This post is part of the YALSA Research Committee’s efforts to shed light on some current research related to the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff. Here, we’ll briefly review some scholarship that addresses competency content area number seven: cultural competency and responsiveness, described in the standards as “actively promot[ing] respect for cultural diversity and creat[ing] an inclusive, welcoming, and respectful library atmosphere that embraces diversity.”
This course is not just for teen librarians but for any person working in libraries seeking to understand and grow themselves as a leader from the ground up. The topics covered were progressive and forward thinking, and challenged traditional leadership norms. Self reflection was a big component of this class. The instructor provided variety in the readings, assignments, and use of technology. I felt very engaged by this course and the instructor, and I will refer back to the what I have learned here as I try to improve my leadership skills.
For four weeks in winter 2018 YALSA ran the Building Basic Leadership Skills E-Course. To accommodate those on the waiting list and to provide the opportunity for more people to participate in the highly rated course, the association is offering another section starting in April. The instructor is Josie Watanabe and you can hear more about what the course covers – including information about topics and assignments – in this 18 minute audio interview with Josie.
As a part of the YALSA and COSLA IMLS funded project, Transforming Teen Services Through CE, the association hosted a Town Hall on the topic of Cultural Competence and Responsiveness – with a particular focus on library staff professional learning needs in those areas. An audio recording of the session is available below:
The chat transcript – where much of the conversation took place – is also available.
Do you view libraries, archives, museums, and galleries through a lens of them being a leading force in social justice, activism, and community organizing? Then you may be interested in attending the Allied Media Conference (AMC) which takes place June 14-17, 2018 in Detroit. The AMC brings together themed conference tracks comprised of sessions that are all connected by the concept of media-based organizing, “or any collaborative process that uses media, art or technology to address the roots of problems and advance holistic solutions towards a more just and creative world.” This year, the Radical Libraries, Archives, and Museums track will return to Allied Media Conference and aims to share more ideas and skills while allowing individuals working in these fields to make connections and support each other in their work.
For over a year I’ve been thinking a lot about libraries and social emotional learning (SEL). In part because many school systems are developing curriculum (or integrating SEL into curriculum), in part because it’s something that library activities support – even if library staff don’t think of what they do in that way, and in part because the new Teen Services Competencies of Library Staff include Dispositions and Content Areas that strongly connect to SEL.
Researchers, educators, and policymakers alike have trouble pinning down exactly what’s included in this broad domain—and what isn’t. The popular press has highlighted a wide array of skills, such as grit, empathy, growth mindset, social skills, and more. At its core, SEL involves children’s ability to learn about and manage their own emotions and interactions in ways that benefit themselves and others, and that help children and youth succeed in schooling, the workplace, relationships, and citizenship.”
Think about that. Wouldn’t you say. that in order for youth to gain SEL skills they need adults in their lives who help them to “learn about and manage their own emotions and interactions in ways that benefit themselves and others, and that help children and youth succeed in schooling, the workplace, relationships, and citizenship?” These adults include library staff and teachers along with family members, caregivers, community members and so on. Continue reading
“Library staff actively promote respect for and seek self-understanding of cultural diversity. They come to know and respect diverse cultural backgrounds and characteristics through interaction with individuals from diverse linguistic, cultural, socioeconomic, and other groups; and to fully integrate the culture of diverse groups into planning, implementing and evaluating culturally sustaining and bias-free programs, services, and workplaces. The development of complex, interconnected, and evolving cultural competencies on both personal and organizational levels requires dedication and cumulative and consistent work.”
Along with that introduction, the Developing Level of the content area includes the following two items for staff that are developing their Cultural Competency and Responsiveness skills:
Is aware of own cultural beliefs and practices
Recognizes barriers such as racism, ethnocentrism, classism, heterosexism, genderism, ableism, and other systems of discrimination and exclusion in the community and its institutions, including the library, and interrupts them by way of culturally competent services
The January YALSA webinar titled, Acknowledging the Elephant in the Library: Making Implicit Biases Explicit helped library staff understand what is required to gain skills in this area and ideas on how to work with colleagues, administration, and community members in advocating and leading in this work. In this session Nicole Cooke clearly addressed topics such as stereotypes and micro-aggressions and provided concrete examples of what these terms mean and the impact they have on library staff and customers. In this 13 minute YALSA Snack Break, a clip from the webinar, you can hear some of what Nicole covered.
