Tag Archives: careers

You need to follow Strunk & White’s rules for parallel construction. FYI.

View of a Pine Crest School student reading in the library Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 1966 or 1967This anonymous interview is with an Academic librarian who has been a hiring manager, a member of a hiring committee, and a library director.  This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members.

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Ability to do the work, willingness to be a part of a team, and excellent rapport with the patrons we serve.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

No, not really, but if an application is riddled with typos, grammatical errors and the like, I’m going to knock it out of th [response ends here].

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

I don’t know. I get kind of tired of seeing lists of classes that the applicant took in library school, but I can see where others would find that valuable.

I will say that if you’re using bullet points (and if it’s a resume, you are) then you need to follow Strunk & White’s rules for parallel construction. FYI.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

If it’s an academic library gig, *everything* goes on the CV.

Library schools need to stop advising graduates to use 2-page resumes. Applicants should be more interesting than can be detailed in just two pages.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ As many as it takes, but shorter is better

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, I want to look at every accomplishment

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ Other: I have no preference as a hiring agent, but I recommend PDF so the applicant can “lock down” the formatting to their tastes.

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ I don’t care

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ I don’t care

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

I don’t know. I think this question assumes that there *is* such a thing as winning someone over, and I’m not sure that’s really true.

That said, acting like you have a big ol’ stick up your butt will almost certainly have the opposite effect, so there’s that.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

In the past, the directors before me just hired whomever they wanted. I wanted more voices in on the decision, so I always charge a search committee to recruit some candidates, rank their capabilities, and give me some options in hiring. Making the process a collaborative one is the right way to go.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Interviews go both ways. It’s as much about finding the right fit for you as us finding the right applicant.

Be patient. The right job is very much worth every bit of your patience in finding it.

Do you hire librarians?  Share your perspective with job hunters by taking this survey: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibsurvey

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Original Survey

If you have applied to work at the library I know you like books

Interior of Townsville library, ca. 1948This anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a hiring manager  and a member of a hiring committee.  This librarian works at a library with 50-100 staff members.

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

1. Ability to do the job
2. Right organizational fit
3. Originality – what can you offer that no one else can?

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Filling the application form out incorrectly or not signing the application form is a dealbreaker. In an interview, a lack of eye contact is a dealbreaker.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

I am tired of seeing how much people like books and really want to work at the library. I’m looking for something unique. If you have applied to work at the library I know you like books and I know you want to work for the library.

Also, I’m tired of seeing the same opening sentence on cover letters – “I was excited to learn . . . ” or “I am interested in the . . . ” Find a way to stand out.

I could also do without “references available upon request.” We ask for references on our application form. Why would you then put this statement on a resume?

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

Any work and volunteer experience that is unrelated to the library profession.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ I don’t care

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ As an attachment only

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

1. Be unique
2. Talk about what you are able to offer the library and the community
3. Be enthusiastic
4. Have a question or two to ask at the end of the interview
5. Provide succinct answers that clearly address the questions asked

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

1. Not answering the questions completely
2. Talking too much
3. Showing up late

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

I’ve reduced the number of questions we ask in each interview, gone to second interviews with almost every position we hire, called more references – those provided and those not provided, asked candidates to complete a task during the interview – presentation, project, pre-employment test.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Hiring decisions are not made based upon a resume or cover letter. The purpose of these documents is to get you an interview. Take your time and customize your resume and cover letter for the job you applying to. I can spot a resume that is being used for multiple applications from one that was customized. The extra effort almost always results in an interview. Highlight how you specifically meet the job requirements and what you can provide the organization you are applying to. Speak in terms of their interests not yours.

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Filed under 50-100 staff members, Original Survey

Less-competent human resources department, which means our department needs to take more initiative in advertising postings

Australian Institute of Librarians' inaugural meeting at Canberra, August 20, 1937. Photographer A. Collingridge, CanberraThis anonymous interview is with an Academic librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee.  This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members.

