One 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. Continue reading Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Putting Youth Engagement and Leadership Into Practice
In 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: Future Ready with the Library
When 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.
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.”
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.
As 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.
Have 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: What’s in a Name?
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).
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.
Rachel McDonald has been a Teen Services Librarian for King County Library System in Washington state since 2007. Her primary interests are incorporating youth voice and bridging the digital divide through library programs. Rachel has been a member of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) since 2004, serving on the Board of Directors and multiple task forces and award committees, including the Alex Awards and the Michael L. Printz Award. She was a recipient of YALSA’s 2013 Excellence in Library Services to Young Adults award and is a student in the University of Maryland College of Information Studies YX certificate program.. She is currently reading The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom by Helen Thorpe.
In this YALSAblog post Rachel McDonald highlights how skills in YALSA Competency areas related to Community Engagement and Cultural Competence and Responsiveness enable her to meet the needs of non-dominant youth.
For the past five years I’ve worked as a Teen Services Librarian in Tukwila and Seatac, two communities that are a part of the King County (WA) Library System. Due to their close proximity to Seattle, and cheaper housing costs, both cities are popular with newcomers to the United States. In fact, over 40% of the population of Tukwila is foreign-born. At the high school down the street from the Tukwila Library, students speak over 45 world languages. Since the 1990s, local refugee resettlement agencies have resettled thousands of refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Burma, Eritrea, Iraq, Nepal, Somalia, Syria, and Ukraine in South King County.