Transforming Teen Services: The Empathetic Librarian

While libraries have long participated in the struggle for social justice and equality, it hasn’t been until recent months that our efforts have reached the attention of the public. We’ve pushed diversity and inclusiveness to the forefront with movements like Libraries 4 Black Lives and Libraries Are For Everyone. Libraries and librarians have also begun to incorporate social services alongside more traditional library services. We’re connecting patrons with mental health agencies, public health workers, and housing assistance. Libraries including San Francisco Public Library and Denver Public Library are offering themselves up as safe havens for the homeless; places where these patrons can find support and compassion.

Although the majority of these programs are directed towards adults, many libraries are reaching out to teens. School librarians are collecting materials specifically for LGBTQ youth while public librarians are providing outreach to homeless teens. The YALSA Futures Report explicit calls out for libraries to serve underserved youth including those incarcerated, homeless, or otherwise in crisis. At the root of these services is empathy. By empathy, we mean the “ability to understand and share the feelings of another” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2017). It requires that librarians look beyond collection development, teen programming, and readers’ advisory as tasks to carry out. Instead, we need to carefully assess how we explicitly (but sometimes not) provide help and support to teens through this work. Empathy is inherently a part of the work we do every day. Libraries serve as community hubs and safe spaces, stepping beyond the traditional perception of libraries as warehouses for books. As community anchors, libraries advocate for teens through political engagement and outreach. Advocacy itself is an empathetic activity, nurtured by understanding and compassion. By promoting services and advocating for underserved youth, we demonstrate our commitment to and empathy for teen patrons along with promoting the well-being of our community as a whole.

However, our empathetic work with youth is often overlooked or ignored. In the research and professional literature, empathy in libraries is frequently referred to as customer service. Yet this work is much more than that providing a teen patron with a library service. Being empathetic requires us to be active and engaged listeners who have a mindset of helping. This is already a core component of librarianship. Librarians impact the lives of youth by offering the library as a welcoming space for teen emotional, social, and psychological development. By being empathetic, we reach out to youth who may not have anyone else or feel misunderstood by peers, parents, or teachers. Through our engagement with teens, we display compassion and understanding that improves that quality of all library services.

Libraries serve as a critical “third place” for youth, particularly underserved youth. Separate from home and school, libraries act as a judgement free space where teens can express themselves, hang out, and find support. Whether through teen mentorship, interest-driven education, or teen library space design, librarians place great value on teens and serving teens. A transformation of teen services and the ways in which a library can support teens is in progress. By incorporating empathy into library work with teens, librarians illustrate the continued importance of libraries in communities.

You can find great resources about serving diverse and underserved teens at this YALSA wiki.

Abigail Phillips, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State University. You can find her on Twitter (@abigailleigh) and by e-mail (abigail.phillips@usu.edu).

Start Writing for YALSA

 

One of the things I love most about YALSA is that it brings together librarians of all different backgrounds and experiences with a common goal to serve teens better. But in such a large and diverse organization, how can we access each other’s ideas, experiences, and insights? One great way to to write for YALSA.

By writing for YALSA – a blog post, a journal article, or even a book – you do a great service to your fellow librarians. As chair of the Publications Advisory Board, I have read a lot of writing in YALSA publications and I am impressed by how much I learn and how it expands my professional and personal view. Having a wide range of writers sharing their experiences helps YALSA readers to continue to refresh their views and innovate in their communities. That’s why we need you to write for YALSA.

It might seem like a mysterious process, but the Publications Advisory Board is here to help demystify it all. Members of the board will be writing blog posts over the coming months to walk you through the how and why of writing for YALSA. We’ll start here with a few tips for getting started.

Think big or small

With so many publication options, YALSA members have the option of going big – like writing an entire book – or small – submitting one or more blog posts. You can write one piece and be done or you can establish yourself as a more regular contributor.

Get in touch with the Publications Advisory Board

Contact me, another Publication Advisory Board board member, or Anna Lam at ALA with the type of writing you are interested in doing and we can connect you with the right people.

Don’t be intimidated

You don’t have to know someone or be a library scholar to get into writing for YALSA. You just have to take the first steps to making your interest known. We are waiting to hear from you.

Encourage others

If writing for YALSA is not for you, spread the word to your friends and colleagues who might be interested. You know interesting people. We want to know them and their expertise too!

