In talking about advocating for teen services, we often emphasize advocating with your library’s administration, or with elected officials, or the public. But there’s a great–and often untapped–pool of people that can really help you spread the word about teen services: your library colleagues, from fellow librarians and library assistants to clerks and pages.’ If you get these people on board with your message, they will carry a lot of the load of getting the message out to others.
Think about it: who are the people in the library that the public has the most contact with? Yes, it’s the front-line staff, the folks who spend hours a day at the service points or in the stacks. These are the staffers that members of the public are most likely to know by name, or at least by face. In many public libraries, in fact, it is the clerks and pages who are most likely to be truly local–people who live and work in the community that the library serves.
So how can they help you advocate for teens? Well, they can’t, unless they understand why they should and how they can go about it. Your first step is to inform and energize them. Keep in mind that many adults don’t really understand teenagers and sometimes they’re even a little afraid of them. Your job may be simply to demystify teens and help others understand why they do what they do.
- Offer to do a short session at a library staff meeting and/or new employee orientation on teen developmental needs.
- When you are chatting with co-workers in the break room, share interesting stories about teens and the value of teen services.
- Come up with a joint project in which you can work with children’s or adult services librarians to serve both teens and children or adults.
- Make a note when you see a positive interaction between another staff member and a teen, and follow up by complimenting your colleague, either verbally or with a quick note.
- Find out which of your colleagues have teenagers at home, or work with teens in some other part of the community–at church, at a volunteer organization, as a coach, etc.
- Find opportunities to remind your colleagues that helping teens grow into strong and capable adults is good for the whole community.
- Share your own enthusiasm for teen services at every opportunity–others will be swept up in your wake.
- Find out if you can take another staff member along with you when you speak at schools or at community events.
When teen services and teens are seen in a more positive light, advocacy becomes the next step. To help your colleagues advocate, you will need to continue to provide them with the necessary information.
- Make sure that all staff have easy access to information about your upcoming programs and ongoing services.
- Whenever you create announcements about programs and services to share with staff, be sure to include information about which developmental needs of teens are being met by the program or service.
- Suggest simple talking points that your colleagues can use when talking to the public about teen services and programs, and their value to teens and to the community.
- Have your business card available at all service desks so that if something comes up that your colleague can’t answer, they can refer the question to you. (And when this happens, be sure to follow up with the staff member, if possible, so they’ll know the answer the next time around.)
- Thank your colleagues for their help in spreading the word about teen services.
Everyone who works in a public library works with teens, but it might be up to you to help them find the joy and excitement in doing so! If you start by advocating with your co-workers, you will have opportunity to develop a dynamic corps of teen services advocates.