When we talk about gaining support for teen services, we often look through a lens of direct supervisors, administrators, and board members. Sometimes the lens changes to those of our youth services colleagues who may not be gung ho about teen services. The teen services advocate however, should never underestimate the potential of support from all levels and departments of staff.’ Building allies, even in the more unlikely areas of your organization can reap enormous and surprising benefits.
Part of advocating for the teen services story is telling everyone the story. Share your programs, experience with teens, and upcoming plans with everyone from the shelving crew to the circulation staff to the reference librarians. Always ask about other staff projects. By showing a sincere interest in what other staff members are doing, you are encouraging them to get to know you and be interested in teen services activities. Also, by knowing what’s going on, you can connect teens (as volunteers, as customers interested in the service) with the staff and break through the tightly held beliefs that only teen services staff work with teens. You can also discover talents, interests, or potential partners for your teen services by getting to know other staff. It’s a small world after all, maybe that part-time reference librarian has a cousin who runs a comic shop who could help with programming or finding comic/manga authors for programs.
Beyond this, you can glean some interesting insights into advocacy through advice. I was talking to a colleague who worked in our Genealogy, History and Travel department about someone I was going to meet on a project and I didn’t know very much about their personality. This colleague surprised me by having a close relationship with the person I was a little nervous about meeting and gave me some great insights that helped me have a productive meeting.
Be open to staff who can be allies that you would not normally think of as such. You can cultivate your own serendipitous connections simply by being outgoing, friendly, energetic, and genuinely interested in getting to know everyone in your organization.
Don’t allow yourself to be stymied by heresy like, â€œOh that so and so, she thinks having lock-ins are ridiculous.â€ The key to creating a rich network of allies is to be willing to both ask for help and insight while also taking it upon yourself to get to know people and make your own conclusions.
The bottom line is, reach out to everyone to maximize your advocacy potential. You are an ambassador for teens services, in the community, in the schools, and in your own break room.
Teen Services Specialist
Columbus Metropolitan Library