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.
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.