Why Teens Need Libraries

If you have a passion for serving teens, advocate for them! District Days is an excellent opportunity to speak directly to legislators and maybe even include your teens in the conversation.

There are many reasons to serve teens at your library, including that you may thoroughly enjoy reading young adult literature and helping teens find a book they might like as well.’  Did you know that the impact of libraries on teenagers reaches farther than we could ever imagine?’  Take into account some of the following statistics:

  • 25% of all public high school students fail to graduate on time
  • 34 million American between ages 6 and 17 are not receiving sufficient developmental resources
  • 74% of U.S.eighth-graders read below the proficient level

Libraries are vital but challenged sources of support for the growing youth population in the United States. Census data shows that in 2010 there were over 42 million young people aged 10 -19 (comprising 13.6% of the population) in the US.’ ‘  In 2010, half of the nation’s 14 – 18 year olds reported visiting a library to use a computer.’  The Opportunity for All study‘  reported that youth ages 14-24 make up 25% of all library users, which makes them the largest group in the study, and that youth were drawn to libraries to use computers, receive help with homework, socialize, and participate in programming.’ ‘  Similarly, school libraries are available to about 62% of youth enrolled in public schools’  and youth turn to their school libraries for recreational reading, learning support, and technology access.’  However, critical library resources are endangered by widespread economic impacts on public and school libraries, as noted in the State of America’s Libraries Report 2012 .’  The 2012 PLA PLDS Statistical Report indicates that just 33% of public libraries have at least one full time staff person dedicated to teen services (down a startling 18% from five years ago).

Teens are likely to suffer most in the absence of library services, yet libraries are key to supporting teens’ learning and development.’  The impact of library services and programming is astounding: students that are involved in library programs and have a library available to them with extended hours score higher on ACT English andReadingtests than those who don’t.

We also have the opportunity to give teens not only positive reinforcement, but a visible role model who enjoys the pursuit of leisure reading. ‘ Other than the educational setting, many teens may not have a person in his or her life who noticeably appreciates the written word.’  You could be having an impact on a teenager without even realizing it.’  Isn’t that worth just a little extra effort now and then?

What can you do?’  At the local level, you could become a Friend of your Library or start a Friends group, volunteer at your local library, sponsor or support legislation that helps libraries, or serve on your library’s board of Trustees.’ ‘  You can participate in National Library Legislative Day, District Days and other advocacy activities sponsored by ALA and YALSA.’  Check out the advocacy resources on YALSA’s web site for more information.

Do teens need libraries?’  Of course they do.’  Keep these statistics in mind when talking to friends, colleagues, and administrators.’  This is why YOU need to participate in District Days!

Information used in this post was gathered from the YALSA Brochure “Teens Need Libraries.”

Megan Garrett
Legislative Committee