A recent report from America’s Promise Alliance looks at four communities who strove to expand opportunities for their underserved students. With support from the Ford Foundation, these communities leveraged local resources to expand opportunities in a variety of ways.

America’s Promise Alliance is an organization, founded in 1997 with the support from former Secretary of State Colin Powell and previous presidents: Nancy Reagan (standing in for her husband Ronald Reagan), Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. The organization strives to create places and situations for students to succeed.

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In 2000, the world’s leaders joined together to establish the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. They selected 8 issues that impacted the world, and set a deadline of 2015 to address. In 15 years humanity joined together to reach most of the goals.

Now they have set new goals  for us to reach by 2030. They may seem huge, but humanity can be amazing! Everyone will need to reach beyond themselves to help reach these goals, but as providers of service to young adults we can help inspire and encourage everyone to think about these issues that impact the whole world.

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Think literacy, not reading. Think content, not books.  Think relationship, not supervision.  Think participation, not outreach.  Think “culturally responsive, information-rich, and technologically advanced environment” and not “teen room.”  This is the paradigm-shift that is advocated in YALSA’s The Future of Library Services for and with Teens Report.  

Reading this report as a school librarian, I feel like many of us have already felt this mind-shift and participated in its momentum.  School librarians often work in “media centers” now, after all, not libraries.  We talk about the achievement gap at every staff development day and already discuss “literacies” plural when we are teaching and creating curriculum.  

But there is still a long way to go before all school libraries really become the ideal neutral, safe places where teens can grow intellectually, emotionally, and socially.  And I think this is especially true in the school libraries of our youngest teens: middle schoolers.

Middle school can be a rough time.  Navigating the transition from child to adolescent is tough, as we all remember.  New interests and identities emerge (sometimes painfully) as 6th, 7th, and 8th graders face new challenges, meet new people and engage with new ideas.  But middle schools also provide a chance for teen library staff to engage with teens right at the start of their teen years, forming relationships with them, helping them become critical thinkers and life-long learners, and supporting them as they become who they are.  Middle school library staff can accomplish this by re-imagining literacy, diversity and community in the middle school library.  

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Which young people in your community could be most positively impacted by services that your institution currently provides or could provide?

Are there foster youth, homeless teens, teen parents, teens from military families, incarcerated youth, disabled teens, LGBTQ teens, immigrant teens, teen English Language Learners, or teens from various cultural, ethnic, racial or socioeconomic backgrounds in your communities who could really use the library’s help to succeed?

What would that assistance or those services look like?

My YALSA presidential initiative, “3-2-1 IMPACT! Inclusive and Impactful Teen Library Services,” focuses on building the capacity of libraries to plan, deliver and evaluate programs and services for and with underserved teen populations. It is a call to action to all of our members to take a close look at our communities, identify service gaps and address needs by using or contributing to YALSA resources like the Future of Library Services for and with Teens report, Teen Programming Guidelines, our new Teen Programming HQ and more.

Visit YALSA's wiki to find and share information about serving diverse teens and building cultural competence. For a list of selected resources relating to building inclusive services for and with teens, check out this flyer (.pdf).

Other activities that we hope to work on this year include collecting stories from members who are reaching out to underserved teen populations and sharing best practices and/or advocacy messages, creating spaces or pathways for members who are focusing on the same teen population to connect with one another, providing continuing education to help members reach out to specific populations and also gain leadership and cultural competence skills/knowledge, and compile existing and/or create new resources to help members serve various underserved teen populations.

As YALSA President, I’m excited about harnessing the passion, energy and activism among all of our members to help create positive, inclusive, impactful change for and with the teens that we serve in our communities. I’m looking forward to working with all of you and to the amazing work that we are all going to do together this year.

YALSA wants to support you as you implement "The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: a Call to Action," and is currently considering publishing books focused on major topics in the report.

