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Young Adult Programming Specialist: Christopher Shoemaker
What is a daily schedule like for you?
For me, every day is slightly different, but it involves a lot of e-mail and phone calls. I usually meet with one new programmer or organization a week to build new partnerships and bring in awesome new programs. I try to get out to other libraries to see the teen programs that are going on and to talk with teens and staff members to see what sort of new programs they want to see happen at their library. There’s also a lot of time spent outlining and brainstorming things in my notebooks, especially when I am preparing for a TeenLIVE! event.
I’ve wanted to be a librarian since graduating from high school, when I realized that becoming a doctor would require me to be excellent at chemistry, math, and physics. After working in public libraries all through graduate school, I went to PLA in Boston in 2006, and interviewed with NYPL. After working in the Bronx for two years, I became the Young Adult Programming Specialist in 2008.
How long have you been working at the library?
I’ve been at NYPL for a little over 4 years.
What college did you go to and for what?
I got my Master of Library and Information Science from UCLA.
Out of all of the branches in NYC why did you pick the Stephen A. Schwarzman branch?
Actually, the Public Programs Lifelong Learning staff are mainly based across the street, on the 6th Floor of the Mid-Manhattan Library. We’re always running in and out of Schwarzman, though, so it feels like a second home.
"The Anti-Prom provides an alternative, safe space for all teens who may not feel welcome at official school proms or dances because of their sexual orientation, the way they dress, or any other reason.” These exact words are on your blog page about the "Anti-Prom" for teens. What made you decide to create this program? How is it affecting teens? What do you hope for teens to get out of it? What goals did you have for it and where do you plan to take it in the future?
This program started in 2004 at Teen Central, then based in the Donnell Library. The teens there were not interested in going to their prom, and wanted to create a free alternative to the traditional event. Jack Martin and Megan Honig worked with them to make it happen. Events such as these demonstrate to teens from all sorts of backgrounds that the library is a place for them: a place they can visit without being judged, and they can find the resources they need in the library. Thanks to support from TimeWarner and the LGBT@NYPL initiative, we’ve been able to expand the scope and make it a much bigger event.
The “Anti-prom” is one of just a few “Project Library” episodes. What kinds of things do you make a video about in each of the episodes? Do you come up with the material for the video and how do you pick what to make an episode about?
Project Library is an awesome example of teens connecting with library resources in a new and creative way. We partner with a local high school and have them create outfits for the Anti-Prom fashion show. The teens are able to come to the library and work with knowledgeable NYPL staff to have in depth experience with some of the special collections we have.
Are all of your programs and activities geared toward teens?
I work primarily with teens, but we also do a variety of family oriented programming.
Why did you decide to work with teens so closely?
Teens are plugged into so many things, from fashion to music to television to movies. It’s exciting to see where they are going, and to make sure that I can work with organizations and institutions to meet teens where they are, and help them get to where they want to go.
The TeenLIVE and KidsLIVE programs reach out to teens and kids by hosting special events. Explain a little bit about the events and this program.
TeenLIVE is all about connecting today’s teens with the major players in their world. From classic figures to today’s newest stars, we give teens the opportunity to interact with tastemakers and creative minds, to gain some wisdom and words of experience from people who blazed new trails. It’s also about drilling down into the central issues of teens here in NYC and around the world.
You have lots of programs ranging anything from SAT Math to Beautiful Words, Beautiful Writing to Go Green: Found art jewelry with Pam... how do you think up or find ideas for your programs and how do you make sure they are geared to teens?
I work with staff and teens across the system to make sure the programs we have in the library are the programs that they want to see. I also examine the upcoming exhibitions, look at trends in pop culture magazines, talk with teens and more! It’s always fun to find ways to connect the library with the current trends.