Teens are in prime position to learn a skill and need to be able to make mistakes without being judged, says Mira Domsky.

Pima County Public Library

This is the latest in a series about what’s going on in the Pima County Public Library.

The library has always been like a second home to me. You see, I was the kid who kept coming to story time even though I was too old; the kid who hung out in the middle school library at lunch; and the kid who did the summer reading program every year until I turned 18. And now I’m an adult who works at the library.

I’ve never really wanted to be anywhere else.

For five years I was the young adult services librarian at the Wheeler Taft Abbett Sr. Library. While there, I did library outreach at schools, held book and movie release parties, an annual zombie prom, a weekly writing club and an anime club. I also trained more than 100 teen volunteers and put together a Teen Advisory Board to improve young adult services and provide leadership opportunities.

Currently I serve as the young adult services librarian at the Dusenberry-River Library. In addition to planning programs, conducting outreach, and working with teens, I serve on the Worlds of Imagination teen art contest, the MegaMania planning team and the Tucson Festival of Books Author Committee.

My belief is quite simple: Teens need opportunities to succeed and a place to learn through self-exploration. I believe the Pima County Public Library can be that place for teens in our community.

At the library, we provide opportunities for learning and cultivating leadership and social skills through volunteering, but we also allow ample time and room for them to explore what excites them. It’s through these things that we help them understand how valuable they are today and how important they are to the future.

No one feels anything more intensely than a teenager. A part of me misses those dizzying highs, but then I remember the abysmal lows, and I’m mostly OK with having grown out of it (mostly). That intense emotion and enthusiasm is what I want to encourage and teach teens to direct into something they can use.

Whether that something is art, science or community service, this is one of the best times in their lives to develop a skill. I want to encourage them in the things they love in hope that it will give them strength to carry through those abysmal lows. I want them to know that they matter, and to realize that they are the future. Someday the world will be theirs, and I want them to be ready.

Children need the approval of their parents, but teens want to break away from their parents and establish their own identity. As a teenager, I had teachers who helped point me towards my path, and I hope I can be a similar adult mentor for some of the teens I work with.

Above all, I want teens to learn how to learn. I want them to be able to distinguish fact from hearsay, news from memes, and opportunities from scams. Reading is one way to learn, and research shows that reading abilities improve regardless of the reading material. The more widely you read, the more you learn.

Learning by doing is another way. I try to provide opportunities for that too, using games to teach critical thinking, and crafts that teach analog skills and encourage creativity.

Since moving to the Dusenberry-River Library last year, I’ve been adjusting to the different kinds of teenagers who hang out here and trying to provide them with intellectually stimulating activities that follow the Connected Learning philosophy of Hang Out, Mess Around, Geek Out, or HOMAGO (We love acronyms in library land).

This philosophy emphasizes social learning, and it encourages teens to try new things in a supportive, low-consequence environment and teach each others what they’ve learned. Over the summer I’ll be offering art classes, 99-cent-store hacks, crafting, and 21st-century tech workshops that offer hands-on learning experiences without the fear of being graded or tested.

They can just have fun, try new things, make mistakes, and try again. Making mistakes is an important part of the learning process, and as author Neil Gaiman says, “If you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.”

Who doesn’t want to change the world? I’m trying to change my little part of it. I want the library to be a safe place for people, especially teenagers, to learn and explore. Personally, I want to learn about everything and I love helping other people do the same. That’s why I work at the library.

Mira Domsky has a bachelor of arts in creative writing and a master of arts in library and information science. Her favorite books are “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury and “Dealing with Dragons” by Patricia C. Wrede. Links to her creative work can be found at mdomsky.wixsite.com/miradomsky