Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: What’s in a Name?

cover of the yalsa teen services competenciesHave you noticed? The name of YALSA’s new competencies doesn’t say “for teen services staff” or “for teen librarians.” The title is Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff. Why is this important? Because it brings to the fore the idea that all library staff need to think about what it takes to work successfully with teens. Think about it, isn’t it likely that staff in reference, circulation, children’s services, and other library departments will encounter teens in the library? If that’s true, those staff members need to be able to support teen needs from the perspective of the job that they do.

When thinking about connecting all library staff to the Competencies a good place to start is with the dispositions. Many of the attitudes and mindsets in this section of the Competencies are easily relatable to the work of all staff in the library. Take a look at the dispositions listed below. Are there any that you would say, “Oh, only those that work with teens need to have that disposition?”:

  • Shows warmth, caring, and respect for all teens and their families
  • Recognizes and respects the diversity of teens and their families, and understands this diversity impacts all areas of practice
  • Recognizes the systemic inequities that exist in our institutions and communities and strives to dismantle them and to provide equitable access for and with all youth
  • Takes an asset-based approach to working for and with teens and their families
  • Demonstrates responsible professional and personal habits in interacting and working with others, and models and practices a positive attitude
  • Responds to challenges and changes with exibility, perseverance, and cooperation
  • Communicates respectfully, clearly, and effectively with all teens and adults
  • Recognizes that quality library services support teens and families, and bridge the gap between school and home
  • Upholds the right of all, including teens, to free expression and free access to a depth and breadth of ideas and information

It’s likely that when you read through the dispositions you could see that they are something that all library staff should hold.

If it’s difficult to get the idea across to colleagues and administrators that all library staff need to come to library work with teens with these dispositions, think about asking those you. work with, if the word “teens” wasn’t in the list, would they believe they bring the ideas, and attitudes, in the list to their work? If that’s the case, then you might ask, “what is the difference when it comes to teens?” That could be a good way to open a conversation.

You might also think about spending a day, or a few days, looking at how each department/staff member in the library comes into contact with teens. How do they demonstrate the dispositions in that work? Does it become clear that all staff members do have the opportunity to demonstrate all of the items in the list above?

Or, what if your library were to look at job descriptions of staff? Would there be a tie-in to the dispositions listed in the Competencies? Is there a way to make sure that the dispositions are recognized as a part of every staff member’s job – not just the job of those that are designated as teen services staff?

What do you think about the importance of making sure that all library staff demonstrate the dispositions listed in the Competencies? What questions do you have about the topic? Post. your thoughts in the comments.

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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