The YALSA Publications Advisory Board has identified some of the topics from the Futures report that are the most under-represented in professional literature, and we want your input. Fill out this brief poll to let us know which subjects and formats you would find the most useful in future publications from YALSA.

Which topics from the Futures report would you most like to see covered in books published by YALSA? (choose up to 3)

  • Teen collaboration/partnership in library services (46%, 31 Votes)
  • Cultural competency (addressing racism, classism, ableism, etc.) (40%, 27 Votes)
  • Teen workforce development/leadership development (34%, 23 Votes)
  • Serving nontraditional teens (homeless, pregnant, incarcerated, dropped out, etc.) (30%, 20 Votes)
  • Creating learning labs/learning commons (25%, 17 Votes)
  • Formal assessment of teen interests/needs (24%, 16 Votes)
  • Connected learning in libraries (22%, 15 Votes)
  • Serving homeschooled teens (18%, 12 Votes)
  • Serving special needs teens (15%, 10 Votes)
  • Serving suburban/rural teens (15%, 10 Votes)
  • International teen literature (beyond English-speaking countries) (12%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 67

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In which format would you prefer to purchase titles from ALA/YALSA? (choose up to 2)

  • Physical books (53%, 31 Votes)
  • Shorter (50-70 page) downloadable eBooks (43%, 25 Votes)
  • Book/eBook bundles (38%, 22 Votes)
  • Full-length eBooks (16%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 58

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Do you have a great idea for a book? Knowledge you want to share? A desire to give back to your professional community? Consider publishing with YALSA! Find more information about submitting publication proposals or writing queries for Young Adult Library Services (YALS) here.

Back in October 2014, I wrote about a report entitled: “America After 3 PM.” The Afterschool Alliance was writing about how students spend their time after school. In it, I raised the point of libraries as hubs for after-school activities, a free spot for teens to come if they don’t have the resources or access to other after-school programs. At the end of January, Alia Wong from Atlantic wrote an article called “The Activity Gap,” which discusses the access issues students from various socio-economic classes face with participating in after-school and extracurricular programs.

Wong begins the article by comparing two different students, Ethan and Nicole, whose family backgrounds contribute to two different lifestyles and life paths. While their names have been changed, these two students do exist and were case studies in a study published in Voices of Urban Education. This national study was conducted by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute of School Reform.

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In September 2014, YALSA blogger Jaina Lewis began a series on the Aspen Institute Task Force on Learning and the Internet 2014 report entitled Learner at the Center of a Networked World. Lewis’ post focused on 24/7 learning and how libraries and librarians can help keep the learning going outside the walls of school.

As Lewis says, the report is comprehensive, clocking in at 116 pages. This report is full of excellent resources and websites to explore. The Aspen Institute feels that our youth today need to be fully connected. In order to do that, we need to rethink our current models of education and technology infrastructure so that we create an environment of connected learning.

I particularly liked the definition of connected learning the report gave saying that “connected learning...is socially embedded, interest driven and oriented toward educational, economic or political opportunity” (34). In this definition, not only are we making sure the learner is at the center, but we are also taking into account the various things that surround our learners. In order to prepare youth for being smart, savvy, and critical citizens in our digital age, we have to remember the influences, histories, and cultural values that shape our youth.

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Back in January YALSA released its report, "The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: a Call to Action."  The report provides recommendations for ways libraries can evolve in order to better meet the needs of 21st century teens.  YALSA would like to hear from the library community and beyond how this report has impacted you and your institution so far.  What changes have you made in regards to serving teens or new things have you tried?  What have been your successes and challenges up to now?  What ideas did the report spark as you read it?  Please take a moment to fill out a brief online form to tell us about what's been going on with you and your institution since the report came out.   Some of the information we gather will be featured in upcoming issues of YALS.

Also, don't forget that you can access free resources to help you and your organization learn more about some of the key issues in the report, like connected learning, cultural competence, and more via YALSA's web site.  We'll be adding even more resources there over the next few weeks, so check back often.