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Watson looks to make library a destination for teens

September 13, 2018

SCOTTSBLUFF — With just a few weeks under her belt, Mackenzie Watson has grabbed the reins of teen librarian, is learning from experienced staff and looking forward to making teen events at the Lied Scottsbluff Public Library a place to be.

Watson attended Chadron State College where she was studying to be an English teacher, but her love of the written word led her toward literature-based courses and a degree in interdisciplinary studies. The position as teen librarian is a perfect fit for her.

“I really love reading and books, especially young adult books,” she said. “That’s what I read in my free time.”

Watson has always been drawn to dystopian books, young adult books and children’s books. A course she took in college required her to read 100 children’s books in one semester.

“It was hard to find 100 (children’s books) at the Chadron State library worth reading,” she said.

Watson isn’t having that problem at the library now.

“I’m trying to do the 100 book challenge here, but it’s taking a bit more time,” she said. “I can’t wait to get my picture taken.”

Youth who read 100 books at the Scottsbluff library have their photograph taken and shared on social media and receive a yard sign so they can show their accomplishment to the world.

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas is Watson’s current read. The best-selling young adult novel follows Starr Carter, a black 16-year-old girl who is drawn to activism after she witnesses the police shooting of a childhood friend.

Watson is no stranger to the library in Scottsbluff. Though she grew up and went to school in Mitchell, she attended the library’s summer reading program. She is familiar in some way with many of the programs on offer and is looking forward to assisting Children’s Librarian Deb Carlson with storytime.

“Deb has it down, so I’m learning from the best,” she said. “She also has so many great systems that I’m learning from.”

In addition to getting input from local youth, she’s also keeping up with what other libraries are doing nationwide for ideas that could be tailored to meet the needs of Scottsbluff teens. She has high hopes, including a teen read week, teen tech week, a movie night and other ideas to get teens more involved.

Although she is taking direction tips from Carlson and Library Director Noelle Thompson, Carlson is sure it won’t be long before Watson steps out on her own.

“After only three days on the job, she put in a suggestion box in the teen room because she wants to hear your ideas,” Carlson said. “I thought that was brave and forward thinking.”

Watson is also a member of the Army National Guard. It was something she had wanted to do in high school. While in college, she saw the ROTC program and decided to participate.

“It has taught me a lot of leadership skills and will help me get up in front of 90 kids at storytime,” she said.

For the time being, Watson is taking on the programs already available to teens at the library. She’s already spoken to members of the Teen Advisory Committee about what they would like to see in the future and how she can help facilitate the promotion of teen reading in the area.

“I am hoping to make it fun to come to the library,” she said.

Watson is aware that there are many programs in the county and in school that keep youth occupied. In high school, she participated in several activities, including band, flag team, cheerleading, basketball, track, speech and student council. She still thinks there’s time for the library and to be lifelong learners.

“You can learn anything from books,” she said. “Just because you live in a small town like Mitchell doesn’t mean you can’t be taken to all sorts of different places in books.”

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