Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Making Space for Competencies

by Katie Baxter, Director, Kodiak Public Library, Alaska
The Kodiak Public Library, funded by the City of Kodiak, and, under the governance of the City Manager, serves the entire remote island of Kodiak, Alaska in the Gulf of Alaska located 350 miles south of Anchorage. City population is approximately 6,300; island population is approximately 14, 373.

cover of YALSA's Competencies for Library StaffAs a Library Director who is committed to providing staff with leadership development tools and on-the-job experiences, I am excited by the ways YALSA’s newly released Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff takes us beyond the boundaries of a Teen Room. I shared the competencies document with full-time and part-time employees a few weeks ago without fanfare or discussion. I anticipated that some staff would find the competencies framework formal, academic, and, not necessarily intended as a tool for their individual use. I wanted staff to come to the document on their own terms and in connection to the work we have been doing over the past four years to settle into our new building of 16,000 square feet which includes the “first-ever” Teen Room in the city’s public library.

When getting to know a new building, it’s easy to get caught up, or, closed in, by the realities of settling into rooms with labels and specific purposes. YALSA’s Competencies provides a context for establishing a library’s teen-service style in a teen-focused manner. My gut was telling me that the nature of the physical space was creating assumptions in the minds of staff and patrons that our teen patrons have what they need from the library. However, that space does not have a dedicated service desk, or a dedicated staff presence. I wanted to create a purpose-based reason for each member of the staff to be aware of how he or she works with and in support of teens. The Competencies provides me with a comprehensive springboard for that, and I decided to go for it.
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Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Ongoing Learning & Reflection

cover of the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library StaffHave you heard? At the end of 2017 YALSA released the brand new Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff. The 10 categories of competencies are an important revision to the association’s previous documents of this type because they take into account the paradigm shift in library services for and with teens as described in the Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action report. This shift is in direct response to the world that teens live in today. A world where technology is key and literacies include digital, media, print, and more. It’s a world in which anyone working with teens needs to acknowledge the principles of connected learning and recognize and respond to the social emotional learning needs and cultural components of a teen’s life.

One way that YALSA is providing library staff with information about the competencies and the ways to develop skills for each of the 10 categories, is through a series of blog posts throughout January 2018. These posts will explore the way that individuals are gaining and demonstrating the various skills and knowledge noted as important in the new Competencies. Continue reading

Research on Competency Content Area 2: Interactions with Teens

Authored by the YALSA Research Committee

Throughout the current term, the YALSA Research Committee will be looking at Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff through the lens of research.  Through our posts, we will attempt to provide a brief snapshot of how scholarship currently addresses some of the issues put forth through the standards.

This post focuses on Content Area 2: Interactions with Teens, which is generally described as “Recognizes the importance of relationships and communication in the development and implementation of quality teen services, and implements techniques and strategies to support teens individually and in group experiences to develop self-concept, identity, coping mechanisms, and positive interactions with their peers and adults.” Bernier (2011) approached the notion of youth patron engagement by examining media representations of young adults.  The author argued that libraries, like most institutions, institute policies and assign resources for groups based on cultural assumptions, such as those established and reinforced by news media.  In his content analysis of news stories, Bernier found that teens are generally negatively portrayed, often as voiceless criminals, trouble-makers, and in need of adult rescue. Bernier encouraged libraries who serve young adults to deliberately consider their institutional approach to this group with regard to policies, resources, space, and relationships with teens.

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Year-End Activities for Library Staff

Recently there was a discussion on the listserv for the Association of Rural and Small Libraries about what activities are good to undertake at the end of the year.  It seemed like a good topic for the YALSAblog, too, so I’ve adapted my answers to make them more focused on serving youth:

Reflecting on this year

  • Send thank you notes to volunteers, supporters, and anyone who gave a helping hand or moral support.
  • Do a post-mortem of your overall efforts to serve teens in 2017. What was successful? What failed and why?  What will you do differently next year?  For more about taking the time to reflect, read this article, Time to Reflect: why does it matter in the workplace?
  • Conduct a review library policies and procedures to see if they need updating. Some useful information is on the ALA site and YALSA’s wiki.
  • Conduct a review the teen pages on your school or library’s web site and social media sites to see what needs updating or improving. Check out ASCLA’s web accessibility resources.  Review content and style for inclusive language, professional content versus personal beliefs, and potential sexist, discriminatory, or similarly insensitive language or images.  Ensure graphics do not show people in stereotypical roles.

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Putting Teens First in Library Services: An Interview with Mega Subramaniam

Shannon Peterson and Linda Braun talk with Mega Subramaniam, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland College of Information Studies. Mega discusses the Youth Experience certificate program, what it’s all about, and how to apply for the next cohort.

Putting Teens First in Library Services: A Roadmap is available for purchase in the ALA store.

Basic Leadership Skills: A New YALSA E-Course

In 2018 – 2019 YALSA will offer a series of leadership e-courses, to help library staff advance their leadership skills, regardless of job type or level.

Leadership is made up of multiple layers. In fact, in 2017, the Nexus Leading Across Boundaries project released the Layers of Leadership framework. The framework lays out six layers to consider in order to develop leadership skills and take on an active role as a leader in an organization – local, state, regional, national. In YALSA’s e-learning series, each area of the framework will be explored.

