Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: What’s Your Policy?

I just did a search in the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff document on the word “policies” and found 13 results. That’s not surprising since it’s essential to make sure that a library’s use and customer related policies allow for high-quality teen services. However, have you looked at the internal staff policies and procedures your library has in place that might hinder developing the skills needed as outlined in the Competencies? For example.

  • Are there internal policies that make it hard to get out of the building in order to become skilled at developing relationships with community members, partners, families, and even teens? What policies are there about desk time and/or how you are supposed to spend your time while at work? Do these make it hard to succeed in areas related to Community and Family Engagement?
  • What about professional learning polices or procedures that focus the Continuous Learning you can engage in in areas that do not allow for the skill and knowledge development covered in the Competencies?
  • Does your library have internal policies about how you are able to connect with teens? Do these hinder your ability to gain skills and knowledge and demonstrate what’s included in the Interactions with Teens content area of the Competencies?

If you find that there are internal library policies that hinder your ability to successfully demonstrate the competencies laid out in YALSA’s new document, what do you do? Do you simply say, “oh well, that’s the way it is?” Or, do you start to advocate for internal changes in order to make it possible for you to move forward? Hopefully, you want to do the latter. However, that’s easier said than done in many cases. So, what’s a strategy you might employ?

A good first step is to simply start talking about the Competencies and their value to library services for and with teens. Spend some time with decision-makers and colleagues highlighting what the Competencies call out as skills and knowledge and why those areas are important. Start conversations about what it takes to gain the skills and practice the various pieces of the content areas.

As you inform others about the document, start talking about what you need related to library polices and procedures in order to move into the practicing and transforming levels of the different content areas. For example, if your schedule doesn’t allow you to build relationships with others in the community, and teens, point that out. Work with decision makers on how to make it possible to better support that competency area through library policies and procedures. Think about solutions you can bring forward and ways you can work with others to help make the change needed to happen.

The Competencies aren’t just about you alone trying to reach and demonstrate various skill and knowledge levels. They are also about what your library as an organizational structure needs to put into place in order for you to be successful. As a result, don’t keep the document to yourself. Make sure others in your institution understand what it takes to be a competent staff member serving teens in the community.

If you have ideas or techniques for moving this work forward let us know in the comments for this post.

Learn more about the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff and upcoming free webinars on content areas on the YALSA website.

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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