Patricia Overall describes cultural competence as: “a highly developed ability to understand and respect cultural differences and to address issues of disparity among diverse populations competently.” Elsa Ouvard-Prettol, in her current YALS article What Cultural Competence Means for Librarians: How to Cultivate This Important Skills to Positively Impact Our Patrons, notes that the only way anyone can relate to others, is by “being able to confront and accept one’s cultural background.” This is extremely true and a very important part about working in a diverse library.
According to ALA Diversity Count vs. U.S. Census, library staff do not “reflect the ethnic diversity of the American population.” This is somewhat upsetting as the library serves a wide-range of people in the community. Changes will need to made at the top, even starting with a more diverse population of LIS students, which will lead to libraries having more diverse staff. As of now, Ouvard-Prettol notes that recruiting diverse LIS students has had challenges, and studies are being made as to why this is a current issue. I think that one way staff could work towards recruiting prospective students is by looking into their teen community and offering a career program, or volunteer program. We currently have various teen volunteers in my branch, who started volunteering because they are interested in librarianship. We also have a librarian who started as a teen volunteer and worked his way up to an adult librarian position.
Any day now YALSA members and YALS subscribers should find in their mailboxes the latest issue of YALS. (The digital edition is already available on the Members Only section of the YALSA website.) The winter 2017 theme is cultural competency and includes articles on:
- Breaking down cultural competency and moving to cultural engagement
- How moving to a new place creates opportunities to develop new perspectives
- Understanding cultural competence as a celebration of each patron
- Understanding the critical piece
- How to cultivate cultural competency to positively impact your patrons
Teen Services Coordinator, Jennifer Velasquez, took a different approach when the San Antonio Public Library Teen Library @ Central wanted to redesigning the library. By talking about what teens wanted to do in the library, versus furniture and colors, staff was able to truly understand what teens need and want in their library. Velasquez mentions that it is not only important to understand what needs want and need in a library, but why the use the library.
Based on focus groups with teen participants, teens expressed that they wanted quiet spaces, active spaces, and social places. Today’s libraries are now incorporating much of these aspects, and are important to remember when designing a new teen library or space. Velasquez’ model for the perfect teen library includes three spaces: participation, contemplation, and engagement. A participation space allows for “group work and activities.” A contemplation space allows for independent work, which would include, homework, studying, reading, etc. Lastly, an engagement space allows for comfortable seating for socializing, displays, technology–a fun, and safe place for teens to socialize. Although space can be limited in some libraries, and not all these spaces can be coordinated, many of these spaces can be made into programs.
When initially looking at the Pew Research Report statistics Crystle Martin referred to in her YALS article, A Library’s Role in Digital Equity, one may assume the digital divide is coming to a close with the rise of teen’s access to technology. According to the 2015 study:
87% of teens have access to a desktop/laptop computer
73% of teens have access to a smartphone
58% of teens have access to a tablet computer
The report also shares the primary way teens access the internet with 91% of them using mobile devices at least occasionally. This means if a teen has a mobile phone with internet access they are adequately connected to the digital world, right? Martin counters this argument by throwing down more facts such as, “one-quarter of those earning below the median income and one-third of those living below poverty level accessed the Internet only through their mobile devices.” Resulting in a significant part of the population being under-connected according to the “Opportunity For All?” findings.
What does this have to do with libraries, though? In the current trend of libraries increasingly adding “innovation” to mission statements and “technology skills” to job descriptions while working towards increasing access we may be missing the key element in creating digital equity, or equal access and opportunity. Giving teens school tablets or providing free library wifi is a great start, but what happens when that teen lives in a home without an internet connection or lives too far away from the library to attend on weekends? When used correctly technology can be a valuable tool in fostering digital participation, but our approach as educators is the most important action to take.
