Teen Services Competencies: An Opportunity

Last week YALSA published the newest edition of Teen Service Competencies for Library Staff. The introduction to the document states:

YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth was frst published in 1981 and last updated in 2010. Since that time the role libraries play in teen lives has gone through a paradigm shift, wherein library staff have been called upon to take a co-learner role in facilitating teen learning that is hands-on and interest-based.

As a result of the paradigm shift mentioned in the introduction, the Competencies are entirely new. Categories, used in the past to organize the skill areas that library staff need so to work for and with teens successfully, are completely re-envisioned. This re-envisioning is set within the context of the work YALSA has done over the past several years including the Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action report and the association’s research agenda.

image of teen services competencies coverAs YALSA members developed and wrote the competencies they kept at the forefront of their thinking what teen lives are like today. They thought about the importance of focusing on current teen needs when designing and implementing quality library services. They thought about frameworks such as connected learning, the need to give youth voice in what happens in their lives and their communities, and how, through culturally competent and responsive programs and service, teens that need libraries the most are served.

YALSA does not expect all library staff working with teens will already have all of the skills and knowledge outlined in the new Competencies document. That’s why starting in March of 2018 the association is launching 10 months of free webinars. These webinars are open to both YALSA members and non-members and will be helpful for those working with teens directly, library school students, library school & iSchool faculty, administrators, and youth development workers. Each month the webinars, along with Twitter chats and blog posts, will focus on one category of the Competencies and provide insight to those working with teens in libraries and in communities.

What can you do before March to get started with taking the opportunity that the Competencies provide:

  • Review the Competencies categories and consider where you see yourself within each of those. Each category is divided into three levels – developing, practicing, and transforming. Remember there is nothing wrong with being at the developing level of one or more categories. If at the developing level think about ways in which you can gain the skills necessary to move up from developing to practicing (or from practicing to transforming). Remember too, that your work may give you opportunities to be at the transforming level in one category and at the developing level in another. And, remember, that none of this work is static, as teen lives and communities change, so does the work library staff does with and for teens change. That means your place within a category may change too.
  • Think about ways you can, and take opportunities to, talk with others in your library and within your professional learning network about the Competencies. Look for ways to work with others to make sure that library staff are competent in the categories listed.
  • Advocate for the value that library staff bring to teen services when they are skilled in the competency categories listed in the YALSA document.
  • Be open to learning new ways of working with and for teens and to changing your own practice. One way to get started is to think about your own professional development plan within the context of the Competencies. Consider what you need to learn and what can you help others learn?

The YALSA Teen Service Competencies for Library Staff open up an opportunity. An opportunity for staff in school and public libraries, library administrators, library school students, and library and information school faculty to analyze what they can do to improve knowledge and skills of themselves and those in the profession in order to help guarantee that teens grow up successfully. Don’t miss this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those you work for and with.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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