February 16, 2018

Aaron Coutu | Movers & Shakers 2004

You Gotta Have a Gimmick


If you want to turn teens into library users, it helps to have a young, cool librarian like Aaron Coutu. It also helps if the librarian is willing to undergo various personal humiliations, like shaving his head if they read 150 books (they read 196) or dyeing his hair green if they read 250 books (they read 312). Gimmicks work.

But so does respect. Coutu gives their ‘boundless energy and ideas’ an outlet through the Teen Advisory Library Council, which recommends new titles for the collection. He encourages teens to write reviews of their favorite books for other teens, because it makes them feel like they’re part of the library.

Though his current space makes room for comic books, computers, and chess as well as books, his ideal YA space would also include a pool table, a foosball table, and an area where they could play on a game cube. The trick, he says, is to get them in the door, then point out the great books you have for them. He tries to read at least 80 percent of the books he buys to tailor his reading recommendations to each teen.

‘Professionalism’ may not be your first word association for a man with piercings, a tattoo, and the email name Lunar Hunk, but it applies. Coutu is involved with a dozen professional associations and chairs Rhode Island’s Teen Book Award Committee. What better way to serve teens, he asks, than getting ideas, assistance, and advice through networking with your colleagues?

Coutu believes teens get a raw deal from communities that don’t spend money on them but ‘complain when kids get in trouble because they have no place to go and nothing to do.’ He serves on the Juvenile Justice Board in his hometown because he believes his job is to advocate for all teens, including those who never come to the library.

Green hair works well, but Coutu’s most effective gimmick is that he genuinely likes teens. ‘I know when I go to work I am going to have fun.’




Current Position: Youth Services Librarian, Greenville Public Library, RI
Degree: MLIS, University of Rhode Island, 1999
Previous Experience: Intern in Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy’s District Office, Pawtucket, RI