Thoughts on two common teen developmental topics

Hi everyone!

To wrap up the month of the first of YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff, Teen Growth and Development, I thought I’d look at a couple developmental issues that affect teens and can cause inequities. Returning to the US Health and Human Services website, I found this fascinating statistic:

According to teens themselves, 57% of males and 37% of females (no data was apparently collected for non-binary teens) reported devoting at least sixty minutes of physical activity to their schedules, five or more days a week. Research has shown that among male teens, there is a considerable importance for “boys of all abilities to seek both structured and unstructured physically active fields, activities, and opportunities that elicit excitement, novelty, a sense of inclusion, and pleasurable experiences. However, those teen males in the same study “who self-identified as having low physical ability also revealed negative self-perceptions and body dissatisfaction and had internalized the idea that their (too fat or thin) bodies had no place in mainstream sport and physical activity”. Some teen males are less likely to use library services because they focus their time on physical activity; yet that very focus may limit them from pursuits that potentially will be of more interest to them and make them prosper as individuals. There are also many aspects to what type of physical activity options are available to teens, depending on their access to parks, gyms, rec centers, and other optimal locations and environments to pursue physical fitness. It is a critical need to close the gap to provide all teens in all communities with equal opportunities.

Chronic health issues affect nearly 1 in 3 teens. While many people default to thinking of adolescents as being in the “physical primes” of their lives, this is often not the case. Many teens struggle with often debilitating physical conditions (the most common of which is asthma), which library staff need to be aware of to best serve these users. As an example, sharing information with your peers about what asthma in teens looks like can be helpful is better understanding what some of your students or library users may be going through. Teens that deal with chronic illnesses, particularly those with issues that are not instantly visible, deserve understanding and the same services that are provided to those who have not been diagnosed with these maladies.

Thanks for reading and the work that you do for and with teens! Don’t forget to watch the free webinar that discusses this competency in-depth.

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

Teen Demographic Shifts

Hi everyone!

As we continue to consider Teen Growth and Development, the first of the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff, particularly through the lens of equity, it’s critical that we realize just who the teens are that we serve both today and in the coming years. The below (left) image from the US Department of Health and Human Services website The Changing Face of America’s Adolescents shows that by approximately thirty years from today, there will have been a major race/ethnicity shift. This demographic shift was also outlined in YALSA’s landmark study The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action. As the faces that we serve in school and public libraries change, so must our actions in providing them with appropriate services. (To clarify a couple acronyms on the chart on the left, AIAN = American Indian / Alaskan Native, and HPI = Hawaiian / Pacific Islander.)

Between 2014 & 2050, the percentage of youth in each demographic is expected to change: White: 54.1% to 40.3%. Hispanic: 22.8% to 31.2%. Black: 14.0% to 13.1%. Asian: 4.7% to 7.4%. AIAN Alone: .9% to .7%. HPI Alone: .2% to .2%. Multiracial: 3.4% to 7.0%

These figures are for the United States overall; your own community or service area’s population may be considerably different. But it’s a good starting point to consider the ways American society will change in the coming decades. It’s also interesting to note the chart on the right, below, that the teen population as an overall percentage of the US population is decreasing. This will be important to note when competing for funding and resources. With an aging population, an emphasis on care and assistance for those of an advanced age may eclipse that devoted to younger people. This will require continuing advocacy work for the needs of teens in your communities. Even though the net number of teens is estimated to grow from 42 to 45 million by 2050, the overall percentage will have decreased.

Adolescents will represent a decreasing percentage of the U.S. population, from 13.2% in 2014 to 11.2% in 2050.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for your work for and with teens today and in the future!

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

Being Fat and Fierce!

Hi everyone!

A big thanks to YALSA Board Member Melissa McBride for kicking off August with a great list of tools to consider when you think about Teen Growth & Development, the first of the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff.  In addition to these many resources, be sure to check out the free webinar that was produced last year on the topic! Along with that, there are the many Teen Professional Tools provided on YALSA’s website, two of which are of particular interest to this competency: AMLE’s Development Characteristics of Young Adolescents, and the Search Institute’s Keep Connected series, focusing on Ages 15-18.

There are so many potential equity issues involving Teen Growth & Development! Probably the first and most obvious that will come to mind is the unequal ways in which teenagers’ bodies develop. One fairly well-known element is that cis teenage boys are known to develop at a slightly later age than their cis girl counterparts. But to date, little research has been done on how non-binary teens compare in terms of that development. And as this CNN article points out, “more teens are rejecting ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ gender identities.” The ways that individual teens develop at wildly different paces cannot be stressed enough. We recognize these differences (and likely remember them from our own adolescences), but in what ways do we acknowledge these differences without shining a spotlight on them? A lot has been discussed about the teen brain and issues of body image, but oddly enough there hasn’t been a lot of recent research on physical body differences. And an obvious example of how teens develop in a variety of ways is body weight.

