Deborah Takahashi is a Senior Librarian for the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library. Deborah has been working with teens and children for seventeen years and loves every minute. Deborah is also the author of "Serving Teens with Mental Illness at the Library: A Practical Guide."
In the last four months, our country has faced a barrage of racism and fear due to COVID-19. In addition to the pandemic, the death of George Floyd has fueled a movement to call out systematic racism and police brutality and demand justice. While teens all over the country are seeing and feeling the effects of these events, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) teens need support more than ever, which is why we need to talk about BIPOC Mental Health Month.
According to Mental Health America (MHA):
“Formally recognized in June 2008, Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed each July and was created to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face regarding mental illness in the United States.
Bebe Moore Campbell was an American author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate who worked tirelessly to shed light on the mental health needs of the Black community and other underrepresented communities.
People and language evolve, and Mental Health America (MHA) has chosen to remove the word “minority” from our toolkit and will be phasing it out on our materials. Instead, we are using a different designation – BIPOC – that we believe more fairly honors and distinguishes the experiences of Blacks, Indigenous People, and People of Color.
Now that it’s May, it’s time to talk about teen mental health. While mental health should be discussed every day, May is the official month where mental health organizations from all over the country put out a call for mental health education. According to Mental Health America:
Since 1949, Mental Health America and our affiliates across the country have led the observance of May is Mental Health Month by reaching millions of people through the media, local events and screenings. We welcome other organizations to join us in spreading the word that mental health is something everyone should care about by using the May is Mental Health Month toolkit materials and conducting awareness activities.
For more information about Mental Health America: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may
Here is a list of organizations that provide a wealth information about mental health awareness:
Teen mental health has become an important topic all over the country as teens are facing extraordinary challenges causing teens to develop serious mental disorders such as Depression, Anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study that stated “[e]ver having been diagnosed with either anxiety or depression among children aged 6–17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8% in 2007 and to 8.4% in 2011–2012.” As these numbers continue to rise, teens have taken it up themselves to advocate for their own mental health and the library can assist them along the way.
When librarians think of picture books, the first thing that comes to mind is of story time and lots of children. Picture books have long been associated with early literacy and encouraging young children to fall in love with reading. Not to mention, the countless memories created stories before bed or reading to a newborn. However, picture books aren’t JUST for children, but for teens as well. While it’s essential that children have access to picture books, teens need them to whether they admit it or not. In fact, authors like Dr. Seuss, Patricia Polacco, Chris Van Allsburg, David Wiesner, and Walter Dean Myers have been writing books for elementary school aged children without realizing that these stories have the power to connect with teens as well . While most picture books are marketed to specific age groups, or reading levels, many picture books go above and beyond to draw in a wider audience. Here are a few of my favorites:
During this year’s YALSA Symposium, not only did I experience southern hospitality at its finest, I had the pleasure of meeting amazing YA library staff from all over the country. From California to New Jersey, 442 YA library staff members descended upon the beautiful city of Louisville and, immediately, I felt at home. Despite the three hour time change, I spent four days communing with colleagues, eating lots of southern fried food, and taking in all the knowledge I could to become a better YA Librarian.
At the opening ceremony, we heard from YALSA President, Sandra Hughes-Hassell, who is embarking on journey to provide YALSA members with ideas and training opportunities to promote youth activism through community engagement. After introducing this year’s task force members, attendees heard from several teen authors including Kwame Alexander, James L. Swanson, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Nina LaCour. If you didn’t know, Kwame Alexander started a web series called “Bookish” where he discusses books and it’s a lot of fun (access the series from his Facebook page)! What was great about this opening session is that you could hear a pin drop as this room, packed with vivacious YA library staff, sat silently as they absorbed the words of these authors. Once the panel was done, these amazing authors signed books donated by the publishers for the attendees!
As teen library staff, we are called to not only assist teens with their educational pursuits, but help them build the necessary skills to become productive adults. As we create services and programs for teens, we sometimes forget that teens aren’t the only one who benefit from these services—their parents do as well. Although parental involvement may vary from community to community, if we see teens who visit the library with their parent(s) and families, we have a great opportunity to find out what parents would like to know about teen library services and how we can improve our programs to suit the needs of their teens.
For those of us who work, or have worked with, children see the power of parental involvement on a day to day basis. Whether it’s taking their kids to sports, tutoring, or bringing their children to the library for storytime, these parents take the time to expose their children to learning opportunities to ensure their kids are on the right track. By taking an active role in their child’s success, libraries have always been there to support parents with parenting collections, early literacy programs, create home school collections, and provide educational family programs to give parents the information they need to support their children.
Every year, LGBTQIA communities host amazing parades, marches, and events to celebrate their pride. Whether we are members of this community, family members, or allies, these events have been joyous celebrations of love, appreciation, and acceptance. However, as youth advocates, we must also remember that Pride celebrations are in remembrance of the Stonewall Uprising on June 27, 1969 in New York City. Not only did these series of events expose the New York City Police Department’s intolerance of the LGBTQIA community, it spurred an entire community to demand equal rights, which turned into a movement that is alive and well.
