Getting teens involved in advocacy efforts can be a great way to not only gain support for the library and teen services, but also support teen development. Teens acting as advocates fits perfectly with the 40 developmental assets as defined by the Search Institute. For example:
- Teens will feel empowered if they have a chance to help make change and garner support for their own library services. Imagine a group of teens getting together and developing a campaign for getting the word out to the community about why they need library services. Imagine how empowered they will feel by having their ideas discussed by movers and shakers where they live. And, imagine what it would feel like if their ideas and suggestions are acted on positively.
- There is no doubt that constructive use of time will be a part of a teen’s involvement in library advocacy efforts. As a part of an advocacy campaign teens will spend time researching topics related to the programs and services for which they plan to advocate. They might need to learn about budgets and fundraising. They might need to find out about town politics and how to speak to town officials. And it’s likely they will learn how to speak effectively in public. The learning opportunities and the constructive ways teens will use their time as they work on advocacy efforts are multiple and numerous.
- In the Search Institute’s overview of positive values are the areas of integrity, honesty, caring, responsibility, and equality and social justice. Each and every one of these would be a part of a teen’s participation in library advocacy efforts. Teens working as library advocates will have to be responsible for keeping their part of the project going. They will learn about the values and beliefs of others in the community and as a result that will help them to be more caring and have a better sense of equality and social justice within the community. They will honestly have to represent their position and be willing to openly listen to the positions of others. All of these activities will certainly help them to develop a set of positive values.
Helping teens be advocates is good for the library and good for teens. Give it a try. And, if you have experience with teen advocacy let us know in the comments section of this blog post.