74% of Americans believe that providing services for teens should be a high priority for libraries

More ammunition for advocating for the need to serve young adults in our communities via the public library, forwarded today, July 20, 2006 to the YSCON listserv from Jim Rosinia, Youth Services Consultant at the State Library of North Carolina:

“Last Tuesday, the Americans for Libraries Council, a nonprofit library advocacy group, released “Long Overdue: A Fresh Look at Public Attitudes About Libraries in the 21st Century.” It reports the results of a national study of the general public as well as interviews with national and local civic leaders. The study was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted by Public Agenda (a nonprofit, nonpartisan opinion research organization).

Quote from the press release, Americans Say Public Libraries Are Essential to 21st Century Communities:

“Four areas of opportunity resonated most with the public and leaders alike:
(1) providing stronger services for teens;
(2) helping address illiteracy and poor reading skills among adults
(3) providing ready access to information about government services, including making public documents and forms readily available and
(4) providing even greater access to computers for all.”

“The public is very concerned about teenagers and feel that providing safe and productive activities for teens should be a high priority (72%) for their communities. This is also an area where the public potentially holds their local governments accountable as they believe local government both can and should do more for teens. In the public’s reckoning, libraries can potentially fill the gap: 3 out of 4 Americans (74%) believe providing services for teens should be a high priority for libraries.”

Jim cited two resources:

Learning in Motion: A Sampling of Teen Library Programs
This Americans for Libraries Fact Sheet highlights three model programs and advocates for more of the same.

“Long Overdue: A Fresh Look at Public Attitudes About Libraries in the 21st Century.”

This full report includes a two-page summary, and “5 Things Civic Leaders Should Know About Libraries and the Public.”

Jim noted that of the “Five Things Civic Leaders Should Know About Library,” the fifth lists the “four specific opportunities for public libraries to integrate themselves more fully into the life of their communities” — the first of which is “a safe and engaging place for teens.”

For discussion: Providing stronger services for teens was NUMBER ONE on the list. If teens are such a high priority for our communities, why aren’t libraries earmarking more funding for teen spaces, collections, staff, and programs? Should young adults get the same amount of space as children in the library? An equal program budget? How about, proportional? If young adults make up 12% of the town’s population, does young adult services receive 15% of the library staff, materials, and programming budgets? 15% of the floor and shelf space? 15% of the webpage?

~posted by Beth Gallaway

About Beth Gallaway

Beth Gallaway was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2006 for her work in advocating for videogames in libraries. She is an independent library trainer/consultant specializing in gaming, technology, and youth services, and is a YALSA certified Serving the Underserved (SUS) trainer.
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2 Comments

  1. I wanted to leave a comment-but had to much to say and left as a post (but apparently I am leaving a comment too). I think those are excellent questions about if teens are such a high priority for our communities-where’s the money? I’m not sure I agree with how I understood the reason as to why teens are important for our communities in the report. To keep them in a safe place and off the streets is important but is that one of the most important reasons why we should have stellar services for them? That seems to me like the old, ‘they’re going to be taxpayers some day’ justification. This still does not answer the question of how should the resources be allocated. I think teens should be involved in the allocation process (as they are in some libraries). That is definitely a start to stronger services.

  2. I think that one reason YA departments aren’t getting the funding they need is because the people who have to sign off on the spending are skeptical about teen services. Some do not believe that they should have to spend more money than they normally do on children’s or adult programming. I think it would be logical to inform these people about the benefits of a well funded YA department.

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