Teens come in all shapes and sizes and must be served as individuals, rather than with preconceived, often negative notions of their health, eating habits, or genetics. Coming next month is an anthology edited by librarian and youth services expert Angie Manfredi called The (Other) F Word: a Celebration of the Fat & Fierce (Abrams/Amulet, ISBN: 9781419737503, 2019). Unique in its coverage, short vignettes by a number of authors, poets and others discuss the importance of “body image and fat acceptance”. In an interview on Matthew Winner’s The Children’s Book Podcast, Manfredi states that “we want to stress to teenagers that you are more than your body; and you do not have to be limited by what people say or judge about your body.” She describes the trouble with euphemisms like overweight and heavy-set, and how obese and BMI are two really problematic terms. Manfredi also wants to share the message that “your body is perfect, yes yours, exactly the way it is, right now, in this second, your body is perfect.” What an incredible reminder to library staff and the teens that you work with!

Thanks for reading and for the work you do for and with teens!

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

As Grateful as We Aspire to Be

Greetings, YALSA members and interested parties!

The first month of the journey of this year’s presidential theme, Striving for Equity Using YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff is nearly over, and soon we will be looking at equity issues through the lens of each of the ten competencies. But before we move into August, I want to express appreciation to the many members and others who recently have taken the time to talk to me about what YALSA means to them, how YALSA could help them in their day job, and how fulfilling working with teens can be. All of this makes me full of gratitude. So before we move into the month-by-month examination of the theme, I decided to explore how in this time of inequity, outrage, and discord, gratitude can help break through the negativity and show us the path to achieving our goals.

Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks

Diana Butler Bass writes about this subject in her book Grateful (HarperOne, ISBN: 9780062659477, 2018). In it, she refers to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2014 that asked American respondents if they feel a strong sense of gratitude at least once a week. Surprising to her (and to me!), 78% of those asked said that they did feel this strong sense of gratitude, that frequently. As she explored this, she asked her friends and in particular, one sociologist friend, if this number could possibly be true. The sociologist explained that this is likely a “social desirability bias”, which is more about how a person wishes to be perceived by others and to themselves. They may aspire to show more gratitude to others with the notion that gratitude is a virtue. What does this bias say about us and why does it matter?

Bass continues by discussing how there is a divide between personal gratitude and community gratitude. When we simply aspire to personal happiness, it can become what famous theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (also the subject of last year’s YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award finalist The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix) called “cheap grace”. Bonhoeffer observed that “one easily overestimates the importance of one’s own acts and deeds, compared with what become only through other people”. Which Bass recaps in Grateful by writing that “…life is an abundance of shared gifts. We do not really achieve. We receive. We give to each other. We are grateful.” She describes the ways in which one person’s gratitude can be another’s resentment.

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When one group is grateful that their political candidate, sports team, or prom décor has been selected, others are bound to be unhappy. This is important to remember when we consider equity issues and the various aspects and objectives of the recently adopted YALSA EDI Plan. A case in point: If an element of a community is not considered when a new library building is constructed, they may not find much reason to show gratitude, while those who fully benefited by the new building may not understand the first group’s lack of appreciation. Those benefited may find the other group to be ungrateful. And mutual resentment is sure to follow.

As we strive for equity, we do not and cannot simply complain about the inequities that we observe. It’s easy to merely point out inequities, or worse, be silent bystanders. Instead, we must communicate across our differences. True, thoughtful solutions must be sought, even if they take time and patience. If we live with an attitude of gratitude, as 78% of us at least claim to aspire to, many situations can become opportunities to diffuse inequitable situations with grace.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for the work you do for and with teens!

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

A Spider in the Tub

Hello again,

One of the tenets of this year’s theme of Striving for Equity Using YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies is ways for the YALSA membership to become engaged with these concepts. In many of your schools, libraries, and institutions, there has likely been some sort of push to better understand and come to terms with our societal issues regarding equity, diversity and inclusion. The American Library Association, YALSA’s parent organization, added Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as its fourth focus area in recent years, and YALSA’s updated, adopted EDI plan affirm’s our division’s commitment to these principles.

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This is a difficult time for many of the young people we serve, as is outlined in YALSA’s mission statement: Our mission is to support library staff in alleviating the challenges teens face, and in putting all teens ‒ especially those with the greatest needs ‒ on the path to successful and fulfilling lives. We are in our positions to help alleviate challenges that teens face, especially those with the greatest needs. Those facing inequities are indeed the ones with the greatest needs.

Let’s think for a moment about how we interact with teens and ways in which those interactions can be perceived or modified. In renowned Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön‘s upcoming book, Welcoming the Unwelcome (Shambhala, ISBN: 9781611805659, 2019) she writes:

Welcoming the Unwelcome by Pema Chodron  If I turn on my shower and then discover there’s a spider in the tub, I have two main options. I can let the water run and leave the spider to its fate. This is a polarizing action because it creates a big gap between us. My aversion or indifference to the spider blinds me to what we have in common as living beings. Both of us want to be happy and not suffer, both of us want to live and not die. My other option is to turn off the water, get a piece of toilet paper, and use it to help the little fellow get out of danger. Then I can think “The day’s hardly begun and I’ve saved a life!” As Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche once said, “It may be a small event for you, but it’s a major event for the spider.” But in a sense, it can be a major event for myself as well because it nurtures my awakening heart. We can go through each day with a heightened awareness of our actions, taking every opportunity we find to lessen the gap.*

Engagements:

  • How might this passage remind us of our working relationship with teens? How can we lessen the gap?
  • How does the power imbalance between our roles and those of teens in our libraries and communities influence our actions? What happens when we simply let the water run?
  • How can we relate this to issues of equity and inequity in our own community outside of the library setting?

