Lately, there has been a big push to give teens agency, a voice, and opportunities for action through our library services. The theme of last year’s YALSA Symposium was “Empowering Teens,” and YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines devote an entire section (number 3.0) to the imperative to “Facilitate teen-led programs.”
The most traditional way to do this is through a Teen Advisory Board. But as a Middle School Services Librarian, I had my doubts about handing any real responsibility over to a bunch of 11-to-14-year-olds. So it was with some trepidation that I took on an advisory board for middle schoolers, which we call Library Squad.
Library Squad has blossomed into a tight-knit community of library-loving middle schoolers whose opinions, ideas, and help form the foundation of all my programming. Library Squad meets on the second Wednesday of every month from 5-6 p.m., but its members are a significant presence in almost all programs.
One reason I love my high school ‘ library job is that I don’t have to tell people what to do all day. ‘ Sure, I’m always checking passes, giving instructions and directions, or pointing the way to obtain the desired outcome. ‘ But, when a teen walks through the doors of our school library the decision about what to do next is totally up to them. ‘ It is so unlike walking into a classroom where the next 90 minutes are highly structured and choices are circumscribed. ‘ The ability to provide an intellectually stimulating environment where teens get to make the choice of what to do next is empowering for our young people and deserves to be protected.
The high school library is one of the few places where students are given decision-making power. ‘ Sure, it is the decision-making power over their own actions, but, that is where empowerment starts. ‘ When they walk through that library door, decisions await. ‘ Where to sit, computer or table? ‘ Do they need to work, or socialize a bit? ‘ Should they listen to music while they work independently, or work with a group of classmates? Do they want to work with a group of our coders on the 3D printer or lounge in a comfy chair and read a magazine? ‘ Perhaps they stayed up late studying last night and just need to take a nap. The library is one of the few places on the high school campus where students can be self-directed. Continue reading When 3rd Place is Good. Empowering Students in the Library.