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

people skills, technology skills, intelligence

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

sloppy application, hostility toward patrons

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

links to personal websites/blogs

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ I don’t care

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ As an attachment only

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Be friendly

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Be socially inept, show hostility toward people, be arrogant

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

More regimented, with human resources representative at interview, restrictive rules on what we should look at. Insistence upon asking exact same questions of every interviewee. Less-competent human resources department, which means our department needs to take more initiative in advertising postings.

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Original Survey

Love knowledge, love learning, don’t love the box they come in

Librarian's_Desk, Bancroft LibraryThis anonymous interview is with a librarian who works at a public library with 10-50 staff members. This librarian has been a member of a hiring committee.

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

1. Energy
2. Curiosity
3. Willingness to admit there are still things they don’t know about librarianship.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Poor grammar and spelling. Those are important parts of librarianship, so I expect people to be able to demonstrate them on a resume and cover letter.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

“I love books”
I’m assuming you don’t hate books if you are applying for a job here, and “loving books” is about the worst reason to be a librarian I can think of. Love knowledge, love learning, don’t love the box they come in.
“I have clerical experience”
I’m glad you have previous work history, and we can probably use clerical skills, but for the most part this isn’t a clerical heavy job.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

I wish more people were willing to put interests and hobbies on their resumes. Knowing special interests or areas of expertise can help to develop a strong and balanced team.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ Yes

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ Both as an attachment and in the body of the email

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Have a well balanced attitude. Don’t act manic, but don’t be a total reserved bunhead either. I want people who can be professional, but also have passion and enthusiasm for

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Thinking that this job is just sitting behind a desk. It’s a physically and mentally demanding job.
Thinking that this job is a purely mental exercise in dealing with people who are genuinely interested in learning. You have to deal with a lot of very unpleasant people who don’t want to pay fines, or want to argue about what you have in the collection.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

We hire many paraprofessionals, and we’ve gone from advertising in general forums (newspapers, job lines, town bulletin boards, etc.) to advertising in and hiring from library schools. We try to get people who are going to school or thinking about going to school for library science so that we can get them some practical work experience in the field.

 

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Original Survey, Public

There have been candidates that have been so dour that we have no interest in them

Hey hey, original survey!  This bad boy is still going, and coming up on two years of collecting responses!  If you are someone who hires librarians, and you want to take this, go here: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibsurvey

Librarian by Flickr user Super Furry LibrarianThis anonymous interview is with someone who works in a school library with 0-10 employees.  When asked, “are you a librarian?” this person responded, “it’s complicated.” This person has been a member of a hiring committee.

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Someone who smiles and is willing to learn.
An honest resume (not overly inflated)
Someone who understands what the job he/she is applying for.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Typos!!!
Also, incomplete applications.
Sounds pretty basic, but people submit some pretty sketchy things.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

cliches

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ No

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ As an attachment only

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Smile!!! There have been candidates that have been so dour that we have no interest in them. Let your personality shine through so that you are memorable. There are many people who can do the job and most people are trainable. We want to find the person who will be enthusiastic and fit in with others.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Answering the question with just one sentence. People need to elaborate or give an example of the skill we are looking for. They also need to be careful to not talk too much.
Don’t say, “I would like this part-time position to get my foot in the door.” The position you are applying for is the one you are applying for…not one three years down the road.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

We cannot ask, but are often curious about lapses in employment. If you volunteer the information it shows that you are up front about things. There is no shame in taking time off to raise a family or take care of parents. We really like giving people a chance to start up again.

Photo: Librarian by Flickr user Super Furry Librarian via Creative Commons License

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Original Survey, School

Make Me Excited about What You Would Do for the Library

Ruth Wikoff, University of Houston's first professional librarian

Remember the original survey?  The one I ran to start this blog?  It’s still open, and a response has trickled in!  (If you hire librarians, and you’ve got something to say about it, the url is: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibsurvey )

This anonymous interview is with a librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee. This person works at a public library with 100-200 staff members.