Giving teens the chance to develop leadership skills is a component of YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff. In the four minute audio recording below, hear how Rachel McDonald, Teen Services Librarian at the King County Library System (KCLS). gives teens the chance to lead programs and services. In her youth leadership work Rachel demonstrates how through competencies in areas such as Youth Engagement and Leadership, Cultural Competence and Responsiveness, Interactions with Teens, and Continuous Learning, youth have opportunities to engage in experiences that are connected to, and meaningful within, their own lives.
One teen described their experience as a part of the KCLS program in this way:
“Participating in planning the Teen Voices Summit gave me a chance to experience firsthand the behind the scenes of hosting a successful event. I was given an opportunity to work with my peers to form a meaningful event for people my age. I learned to have patience and discipline. It took over a year to plan this event and at some points, it felt very tedious. After many long days of planning seeing the event finally come to fruition made me feel very gratified. What I learned will translate to future successes at school and/or in a job because like planning an event these are very long processes and in order to successfully complete them I will need to attain discipline and have the virtue of patience.”
You can also watch a video with teens taking part in the KCLS programs and hear what they have to say about the value of the experience. Continue reading
As you read the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff you may think to yourself, there are some things that I want to learn. Or, there are some areas that I want to get better at. One way to get started with that learning is with YALSA’s Snack Breaks. These videos, published monthly, are between 3 and 15 minutes long (well there might be a couple that are a bit longer) and cover a range of topics related to the new Competencies. Check out the Snack Break on Restorative Approaches to Behavior Management in Libraries.
As we reflect on the holiday season, it is vital to assess our approach to cultural identity and diversity. Teaching Tolerance and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding recently hosted a webinar exploring the many ways educators can embrace diversity during this culturally complex time of year. As library staff, we can use “The December Dilemma” and its accompanying informational documents to analyze and improve our current holiday programming, and continue to foster an inclusive environment throughout the rest of the year.
Regarding holiday-specific diversity, this packet includes timelines and plans for holiday discussions. Perhaps the most thorough of these is the “Holiday Inclusion Planning Template,” which provides an outline for year-long holiday preparation and resource management. The chart’s description encourages users to identify “which part(s) of your curriculum relate most directly to the holiday and provide the best opportunity for a ‘teachable moment.'” Although originally designed for use by teachers in a school setting, the entire program can certainly be implemented in our context. Slight adjustments would result in an extensive and effective approach to this subject suitable for the youth we serve at our libraries.
Beyond discussion surrounding holidays, this webinar and the accompanying informational packet both address the establishment of a respectful atmosphere. Many of these tools, tips, and techniques can easily be adapted for our programming purposes. The “Rules of Respect” portion of this supplemental packet includes prompts for open discussions about respect, conscious listening, and thoughtful inquiry. While some of these activities–like forming a “listening circle” or creating a chart detailing what respect looks and feels like–are aimed towards a younger audience, the core concepts can be employed for a range of age groups. For example, writing and signing a Rules of Respect Agreement could provide a foundation for newly formed teen clubs, or be used as a way to establish expectations for storytime. Another unit, “My Identity and My Family,” includes book suggestions, activity templates, and discussion prompts that could be introduced into already existing programming or used as a stand-alone unit.
While this webinar and toolkit explore diversity within the specific context of the holiday season, they also provide a solid and thorough approach to religious and cultural tolerance. Whether we use this as preparation for holiday programming, or simply as a framework for conducting identity work within our libraries, this is an invaluable resource. The archived webinar and supplemental documents can be found here.
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. Continue reading