COVID-19 : While your library and/or school is physically closed

Hi everyone,

Thank you for your continued commitment to your work for and with teens in libraries, as we all adjust to these unique circumstances. I’ve received a number of questions about what YALSA members and others who work for and with teens can do to help during the shutdown of many schools and libraries, coupled with social distancing mandates. Obviously, this doesn’t allow us to connect directly with the teens we serve, but give thought to the many venues our 21st century technology affords us. At this time, what we can do for teens will require us to consider more indirect support than what many of us are used to providing. Advocate with administrators to ensure that any online programming that your school or library posts includes teens and the needs they have. Be mindful that most teens are not used to being away from their friends, and conversely are spending an unexpected amount of time with their nuclear families. Parents and guardians, too, are trying to figure this out as they go along.

Of course, not all teens are privileged, and we should remain cognizant of our most vulnerable populations and those who face the greatest challenges. Serving those teens at this time is more difficult than ever before. Using the online tools afforded us by our partner community and government organizations, we can consider this a time to recognize what holes in the safety net exist, and how we can better approach these problems both now and when a semblance of normalcy returns.

Many of us have turned, by choice or necessity, to online forums and tools to stay connected with our students, colleagues, fellow committee and task force members, and our families and friends. As time permits in our lives turned upside-down, I’ve provided a list below of items produced by YALSA to keep us engaged with our work and if nothing else, a needed break (as appropriate) from the pandemic coverage. While some of this may appear to be basic, we’re all getting our footing again, and ensuring a strong foundation will help us all as we move forward.

Please note: I am aware that not everyone has the time or energy at this time to devote to continuing education opportunities or ideas of how to prepare themselves for when schools and libraries reopen. Others are not being paid, and I am not recommending that you work for free. Do whatever works for your situation; caring for your own needs is critical.

  • This is a good time to review some of the basic tenets of YALSA membership and the best practices of teen services in libraries. Have you read through the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff recently? This is a bedrock document, which also has free webinars associated that discuss each of the ten competencies. Watching them may provide you with areas to think about improving personally or institutionally, and, depending on your workplace, may count as continuing education credit. Similarly, our recently adopted EDI Statement and EDI Plan are core elements to everything YALSA does. Think about how they may apply in your own setting. Make a list of thoughts to share about how your school or library can strive to eliminate inequities and encourage more inclusive practices.
  • One of the ongoing concerns of those of us who work with teens is the lack of media literacy that has plagued us in the Information Age and as social media has proliferated. The Teen Literacies Toolkit focuses on media literacy, and now would be a great time to review that document and provide library staff with ways to help teens navigate their world and the data they’re consuming. For more information on the current state of media literacy, I recommend the National Association for Media Literacy Education’s 2019 report.
  • What programming will teens want when they return to the schools and libraries that serve them? The Teen Programming HQ is a good start to think about potential programs that are current and have proven to be popular. This could be a chance to look into the many making and crafting opportunities for teens that are available online, as either active or passive programs. If you are able to stay in contact with your Teen Advisory Group/Board, ask for their input. List programs or ideas and poll teens for their favorites. This is a terrific time to be creative, as everyone, teens and adults alike, is in the process of figuring things out.
  • Think about the options that you have for keeping up-to-date on YALSA’s awards and selection lists. Read or listen to that book you’ve always meant to, or the one you overheard teens discussing recently. If you don’t have the opportunity to check out ebook or e-audiobook versions, you may want to browse professional and individual’s reviews online. Keeping up-to-date with what teens are reading and listening to, along with their other interests, can allow you to make connections that may not occur otherwise. Pay special attention to the Teens’ Top Ten list, which are voted on by teens themselves. If possible, share your own reviews or book talks online using your institution’s social media accounts.

I hope some or all of these ideas are helpful in answering the questions I have received. There are many, many more opportunities to stay relevant and keep on top of our teens’ ever-changing circumstances. Again, I appreciate your continued work for and with teens, whether in person or virtually!

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

Teen Services Competencies 7 – Cultural Competency and Responsiveness

YALSA Secretary Josie Watanabe of the Seattle Public Library is this month’s guest blogger. 

YALSA Board Training: Undoing Structural Racism by Schools’ Out Washington

I wanted to share what the YALSA Board was up to over Midwinter!  If you keep up with ALA, you will know that this Midwinter meeting was filled with new ideas from SCOE and frank conversations about the ALA budget. All of this is really centered on the idea that libraries, library staff and our communities are asking for different support and pathways to do our work in new ways. YALSA has heard the call and over the last few years has created a strong EDI charge.

What is EDI you ask??? EDI is a huge topic that spans over mega conversations about equity, diversity and inclusion. The terminology is so broad it can mean many things to many people. Over the last few years YALSA has focused on diversity, and when the time came to write our new strategic plan, we had an ambitious charge: to center our work on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion by infusing it into every and all aspects of our new strategic plan. This was innovative and important work for YALSA and we knew it would entail a lot of learning and growing on our part.

To start with, YALSA Board wanted to have a firm grounding and understanding of institutional racism. Most of you have heard about the personal work we all need to undertake to undo racism—this encompasses understanding implicit bias, blind spots, anti-blackness, microaggressions, etc…. However the legacy and future power of racism exists at the institutional level, this includes the various policies and procedures that organizations create and enforce; and at the structural level where several organizations—schools, out-of-school learning organizations and other institutions work together to create systems where white people unfairly benefit because of the color of their skin.

