Report Available: The Future of Library Services for and with Teens

Libraries provide a lifeline for teens, their families and communities across the nation by providing a safe and supervised space for adolescents to engage in creative, educational activities with caring adults and mentors. But a variety of significant developments point to a need for libraries to change in order to successfully meet the needs of today’s teens.

The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: a Call to Action, is the result of a year-long national forum conducted by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) in 2013, with funding provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Call to Action lays out a new path for serving 21st century teens through libraries. This 2014 report (.pdf), authored by Linda W. Braun, Maureen Hartman, Sandra Hughes-Hassell, and Kafi Kumasi, shows that many libraries are continuing to grapple with diminishing resources while at the same time struggling to meet the needs of a changing teen population. Additionally, significant developments in technology have led to the need to rethink how
services for and with teens are best created and delivered. The Call to Action provides recommendations on how libraries must address challenges and re-envision their teen services in order to meet the needs of their individual communities and to collectively ensure that the nation’s 40+ million teens develop the skills they need to be productive citizens.

From the Executive Summary:

The Issues

Teens Make Up a Significant Portion of Library Users
There are over 40 million adolescents, aged 12–17, living in the United States today, and they use libraries. A 2013 Pew survey found that 72% of 16- to 17-year-olds had used a public library in 2012.

Library Services and Resources for Teens Are in Jeopardy
Library closures, reduced hours, lack of staff, and insufficient resources mean that teens in many communities no longer have access to the resources, knowledge, and services they need to support their academic, emotional, and social development, to master 21st-century skills, and to ensure that they become productive citizens.

There Has Been a Significant Shift in the Demographics of Teens
According to an analysis of the 2010 census data completed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, there are currently 74.2 million children under the age of eighteen in the United States; 46% of them are children of color. Additionally, more than one-fifth of America’s children are immigrants or children of immigrants. Now is the time for the field of librarianship, the population of which is overwhelmingly Caucasian, to consider what these demographic changes mean to school and public
library services and programs for and with teens.

Technology Continues to Impact Communication Methods, Teaching, and Learning
Teens’ use of technology (smart phones, tablets, laptops, the Internet, etc.) is pervasive. However, ownership of technology devices continues to vary across socioeconomic and racial demographics. Now is the time for public and school libraries to systematically determine how technology will affect the future of library services for and with teens, with special attention to the access gaps that continue to exist.

Teens Are Entering the Workforce without Critical Skills
In the last three decades, the skills required for young adults to succeed in the workforce have changed drastically, but the skills emphasized in schools have not kept up with these changes. Libraries need to create the kind of spaces, services, and opportunities that today’s teens need in order to succeed in school and in life.

Read more to learn about What Teens Need from Libraries and Implications for Practice.

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One Comment

  1. This is a great post that addresses how technology, among other factors, is affecting how teens will use libraries in the future. Some changes will need to be made to keep attracting teens as their screen time increases and paper page time decreases.
    As somebody who works with teens, I see them still enjoying holding an actual, tangible book. Although there are plenty of distractions, there is just something comforting about losing one’s self in a good book.

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