Recently on YALSA-YAAC there has been some discussion regarding the terminology used to define library services to 12 – 18 year olds- is the term “young adults” an appropriate label for this age? Or is “young adults” more appropriate for the 19 – 35 age range? What ages should we be providing services for? Check out the discussion at http://lists.ala.org/wws/info/ya-yaac.
I’ve always struggled with the term “young adult” because as someone in the under 30 set, I’ve always considered myself a young adult. I have begun refering to my department “Teen Services” because not only is that the terminology that my target audience identifies for themselves, but it also clarifies the confusion for patrons unfamiliar with the library terminology. The biggest adjustment has been for staff, who struggle to no longer refer to the Young Adult area (recently named The Teen Zone through a vote of teen regulars) or me as the Young Adult Librarian (I go by Teen Services Librarian now). Officially, my library defines my service age as 13 – 18, truly the teen years, however I also provide services to the 10 – 12 year old set as well in collaboration with the Youth Services department. I believe that is how teen librarians should address the 19 – 25 set as well, through collaboration with Adult services.
As we help the older youth/younger teens transition into teen services, we should also help our older teens transition into the next level of library services. After all, they have grown up along side us, so it is only natural that they want to continue with what they are comfortable with, and only natural for us to want to continue to include them. If we collaborate with adult services in providing transitional services for the truly young adult we can help provide some continuity for them to make the transition, and we are not struggling to provide services for three distinct age ranges alone. After all, there is a big difference between the needs of 12 year olds and 16 year olds, and there is just a big of a difference between the needs of 16 year olds and 25 year olds. Librarians have embraced the concept of “tween” and in recent years have begun to provide wonderful services to this age group to embrace them and ease their migration from the Children’s Services into Teen Services. I think that the next step is to begin to do that for our young adult populations, only with a lessor role as we transition them OUT of our department and into adult services. As teen services librarians we should be advocating that our library’s adult services departments begin offering programs that will attract these young adults, but also be willing to run collaborative programs like a 16 – 30 Game Night that allows your older teens to become familiar with your adult services staff and also allows your younger young adults to spend time with the teen services staff and some of the teens they may have befriended through teen programs.