YALSA Professional Learning Series: The Future of Library Services for and with Teens –Working with At-Risk Teens


Welcome to the second in YALSA’s new monthly professional learning series. Each month we’ll highlight a topic and give readers the chance to learn about it as well as discuss it with others. Here’s how it works:

  • On the first of each month the YALSA Blog will post an overview of the topic of the month. That overview will include links to resources to read, watch, listen to, etc.
  • If you are interested in participating in the learning during the month, comment on the initial blog post to say something like, “yes, I’m in.”
  • Each week the facilitator of the topic – that’s me this month – will check-in with participants with a post that poses questions and helps to focus conversation on the topic.
  • Participants can converse with others about the topic by commenting on those posts.

We hope this is a low-stress way to learn something new or expand your knowledge on a topic. There is no pressure, just a desire to learn and discuss your learning.

Onto this month’s theme – Working with teens who may be at risk

In 2013 YALSA published the Future of Library Services For and With Teens: A Call to Action. That report, based on a year of research, prodded library staff working with teens to think differently about the teens they serve (and don’t serve) and think more broadly about who they are, where they are and what their needs may be.  Like the Future’s Report itself, this isn’t something that just happens, it takes time, conversations with your colleagues, really looking at your community and also thinking outside the box. 

The resources below should help you to begin thinking differently about your services for and with teens. It’s up to you what you read and/or watch. Pick and choose from the selections as a way to get started and to focus on what you think is most useful. You may make your way through them all, you may not. I’ve included some ideas of what to consider while you read or view so as to help provide context and focus.

Definition of “at risk youth” There are a lot of definitions of “at risk” youth and they can be loaded as well as sounding negative toward youth.  A broad definition can be that at risk teens can be at risk for not completing high school, may struggle socio economically, homeless, involved in drugs and/or alcohol, in foster care, court involved and each of these can put them at further risk and trauma.

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Volunteer for 2018 Award Committees and 2017 YA Services Symposium Planning Taskforce!

Thank you to all who ran for positions on the 2018 Edwards, Nonfiction & Printz Award Committees and congratulations to those who were elected!

These award committees are partially filled by elected spots and partially filled by appointed spots, so now through June 1st, YALSA is collecting volunteer forms for the 2018 Edwards, Nonfiction and Printz Award Committees that will begin work Feb. 1st, 2017 and for the 2017 YA Services Symposium Planning Taskforce (held in Louisville, KY) that will begin work later this year.

If you are interested in one of these committees or the Symposium taskforce, the first thing to do is learn all about what the expectations are for members of these groups.

These resources can help:

YALSA is seeking individuals with the highest ethical standards, a passion for YALSA’s mission and expertise in evaluating YA literature to serve on these awards committees.

If you feel you have met the criteria and have the time available to serve on one of these YALSA award committees or the symposium taskforce, you are encouraged to fill out the Committee Volunteer Form between now and June 1st.

In order to be eligible to serve on a YALSA committee, you must be a current personal member.

To learn more about membership, or to join, go to http://www.ala.org/yalsa/join.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at gsarahthelibrarian @gmail.com

Career Prep for Teens with Disabilities


Employment for teens with disabilities is notoriously low, with 16.6% of teens with disabilities ages 16-19 having jobs. On the other hand, 29.9% of teens with no disabilities are employed (“Youth Employment Rate”). Libraries can help local teens land jobs—for the summer or beyond—by hosting career preparation workshops. These workshops should be open to, and helpful for, teens with disabilities and without, but some of the advice is exclusively for teens with disabilities.


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  1. What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens?

I’m one of three School Outreach Librarians (plus our Coordinator), which means I am a liaison between Brooklyn PreK-12 school communities and Brooklyn Public Library.  Specifically, I focus on the eastern neighborhoods of Brooklyn (including East New York, Brownsville, Bushwick, and Canarsie).  A large part of my job is devoted to working with schools enrolled in the MyLibraryNYC program, a collaboration with the NYC Department of Education.

Our outreach to teens involves a variety of programs and services, including in-class lessons on research methods, booktalks, using digital and print resources, and accessing job and career assistance through the library.  I consider students, families/caregivers, and faculty to be part of the school community; taking a holistic approach to outreach is essential because outreach to one part of the community informs the whole.

