A couple of weeks ago Maureen Ambrosino, Youth Services Consultant for the Central MA Regional Library System, spoke with a group of library school students about the LSTA grant she received in 2007. The grant project titled Year of the Teen focuses on providing training and professional development for librarians on how to successfully meet teen needs in the library.

In her presentation, Maureen mentioned that during the grant year someone asked her, “Is this an international thing, The Year of the Teen?” Maureen’s answer was, “No, it’s something I decided.”

That question and response got me thinking. What if every library around the country – or the world perhaps – decided that 2008 was the year of the teen? What might that mean for teen services? Would it mean:

  • All library staff, teen devoted staff and non-teen devoted staff, would be trained in order to be adept at serving teens successfully. All library staff would not pre-judge teens and know to treat them in exactly the same way as they treat other library customers.
  • Budgets for teen materials would be on par with the budgets of other departments in a school or library. Teen library staff would be able to spend the $ provided for materials that teens want and need without fear of reprisal for purchasing something that might be controversial or not of the highest literary quality.
  • Every library would have a space (or work towards a space) that shows teens in the community that the library is a place for them to hang-out, be themselves, be comfortable, work on school assignments, collaborate, etc.
  • Teens with interests beyond those related to books would be welcome and served by the library. Teens whose main interest is music. Or teens who are interested in technology. Or teens that want to create media-based content. All of these teens, along with those who are lovers of the book, would find programs and services to meet their needs available from their school and public library
  • Teens would have access to full-time staff devoted to serving teen needs and interests. All of the hours that a library is open there would be a librarian available just to teens and their services.
  • Technology available to teens in the library would be up-to-date and of the caliber required of teens living in the early part of the 21st century. Hardware and software would be available that supports gaming, social networking, media creation, and other teen technological needs.
  • Librarians serving teens have the ability to act quickly in order to keep up with the current and rapidly changing needs and interests of teens. When a new technology, form of literature, form of entertainment, etc. that is of interest to teens appears, librarians can integrate these new tools and materials without having to jump through extensive bureaucratic hoops.
  • Library staff is able to meet teens where they (the teens) are and do not require that teens come to where the librarian is. Services are available in a variety of formats in order to meet the needs of teens who can and can not visit the physical library space.
  • Every librarian develops programs and services for teens with input from the teens in the community. No library service for the age group is initiated without teens being a part of the development and implementation process.

It’s possible to go on with the list of what a year of the teen might bring in terms of programs and services from a library. What if you were to name 2008 the year of the teen in your library? What would you be able to achieve?

Of course, every year should be the year of the teen but why not start with 2008 and then keep it going for 2009, 2010, 20011….

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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