We have spent the last generation building up strong teen programs in our libraries. Many, if not most, public libraries now have a dedicated teen space. With YALSA taking the lead, we can be proud of the progress we have made in serving middle- and high-school students.
But what happens when our library teens graduate? They are unceremoniously dumped, cut off from library programs and relationships that we have worked so hard to provide for them. Or perhaps they lose interest in our programs as they become older teens, wearied by the presence of young middle-schoolers at teen events.
Either way, older teens and graduates lose an important connection to the library. Many do not return until they have children of their own. Others leave forever, seeking elsewhere for social and educational events they once found at the library.
Last summer YALSA approved the formation of a new interest group to address the needs of these older teens and twenty-somethings. The “Serving New Adults Interest Group” focuses on the issues of programming, collection management, and advocacy for this decidedly underserved age group.
Several of us gathered for the YALSA First Wednesday Chat this week to discuss ideas on how to best serve 16- to 26-year-old patrons. We generated a long list of programming ideas, including manga/anime, cake decorating, car repair, game nights, cooking for two, The Office Olympics, Minute-to-win-it, and many others. We acknowledged the challenge of finding the time, money, and staff to expand our focus to these older teens and young adults. We identified collaboration opportunities with community colleges and other groups. We also brainstormed for a few fun minutes on what to call this demographic. What would it take to change the definition of “young adults” to college-age, and use “teens” exclusively to mean 12-18 year olds? And if we did that, what would we call YALSA???
If this conversation interests you, I invite you to join the “Serving New Adults Interest Group”. I also urge you to subscribe to the “serving-OTYA” email listserv. Help us expand the YALSA focus to include the “new adults” in our communities.