I’ve been in my current role as School Outreach Librarian for only six months, but previously I was a Young Adult Librarian at Brooklyn Public Library’s New Lots branch in East New York.  My time there helped prepare me for school outreach, especially because I still work within that same and surrounding neighborhoods.  I love to build partnerships with other departments internally, as well as outside organizations.  While at New Lots, I hosted The Octavia Project’s inaugural free month-long summer workshop for young women (including trans*, genderfluid, and questioning folks, etc.) ages 13-18 that focused on STEAM skill-building.  I also programmed regular weekly visits from Protecting the East, (a project within the CBO, United Community Centers), that does outreach surrounding HIV education and prevention, and sexual health generally, in addition to training peer educators.  One of the last connections I forged before leaving the branch was with a local family shelter who hosted a weekly drop-in “teen summit” to provide general support to teens in and out of the shelter.  I also put together a deposit collection of books that were delivered to the shelter as a temporary collection to be used by shelter residents.

  1. Describe a day in the life of you providing outreach.

The stock answer is true: there is no typical day.  I could be teaching in-class workshops, training teachers during their professional development period, and representing our team at parent/teacher conferences and education fairs, to name a few common occurrences.  Specifically, here are a few snapshots of things I could be doing on any given day to provide outreach to teens:  visiting a non-secure juvenile detention facility to give a one-on-one consultation to a student who will soon be re-entering the community so he knows about the resources and services that Brooklyn Public Library can offer him; designing a workshop on comics and storytelling for middle schoolers with Interference Archive, for Cypress Hills Community School’s annual Write to Read Day; hosting a professional development workshop for educators on teaching LGBTQIA+ topics in the classroom and incorporating them into the school community.

  1. What resources would you recommend for someone new to outreach to look for ideas for inspiration as well as best practices?

The best way to learn about outreach is to jump in and do outreach.  But, there are certainly some great resources on which I rely.  Media scholar, danah boyd’s, blog and her book It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens are essential reading for anyone working with teens.  At the Intersections: A Collaborative Resource on LGBTQ Youth Homelessness report shines a light on the connection between youth homelessness and teens’ personal identities.  Finally, half of doing outreach is being knowledgeable about available resources and how they can be accessed, empowering teens by letting them know their individual rights and how to be their own advocates.  The US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights website is a go-to resource in this capacity. The department’s mission is “to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence through vigorous enforcement of civil rights in our nation’s schools.”  The site has information on students’ rights, as well as ways to file a discrimination/harassment complaint, and resources for community engagement.  They have materials in many languages.

  1. What are some of your favorite things you have heard from teens while providing outreach services?

One 9th grader told me my last name sounded like a creature from Harry Potter.  I received a thank you card from a reluctant reader who told me she was grateful for my recommendation of the graphic novel version of Coraline (by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Craig Russell) because she doesn’t like to read but she now reads it every day, and she was excited that I was able to determine what kind of book she would like to read based on her interests.  Many teens often tell me they had no idea the library had more than just books, and that always makes me feel like I’m doing my job.

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YALS – Libraries and Learning: A Resource Guide for “Make, Do, Share”

cover of spring yalsYou should have already or will soon be receiving your Spring 2016 edition of YALS. The topic of the issue is Libraries and Learning. All the articles are excellent but the one that stood out to me was the featured interview with Shannon Peterson, the Youth Services Manager for the Kitsap (WA) Regional Library (KRL). The library received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for their program Make, Do, Share: Sustainable STEM Leadership in a Box.

One of the great things about this interview is that not only did we learn the context of this project (it began with a project called BiblioTEC, sponsored through the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation) but also heard about how Shannon and her staff frame the work they are doing. Many times in public libraries, we are so focused on helping our community, we don’t think about the reasoning behind our behaviors. These behaviors and the programming we create can be influenced by the theory we read and the theory we believe grounds our work as librarians. Shannon’s interview was full of all the things she and KRL was thinking of as they created the Make, Do, Share programming.
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YALSA’s Virtual Mentoring Program: A Survey of Participants

Are you looking to share your skills and knowledge? Do you want to inspire yourself and others? Join the ranks of YALSA members who are giving back to the profession one person at a time! YALSA’s virtual mentoring program pairs an experienced librarian (5 or more years) with a new librarian (4 or less years) in a year-long partnership. Participants are asked to devote 4 hours a month to the program. Since this is a virtual program, participants don’t need to meet face-to-face and can decide for themselves what the best way for them to communicate is. It could be email, skype, google hangouts, facetime – whatever works best for them. It is important to remember that because the program is virtual participants must be comfortable working in that environment and be committed to communicating regularly with each other.

