Our Teens, Our Advocates

When it comes to advocating for teen services, many of us have had to justify the importance of our role to our communities, library boards, and sometimes even fellow staff members; the unfortunate reality is that we will need to continue doing so for the unforeseeable future. With cuts to staffing and operating hours affecting how we do our day-to-day jobs, it can be easy to put advocacy on the back burner instead of keeping it at the forefront of all that we do. As we rush from program to program, patron to patron, we could all use more help advocating on behalf of the teens we serve. What better resource than the teens themselves to help promote libraries and, more specifically, teen services!

Recruiting teens who frequent the library, be it for programming, use of the collection, or homework help, to assist in promoting services that they use is a win-win situation. Teens can provide first-hand testimony that can be more effective than that of library professionals, and by empowering them to be heard, especially in something as crucial as this, we reinforce how much we value their input.

So, what are some of the ways that teens can become more involved in advocating for teen services? Check out some of the resources that follow:

  • The soon-to-be-released Being a Teen Library Services Advocate by the esteemed Linda Braun (Neal-Schuman, 2012) is a comprehensive guide that covers everything a teen services advocate could need to address our value and importance, including a chapter devoted to teens advocating on behalf of their libraries.
  • The YALSA wiki “Advocating for Teen Services in Libraries”
    is brimming with information, including tips and ideas, additional resources, and the spectacular “Speaking Up for Library Services to Teens: A Guide to Advocacy”. Many of the ideas that are aimed at library professionals can be easily adapted for teen participation, including creating pro-library T-shirts.
  • Karen Jensen, the mastermind behind the awesome “Teen Librarian’s Toolbox”’ is a Teen Services Librarian whose The 2012 Project’  seeks to collect 2,012 photographs of teens using their libraries in 2012 to demonstrate their value in their lives. Whether driven by teen librarians or the teens themselves, this is a great way for all involved to “show, not tell” how important our libraries are in a visual and creative way.

Whether grassroots or nationally organized, advocacy campaigns for teen services are important to our continued survival. With funding remaining in jeopardy across the country and library services facing cutbacks, now more than ever we must rally our teen support to help us so that we will be able to continue helping them. By getting today’s teens actively involved now, the future of teen services and libraries as a whole can only benefit.

Familiar with other teen-friendly advocacy resources? Please share them in the comments.

One thought on “Our Teens, Our Advocates”

  1. Thanks for mentioning the book I/YALSA have coming out soon. (I think it will be around Annual that it’s available.) Sometimes I find that adults who don’t work with teens directly don’t get why we would ask teens to advocate for the library. I’ve discovered that a good way to get past this barrier, if people are saying you shouldn’t have teens doing advocacy or shouldn’t spend time working with teens to do that, is to use the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets. When teens learn about advocating for the library they gain an incredible number of skills that support the assets. They gain self confidence, feel empowered, and know that the library and the community has high expectations for them.

    I’ve also found that teens who can say why the library is important in their lives, not just “oh, we had so much fun at the manga program” but why the manga program is important to them, help others to understand the value of the library beyond the library has fun programs for teens, and move into the realm of the library is helping teens to grow up successfully.

    Advocacy is hard and scary and working with teens to help them be advocates for the services the library provides is rewarding, worthwhile, and even fun.

    BTW, stay tuned to YALSA Academy for some new advocacy videos that should be available soon.

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