YALSA Professional Learning Series: The Future of Library Services for and with Teens –Working with At-Risk Teens

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Welcome to the second in YALSA’s new monthly professional learning series. Each month we’ll highlight a topic and give readers the chance to learn about it as well as discuss it with others. Here’s how it works:

  • On the first of each month the YALSA Blog will post an overview of the topic of the month. That overview will include links to resources to read, watch, listen to, etc.
  • If you are interested in participating in the learning during the month, comment on the initial blog post to say something like, “yes, I’m in.”
  • Each week the facilitator of the topic – that’s me this month – will check-in with participants with a post that poses questions and helps to focus conversation on the topic.
  • Participants can converse with others about the topic by commenting on those posts.

We hope this is a low-stress way to learn something new or expand your knowledge on a topic. There is no pressure, just a desire to learn and discuss your learning.

Onto this month’s theme – Working with teens who may be at risk

In 2013 YALSA published the Future of Library Services For and With Teens: A Call to Action. That report, based on a year of research, prodded library staff working with teens to think differently about the teens they serve (and don’t serve) and think more broadly about who they are, where they are and what their needs may be.  Like the Future’s Report itself, this isn’t something that just happens, it takes time, conversations with your colleagues, really looking at your community and also thinking outside the box. 

The resources below should help you to begin thinking differently about your services for and with teens. It’s up to you what you read and/or watch. Pick and choose from the selections as a way to get started and to focus on what you think is most useful. You may make your way through them all, you may not. I’ve included some ideas of what to consider while you read or view so as to help provide context and focus.

Definition of “at risk youth” There are a lot of definitions of “at risk” youth and they can be loaded as well as sounding negative toward youth.  A broad definition can be that at risk teens can be at risk for not completing high school, may struggle socio economically, homeless, involved in drugs and/or alcohol, in foster care, court involved and each of these can put them at further risk and trauma.

What is it like to be homeless? Think about these questions; where do you get your food? Do you know where you are going to sleep tonight? Where are your necessary papers (social security card, etc), are they safe? Will I be safe when I go to sleep tonight?  Where am I going to take a shower?  These are SOME of the questions that teens experiencing homelessness face every day.  Now put this teen in your library, how do you see this teen? Do you think about some of these questions that he/she may face?  What do you see as an important service the library may offer this teen?  Read this story from a Los Angeles youth who had lived on the streets for two years. 

YALSA Blog posts-Outreach Services for  Teen Library Staff Read some of the interviews with teen services staff and what they are doing with teens who are incarcerated, refugee teens, teens experiencing homelessness, LGBT teens, teens with disabilities and teens who may be in the foster care system.  What are some things that each of these teen services staff have in common? Do you see yourself doing some of this work? If so, why? If not, why not?

YALS article on serving teens in foster care, page 20. The article was published in 2009 but still has relevance. 

What are some of the challenges that teens may face when they transition out of juvenile justice and back into the community? How do you see yourself being part of the solution?  

The Madison Public Library has a program for the main library, branches, the community and teens in the juvenile justice system called, the Bubbler.  The library recognizes the need in the community for library programming and services for and with teens in the juvenile justice system and the program is called Making Justice.  How did Madison Public Library make this program happen? Are there things you see doing in your library and working with your administration?

Larkin Street Youth Services is located in San Francisco and is an internationally recognized model successfully integrating housing, education, employment and health services to get homeless and at-risk kids off the streets.  Larkin Street provides youth between the ages of 12 and 24 with the help they need to rebuild their lives. Check out some of the services and programs they provide teens and young adults in education and employment, also the video.
Next week I’ll post some follow-up ideas and questions for everyone to discuss. This week, if you plan on being a part of the May conversation on working with teens at risk, post your interest in the comments and feel free to mention what you hope to get out of the month’s learning.  If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me, jsnow@bpl.org

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15 Comments

  1. I’m looking forward to taking part in this learning and am particularly interested in learning how library staff get to know their community to learn what at risk youth need in order to fill in gaps in service.

    • Great, I’m glad you’re in! Take a look at some of the resources and think about some of the questions posed as well as some of your own. On May 9 we’ll start with some follow up ideas and questions.

  2. Kim Farnsworth

    Hi, I’d like to be part of the conversation as well. I’m interested in learning more ways to serve at risk youth more effectively.

    • Hi Kim
      That’s great! Take a look through the resources and think about some of the questions you may have as well as think about some of the questions posed. We’ll continue the conversation on serving teens who may be at risk on May 9 with the second post in the series.

    • Hi Kelly
      That’s great! Take a look through the resources and think about some of the questions you may have as well as think about some of the questions posed. We’ll continue the conversation on serving teens who may be at risk on May 9 with the second post in the series.

  3. I can’t wait for this discussion. I am always looking for new ways to offer services to our at-risk teens and improve our services to them.

    • Hi Kate
      That’s great! Take a look through the resources and think about some of the questions you may have as well as think about some of the questions posed. We’ll continue the conversation on serving teens who may be at risk on May 9 with the second post in the series.

  4. I’m in. I am looking for ways to better connect with more of our teen population.

    • Hi Katy
      That’s great! Take a look through the resources and think about some of the questions you may have as well as think about some of the questions posed. We’ll continue the conversation on serving teens who may be at risk on May 9 with the second post in the series.

  5. I’d love to be part of this discussion! Some of the best teens I’ve ever met have been through juvenile detention centers. I’m really interested to hear what others have experienced.

  6. I’m really looking forward to this month’s exploration and discussion. Our library is located in the region with the country’s third highest rate of youth poverty and these stats are personified in the teens we serve. I want to learn new ways of helping these teens and want the library to be a part of the community-wide response to this.

    • Hi Jennifer
      That’s great! Take a look through the resources and think about some of the questions you may have as well as think about some of the questions posed. We’ll continue the conversation on serving teens who may be at risk on May 9 with the second post in the series.

  7. Megan Mascorro-Jackson

    I’m really looking forward to this conversation. The poverty level in our service area is growing and I’d like to learn new ways to serve our teens.

  8. Dawna Ofstehage

    I look forward to this discussion specifically learning about different ways reach out and to serve our at risk teens.

Comments are closed