Very few of us keep the same position for our entire careers. Often the best time to think about the next thing is when you still enjoy many aspects of your current work--and, ideally, before you become too frustrated or jaded.

For those of us who work with teens, it can be hard to think about a promotion, because often that promotion means we won’t work directly with young people anymore. Even when we move into new roles, however, we can continue to advocate for teen services - and in many ways may be more effective in our new role than we were in our previous role. Advocacy is telling the story about how our library serves teens -- and how we can do it better, and asking for the resources, partnerships and support young people need from libraries and the community. The ways we do that are different depending on our role in the library, but we need teen services supporters at every level.
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So you've figured out how to prioritize your work, be an awesome team member and lead from wherever you are in your organization. Now you're ready to be in charge of something. There are a lot of things to coordinate in the library -- managing a small purchase from your Friends of the Library group, spending some grant funds, chairing an internal committee or pulling off a larger project.

You may not have a lot of experience in the area you're newly in charge of, but often that's the best place to start -- your experience and preconceived notions won't get in your way. Here are some places to start when you're put in charge of something:

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One of the best ways to strengthen your leadership skills is to be on a team, project or committee, in your library, school or community. Teams come together for lots of reasons and their charges and scope can vary greatly -- from non-existent to very specific.

Even if you're not the team leader or chair, there are a lot of things you can do to help your team be more effective.

1.Identify a clear purpose or charge. If one hasn't been provided for you, how can you and the team create something more specific and then accomplish it?

2. Include a range of voices. Teams with a broad diversity of thought and experiences are better at discovering a wide variety of approaches and tools, which help in tackling complicated issues or dilemmas an identifying better solutions. Focus the team's energy, at least at first, on something within their scope, so they can get some early wins and be more successful in the future.

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If you're working with teens in a library - any kind of library -- you should be a leader. Being a leader doesn't have to mean you're the boss - or that you ever want to be the boss, but it takes intentionality and may mean thinking about your role in serving teens a bit differently. Level Up Your Leadership Skills is a regular feature on leadership topics for staff working with teens.

We all have a lot on our plates. Working the desk, doing outreach and working directly with teens are all important parts of our work. Depending on our role, we may not have direct control over our schedule or exactly how we manage our own time.

But we often have control over how we spend at least some of our time -- so how can we decide what to prioritize within the many possible tasks we could be doing or new projects we could be starting?

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If you're working with teens in a library - any kind of library -- you should be a leader. Being a leader doesn't have to mean you're the boss - or that you ever want to be the boss, but it takes intentionality and may mean thinking about your role in serving teens a bit differently.

Leaders see talent: Did you just see a colleague do a great job of helping a teen get a new library card? Make sure to let him know -- and if it was really fabulous, maybe you should let his boss know, too? Do you have a colleague who made a really good point in a staff meeting -- make sure you let her know! If you see a library staff member that's a natural with teens, how can you involve them in your work?

Leaders share the credit: When your program was successful, publicly thank your colleagues who helped make it possible by setting up the chairs, cleaning up the rug and issuing all the library cards.

Leaders have goals: So much of public service is reactive -- you never know what question or situation will present itself. Compensate for that by planning and goal-setting for other parts of your work-- identifying your goals and making a plan for working with schools this fall, for example, or your goals for your precious two hours of off-desk time tomorrow.

Leaders ask around: What's your first thought when faced with a challenge or something you don't know how to do? Before asking your supervisor, talk with your colleagues-- at your library or other libraries -- what are they doing? Have they faced this before? What advice to they have for you? A colleague in a school who had recently gone to a 1:1 mobile device program told me their philosophy in helping kids with their devices is now: “Ask three, then ask me,” meaning kids should talk to each other to problem-solve -- if they've asked three peers and still nobody knows, then they can ask the teacher (By the way, that colleague said it was much harder for the teachers to follow the same rule than it was for the students).

Other resources that may be of interest about leadership and management include

Sarah Flower's YALSA blog series from 2013, “What Your Manager Wishes You Knew,” and YALSA's Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth.

Level Up Your Leadership Skills will be a regular feature on the YALSA blog, designed to provide practical support for library staff in strengthening existing leadership skills. In what other ways are you leading in your library? In what areas do you need more resources?

YALSA's Future of Library Services for and with Teens report highlights “partnering strategically to reach beyond the library's walls” as one of the five fundamental elements that will need to shift in order for libraries and communities to successfully work for and with teens” (p. 21-24).

On the YALSA Board agenda for discussion at Annual is a proposal to discuss what resources would be most helpful to members in this area – is it best practices document, a toolkit, coaching or something else entirely?

You can read the full proposal when the Board documents go online next week.

Please share your thoughts with me, Maureen Hartman or on twitter: mlhartman, YALSA President Shannon Peterson or any other Board member via e-mail or twitter so we can respond with the best solution for members.

Connected Learning is a phrase for something teen librarians have known about for a long time and for something that is probably already happening in our libraries. Our libraries may be supporting or leading an interest-based program, but it's even more likely that teens are pursuing their passions in the library right this second by playing Minecraft on the computers, watching videos on YouTube, or doing something else of their own choosing in the library's space.

When we notice what they're doing, we have a few choices.

  1. Leave them alone
  2. Create a library-sponsored club or program in which teens can pursue their passions

Leaving them completely alone doesn't support the kind of relationships we need to be successful in working with teens, what if we didn't create a program right away?

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I met this week with regional colleagues about summer reading and summer learning. Many libraries continue to offer a Summer Reading Program, while other communities are launching Summer Learning Programs or highlighting their library's summer efforts under a broader umbrella of summer learning.

Youth services librarians are a passionate bunch and this conversation was no different. Some individuals feel strongly that it continues to be the library's primary role to promote reading and encourage reading – specifically for pleasure – during the summer months when students aren't in school. Others saw reading as only one of the ways their libraries are supporting learning during the summer—also offering hands-on programs, interest-based groups, and volunteer and paid employment opportunities.
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Have you ever wondered if programs you're planning, creating and leading for teens in your library are like those that other libraries are offering? Have you ever been asked to justify or build support for the programs you're offering or want to offer?

At the YALSA Board's Midwinter meeting, we discussed the Draft Programming Guidelines that the Programming Guidelines Development Task Force created.

The group will continue to refine these guidelines based on Board feedback, which included the value of adding a section on outcomes and connections to YALSA's new report, the Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action

What are your thoughts about this draft document? How else can YALSA make this document as relevant as possible to your work with teens?

The YALSA board was busy at Midwinter recently, discussing a variety of topics and action items. The Board voted to establish a Future of Teens and Libraries taskforce, to establish a new taskforce to carry out tasks related to the implementation of YALSA activities to the roll-out of YALSA's new report, the Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action.

In particular, members seem to be looking for two kinds of things from YALSA – communicating and building advocacy with others, including other divisions within ALA, as well as more practical, on-the-ground support, including where libraries and staff can start, examples of libraries who are already doing the work called for in the report. Members would also like to have access to some standard presentations and conversation designs they can use in their communities.

The taskforce will be responsible for prioritizing the activities YALSA needs to complete to help members take the concepts in the report and turn them into action!

We are looking for members for this taskforce. Please apply by completing the committee volunteer form right now! As the report says, you don't have to be an expert, just willing to learn together and help support your fellow YALSA members. Your perspective is really critical to our success.

Meanwhile, you are welcome to use the presentation we shared at Midwinter about the report in your own work with stakeholders.

Stay tuned for more from this exciting taskforce!