Several months ago I was on a conference call and part of the discussion focused on the role of libraries. (A fairly common conversation these days.) One person said that libraries are about books and another person said that libraries are about space. As I think about services to teens in school and public libraries, my thought is that libraries are about connections. The concept of connections does not preclude books or space, yet the idea of connections allows librarians to support some traditional services while at the same time leave traditional services behind and focus on new and emerging technologies and techniques.
If libraries and librarians are about connections then they connect teens:
- With materials in the formats that are most necessary for a particular teen, need, and/or purpose. Print materials like books, magazines, and newspapers as well as apps, websites, social sites, digital content, and more.
- To physical space for collaborating on projects; meeting to talk about favorite books, movies, TV shows, games; and more.
- To virtual space for collaborating on projects; meeting to talk about favorite books, movies, TV shows, games; and more.
- To each other, physically and virtually, in order to collaborate, learn, be informed, be entertained, and so on.
- To adult members of the community, physically and virtually, in order to gain developmental assets, learn, be informed, be entertained.
- To adults inside and outside of the library in order to demonstrate why teens have a valuable and positive role in the life of the community.
If the focus is on connections the conversation can change and move from:
- One that’s about physical book vs. digital material, to what’s the best way to connect teens to the content that they need?
- Should we have a Facebook page, Twitter account, use print flyers or newspaper ads, to what’s the best way to connect teens with information about the services we provide?
- How do we get teens inside the library, to what’s the best way to connect teens to what they need no matter where they are?
What if you focused on the programs and services that you provide for and with teens from the standpoint of being all about connecting and connections? Would the way you do things change? Would some things stay the same?
As I think about it I see great opportunities to use connecting as a focal point in advocacy and marketing efforts. Consider what might be possible if you stood up in your community and advocated for library teen services as a necessary ingredient in a continuum of community services because the library is the only institution in the community that can help teens to connect to whatever it is they need – space, materials, each other, etc. Consider what might be possible if the conversation between you and administrators or community members didn’t focus specifically on the resources – physical or virtual – but the more, perhaps abstract, concept of connecting. While the concept might be abstract, there are plenty of examples you could use to demonstrate how the library connects teens to everything from content, to experts, to technology, to information literacy skills.
Re-framing the conversation and moving it away from the library as the place for resources to the library as the place for connections opens up a lot of doors – at least from my perspective. What do others think?