COVID-19 : While your library and/or school is physically closed

Hi everyone,

Thank you for your continued commitment to your work for and with teens in libraries, as we all adjust to these unique circumstances. I’ve received a number of questions about what YALSA members and others who work for and with teens can do to help during the shutdown of many schools and libraries, coupled with social distancing mandates. Obviously, this doesn’t allow us to connect directly with the teens we serve, but give thought to the many venues our 21st century technology affords us. At this time, what we can do for teens will require us to consider more indirect support than what many of us are used to providing. Advocate with administrators to ensure that any online programming that your school or library posts includes teens and the needs they have. Be mindful that most teens are not used to being away from their friends, and conversely are spending an unexpected amount of time with their nuclear families. Parents and guardians, too, are trying to figure this out as they go along.

Of course, not all teens are privileged, and we should remain cognizant of our most vulnerable populations and those who face the greatest challenges. Serving those teens at this time is more difficult than ever before. Using the online tools afforded us by our partner community and government organizations, we can consider this a time to recognize what holes in the safety net exist, and how we can better approach these problems both now and when a semblance of normalcy returns.

Many of us have turned, by choice or necessity, to online forums and tools to stay connected with our students, colleagues, fellow committee and task force members, and our families and friends. As time permits in our lives turned upside-down, I’ve provided a list below of items produced by YALSA to keep us engaged with our work and if nothing else, a needed break (as appropriate) from the pandemic coverage. While some of this may appear to be basic, we’re all getting our footing again, and ensuring a strong foundation will help us all as we move forward.

Please note: I am aware that not everyone has the time or energy at this time to devote to continuing education opportunities or ideas of how to prepare themselves for when schools and libraries reopen. Others are not being paid, and I am not recommending that you work for free. Do whatever works for your situation; caring for your own needs is critical.

  • This is a good time to review some of the basic tenets of YALSA membership and the best practices of teen services in libraries. Have you read through the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff recently? This is a bedrock document, which also has free webinars associated that discuss each of the ten competencies. Watching them may provide you with areas to think about improving personally or institutionally, and, depending on your workplace, may count as continuing education credit. Similarly, our recently adopted EDI Statement and EDI Plan are core elements to everything YALSA does. Think about how they may apply in your own setting. Make a list of thoughts to share about how your school or library can strive to eliminate inequities and encourage more inclusive practices.
  • One of the ongoing concerns of those of us who work with teens is the lack of media literacy that has plagued us in the Information Age and as social media has proliferated. The Teen Literacies Toolkit focuses on media literacy, and now would be a great time to review that document and provide library staff with ways to help teens navigate their world and the data they’re consuming. For more information on the current state of media literacy, I recommend the National Association for Media Literacy Education’s 2019 report.
  • What programming will teens want when they return to the schools and libraries that serve them? The Teen Programming HQ is a good start to think about potential programs that are current and have proven to be popular. This could be a chance to look into the many making and crafting opportunities for teens that are available online, as either active or passive programs. If you are able to stay in contact with your Teen Advisory Group/Board, ask for their input. List programs or ideas and poll teens for their favorites. This is a terrific time to be creative, as everyone, teens and adults alike, is in the process of figuring things out.
  • Think about the options that you have for keeping up-to-date on YALSA’s awards and selection lists. Read or listen to that book you’ve always meant to, or the one you overheard teens discussing recently. If you don’t have the opportunity to check out ebook or e-audiobook versions, you may want to browse professional and individual’s reviews online. Keeping up-to-date with what teens are reading and listening to, along with their other interests, can allow you to make connections that may not occur otherwise. Pay special attention to the Teens’ Top Ten list, which are voted on by teens themselves. If possible, share your own reviews or book talks online using your institution’s social media accounts.

I hope some or all of these ideas are helpful in answering the questions I have received. There are many, many more opportunities to stay relevant and keep on top of our teens’ ever-changing circumstances. Again, I appreciate your continued work for and with teens, whether in person or virtually!

Todd Krueger, YALSA President 2019-2020 | Twitter: @toddbcpl

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