national forum on libraries and teens logo.Over the past several weeks the YALSAblog has run a series of posts on rethinking how we do and what we do in libraries for teens. There have been posts on everything from library card policies to programming to professional development to social media policies. There's a lot to rethink. And, actually, YALSA has been focused on re-thinking everything that we do in libraries for teens over the past year as a part of a year-long IMLS grant on the future of teens and libraries.

What does it mean to envision the future of libraries and teens? You can find out by reading the draft of the white paper YALSA is developing to help library staff and others determine next steps and how to move forward. And, YALSA doesn't want you to just read the white paper draft, the association is looking for your comments. Read on for a sneak peek at some of what you'll read about in the paper.

A Paradigm Shift in Library Service to Teens
Nothing is as it was just a decade ago when it comes to libraries and teens. The changes that we see are partly a result of the technology that is a part of teen lives every day of their lives. If teens no longer have to visit the library to find information and to check-out materials for pleasure based reading, what is the role of library teen services? A role still exists but it is a role that requires library staff working with teens to focus not on the physical book or article but instead focus on the way to connect teens with what they need no matter where they are. Library staff need to mentor teens to help them gain skills and knowledge that connects with personal and educational interests. And, anyone working with teens needs to be able to create flexible welcoming environments that are available for teens to connect, create, collaborate. The white paper breaks down various aspects of a teen's world from technology to media literacy to connected learning to college and career readiness and also provides a view of what library services have been for teens and where they need to go in areas such as staff, collections, programs, space, and more.

A Mission and Core Philosophy
As written in the white paper, the mission of library service to teens is:

...to foster learning, personal development, and civic engagement among teens in a culturally responsive, information-rich, and technologically advanced environment that spans physical and virtual library spaces to prepare teens for productive adult lives.

The mission is followed by a selection of core principles that are required in serving teens into the future. These include:

  • Supporting teen need for connectivity, not just within the technological realm, but connectivity as it relates to connecting with materials and people who have like passions and interests.
  • Providing support for all areas of literacy from traditional print-based text literacies to broader media literacies that help teens to evaluate and understand information garnered from wherever whenever.
  • Recognizing that library staff working with teens are educators and in that role gladly take on helping teens to learn in formal and informal environments.
  • Understanding that library service to teens is inclusive. It's not just for some teens but for all teens in the community. And, it's not just something that just some staff support. All library staff have to support and value the key role that teen services plays in libraries.

How Do We Get There?
Of course it's great to read what the future of libraries and teens will look like, but really what about help and ideas on how to get there? The white paper includes that as well. Covered in this section are:

  • Ideas related to changing staffing frameworks from library staff as expert when it comes to connecting teens to what they need, but that the staff is the facilitator and conduit to helping teens find what they need when they need it.
  • Using outcomes and other methods for measuring and evaluating library services to teens to uncover what works, what doesn't work, and how to make change in order to expand what is successful.
  • Building strategic partnerships so that library staff working with teens don't have to do it alone.
  • Helping all staff build new skills in order to transition successfully into this new world of serving teens.

Recommendations
The white paper includes a set of recommendations for a variety of stakeholders and types of library staff for moving forward into the future. These include ideas for administrators, stakeholders, elected officials, library school faculty, library school students, educators. The recommendations are simply written to make them easy to digest and internalize. And, the recommendations are a great jumping off point for discussions in a community about how a whole community - or subset of the community - can support the library in service to teens.

There is a lot more to the white paper which means you really should read it. The comment period runs through November 1. But, there is no time like the present to read and comment. It will help you, the profession, and YALSA. It will get you started rethinking what you do, how, and why. Don't hesitate, read and comment today.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President and the Youth and Family Learning Manager at the Seattle Public Library.

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