I feel so privileged to have been at the IMLS-supported YALSA Forum on Teens and Libraries the past two days in Seattle â€“ right before Midwinter starts today.
It's hard to know where to start, but one of the most powerful parts of the Forum was that it wasn't just library folks talking about our work with each other -- like we often do-- partners and supporters were intentionally included and asked about how we can continue to engage them.
We have to reach out and partner with other organizations that value youthâ€”we can't do it all ourselves. We need to attend coalitions or collaboratives in our communities to make sure libraries are included in new projects or initiatives â€“ that we are key players at important tables. While I've been here at Midwinter I just learned there is now a Twin Cities Career Readiness Collaborative that I was not aware of â€“ I'm going to find out who's in charge and see if it could be meaningful for my Library.
A number of current and future partners were at the table â€“ the Search Institute (if you're not familiar with their great Assets work, it's a foundational element of youth development that you should know). They also have newer family assets that I've been thinking about how to incorporate into our library work, GLSEN, the Science Museum of Minnesota, DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, the Afterschool Alliance, and others.
Partnership doesn't have to look like program offerings â€“ it can be making partners aware of library services or tools that can help their work â€“ did you know we have a database that can help your clients prepare for the GED? Did you know our library has an app?
Partners can help libraries improve or add to services, as well. At the forum, all partners expressed their support for libraries and interest in staying engaged in this work. In particular GLSEN and the Search Institute reminded us of the resources available on their websites.
If you're the only youth services librarian in your library, it can sometimes feel lonely, but other people who care about youth are everywhere in your community -- we just need to find them and work together.