is when someone takes either the story or characters (or both) of a certain piece of work, whether it be a novel, tv show, movie, etc, and create their own story based on it. Sometimes people will take characters from one movie and put them in another, which is called a cross-over.
Get to know your teen patrons-
There are a ton of fandoms out there and knowing them all is pretty much impossible. When I started as the Teen Librarian a year ago, I had inherited a monthly fandom club and a group of kids that were serious Whovians (Doctor Who fans). I also had a bunch of anime and manga kids and zero personal knowledge of anything they loved. While this was helpful at first, I quickly found out that a monthly fandom group was not a good program. During my first 5 months I did: Sherlock, Star Trek, My Little Pony, Supernatural, and Harry Potter. My average attendance was a whopping 2 teens. I also pretty much bombed with the Manga/Anime kids when I admitted that I had barely watched or read anything that they liked. An exact teen quote “Then why are you running a program?” The only saving grace was the fact that I gave away a ton of weeded mangas and had pocky. Other than that it was 6 months of fandom fails. 6 months kids.. I felt like the worst geeky teen librarian in the history of geeky teen librarians. This is what I did to fix it and for the most part save face with some of my super geeky teens.
The first thing I recommend is interviewing your teens. Sounds pretty obvious right? Well it can be a bit hard when you have no idea what they are currently obsessed with. It is especially hard if you are new or following in the footsteps of your predicesor. Teens can be a skeptical and wary bunch. However, I encourage you to suck it up and give it a shot. Sit down with them, chat them up in the stacks about their favorite books and TV shows, comment on their fandom t-shirts or other swag, ask if they have watched any recent movies, and put up some passive prompts that get them talking about what they geek. If you happen to like some of the same things mention it. Talk about a character that you both like or both hated. Predict what you think will happen in the next movie. Just remember NO SPOILERS!
If you are lucky to have a Teen Advisory board do a night of all things geek. Ask them about their fandoms, who they ship, and have them suggest a few programs. Don’t have a teen advisory board? Survey your department. Put out a survey asking about what programs or geeky programs they would want in the library. If you are part of a larger system ask other branches about popular programs and what their teens like. Many teens will travel to different branches for programming and your peers can be a great resource. Another idea is to put out some passive prompts in the department.
A great passive that helped me was a white board covered in paper that encouraged them to share their geeky feels. I cut out a bunch of pictures from TV shows, movies, comic books, anime, manga etc… I added a glue stick, post-its and some markers and let them go crazy. Here is an example and the link to my original post.
The top responses were: Harry Potter, Sherlock, Doctor Who, Homestuck, and My Little Pony. Another idea is to have them talk about their favorite comic books or manga.
There are many things you can do with a whiteboard and a clever question. Teens love to express themselves and debate with each other about what they love. Don’t have a white board? Cover one of the tables in teen with butcher paper and leave out some crayons or colored pencils. You can write some questions on the paper like those above or leave it blank for artistic expression.
The whole point is to get out there and talk to your teens. You won’t know if you don’t ask, and most teens are willing to say a few words about what they love or hate. Finally, be prepared for some answers that might surprise you and maybe a few spoilers along the way. There are fandoms out there that I have no interest in ever watching or being a part of but I know enough about them to at least chat a bit with my teens when they bring it up. At the very least know the bare bones of what they are talking about!
Next up: Fanbrarian- Geeky Programming