Thanks for reading, and thank you for the work you do for and with teens!

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

*Excerpted with permission from Shambhala Publications

Equity and YALSA’s Competencies

Hello again,

In this post we are going to examine the concept of equity, and what it means within this year’s theme Striving for Equity Using YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff.

Equity is often confused with equality, and it seems to be the least understood of the three concepts of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. There is a well-known graphic, the original by Craig Froehle and updated by Angus Maguire (below), of three boys attempting to watch a ballgame over a fence, and how the concepts of Equality and Equity are very different. (Interestingly, this graphic may not satisfy everyone, as this Cultural Organizing blog post, and others, explain.) There, too, have been many variations and additions to this graphic’s differentiation, which we will get into as the year goes on.

There are many definitions of equity. One that deftly explains the differences between equity, diversity and inclusion is the “table” analogy. Diversity attempts to invite people from various backgrounds to the table. Inclusion ensures that the voices of those invited to the table are heard. Equity looks at the actual structure of that table to determine if the table itself is what is preventing full participation from folks of all backgrounds.

The Independent Sector clearly defines Equity as: “the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society.”

There are many inequities, and although we will attempt to look at ways to mitigate them this year through the lens of each of the YALSA Teen Competencies for Library Staff, it will not be possible to cover them all in detail. But as an example of the sort of inequities we will explore this year, the chart below from the University of Southern California School of Social Work blog MSW@USC’s Diversity Toolkit (attributed to Jeremy Goldbach) is a place to start. Keep in mind that this perspective is that of a typical “western” society; other cultures may and will have different points of view of who the target and non-target groups would be.

Next week, we will start to explore some of the engagement strategies that we will be examining in the months ahead.

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

What are the YALSA Teen Competencies for Library Staff?

Hello again!

As a reminder from last week, the theme of this year is Striving for Equity using YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff.

So, what are these Competencies, and how did they come about? If you have seen the one-page snapshot below either in print, on Twitter, or elsewhere, you’ve come to realize that there are ten components of the Teen Services Competencies (TSC). There are also two much more in-depth versions of the TSC, which are highly recommended. The “full” version, along with expounding on the TSC themselves, gives a great understanding of the history and background of the TSC. The “mid-sized” version explains in clear bullet points the three levels of service: Developing, Practicing, and Transforming. Having a baseline understanding of the TSC goes a long way to help you provide excellent service to teens in your institution and community.

After the development and implementation of the watershed project report “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action” in 2014, it quickly became clear that YALSA’s previous edition of teen services competencies, published in 2010, needed updating. This overhaul resulted in the TSC that were released in late 2017.

In the development of this edition of the TSC, a number of documents were reviewed to look for an appropriate model. Those of the National Afterschool Association were selected as a framework, as these “allowed YALSA to create a document that puts teens first and communicates to library staff the need to work with teens, their families, and their communities to provide high-quality library services.” As promised, we will further discuss the teens first concept as the year goes on. We will also look at the various levels of the Competencies, and where members and non-members can receive more information about each of them.

In the coming weeks, we will also tackle that other important element of this year’s theme: Equity. We will investigate how we can define it, what it means today, and the myriad ways it relates to the Teen Services Competencies.

Todd Krueger, YALSA President 2019-2020

 

 

You Don’t Want to Miss it

YALSA’s new five week e-course, Start at the End: Backwards Design for Library, Programming, starts on July 8, 2019. Over the past few days I’ve been previewing the course materials, designed by the instructor Casey Rawson, and I can easily say, you don’t want to miss this learning opportunity. You don’t have to take my word for it, check out this 5 minute video in which Casey talks about the course and you get to know her a little too.

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The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

In the novel The Most Dangerouse Place on Earth one of the female characters’ thinks to herself, “As if middle school were a safe haven…when in fact it was the most dangerous place on Earth.” Of course that sounds like teenage hyperbole, however I would say that if you think about it it’s more reality for many teens than one might want to admit. While teenage lives may have some of the outlines of a nightmare, there are many assets for library staff and community members to leverage in order to support the successful growth and development of all teens.

When I think of the assets that library staff can promote for and with teens I often think of the Santa Ana (CA) Public Library. I was fortunate to visit the main library a couple of years ago, after getting to know the teen librarian, Cheryl Eberly. The library building itself is nothing to “write home about.” The building is a 1960 structure that has quite a bit of wear and tear. However, when I was inside the building I didn’t really notice that. Why? Because from the time I walked in to the time I left (about two hours later) it was clear that this is a community library in which staff members (teens and adults) are embedded in the Santa Ana community and that the work that happens inside, and outside of the building, is completely centered on community needs.
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