The theme of the summer issue of YALS (digital edition available now to members & subscribers via the Members Only section of the YALSA website) is college and career readiness and its packed with great articles in support of moving YALSA forward. Have you received your edition of YALS in the mail already? “Libraries and Tinkering Things” by Luigi Anzivino and Karen Wilkinson from the Tinkering Studio in the Exploratorium in San Francisco share their views on what the space is, their philosophy, what tinkering is and who can participate (the answer for this is-EVERYONE!) They start out by saying, “As informal educators, our mission is to encourage everyone’s creativity and love of learning, and we believe out-of-school opportunities have the greatest potential to build upon young learners’ interests and abilities. Making and tinkering are perfect vehicles for this, because they rely on personal interest and motivation as drivers. We think that libraries are especially well positioned in this area because they can introduce local makers and tinkerers as mentors within the community, fostering powerful connections.” What if you are a small suburban, tribal library, rural and are challenged by space and funding to really even begin thinking about creating a space that is dedicated to learning and is transformative? Let’s think about some of the concepts shared in the article and think about some ways to try and create a transformative space like this where you are.
In her recent article in YALS, Workplace Expectations for Today’s Library, Kimberly Sweetman asks “what should you be able to do in order to succeed in today’s workplace?” This brings to mind many thoughts about what was once expected in the library workplace, and what is currently expected.
Sweetman mentions that from the 1990s, and into the future, libraries are more about distribution of power, systems thinking, improved collaboration and more. These are all very important to understand when working in the library. Collaboration is great because with today’s technology, library staff can share ideas throughout their system or nationally with faster results than ever before. Collaboration also is key when “people who have different areas and levels of expertise” work together. This was just one of the ways that I was able to become more efficient at my job, and learn skills that made it easier to transition into higher library positions. I am always learning from fellow library employees, and some of the best ideas come from collaboration with others.
The theme of the summer issue of YALS (digital edition available now to members & subscribers via the Members Only section of the YALSA website) is college and career readiness. When thinking about being career ready it’s important to remember that library staff working with teens always have to be ready to support the needs of teens of the current age, and be able to work in the current library environment. Kimberly Sweetman’s article in this issue of the journal focuses on five areas library staff have to be ready to navigate in order to succeed in today’s library. You have to read the article to find out what those five areas are, but here are the resources Kimberly suggests you check-out to learn more about succeeding with current library workplace expectations:
“Active Listening: Hear What People are Really Saying.”
Alessandra, Tony, “The Platinum Rule.”
In the summer 2016 issue of YALS, (digital edition available now to members & subscribers via the Members Only section of the YALSA website) Crystle Martin’s article on teens and digital equity explains why the library is such a valuable asset when providing access to digital tools and digital learning. Her article includes references and resources that shouldn’t be missed. The full list of those resources follows:
Davison, E., & Cotton, S. (2003). Connection discrepancies: Unmaking further layers of the digital divide. First Monday 8(3).
Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education: An introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: MacMillan
DiMaggio, P., & Hargittai, E. (2004). From unequal access to differentiated use: A literature review and agenda for research on digital inequality. In K. Neckerman (Ed.) Social inequality (pp. 355-400). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Hargittai, E. (2010). Digital na(t)ives? Variation in Internet skills and uses among members of the ‘Net Generation.’ Sociological Inquiry 80(1), 92-113.
Hargittai, E. (2004). Internet access and use in context. New Media & Society 6(1),137-143.
Hargittai, E., & Walejko, G. (2008). The participation divide: Content creation and sharing in the digital age. Information, Communication & Society 11(2), 239-256.
Any day now YALSA members and YALS subscribers should find in their mailboxes the latest issue of YALS. (The digital edition is already available on the Members Only section of the YALSA website.) The summer 2016 theme is college & career readiness (CCR) and includes articles on:
- Developing space that supports helping youth gain CCR skills and information
- Developing activities and a program of service that supports teen acquisition of CCR skills and information
- The role of digital equity in CCR
- What Project Lead The Way is all about
- How creating tinkering opportunities supports teen ability to gain 21st century skills
- The skills library staff need to succeed in the 21st century work place