Yesterday I had the chance to participate in a Teen Summit sponsored by the Nassau Library System. Approximately 53 teens, 19 librarians, and associated library professionals attended. The Summit was planned to give teens in the County the opportunity to meet each other, think about their role in the community and the library, and come up with creative ways that their libraries could better serve them.

The facilitator for the day was one of the Search Institute trainers, Sue Allen. From the very start she got the teens involved in the program. Within a very short period of time the teens, and librarians, felt comfortable talking about the world, teens and adults, and libraries.

At one point Sue had the teens and librarians (separately) develop lists of stereotypes and expectations. As a part of this the teens (in small groups) wrote down lists of how they want to be perceived by adults. These lists were pretty powerful to ponder and included:

  • Awesome
  • Determined
  • Not Lazy
  • Eager

On these lists teens also wrote that they wanted to be respected by adults and that they wanted to be judged correctly.”

Shouldn’t all library staff, in all departments, be able to see teens in these ways and give them what they need/want?

After discussing the 40 Developmental Assets, teens and librarians again broke out into small separate groups and came up with ways that libraries could support teens. What was interesting about this list was that the teens weren’t really able to think outside of the library box that they already knew. The ideas were good but they weren’t so different than what libraries already do for teens. It seems to me a next step is to get teens and librarians talking together again about how the ideas need to be implemented, what the barriers are to implementation, and to perhaps come up with more forward-thinking programs and services.

It really was a great day and it’s a testament to the commitment of the librarians who attended that each came with at least one teen from their community. (Some librarians had 5 or 6 teens at the Summit.)

BTW, YALSA Serving the Underserved (SUS) trainers are well equipped to work with libraries to integrate the developmental assets and youth participation into their programs and services. If you are looking for a trainer you might check out the SUS list.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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