Check back on the YALSA blog in the coming months for more posts from our board members on how to publish your writing with YALSA or read through our 50 Tips for Writing and Publishing with YALSA. We hope to hear from you soon.

Amanda Bressler is the Supervisor of Youth Services for the Newton Free Library (MA) and has written for YALSA blog and YALS.

YALSA’s Spring Professional Learning is Here

Spring is just about here and YALSA is ready to support your professional learning needs with our spring Snack Breaks, webinars, and e-courses. Here’s what’s we’ve got for you:

Snack Breaks

Every month YALSA posts a new Snack Break, a short video about a topic of current interest to library staff working with teens. The March installment, produced by Megan Christine-Carlin Burton (from the Kitsap Regional Library) features teens describing what STEM means to them and how the activities they take part of in and through the library supports their teen learning.

You can check out our past Snack Breaks and find the new productions posted each month in the YALSA Snack Break playlist.
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5 Reasons to Write for YALSA

 

While writing this post, I admit to thinking about my own reasons for wanting my thoughts and ideas to grace a blog that wholeheartedly support the learning and professional development of library staff who work with teen populations. My personal reasons for wanting to blog include the desire to connect with readers, to have them nod as they read and consider that my thoughts have merit. I believe that all of us have ideas and thoughts that have value, maybe even more so to our readers than ourselves. I have decided to list five reasons to write for YALSA in the order that appeals most to me. Here are 5 reasons to consider writing for YALSA:

  1. Giving back – We are fortunate to work in a profession that supports our learning needs and gives us ample opportunity to have a voice. Now is our opportunity to give something back to an organization that has done and continues to do so much for us, by contributing to the collective with our own words.
  2. We have unique expertise – What projects have you worked on that you would like to share with the library community? Maybe you are starting a new trend, maybe you are a master of digital literacy or summer learning or creating an engaging space that teens want to utilize. If so, please share your experiences with the library community. They are waiting to hear from you.
  3. Sharing information is what we do – On a daily basis you provide information to others based on their interests and needs. This is no different. Think of the YALSA community as an oversized patron wanting to know what ways we can better engage and serve the teen audience. Undoubtedly, you have knowledge on how this is done in your community. Why not share it?
  4. You gain YALSA support and connections – By writing for an inclusive organization, you gain access to resources YALSA provides and contacts within the organization. You also receive the backing and assistance of the Publications Advisory Board, whenever you may need it.
  5. Get your name out there – Writing for YALSA is a great way to get your name out there as a leader in the field of teen services. More colleagues and library staff will be asking for your opinion. Blogging is also a gateway to staying active in the library community and proposing session or poster ideas for conferences or assisting on a webinar panel.

Ultimately, you can contribute unique expertise, have the opportunity to give back, the chance to share much needed information with others in your field, all while you are making connections, gaining support and even getting your name out there. So I have to ask, why wouldn’t you write for YALSA?

 

Erin Durrett is a Digital Learning Specialist at the Flint Public Library, where she focuses on teaching kids and teens digital literacy skills, such as gaming, 3D design, and coding. She loves gadgetry, building and making, and expresses her enthusiasm on these topics to anyone who will listen.

 

12 Insta Easy Instagram Library & Literacy Promotion Ideas

What’s the point of Instagram and why should you spend your precious time and money on it?  Well, don’t worry about the cost, because it’s FREE! So, all you really need is creativity and a few minutes a day to make meaningful, fun, and lasting connections with your community.  And with Instagram you get a twofer! Even maybe a threefer, fourfer?! That’s right, for the amazing low price of FREE, each Instagram post can cross pollinate to your Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, and that thing called Swarm that kinda took the place of the annoying Foursquare? That’s pretty powerful!

But to be truly effective with those connections using social media, your graphics, caption copy-writing, conversation, and photography skills should strive to be, positive, professional, and on point. Realize, however, that those skills will be mostly self-taught.  But that’s ok, that’s where I come in. We’ve got this! I’ve gathered ten really easy Instagram ideas you can implement tomorrow.  You know, librarians can do anything when they set their minds to it! Using social media for library, literacy, book, and program promotion is all about storytelling. And we are born storytellers!  The idea is that you’re curating your feed to include online what you would do in person -be influential, personal, relevant, humorous, and educational.