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Enthusiasm for the profession/libraries
Knowledge and skills to perform the task
Creativity and innovation

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Not completing the application or not addressing the questions.
Trying to give me the answers they think we want to hear or are the standard responses.
Assuming we know what they are refering to in their answers.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

Resumes and letters that are generic and don’t really describe who they are.
Resumes and letters that don’t address the job applying.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

What have you really done that you are proud of completing.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ No

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ Both as an attachment and in the body of the email

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Make me excited about what you would do for the library.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Assume they have the job.
Not give us their A game.
Assume we know the same jargon, information, etc.
Being too casual, especially when an internal canidate.
Not knowing what job you are interviewing for.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

We have hired some great employees that are making significant changes to the way the library does collection development. All other hires have been internal promotions.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Good Luck!

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Filed under 100-200 staff members, Original Survey, Public

Further Questions: The Tattooed Librarian

This week I have another question inspired by a reader.  This is part of a topical series on Interviewing while Tattooed. This week I asked people who hire librarians:

Should tattooed candidates make any attempt to hide their ink?  Would tattoos make you think twice about hiring someone?  How tattooed is too tattooed?

Emilie SmartArm and leg tattoos would go unnoticed in an interview.  Facial tattoos would be a problem though.  Our current policy doesn’t allow jewelry in facial piercings so I don’t see facial tattoos (especially large ones) going over here (a southern public library) unless the job was not in public services.

If a candidate is concerned that their tatts might negatively influence an interview outcome, then they should cover them up as best they can.

– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library

Marge Loch-Wouters

I like people to dress like and be themselves.  Clearly we aren’t a buttoned-down place.  My hesitation in this:  if the tattoos displayed would be inappropriate for children to see (nudity, inappropriate language, like that). In that case, we would ask that those be kept covered while working in the children’s area.

In terms of how much ink is too much…if we think that kids will come in and be able to easily interact with the person beneath the ink, the candidate may make the cut.

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

Colleen HarrisAn interesting question – many of us at my current library have visible ink (sleeves, chest pieces that peek out of dress shirts, etc.) At my current and former institutions (all public university academic libraries), so this wasn’t an issue. (Full disclosure – I’m fully sleeved, and my hands are tattooed as well.)

When I have interviewed, I usually do so full suited or with a cardigan – folks can see the hand tattoos but I don’t put them out on display. When it’s warm, I have a tendency to push my sleeves up – I’m certain I do it in interviews, as well. I don’t advertise my ink, but I don’t actively hide it; I do try to dress to minimize its impact – in interviews, I want people to focus on what I am saying.  As I mentioned above, academic libraries in public universities have been very open to accepting tattoos on myself and colleagues. On the other hand, I was notified by a public library in a very diverse area that I would not be considered as a candidate because of visible ink, so your mileage can and will vary depending on where you apply.

As a hirer, I don’t mind what candidates do about their ink so long as they have a professional demeanor, and make an effort to be sure that it is themselves and their skills on display – I’m hiring for skill and growth potential, not to be inkshop buddies. That being said, my visible work is all pretty tame – it’s probably not a bad idea to go ahead and cover up naked ladies, penii, and other questionable/possibly-offensive images when interviewing, and checking the dress code, if posted, before applying.

As to whether candidates should hide their ink – that’s a personal decision. I usually figure if they’d cull me from the pool because of my ink, it’s likely not a place I would be comfortable working; on the other hand, if I were a children’s librarian, a face tattoo of a tarantula would make it more likely I’d use some serious cover-up so as not to scare the little ones. In short, folks should do serious research as to the cultural flavor of a workplace before deciding to hide – or flaunt – their art, and make sure their skills outshine their ink.

Would any tattoos make me think twice about hiring someone? Well, we’re a heavily public-service oriented library, so racist tattoos would definitely give me pause since we’re here to make our users as comfortable as possible. Aside from that? Probably not.

-Colleen Harris, Head of Access Services & Assistant Professor at University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Lupton Library

My personal feeling is that tattoos are okay but to a limited extent. I think that they fine if they are small and/or are not obviously visible. I don’t think that tattoos are professional looking so if a person had them all over their arms, legs, neck, etc, it would make me think twice about hiring that person, not because I didn’t think that the person was not capable or qualified to do the job but because, unfortunately, of the view of someone with a lot  of tattoos has in our society.  Perhaps in certain types of libraries  it would not be an issue, but I believe that in some academic libraries it would not portray a professional image, in the same that dressing slovenly would be viewed negatively. Just my two cents.

