The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Teen Librarian Promotes Involvement at Los Altos Public Library

With blue cropped hair and trendy glasses, Sarah Neeri hardly fits your typical image of a librarian.

Neither does she want to. As the Los Altos Public Library (LAPL) Teen Librarian, Neeri works with zeal to increase teen participation.

A native of eastern Washington, Neeri grew up with a love for reading. However, she did not discover her passion for librarianism until later.

“I don’t think I really decided on becoming a librarian until I was in college at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington,” Neeri said. “I worked at the library for the three years I was there—I spent one year studying abroad—but whenever I was at school, I worked at the library at least 20 hours a week. That was just something I enjoyed doing.”

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Neeri spent her year abroad in Kyoto, Japan, where she developed an interest for Japanese manga.

“I really got into Japanese comics when I lived there,” Neeri said. “l lived with a host family that was also really into comics and video games…When I moved back to America, manga was just starting to get popular.”

This experience led to a yearlong job back in Spokane, Washington, where Neeri worked at a comic book shop. Immediately after, Neeri headed to Indiana University and two years later, graduated with a Master of Library Science degree. She applied and got the job as Teen Librarian at LAPL in 2005.

“I wanted to be on the west coast, and I didn’t actually know anything about this area when I moved here, so it was very exciting,” Neeri said. “I feel really lucky [to have landed the job here.] This is a community that really supports the library…which is nice because I don’t think that’s the case in all communities.”

Her career at the LAPL has spanned a total of nine years and during that time, Neeri has helped build the Teen program up to its current popularity. She continues to manage the LAPL’s large collection of teen books, comics and video games, the latter of which has spawned into weekly gaming sessions at the LAPL Teen room.

“The Wii is in the teen room once a week, but we just started [playing with] the PS3 as well,” Neeri said. “Some people bring in laptops, some bring in their own [Nintendo] DS’s and play Smash Bros. on them…Mostly Egan and Los Altos High School students come, although we have some kids come from Mountain View High School, but they come less often because I think it is harder for them to get here.”

So far, the game days, which are from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, have attracted only a small group of students. Neeri is pushing for a large attendance so that more teens can enjoy the games.

“Sometimes we have two or three people, and sometimes we have 15,” Neeri said. “It’s generally boys, but I’d like to see more girls come. Once we had an all-girls Mario Kart match and it was amazing…When the girls do come, the boys are very welcoming.”

Neeri’s role at the LAPL eventually led to a collaboration three years ago with the school’s librarian Gordon Jack to bridge the LAPL teen community and the students at the school. Nicknamed the “lunchtime librarian,” Neeri comes to the school at the beginning of each month and spends one lunch period promoting the LAPL in the library lobby.

“The lunchtime librarian program was thanks to Mr. Jack,” Neeri said. “Coming to schools depends on administration and teachers’ help getting [me] there, and Mr. Jack has been really great about partnering with me and [allowing me to] come to the school. I’m just trying to get the message out, ‘Don’t forget about the public library.’ I want people to feel like we’re approachable and you can come here and use us as a resource.”

As the lunchtime librarian, Neeri sets up a table stacked with books to give away, colorful information leaflets and a poster with a “question of the month.” Neeri starts conversations with interested students and prompts them to answer the question for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card and some candy.

“I started doing the question of the month as a way to get people to start talking to me, and that’s become a thing now,” Neeri said. “I’ll ask a different question every month, and I’ll type up students’ answers and bring them in the next month. Some of the past questions of the month have been, ‘How would you fail to survive the Hunger Games?’ That was really good—people got really into it and they spent 10 minutes thinking about it.”

Neeri also works with Jack to hold LAPL card drives at the school, which she hopes to expand to automatic LAPL cards for all students at the school.

“We get people to sign up for library cards for those who don’t have them [at the school],” Neeri said. “Even if you don’t live in Los Altos, it’s free to have a student card. We’re trying to get it so everyone will get cards automatically, like how it is being done at the Mountain View Library.”

Neeri is in the LAPL Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday evenings and alternating Fridays and Saturdays.

“I really love it [here at Los Altos],” Neeri said. “I love recommending books to people. That’s one of the most important things I do here.”

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