This happens in housing, education, the criminal justice system, health, etc.  YALSA Board understands, as an institution, the power and impact we have on the library profession, staff and ultimately youth. Boards often control the budget and direct the work of Executive Director, they create policies and procedures that support the organization and spend much of the time making strategic decisions that will either move the work of the organization towards or away from their mission or EDI plan.  So, yeah—that’s a lot of responsibility—but it’s an amazing way to make change and most importantly institutional change!

This is exactly what we the YALSA Board determined was most important—we wanted to take our already powerful EDI plan and find new ways to deconstruct the policies, procedures and systems that keep our board, book lists, medals, workgroups, etc… homogeneous,  but we also wanted to actively create policies and procedures that would recruit diverse library staff to YALSA and remove barriers of participation.  One step in this direction included YALSA board spending some of our time at Midwinter with School’s Out Washington,  a leading out-of-school time organization that supports youth providers in positive youth development approaches, such as, Youth Program Quality Assessment, SEL (social emotional learning) and advancing racial equity.  The workshop they led was called Undoing Structural Racism and here are some of the big topics we discussed at the training:

  • Basic forms of racialization: internalized, interpersonal, institutional and structural
  • The history of structural racism through a short video clip: A Brief History of White Privilege, Racism and Oppression in America
  • The policies and practices that exemplify structural racism: redlining, public education system funded by property taxes, subprime lending, hiring practices and “stop and frisk” laws.
  • We often blame youth or families when we should be blaming systems.
  • Ongoing impact of structural racism: How structural racism plays out in health, wealth, schools and policing.
  • Racial Equity: A path forward and things to consider:
    • We live in a society where race matters.
    • We’re all part of the picture. None of us asked for this. The structure of race and racism were set up in the past. But still, all of us are responsible for the present and future.
    • As we sit here talking about race and racism, racism is playing out. We need to have these conversations, but we also need to take action on what we can influence to end racism.
  • How we can talk about race.
  • The Continuum on Becoming and Anti-Racist, Multi-Cultural Organization: Take a look at the link and see where your organization is on the continuum.

This was just a start and as a board—we committed to using a part of our monthly board chats to continue our learning and understanding of institutional racism by going through their materials. Follow along with the YALSA Board by reading and discussing these resources with your friends and workmates. Also consider the powerful work you can do by joining the YALSA Board. Check out our Board Fellow position to learn more about board service.

For Further Reading:

  • Why are all of the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations about Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum
  • So You Want to Talk About Race? by ljeoma Oluo
  • Fakequity Blog

For Self-Work:

  • Me and White Supremacy-The Workbook by Layla F. Saad

For Working with Youth:

  • 1000 Black Girls Books Resource Guide by Marley Dias
  • Teaching Tolerance

For Work with your Colleagues:

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Thanks, Josie, for this excellent recap of our Board training and what was accomplished at last month’s Midwinter meeting in Philadelphia!

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

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

Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Teen Growth and Development

This year’s Presidential theme of Striving for Equity using YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff, has provided a unique opportunity to examine the competencies and talk about some practical applications for both school and public library staff who work with teens. I’m hoping this post will provide you with some research and ideas to help you develop, practice, and transform your work regarding the first competency: Teen Growth and Development. If you haven’t already done so, please watch Linda Braun’s webinar on this topic!

While there are basic benchmarks that relate to teen development it is important to consider cultural differences that are unique to your community in order to best plan programs and evaluate library resources. The following bibliography is in no way a comprehensive list of resources available, rather, it is meant as a starting point to investigate ways you can meet the needs of your teens. Not all resources are library specific, these links are meant to not only provide ideas for immediate use, but also to provoke thought on this important topic. Please comment with any links that you think are relevant to this topic!
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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.

Related image

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.

Image result for yalsa logo

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

Leading from Local: ALA joins the Aspen Ideas Festival

This post was written by Marijke Visser, Associate Director and Senior Policy Advocate in the ALA Public Policy and Advocacy Office

photo of Aspen Ideas LogoLibrary staff are community leaders everyday. They lead with humility, making space for and including diverse voices. Libraries are hyper-local, with programs and services that respond to community needs and priorities. Libraries are mission-driven and their value is collectively determined as they serve the entire community. These may not be “big ideas” to library staff, however, as I traveled from the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. to the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, I considered that the core values that library staff adhere to are also held up as essential by leaders across the United States, in addressing national and global social, economic, and political challenges.

At the Festival, themes of empathy, equity and inclusion, innovation, collaboration, social responsibility, and community engagement were woven across plenary and concurrent sessions in tracts as diverse as Hope Made Visible, American Renewal, Economic Progress, Conservatism, Next World Order, and Art of the Story. Throughout the Festival, speakers and attendees were prompted to consider how successful local initiatives can and should inform national and global policies. Attendees, leaders from non-profit organizations, foundations, businesses, government, philanthropy, and associations, like ALA, were also challenged to consider what kind of leader we might each be. This challenge highlighted the fact that all of us have a voice and can play a leadership role where we work and in our communities. A final common theme in the sessions I attended explicitly connected leadership, community engagement, storytelling, and advocacy.
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