The Mentoring Taskforce surveyed the most recent batch of mentors and protégés who completed the program to find out how the program impacted them. The feedback we received convinced us that the program is very worthwhile and something that benefits the mentor as much as the protégé. We received a variety of thoughtful answers to the four questions we asked. Here is a summary of the responses we received from mentors:

·   Why did you decide to join the mentoring program?

We wanted to know what motivated the participants to volunteer their time and expertise and the responses we received from mentors indicated a desire to share their experience, learn from their protégés and give back to the profession. Survey respondents stated:

“I am excited about teen services and wanted to share my experiences as a librarian, and successes and challenges I have found in this aspect of librarianship.”

“I thought it would be both a learning experience for me and an opportunity for me to pass on some of what I learned in the last six to seven years to someone new to the field of YA librarianship.”

Another indicated she enjoyed the mentoring process: “When I took a job at a library vendor, I missed the chance to mentor in person, so I was happy to find an opportunity to do it virtually.”

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Personal Service Priority Plan, Part 4

How might a Personal Service Priority Plan affect the decisions we make when it comes to our collections? This month I discuss making intentional collection choices tied to a Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) within the limitations of my job scope (a.k.a. doing what I can without stepping on toes!)

I have a somewhat complicated relationship with the collection at my library branch. We have centralized Selection Services librarians who do the huge majority of picking and choosing which materials will be added to the collection. Sometimes I’m sent materials chosen by that department based on system needs and sometimes I choose from a pre-determined list they’ve created. Sure, I decide what stays on the shelf through the weeding process, and our Selection librarians are good about asking for input from branch librarians. But for the most part I don’t have much say in which titles my branch will offer. Except for in one area: uncatalogued paperbacks.

In recognition of the fact that barriers to the traditional materials check-out process exist for many patrons, our branches offer “uncataloged collections” of mostly high-interest paperbacks. These materials are not barcoded or included in our online catalog. They can be taken from our branches by anyone, without using a library card, and are returned on the honor system. Twice a year I get a budget of several hundred dollars to order whatever I think would go over well in my branch. And this is where my Personal Service Priority Plan comes into play. Continue reading

YALS Spring 2016 – The Cupcake Innovation

at the innovation celebration a photo of a teen at the podiumIn the spring 2016 issue of YALS, Darcy Coffta, the Upper School Librarian and Director of Innovation at the Berwick Academy, provides an overview of the school’s Innovation Center and some of the projects that students have worked on. One of the Innovation Pursuits mentioned is the “Cupcake Innovation.” And, as promised in the article, the recipe is available so you can try it out yourself.

You can read more about the Berwick Innovation Center, access mentor materials, and more on the Berwick Academy website.

YALSA members and YALS subscribers can access the current issue of the journal, along with past issues, on the “members only” section of the YALSA website. (Login required.)

Instagram of the Week – April 25

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

With spring weather in full swing, it’s time to venture outside of the library walls and connect with community members in town. In the past two weeks Instagram has been full of library bookmobiles, book bikes, and staff members taking part in local expos, festivals, parades, and charity walks. The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report discusses how some teens only use libraries for school related work and libraries must engage them in areas beyond academic interests in a way that is visible to teens, parents, and the community. In its explanation of the envisioned future of library services for teens, the report describes developing year-round outreach services in which librarians and library staff leave the building to provide direct services to teens. Outreach programming also provides an opportunity to collaborate with other community stakeholders and businesses. This week’s selected images provide examples of how libraries are putting themselves out there to reach teens and their families in town and the local organizations they have partnered with to do so.

Does your library have a bookmobile, visit the local farmer’s market, or participate in town-wide events? How did you determine your bookmobile route and schedule? What types of publicity materials do you bring with you to events or what programs do you hold? Share with us in the comments section below!



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