In the first course (scheduled for 1/22/18-2/18/18), Basic Leadership Skills, Josie Watanabe will facilitate learning related to the first two layers of the Nexus Framework: Leading Self and Leading Others. Learn more about what Josie is planning for this course in this 9 minute video.

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An Interview with Sean Gilmartin, Dorothy Broderick Scholarship Recipient

Claire Moore, from YALSA’s Leadership Initiatives Fundraising Taskforce recently interviewed Sean Gilmartin.  He was the 2017 recipient of the Dorothy Broderick Student Scholarship, which is funded through YALSA’s Leadership Endowment.  The taskforce’s goal is to raise $20,000 by the end of January 2018 to grow the endowment so that there’s enough interest to fund other leadership initiatives, like scholarships for a leadership e-course series that’s coming in 2018.  So far, the taskforce has raised approximately $12,500.  Any donation made now through Jan. 15th will be matched dollar for dollar by ALA.  Please consider making a gift–any size helps, and ALA will double your impact!

Dorothy Broderick Student Scholarship Recipient

Sean Gilmartin, Teen Services Librarian at Elmwood Park Public Library

How long have you been a YALSA member?

2 years

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Teen Services Competencies: An Opportunity

Last week YALSA published the newest edition of Teen Service Competencies for Library Staff. The introduction to the document states:

YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth was frst published in 1981 and last updated in 2010. Since that time the role libraries play in teen lives has gone through a paradigm shift, wherein library staff have been called upon to take a co-learner role in facilitating teen learning that is hands-on and interest-based.

As a result of the paradigm shift mentioned in the introduction, the Competencies are entirely new. Categories, used in the past to organize the skill areas that library staff need so to work for and with teens successfully, are completely re-envisioned. This re-envisioning is set within the context of the work YALSA has done over the past several years including the Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action report and the association’s research agenda.
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Research on Competency Content Area 1: Teen Growth and Development

Authored by the YALSA Research Committee

Throughout the current term, the YALSA Research Committee will be looking at YALSA’s new Competencies for Teen Librarians through the lens of research.  Through our blog posts, we will attempt to provide a brief snapshot of how scholarship currently addresses some of the issues put forth through the standards.

Our first post focuses on Content Area 1: Teen Growth and Development, which is generally described as,  “Knows the typical benchmarks for growth and development and uses this knowledge to provide library resources, programs, and services that meet the multiple needs of teens.” This standard includes different facets of teen development, cultures, media, and preparing patrons to transition into adulthood and how each of these themes apply to collections, programs, and services.  For this post, we’ll focus solely on aspects of teen development in research about youth library services.

Walter (2009) described “The Public Libraries as Partners in Youth Development Project” which described a specific set of developmental outcomes that occur when teens successfully transition to adulthood.  The author further unpacked each outcome and examined how certain youth programs addressed the needs of youth to meet those outcomes through a youth employment program, which engaged teens in meaningful library work that allowed them to understand how their work impacted their community.   Akiv and Petrokubit (2016) examined the impact of the approach of youth-adult partnerships (Y-AP) in youth library programs.  The Y-AP approach suggests that youth and adults will collaboratively make programmatic and organization decisions.  The researchers found that giving teens the progressive responsibility that may help them prepare for adulthood.  Acknowledging the diverse needs of urban youth, Derr and Rhodes (2010) described how the development of an urban youth library space that meets these diverse needs can foster a continued engagement in library services as youth transition to adulthood.  Williams and Edwards (2011) examined how public library spaces can help sustain the psychological development of teens living in urban spaces.  They noted the conflict that often occurs between teen and adult schedules and the general lack of social space for teens.  The authors argued that providing specific space for teens in the library gives teens the space to feel safe, interact with adults other than their parents, and engage with resources.

Williams and Edwards (2011) and Walter (2009) make references to the need for library staff to educate themselves on youth development and what teens need to grow and transition to adulthood.  This education may help to mitigate the adversarial approach sometimes taken by library staff who don’t specifically work with teens on a regular basis. Walter specifically stresses that practitioners need to work with instead of do for teen patrons in order to best help them acquire those skills and dispositions that will help them grow.

Akiva, T. & Petrokubi, J. (2016). Growing with youth: A lifewide and lifelong perspective on youth-adult partnership in youth programs. Children and Youth Services Review, 69, 248-258.

Derr, L. & Rhodes, A. (2010). The public library as ürban youth space: Redefining public libraries through services and space for young people for an über experience. APIS, 23(3), 90-97.

Walter, V.A. (2009). Sowing the seed of praxis: Incorporating youth development principles in a library teen employment program. Library Trends, 58(1), 63-81.

Williams, P. & Edwards, J. (2011). Nowhere to go and nothing to do: How public libraries mitigate the impacts of parental work and urban planning on young people. APLIS, 24(4), 142-152.

YALSA Snack Break: Creativity in Leadership

YALSA’s November webinar, Creativity in Leadership, was facilitated by three librarians in Montana – Rebekah Kamp, Heather Dickerson, and Cody Allen – who inspired attendees with strategies and examples of bringing innovative practices and leadership to services for and with teens. The November YALSA Snack Break is a five minute excerpt from this webinar. It focuses on how to make decisions about teen services activities, the importance of risk in teen services, and accepting and reframing failure. Check it out below:

You can view all of YALSA’s Snack Breaks by accessing the Snack Break playlist.

YALSA members have free access to all webinars (login required). Non-members can purchase webinars for a low cost.