– Anonymous

Cathi AllowayI am on the fence about tattoos, and can tell you that I am aware of a great range of policies regarding them.  In general, it is reasonable for every library to establish what is needed for each situation.
Community standards and environment play a big role in the tolerance level for appearance.  When a library needs to improve its reputation for credibility, reliability, and competence, then a “classic look” for employees may be warranted, especially in a more conservative community where customers and donors value conformity and a professional image.   In other communities that have a high level of diversity and are more liberal, like my current community (a Big Ten college town), we can offer a more flexible dress code that allows tattoos.
An additional consideration regarding tattoos is the nature of the job and the career aspirations of the person.  Library managers need the full business look for presentations, fundraising, networking, and special events.  Although I can’t exactly define “too tattooed”, a large amount of visible  ink may be an impediment to achievement.  I personally enjoy, but do not have, body art, but would have to tell a manager with a lot of tattoos that they may be expected to cover them for certain activities.
An illustration of this:   I once had a meeting with potential donors who quite openly appeared to be evaluating my appearance as I met them at a restaurant to discuss donations. I later received feedback that they wanted to give to a charity that “met their expectations” – and some of them gave.  I wore a moderately priced department store suit that contrasted with their designer clothes, but I guess the fake pearls worked anyway!  Appearance counts, while self-expression through body art and dress are important outlets for many of us.  Hopefully libraries will be open-minded and job applicants considerate of the wide range of public opinions they can encounter with a full body set of tattoos.
– Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library

What a great question!   My workplace does not have anything that says tattoos must be covered,  and I personally have nothing against them.

I recently hired an employee who interviewed in an outfit that hid his full-sleeve tattoo.  Seeing the tattoo would not have made a difference in my hiring decision, but I would have appreciated it if he would have let it peak out a little bit, or at least mentioned it.  It’s kind of like hiring an employee and having them show up the first day with a different, shocking dyed color of hair.  It was a bit of a surprise when I first saw it, is all.  It would also be to a prospective employee’s benefit to discover if the new workplace had anything stating tattoos must be covered: can you always work in full sleeves?

Any tattoo is tattooed; the only “too tattooed” or tattoo that would make me reconsider hiring  for the types of positions I supervise would be face/neck tattoos.  The rest of the body—the entire thing—is fair game.

– Sarah Morrison, Adult Services Librarian Neill Public Library

The short answer to the question of candidates with tattoos is, yes, they should hide their ink. For a job interview, I would always recommend covering up, which should not be too difficult since you would be dressed fairly conservative. I would encourage anyone considering a tattoo to be selective about where you put it since you will not know the policy of future employers.

The last two questions are tied together for me. How tattooed is too tattooed? Anything on the face, neck or hands would be too tattooed and would influence my hiring decision because those are areas that could never be covered up for formal presentations or meetings.

I am personally a tattooed librarian so this most likely affects my opinion on tattoos and the definition of what “too tattooed” is, but I am not on every search committee for my institution, others will have more conservative opinions.

When you do get a job offer, definitely ask what the policy is so you know if you can show off your “I heart Mom” tat!

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

Toby Willis-CampAs a tattooed librarian (a frog above one ankle) with a very modified 20-something son, I know that one has tattoos and other modifications  for personal reasons.  However, the workplace is not always a place where one can simply let everything be on display.  It is not a personal affront to have to keep one’s tattoos and other modifications underwrap in the workplace.  Dark nylons or tights, long sleeves and modest necklines are useful tools for keeping the other side of your personality personal.  What I do and show when I am not at work is my business, not my employer’s.

This being said, prominent neck and facial tattoos are career-limiting in public service jobs. I don’t believe that this will ever change even with the openness around tattoos now.

