Meet Your Librarian Series: Teen Services Librarian, Miranda West
From planning “Nerd Proms” to burying herself in young adult fiction, Miranda West’s nearly ten years at Poudre Libraries have been filled with interesting interactions, years of learning, and dedication to Fort Collins teens.
The shelves and corners of Poudre Libraries have been familiar to Miranda since she was a child. A Fort Collins native, she now serves as one of the district’s Teen Services Librarians guiding teens through creative programs and the turbulent times of adolescence.
The Poudre River Path
After graduating from Colorado State University with an English degree, Miranda started her journey in circulation at Old Town Library. After a brief time helping customers locate their next great read, her future became clear.
“I grew up going to the library all the time; I have a lifelong love of learning and sharing that with other people and so it seriously came to me like a lightbulb moment, that’s what I should be doing,” she said about realizing her ultimate career path.
Pursuing her Master’s degree in Library Science while working in circulation and later at the reference desk at all three libraries, Miranda felt most connected to the curriculum in her teen services classes.
“Working with the teens is the most fun; they are so interesting, smart, funny, and creative. The Library is uniquely positioned to support and empower teens; it’s not school or home and… it’s more about exploring their interests and making them feel connected to the community.”
Teens and Pandemic Programming
Miranda began as the Teen Services Librarian in 2018 – many elements of her job changed drastically after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Librarians across the district made the most of pandemic-related challenges, many of them creating virtual programs for customers to tune into from home.
Teens were difficult to engage in virtual programs after having to transition to school online. Rather than socializing with peers at school, they spent those hours isolated in front of the computer. In a survey conducted by John Hopkins University, 36 percent of teens reported a great or moderate increase in mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In regards to serving teens during the pandemic, Miranda said, “The last couple of years have been really weird. Teens are generally very busy and I don’t blame them for not wanting to attend programs when they were going to school online.”
The Next Chapter
However, youth resilience prevailed. In December 2021, Teen Librarians Miranda West and Jenny Thurman along with the district’s Teen Council (a group of local teens who meet monthly to plan programs and shape the teen collection) hosted the first large in-person teen program in two years, a wonderful Yule Ball. Council Tree Library transformed into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with activities like wand making, an escape room, a dance floor, and snacks galore.
Teens came decked out in their absolute best, proudly sporting their allegiance to their Houses. Reflecting on the event, Miranda said, “It was so cool to see the kids come out in their costumes and they had so much fun. It’s always nice when they tell you they had fun too! Our Teen Council did such a great job putting it together and I’m really proud of them.”
Creating those spaces for teens to come and socialize and have a break in their busy schedules is a cornerstone of Miranda’s work and is even more salient post-pandemic. “We felt like [programs] were an important thing to have since they had been missing out on that together. It was important for them to talk to each other and be there for each other. Another part of that is supporting mental health.”
A Decade of Library Moments
Beyond planning teen-centered activities like the Yule Ball and previous Nerd Proms (where teens lived out their favorite characters in cosplay – many in handmade costumes), Miranda finds fulfillment in the public service of librarianship through interacting with the community.
When it comes to working on the front lines in Library buildings, expecting the unexpected – from strange questions or requests to rewarding interactions with teens – is part of exceptional public service.
In her days working at the reference desk, Miranda, who has an overwhelming fear of snakes, helped one customer research the intricacies of snake breeding in pursuit of his own reptile business. Despite her own phobia, Miranda explored all the resources available to him – in detail.
She was also asked to evaluate a man’s injury – a large laceration on his leg. She provided resources for medical attention and also made it clear that her expertise lies more with fiction than medical anatomy.
More recently, Miranda helped a woman make copies of her work visa just the right size using the Library’s free copy service. “It’s moments like that that make my job really rewarding,” she said.
One of Miranda’s most heartwarming library moments came from a member of Poudre Libraries long-standing program, Teen Council, a few years ago. After moving from Brazil to Fort Collins with his family, Miranda witnessed a young boy blossom and open up to his peers over the course of the monthly meetings.
One night, when his mom was running late to pick him up, he told her, “I love coming here because it feels like a second home to me.” Not only was his expression of comfort an affirmation of Miranda’s work, praise from teenagers is often hard-earned.
Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her cats and loves traveling. Her favorite place in the world is Paris, France where she first traveled with her best friend and later became engaged to her husband in front of the Eiffel Tower while it was sparkling under the night sky.
Her favorite book of all time is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and in her spare time, she voraciously consumes young adult literature.
Miranda also recently had her garden’s first rose bloom of the season spark joy on her way to the Library.
The bloom can be related to her work; “In groups like our Teen Council (who we see every month) there are teens that have been attending for three years so you get to see them from 12 years old until they graduate from high school and witness their growth. They end up opening up to you about their lives as well as sharing what they want to do with them. It’s really great to see that growth.”