By: Rachel McDonald
As teen-serving library staff, we see the value of libraries in our communities every day. Whether it's through job readiness workshops, STEM programs, or book clubs, we can attest to the ways in which our programs engage teens, offer them safe spaces, and prepare them for adulthood. But how often do we think to share our successes with our elected officials? District Days is our opportunity to do just that.
I'll admit, I wasn't thinking about District Days way back in March when my manager emailed asking me to identify two summer programs that I thought would be good events to invite our local representatives to. He explained that the best events are ones that you will personally attend, where you expect good attendance, and will generate photo ops. I chose the two robotics workshops for tweens that our library was offering in partnership with a local FIRST robotics team (yay, Skunkworks 1983!). Since the workshops had been super successful at other libraries and we were requiring patrons to register, there was no chance of an elected official showing up to an empty room. My manager gathered program information from all the children's and teen librarians across four libraries, compiled it, and sent invitations to our elected officials, from the mayor to our state representatives.
I'm happy to report that Washington State Representative Tina Orwall attended one of our robotics workshop last week and spoke for a few minutes about the importance of STEM-based learning. As the students were beginning to build their robots, she confessed to me that she wasn't aware that libraries offered these sorts of programs, to which I replied that part of our role as library staff is to cultivate partnerships and mentorships in order to offer these opportunities to our patrons. Though she wasn't able to stay for the entire program, Orwall made a point to talk to the FIRST robotics team leaders and pose for photos with them. The following day I tweeted her a photo, along with my thanks and a link to the recent Libraries and STEM factsheet from IMLS.
While my manager took the lead this year, next year I'll be planning District Days on my own, using the invitation and other resources available on YALSA's District Days wiki. More than that, I plan on using YALSA's advocacy tools and suggestions for standing up for teens and teen services year-round.
If you're doing something for District Days, please share your story on Twitter with the hashtag #act4teens.