Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Cultural Competency and Responsiveness

cover of the YALSA competenciesThe introduction of the Cultural Competency and Responsiveness area of the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff states:

“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.

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Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Putting Youth Engagement and Leadership Into Practice

cover of the YALSA Teen ServicesCompetencies for Library StaffOne of the most important things library staff can do with the youth they serve is to provide them with ways to build leadership skills. Building leadership skills provides teens with a pathway to lifelong learning, and gives them skills that are critical to their future. While it may seem that focusing on leadership is something best left for school counselors to address, promoting leadership building skills through the library is a prime way to help teens achieve their full potential while building on skills that will be sure to benefit them as they get older.

Content Area 5 of the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library staff focuses specifically on Youth Engagement and Leadership. While one goal of this competency is to help library staff understand how important it is to respond to teen’s interests and needs as away to develop leadership among adolescents, it also speaks to the importance of connecting with community partners and providing volunteer opportunities for teens. It may take you time to move between the Youth Engagement and Leadership Competency skill levels of developing, practicing and transforming, however, if you look closely at the vision you have for your library, at the activities you provide, and at the specific teens in your community that you serve, you may see that you are already skilled in portions of each of the levels already.
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Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Future Ready with the Library

yalsa teen services competencies coverIn January 2017, YALSA’s first cohort as a part of the IMLS-funded Future Ready with the Library project got to work. Cohort members a part of this project (the 2nd is just starting and the 3rd will begin in November 2018) are working with community members and middle school youth and families to design, develop, and implement college and/or career readiness services for middle school youth. There are several parts of the work library staff participating in the Future Ready project are gaining skills related to and demonstrating the Teen Services Competencies for Library. Staff. For example:

  • Cohort members are gaining community engagement skills through projects that require them to learn about the work going on in their communities, identify gaps when it comes to middle school youth, and setting up listening meetings (in which the staff listen to a potential partner instead of telling what the library can do).
  • Learning how to have good conversations with young teens is key to project success. For example, members of the first cohort talked about the kinds of questions that are best to ask of middle schoolers in order to learn about their lives and interests. The question isn’t, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Instead positive interactions start with questions like, “what do you like to do in your spare time?” or “What something fun you did in the past week?” Continue reading

Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Putting Teens First

yalsa teen services competencies coverWhen I started out as a librarian (35 years ago) much of the work I was involved in was about the things that I liked. I liked a certain type of book. Or, I liked a certain type of program. Or, I didn’t like a certain type of activity or book. The services I provided for the youth in the community in which I worked weren’t terrible. But, they were really just for those children and/or teens who had interests similar to my own. Can you imagine how many young people I didn’t support as a result? A lot. At that point I didn’t realize that library services require putting teens first. Focusing not on what the library staff thinks is good for teens to have access to or what library staff are interested in themselves, but instead looking at what teens in the community want and need. And, even if those wants and needs don’t match skills or interests of library staff finding ways to support them.

That’s why the phrases “teens first” or “putting teens first” that YALSA often uses are so important. It sends a message to everyone that it’s not about us. It’s about teens. As Kate McNair recently pointed out in her blog post, the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff do that very well. The Competencies are focused on categories that support learning about and supporting teen needs and interests first.
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Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Youth Leadership

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

Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Demonstrating the Paradigm Shift

Back in 2010, I was a member of the taskforce that worked on what was then called Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth. With the release of YALSA’s new Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff and my ten year anniversary in my current role, I have been looking back and remembering past projects. I think the evolution of these competencies is an excellent example of the paradigm shift that staff serving teens have felt over the last five years, that was so eloquently illustrated in the Futures Report.

The first thing I noticed comparing these two documents is pretty simple, putting teens first. In 2010 each competency was very staff and adult focused. It was still a time when staff serving teen weren’t seen as industry professionals and you can see that reflected in the document. The 2017 competencies leads with teens! Competency areas like “Teen Growth and Development” and “Youth Engagement and Leadership” are the first thing you see. The Futures Report described a shift to put teens first and YALSA’s organizational plan followed suit. Now the Competencies reflect that change and will continue to lead us into that paradigm shift.

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Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Take a Learning Break with YALSA Snack Breaks

cover of the YALSA Teen Services CompetenciesAs 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.

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Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: What’s in a Name?

cover of the yalsa teen services competenciesHave you noticed? The name of YALSA’s new competencies doesn’t say “for teen services staff” or “for teen librarians.” The title is Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff. Why is this important? Because it brings to the fore the idea that all library staff need to think about what it takes to work successfully with teens. Think about it, isn’t it likely that staff in reference, circulation, children’s services, and other library departments will encounter teens in the library? If that’s true, those staff members need to be able to support teen needs from the perspective of the job that they do.

When thinking about connecting all library staff to the Competencies a good place to start is with the dispositions. Many of the attitudes and mindsets in this section of the Competencies are easily relatable to the work of all staff in the library. Take a look at the dispositions listed below. Are there any that you would say, “Oh, only those that work with teens need to have that disposition?”: Continue reading

Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Equity of Access

Cover of YALSA competencies for library staff YALSA released the new Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff just in time for my 10 year anniversary as a YALSA volunteer. It is a great time for me to look back on what I have gained in those 10 years and reflect. Each content area is broken into three levels of achievement: developing, practicing, and transforming. With 10 years of hindsight, I can really see how I have moved through these levels in the content area around Equity of Access. The core of this competency reads:

Ensures access to a wide variety of library resources, services, and activities for and with all teens, especially those facing challenges to access.

When I started in my current position, I knew that serving our Juvenile Detention Center was going to be part of the job. Our Library had already been serving the facility through collections and programs for over 5 years, and I would be taking over from the librarians who started the program (not at all intimidating, let me tell you).

At the time, the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) had an average daily population of about 85. Most residents were male and between the ages of 15 and 18 and stayed in the facility for about 2 weeks. And although the area my library served was predominantly white, the JDC was predominantly teens of color.
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Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Overview of Teen Growth & Development

If you’re a regular reader of the YALSA Blog, you will know that a brand-new Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff was released at the end of 2017 and the bloggers have been exploring the document in a variety of ways. It’s exciting to read these posts and begin to find ways to put those words and ideas into actions.

For me, as I read through these competencies, I saw a lot of similarities between this document and ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Both documents rely on the framework narrative – they see either their knowledge areas (YALSA) or their frames (ACRL) as the foundation and grounding for the work they do, with teens and with undergraduate students. And although ACRL’s Framework focuses on the learning of the student (versus the Competencies focusing on library staff), both use the idea of dispositions to assess learning gains and promote the idea that learning is continual.
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