Research on Competency Content Area 1: Teen Growth and Development

Authored by the YALSA Research Committee

Throughout the current term, the YALSA Research Committee will be looking at YALSA’s new Competencies for Teen Librarians through the lens of research.  Through our blog posts, we will attempt to provide a brief snapshot of how scholarship currently addresses some of the issues put forth through the standards.

Our first post focuses on Content Area 1: Teen Growth and Development, which is generally described as,  “Knows the typical benchmarks for growth and development and uses this knowledge to provide library resources, programs, and services that meet the multiple needs of teens.” This standard includes different facets of teen development, cultures, media, and preparing patrons to transition into adulthood and how each of these themes apply to collections, programs, and services.  For this post, we’ll focus solely on aspects of teen development in research about youth library services.

Walter (2009) described “The Public Libraries as Partners in Youth Development Project” which described a specific set of developmental outcomes that occur when teens successfully transition to adulthood.  The author further unpacked each outcome and examined how certain youth programs addressed the needs of youth to meet those outcomes through a youth employment program, which engaged teens in meaningful library work that allowed them to understand how their work impacted their community.   Akiv and Petrokubit (2016) examined the impact of the approach of youth-adult partnerships (Y-AP) in youth library programs.  The Y-AP approach suggests that youth and adults will collaboratively make programmatic and organization decisions.  The researchers found that giving teens the progressive responsibility that may help them prepare for adulthood.  Acknowledging the diverse needs of urban youth, Derr and Rhodes (2010) described how the development of an urban youth library space that meets these diverse needs can foster a continued engagement in library services as youth transition to adulthood.  Williams and Edwards (2011) examined how public library spaces can help sustain the psychological development of teens living in urban spaces.  They noted the conflict that often occurs between teen and adult schedules and the general lack of social space for teens.  The authors argued that providing specific space for teens in the library gives teens the space to feel safe, interact with adults other than their parents, and engage with resources.

Williams and Edwards (2011) and Walter (2009) make references to the need for library staff to educate themselves on youth development and what teens need to grow and transition to adulthood.  This education may help to mitigate the adversarial approach sometimes taken by library staff who don’t specifically work with teens on a regular basis. Walter specifically stresses that practitioners need to work with instead of do for teen patrons in order to best help them acquire those skills and dispositions that will help them grow.

Akiva, T. & Petrokubi, J. (2016). Growing with youth: A lifewide and lifelong perspective on youth-adult partnership in youth programs. Children and Youth Services Review, 69, 248-258.

Derr, L. & Rhodes, A. (2010). The public library as ürban youth space: Redefining public libraries through services and space for young people for an über experience. APIS, 23(3), 90-97.

Walter, V.A. (2009). Sowing the seed of praxis: Incorporating youth development principles in a library teen employment program. Library Trends, 58(1), 63-81.

Williams, P. & Edwards, J. (2011). Nowhere to go and nothing to do: How public libraries mitigate the impacts of parental work and urban planning on young people. APLIS, 24(4), 142-152.

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