Upon attending the 2012 RPL Staff Day, I found myself re-examining my personal commitment to customer service and also the vision I have developed for the role of customer service in meeting the needs of communities through public libraries. It is essential that the needs of all patron groups are examined when considering customer service in the library. We are only given so many chances to make errors in our service before a patron elects to avoid a certain library or perhaps loses interest in reading for the purpose of intellectual stimulation all together.
Providing the best service to all patrons is highly important. Adult patrons are the voting tax payers and library advocates that protect library funding and frequently use the library. Children and young adult services are also extremely important because these are the patrons who will shape future library usage and may provide some of the strongest advocacy because they need libraries more than any other group for the purpose of fulfilling their education.
Whether adults like it or not young people are constantly learning from every aspect of their environment. The library service (and resources) we are able to offer youth then instills the value of quality information and professional library service only to the extent to which society is willing to invest in these and promote intellectual growth among future generations. It is our role as librarians to provide youth with the basic resources through which they may grow and learn to shape their future for the better. Youth services, addressing juvenile, tween, teenagers, and perhaps even the transition of young adults into their twenties are uniquely positioned to support a community struggling to overcome some of the social challenges associated with poverty.
Here at Rochester Public Library there is an outstanding program intended to enhance youth services through relationship building between staff and young patrons in the library. Children's services are enhanced by literacy aids who offer homework assistance and programming. Teens enjoy the Safe to Be Smart Program in which social workers in designated teen areas enhance library services to build relationships, promote literacy activities, offer programming, and assist with behavioral issues. Through these positions, youth in Rochester are met at their point of need at a time when budgetary issues do not allow full professional staffing. The present budget is entirely unacceptable if in fact the quality of life in this city is to improve. We must work to reduce crime, provide our citizens with jobs that pay living sustainable wages, and maintain property values in this beautiful city already steeped with so much professional and creative talent. Youth programs within Rochester Public Library are in a position to help shape future generations for the better. We must continually find ways to meet this challenge better than we have in prior days.
It is essential to acknowledge that literacy aids and social workers are not a suitable replacement for professional librarians. In the latest round of budgetary cuts, teen library programs have been reduced severely as this was a coping mechanism for many branches of Rochester Public Library. As long as the Safe to Be Smart program is present in teen centers then behavior problems are managed and programs are provided. This level of service for our teens is enough to keep complaining individuals quiet, but is entirely inadequate in a community seeking to promote social justice, combat the problems associated with poverty and increase the standard of living for all citizens. We must empower the youth in our community to create a better future for themselves by taking education into their own hands through the use of the public library.