After the Stonewall Uprising, libraries have played a significant part in providing the LGBTQIA community not just access to information, but created the “Task Force on Gay Liberation that sought to provide the LGBTQIA community with greater representation in libraries and the community. While libraries have been providing programs and services to the LGBTQIA community for forty seven years, the current political and social climate has seen a resurgence of hate and intolerance towards LGBTQIA people. However, as teen library staff, we can support our LFBTQIA teens by giving them access to knowledge and opportunities to help them advocate for themselves.
In order to implement programs and services, we need to ensure that our libraries are safe places where teens do not have to fear prejudice or intimidation. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Hate Crimes Statistics report (2016):
There were 5,818 single-bias incidents involving 7,121 victims. Of those victims, 59.2 percent were targeted because of a race/ethnicity/ancestry bias; 19.7 percent because of a religious bias; 17.7 percent because of a sexual orientation bias; 1.7 percent because of a gender identity bias; 1.2 percent because of a disability bias; and 0.4 percent because of a gender bias.
As unsettling as these numbers are, libraries can do a number of things to support LGBTQIA youth. One action we can take is to check all of our policies, specifically behavior and collection polices. By re-visiting our behavior policies, we can check to see if there are statements that specifically state what behavior will not be tolerated. By updating, or revising, this policy, we inform the public that there are rules that must be maintained to provide a safe environment for everyone who steps through the door. We can inform the public in a variety including handouts or signage the welcomes everyone regardless of their ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, and identity. Another policy we need to review is collection development policies. By reviewing the language and the timeliness of these guidelines, we can support teens’ right to read even when members of the community who wish to have specific materials removed based on their personal and private opinions. According to the Library Bill of Rights (in regards to minors):
“Article V of the Library Bill of Rights states, “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” The “right to use a library” includes free access to, and unrestricted use of, all the services, materials, and facilities the library has to offer. Every restriction on access to, and use of, library resources, based solely on the chronological age, educational level, literacy skills, or legal emancipation of users violates Article V.
Every April the nation celebrates National Autism Awareness Month to promote “autism awareness, inclusion and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with ASD is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life”1. As teen library staff, we assist teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) whether it’s through reference interactions, programs, and/or volunteer opportunities. If staff has yet to interact with this population, celebrating National Autism Awareness Month is a gateway to connecting with this community. Not only is this an exciting opportunity, we, as teen library staff, are charged with “reach[ing] out to and serve ALL teens in the community no matter what their backgrounds, interests, needs, or abilities, and whether or not they frequent the library space2.
So how exactly do we participate in National Autism Awareness Month? There is a variety of things we can do to spread awareness and invite teens with ASD into the library! Here is a simple idea from The Autism Society3 that all libraries can implement as a starting point:
Put on the Puzzle!The Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon is the most recognized symbol of the autism community in the world. Autism prevalence is now one in every 68 children in America. Show your support for people with autism by wearing the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon – as a pin on your shirt, a magnet on your car, a badge on your blog, or even your Facebook profile picture – and educate folks on the potential of people with autism!
By wearing these ribbons, we can make a statement that will not only show support and solidarity for these teens, but start great conversations with patrons who are not familiar with National Autism Awareness Month. Another great way to promote Autism Awareness is to create book displays, pathfinders, ans/or Libguides featuring characters with ASD and nonfiction titles specifically for teens with ASD. YALSA’s The Hub has a great archive of postings that focus on both fiction and nonfiction titles for teens so definitely take a look at some of those posts. Along with great book displays and a diversified collections, why not get our teen book clubs involved by reading and discussing a book featuring a teen with ASD. Here is a great handout to give to teens to read before the book club in case they have any questions. If possible, work with community partners, or medical experts, to participate in the conversation so they can answer any questions teens may have regarding ASD.
Another great way to bring awareness to ASD is to actually connect with local organizations that provide services to teens with ASD. By creating these partnerships, not only are we bridging a huge gap in services to this group of teens, we are letting our communities know that we are excited to provide specialized or inclusive programs and services for these teens. When communicating with these organizations, find out what these teens would like to see in the library and discuss these ideas with our Teen Advisory Boards (TAB). By proposing to our TAB that the library would like to provide services to teens with Autism, and we would like their help, we are providing them with the chance to give back to their community in yet another meaningful way. If this is something that your library may not be able to do (just yet), try adapting current programming to include teens with ASD with the help of these organizations.