As a former library director who had a “no butts, no boobs, no bellies” dress code policy, I think it is best to talk about these things when entering a new workplace.  Find out what the dress code includes and make it work for you. You may be working for a tight a$$, so be prepared to keep your art covered.  You might also be working for someone who has some modifications too, but knows when it’s the right time to have them on display.

– Toby Willis-Camp, a former Director of Libraries for a professional association 

Marleah AugustineTattoos don’t bother me – I have two myself, although they are not usually visible during work (although my next one likely will be). I don’t think candidates should try to hide visible tattoos during the job search / interview. That feels deceptive to me. I’d rather know they are inked up front (or at least not have something hidden and then suddenly see it on their first day at work). The only time I think I would think twice about it is if the tattoos are large and on the neck, or any tattoos on the face. I doubt I would have to worry about vulgar tattoos, but that would also give me pause.
About half of my part-time staff are tattooed, and only once in 5 years have I heard a patron comment about a tattoo in a negative manner (but I’ve heard several positive comments!).
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Ink is relative to location.  I personally don’t care, and my patrons don’t care.  In a smaller, more conservative, more rural library, everyone cared.  It was silly.  I hired and was hired anyway (I have what looks like very obvious piercings–I actually have none–but I always have worn the jewelry to interviews to see what comments might ensue).While hiring is supposed to be about skills, sometimes you have to worry about community fit.  I never have, and have never had problems.  If a candidate is worried–cover the tats.  The person will know soon enough if its an issue or not.
– Virginia Roberts, Director, Chippewa Falls Public Library

Manya ShorrWhen hiring, the most important thing to me is whether the staff person is approachable and neutral. Both of these things can be easily achieved even if the staff person is covered in tattoos. So no, tattoos have little to no impact on my hiring practices. That said, if an applicant (or staff person) has a tattoo that is political or controversial, I would ask them to cover it. We want to create an environment that is as neutral as possible, so that a patron feels comfortable asking any question of any staff person. Of course, this applies to clothing too and not just tattoos. Our latest dress code says, “Clothing or body art that can be reasonably seen as profane, political, or obscene is not to be visible.”

I remember having a conversation with my mom about 10 years ago about tattoos (I’m 38). She was convinced that the people in my generation who have tattoos would never be able to get jobs. I believed that the world would have to change to accommodate all the people with tattoos. I certainly saw more tattoos in Portland, OR than I do in Omaha, NE but even here, it’s commonplace for staff to have tattoos.

 – Manya Shorr, Assistant Director, Community Programs and Services, Omaha Public Library

Randall SchroederI have only one question from the other side of the table regarding tattoos or anything dealing with appearance. Does it affect approachability? If I am hiring you to be a public services librarian to work at a service desk, you can’t frighten the users away. On the other hand, if you work in the back, it probably isn’t that big of a deal. I want people to be comfortable at work but still be able to do their job. A librarian with great people skills and tattoos is still better than a curmudgeon with no skin decoration. Libraries are supposed to be an inclusive place.

This also works both ways on the fashion scale. I worked with a librarian who always wore a three piece pinstripe suit at the desk. The students wouldn’t talk to him either.

Personally, I have no issue with tattoos, but I cannot vouch for everybody on the hiring committee. It may even be a subconscious reaction. It depends on how important your personal style is compared to the job. The tattooed librarian may not want to work at a place where she or he is judged by skin art. In which case, show your glory within reason and taste.

If the job is really important, do your research. There may be a policy on appearance in some places, although that is increasingly rare. If not, what can you find out about the culture of the school? If you think it is an issue, cover until you get hired and then surprise them.

I have worked for a college where the tats would get a raised eyebrow from some of the staff. I have worked for a university where nobody would notice.

– Randall Schroeder, Director of Libraries, Archives and Media at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!When her muscles start relaxin’, up the hill comes Andrew Jackson. Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia. Oh Lydia The Queen of comment.

There will be two more posts in this series, which will go live on 6/22 and 6/23.  When live, links will be here and here.

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Filed under Adult Services, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Interviewing while Tattooed, Public Services/Reference, Youth Services