Updated: Mar 10
March marks National Reading Month, and as bibliophiles, the 4Squares Team thought it appropriate to feature rock-star Teen Librarian Nicole Perrault of the Medford Public Library. Nicole shared her favorite foodie locales and updated us on all the fantastic Teen Programs the Library has to offer!
What roads led you to Medford and the Medford Public Library?
I grew up on the South Shore in Brockton, attended Boston College for undergrad, and then went to Simmons College to get my degree in library science. I love city life and wanted to stay in the area after graduate school, so I started looking nearby for library opportunities. I got lucky when I found the Medford Library opening, and I've worked here now for the past nine years!
Were you always interested in working with teens?
I actually wanted to be a children's librarian when I started library school. Then I took a teen literature course and immediately decided to switch gears. The Young Adult offerings really took off in the past decade, and the variety of books available was so much more appealing to me. I sought internships in school libraries, focusing on middle and high school, which solidified that these were the readers I wanted to work with. Teens are so funny, and at the same time, they want to feel heard and be taken seriously.
For me, teen books are much more appealing because they reflect experiences that teens themselves are experiencing — hormones, emotions, academic stress, and everything else that teens are living through — in more creative styles. There’s something for everyone: stream-of-consciousness types of books, verse novels, teen detectives, love triangles, over-the-top vampire romances, and dystopian novels. And what I love most of all is that they all have hopeful endings, something that I don’t always find when reading adult fiction. Compared to my library experience as a kid, there is much more to choose from now.
Did you immediately start at the Medford Public Library as a Teen Librarian, or was that a role you grew into?
When I started at the Medford Library, my time was split between teen services and as a reference librarian in the adult services section of the Library. While I enjoy working with both, I saw the opportunity to dive in and rejuvenate the teen collection, develop more programming for middle and high school-aged students, and really bring life back into that section of the Library.
Photos: Teens at the cupcake challenge, Nicole "merging" with a book cover, Librarians in a Box, a teen cupcake creation.
Yes, in addition to the new Library's beautiful Teen Library Section, there are loads of programs for teens to enjoy. For those unfamiliar, tell us more about how teens enjoy the Library these days.
We have a program for teens almost every day at the Library. We host three book clubs monthly: a Graphic Novel Book Club, a No Book Book Club, and an Unbox Book Club.
The No Book Book Club is where teens talk about what they've been reading. Everyone has different reading interests, plus they're all reading at different levels. So instead of trying to find something that fits into every category, we talk about books in general. I moderate, the teens share recommendations, and we work on bookish crafts at the same time to help keep the conversation flowing.
We're launching an Unbox Book Club this month, that’s similar to the No Book Book Club. Teens can come in to talk about what they're reading while I unbox all the new books we've acquired for the teen section, and they'll have first dibs to borrow the new books.
But while the Library is certainly about books, it's also about experiences. So other programs include monthly Manga drawing lessons, creative writing sessions, and a drop in LGBTQIAP+ youth and allies group. We also host craft, maker, and game nights each month. In March, we'll be hosting a Coding Video Games series led by one of our teen volunteers and will teach participants how to program with Scratch.
Annually, we host two Teen Trivia Nights, which are held after-hours, and the only people in the Library are the teens who've signed up, which is always a huge selling point! We play music and offer food and beverages; it's a big party. We have one coming up in the spring, and then we will host another in December.
One of the events we just hosted in February was The Cupcake Challenge, which was a huge hit and has become another annual event! Teens have to decorate cupcakes with obstacles in the way; decorate with one hand behind your back or completely turn around and decorate without looking at the cupcake. For one challenge, I gave them little finger puppet mini-hands to wear while decorating a cupcake. While that event is easily the biggest mess I've ever had to clean up, I think it was one of the most memorable for the teens.
Where do you come up with all of these fantastic ideas?
Our Teen Advisory Board plays a considerable role in helping us develop teen programs. It started about eight years ago with a tiny group of teen volunteers and has now grown to 20, many of whom have been members almost the whole time and are getting ready to graduate high school. I meet with the members monthly and they share what they're looking for in the Library.
My philosophy is that the Teen Section isn't for me; it's for them, so I want to hear what they're interested in seeing; their voices are so important. The Teen Advisors even shaped the design of the Teen Section in the Library we have now. I took their ideas and suggestions very seriously. We brought their recommendations to the architects, who offered some options. The Advisory Board members came in, tried the new furniture, and helped choose what to include in the new space. Right before we opened, we spent all weekend in the Teen Section so they could decorate their new space and really get to enjoy it before everyone else!
Teen Advisors also help plan some programs and design book displays. In the past, they’ve helped put together escape rooms, both in person and virtual, and they created “Book Boxes" during the pandemic to help share book recommendations to teens who couldn’t browse the library while we were closed to the public. We help them bring their ideas to life; from coming up with the concept, making publicity materials, and running the programs.
In addition to your work at the Library, what other Medford experiences do you enjoy?
I'll say I love the food here. I'm a big Goldilox Bagels fan. I could sing praises for Goldilox for hours, and I have! I always tell my friends and family how much I love their bagels. You will find me waiting outside the door before they open on the weekends. Yes, I'm that person.
I'm also a big fan of For Pizza on High Street. Where I grew up on the South Shore, and we enjoyed bar-style pizza every week. I haven't encountered bar-style in this area until For Pizza; that's their specialty. They also offer gluten-free pizza, which my partner enjoys; they make their signature blend of gluten-free dough, and it's delicious! Of course, it's also a little dangerous because they are just a few doors down from the Library. I also love Colleen's Ice Cream; again, so close and so tempting!
When the new Library was under construction, and we were temporarily housed in our Boston Avenue location, I loved walking around Tufts University's campus. My favorite spot is the Rainbow Steps at the corner of Capen Street and Winthrop. I also enjoy the views of the Boston skyline you can enjoy near Goddard Chapel.
And now, our final question: What would you tell your best friend if they told you they were considering moving to Medford?
Selfishly, yes, so they’d be nearby! But really, I love the Medford community - it’s full of so many great ideas that have turned into programs that create great experiences. Medford is a wonderful place for kids of all ages to thrive.
The Medford Library Programming offers plenty of opportunities to be a kid again. Check out upcoming workshops and events at the Library's website: https://medfordlibrary.org/
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