Creator and administrator, Teen Librarian Toolbox; Youth Services Librarian, part-time, Betty Warmack Branch Library, Grand Prairie, TX
MLS, Kent State University, 2002
The Whole Teen Library Handbook (ALA Editions, 2014)
Photo by Heather Smith Lisenby
Breaking the Silence on Sexual Violence
Karen Jensen is opening the door for talk about teens, sexual abuse, and consent, both in literature and youth services. In January, her blog Teen Librarian Toolbox (TLT) hosted its first Sexual Violence (SV) in YA Lit Virtual Panel, with YA authors Christa Desir, Trish Doller, and Carrie Mesrobian. More will follow, every other month: the March 26 broadcast features 2014 Morris Award winner Stephanie Kuehn and debut novelist Brendan Kiely. “Other topics will include examples of consent and healthy relationships in YA lit (May), SV in historical fiction (July), dystopian/postapocalyptic fiction (September), and a segment on sexual violence in the lives of boys,” Jensen says.
A one-time youth ministry major, Jensen started TLT two years ago when she relocated to Texas for her husband’s work. She’s now a part-time youth librarian, and TLT—recently networked with VOYA and run with three additional librarians—takes up the rest of her time. With over a million page views, TLT has just launched new events including Middle Grade Mondays and monthly Diversity Discussions.
Jensen uses TLT to “equip other librarians with the resources” for programming, as she did when she invited a sexual assault nurse-examiner to her library to run workshops on recognizing the signs of an unhealthy relationship and abuse. On TLT she also fielded librarians’ questions about teen sexual consent in the wake of the Steubenville rape case in 2012.
“It makes adults uncomfortable often, but I think it is important that we talk with teens about sex and consent,” says Jensen, adding that statistics show that one in three girls and one in five boys will experience sexual violence by age 18. “They need to understand what sexual violence is—what it looks like, how it impacts others. YA literature can help us do that”—and so can Jensen.