Transforming Teen Services Through CE

This post written by Carrie Sanders, Youth Services Coordinator, Maryland State Library.

At the beginning of the month, I journeyed to Louisville, KY for the annual YALSA Symposium. I heard vibrant authors and teen services librarians discussing current literature written to meet the needs and interests of today’s teens, and I learned about serving teens with disabilities, social action programming, and strong teen volunteer programs. At the end of these very full days, my brain took a breather on Sunday afternoon, and then it went into full gear on Monday-Tuesday, November 6-7, during the YALSA National Forum.

photo of participants in the YALSA ForumWhat was the purpose of this Forum? Under the theme “Transforming Teen Services Through Continuing Education”, YALSA and COSLA, through a grant funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), gathered representatives from 45 states, along with YALSA Advisory Committee members and other facilitators, to align library teen services with current societal and learning trends of this age group. We gave equal attention to the “what and the how” of Continuing Education (CE) for library staff: what should today’s content be in our teen programming? — and how should this CE be delivered to library staff so that our public library programming and services, nationally, meet the identified emotional, social, and learning needs of today’s teens? Big questions for us to tackle in a day and a half! We listened to a variety of experienced colleagues with experiences and research to share; we looked at national trends and research about the social/emotional needs of teens and their learning styles; we discussed what we are doing in our states; and we asked questions throughout the Forum that bubbled up from our learning. YALSA will take information gained at the meeting to continue developing a national agenda for supporting professional learning needs of library staff working with teens. And, the state representatives attending the Forum, will take back the findings and discussion from our time together and start implementing, through communications and trainings, some of the learnings from the event.

photo of Sandra Hughes Hassell presenting at the YALSA ForumSandra Hughes-Hassell, YALSA President and Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) opened the Forum noting key paradigm shifts that need to happen in teen services, in response to YALSA’s IMLS-funded report, “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action.” The shifts include:

  • Library services to teens need to be “Teen-centric” – not “library-centric.” Library staff need to put teens first; we need to reach ALL teens in our communities (not just the readers). Today, 48% of our total youth population are teens of color – our services need to reach the marginalized teens in our community. Our services should focus on the person or the process — not the “stuff” or the product.
  • Amplify Teen voice. Library staff should involve teens in the development and implementation of their programs, and they should be the ones to identify social issues in the community. Involving teens in this way is not “giving them a voice” because they already have one. Rather, including them in the planning of teen programs centers their voice.
  • Broaden literacies. Work skills have changed, but skills taught in school are not mirroring these changes. Library staff needs to go beyond book clubs and specific events by focusing on learning in teen programming. Learning should include multiple literacies and include aspects of connected learning: student choice; collaborative, social learning; self-directed learning; authentic audience; maximizing use of technology (producers, not just users). These learning experiences created by and for teens is purposeful and centered on relevant issues. It often includes service learning. Continue reading