On Monday, February 13, 2017, teens are invited to join a national conversation about teen dating violence. According to a 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “[a]mong high school students who dated, 21% of females and 10% of males experienced physical and/ or sexual dating violence.” The same study also concluded that “[a]mong adult victims of rape, physical violence, and/ or stalking by an intimate partner, 22% of women and 15% of men first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.” As teen library staff, have an opportunity to raise awareness about teen dating violence by helping teens advocate for their loved ones, friends, and themselves.
Given the amazing selection of books and resources that have been published for teens about dating violence (DV), we can bring awareness in many different ways. One method is to create a display that is going to invoke a powerful statement that needs to be said. For the month of February, my library posted this in our outside display case:
With these displays, we cab develop programming that can initiate a dialogue with teens about DV. If we have yet to connect with community groups and resources that can help us deliver our services, Teen DV month is a great place to start.
During Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, the teens at my library will discuss Jennifer Shaw Wolf’s Breaking Beautiful and a representative from Peace Over Violence will be there to answer any questions about teen DV. What I want to stress about these kinds of programs as that we need to declare that whatever happens at this event stays at this event. Victims of abuse need to know that the Library is a safe place so, by creating a circle of trust, we are actually stating we are here to help them. By opening up this conversation with our communities, it is incredibly helpful to invite an expert to answer the questions we don’t know or are qualified to answer.
On November 8, 2016, the United States of America elected Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States. The campaign process and the election was both tumultuous and divisive. When the results of the election were announced, some people took to the streets to protest their anger and disappointment while others expressed hatred and bigotry in acts of violence, vandalism, and intimidation. Needless to say, our country is hurting and many of our patrons are living in fear for themselves and their families. In times like these, many assume that libraries must remain neutral and continue business as usual. However, for those of us who work on the front lines, we see the pain and we see the fear, especially from the youth. As young adult library staff, we can no longer remain neutral because it our responsibility to stand up for youth and convey to our communities that libraries are a safe space for all and we will not tolerate any behaviors that threaten the safety and the well-being of our youth.
Before we create a plan of action, we need to go back to the fundamentals of what it means to be a young adult professional. On June 27, 2015, the YALSA Board of Directors adopted the Core Professional Values for the Teen Services Profession (developed by YALSA’s Professional Values Taskforce) that outlines nine values that set the foundation for young adult professionals. Here are the nine values: Accountability, Collaboration, Compassion, Excellence, Innovation, Inclusion, Integrity, Professional Duty, and Social Responsibility. If you have not reviewed this document, take a few minutes to read it, especially the values that focus on: Compassion, Inclusion, and Social Responsibility. As young adult library professionals, some of us have already witnessed the backlash of the election as teens divulged their fears, shed tears, and made hasty decisions to do things that could harm them in the future. By upholding these core values, we have a responsibility to inform teens that they are safe in our buildings and that we, as library professionals, will help them in any way we can to make sure they have access to services and information to overcome any adversity they may face. More importantly, by demonstrating these values with our teen patrons, we have the opportunity to build, or reinforce, relationships where they know we care about them and that they are not alone. Here are some great ideas that youth services library workers are doing for their communities, post-election:
By standing up for our youth, not only are we modeling positive behaviors between youth services staff and teens, we are conveying to our non-youth services colleagues, fellow city workers, and community partners that we need to work together to ensure our youth is provided for, nurtured, and protected. In other words, start partnering with your city organizations to create a united front to convey to the community that we will stand up and protect the youth of our cities. More importantly, relay patron concerns to city officials and ask them to stand with us and our partners. As the Social Responsibility states, “[Social responsibility creates a] mutual trust between the profession and the larger public [by responding] to societal needs as they relate to teens and libraries” (2015). YALSA has some partnering resources on its wiki that you may want to explore. Continue reading When Libraries Become a Refuge for Youth in a Post-Election World
Did you know that artists all over the world create one ink drawing every day for 31 days in the month of October? In fact, so many artists love this idea that the month of October has now been dubbed InkTober? Until two weeks ago, I had no idea about this until one ridiculously talented teen showed me her artwork and it got me thinking…how can libraries participate in this event as well?
Here’s a little background on InkTober. In 2009, a Utah-based illustrator, Jake Parker, created InkTober as a way to challenge his own inking skills by inking a drawing once a day. The purpose behind daily inking was to develop and maintain more positive drawing habits, which, naturally, artists tend to do–or should be doing. What started out as a personal challenge for Parker, InkTober has become a worldwide phenomenon where thousands of artists dedicate 31 days of drawing (in October) to not only better their skills, but encourage others to use art as a way to create a more beautiful and positive world. How do artists come up with their drawings? Every year, Jake posts a type of rubric where artists can select a topic and draw.
Here’s the Official Prompt List for 2016:
What’s great about this challenge is that its super simple! Here are official instructions:
Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want).
Post it online
Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2016
Note: you can do it daily, or go the half-marathon route and post every other day, or just do the 5K and post once a week. What ever you decide, just be consistent with it. INKtober is about growing and improving and forming positive habits, so the more you’re consistent the better.