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Volunteer Opportunities: Three New YALSA Taskforces

Have you ever benefited from YALSA grants or awards? How would you like to be recognized if you did win a YALSA scholarship or award? Want to help YALSA raise funds to support leadership initiatives for members? Then we need your help! I’m accepting volunteer forms for three new taskforces that were established by the Board last week–Leadership Fundraising, Member Achievements Recognition, and Member Grants and Awards Evaluation taskforces.  Volunteer now through Feb. 15! Please email me with any questions and read on to learn more about the volunteer opportunities.

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Future Ready with the Library: Being Future Minded

What does it mean to be Future Ready? It is a phrase I had not given much thought to prior to applying and the YALSA Future Ready with the Library project. As a member of the very first cohort of the three year project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in partnership with the Association of Small and Rural Libraries, I have been given the opportunity and challenge, if you will call it, to tackle issues in my community that affect college and career readiness for middle school students. I am not alone in this endeavor. Fifteen other libraries, some public, some school, some tribal, are in this pursuit with me. We come from across the United States, from Kodiak, Alaska, to Greenwich, New York, to Chipley Florida, to Scottsboro, Alabama and will work together for the next year to learn about and recognize needs in our communities and the ways in which libraries can assist by creating pathways to college and career success for middle schoolers and their families.
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YALSA’s Community Connections Taskforce, a Virtual Taskforce

Six members and one chair are busy pulling together a toolkit that libraries can use to help them create partnerships and secure funding from community sources. In addition to sample emails and letters that can be adapted by anyone, we’re including a Best Practices in Funding Requests section gleaned from interviews with libraries and library foundations across the country. The section will be organized according to responses made to a series of questions.

Three members, assisted by a fourth, took on the task of identifying large libraries around the country with foundations, and mid-sized and small libraries at the same time. Questions were drawn up, and the lead member of this research group interviewed her first foundation at her own library, Seattle Public. The three group members tried to find libraries willing to answer their questions. Many times, they struck out. They would go back to the drawing board and identify more libraries to take the place of the ones that did not respond. Finally, a fourth member, hearing their story during a Google Hangout, offered some assistance herself, and they got a couple more responding libraries.

One member did a lot of research, which will help us present topics that are important to know about partnerships and funding. She also drew up all of the sample emails that can be modified by any library. And she was the fourth member of the research group who helped out when the team needed more library responses.

Another member drew up strategies for assessing teen and community needs. He has been able to attend nearly all of the Google Hangouts we’ve had. Our sixth member is pulling the whole document together before our January 31st deadline.

We are using ALA Connect as our tool to share items with the group. The Toolkit should be available by the end of January 2017.

Dina Schuldner is the chair. Her last library position was as a Young Adult Librarian for the Gold Coast Public Library in New York. She currently resides in Virginia Beach, VA.

YALSA Winter CE Not to Be Missed

There’s lots of opportunities this winter to take advantage of YALSA CE that focuses on making sure teens in your community have access to materials and services that meet their specific needs. Here’s what’s on our lineup:

Let’s Keep it Real: Library Staff Helping Teens Examine Issues of Race, Social Justice, and Equity
January 26, 2017, 2PM Eastern
Library staff play an important role in helping teens to gain skills, comfort, and confidence in making decisions and having discussions related to social justice, equity, and race. In this webinar you’ll have the chance to learn about how to help teens recognize their abilities in this area. Library Journal Mover and Shaker Amita Lomial will facilitate the webinar. Check out a portion of Amita’s 2015 webinar for YALSA on libraries and cultural competence.

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En-route to Transforming Teen Library Services

Imagine a library where tweens develop and run an oral history project, working with seniors in the community to podcast their knowledge about the community, with mentoring from the anthropology and education students at the local community college, and then create a Wikipedia page for their community.

Imagine a library where a group of teens co-design the window display for the local boutique with their merchandising managers for their spring/summer collection for teens, by doing research in the library on the upcoming weather pattern for spring/summer with a local meteorologist, and work with the faculty members and students from the School of Design at the local community college to put their designs together and present their ideas to the local boutique owners.

How do we become this kind of librarian – one who leverages technology, design, community partnerships and the latest research on learning in informal spaces?

The new, online Graduate Certificate of Professional Studies in Youth Experience (YX) is designed to give you these skills and more, in alignment with YALSA’s Leading the Transformation of Teen Library Services priority area in its new organization plan.

Working in partnership with YALSA, the ALA Office of Information Technology and Policy (OITP), an advisory board of top researchers and library leaders, and with the support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the YX Certificate is designed to answer the needs of librarians in an evolving landscape of learning and technology.

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