Rachel McDonald has been a Teen Services Librarian for King County Library System in Washington state since 2007. Her primary interests are incorporating youth voice and bridging the digital divide through library programs. Rachel has been a member of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) since 2004, serving on the Board of Directors and multiple task forces and award committees, including the Alex Awards and the Michael L. Printz Award. She was a recipient of YALSA’s 2013 Excellence in Library Services to Young Adults award and is a student in the University of Maryland College of Information Studies YX certificate program.. She is currently reading The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom by Helen Thorpe.
In this YALSAblog post Rachel McDonald highlights how skills in YALSA Competency areas related to Community Engagement and Cultural Competence and Responsiveness enable her to meet the needs of non-dominant youth.
For the past five years I’ve worked as a Teen Services Librarian in Tukwila and Seatac, two communities that are a part of the King County (WA) Library System. Due to their close proximity to Seattle, and cheaper housing costs, both cities are popular with newcomers to the United States. In fact, over 40% of the population of Tukwila is foreign-born. At the high school down the street from the Tukwila Library, students speak over 45 world languages. Since the 1990s, local refugee resettlement agencies have resettled thousands of refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Burma, Eritrea, Iraq, Nepal, Somalia, Syria, and Ukraine in South King County.
The longer I work in these communities, the more I understand how important cultural competence and responsiveness are to effectively serving my entire community, and teens in particular. While awareness of one’s own cultural beliefs and cultural differences within the community is an important first step, truly transforming services to teens involves building relationships with other community organizations in order to better engage with different cultural groups, especially those who may experience barriers to using the public library. In Tukwila and Seatac, that means working with partners such as the International Rescue Committee and New Futures.