Once you are able to find support, funding, spaces, community connections, etc for teen services in your library’s structure you might now look for ways for teens to be involved in the everyday decisions and workload.’  We can talk about supporting the wants and needs of teenagers forever, but the next step is actually using them as a resource (a very valuable resource) in the day-to-day functions of the library, beyond shelving books and preparing crafts.

Asking for their help with some of your bigger duties will require that you trust the teens will do the right thing.’  Before that trust is given, you must make sure your expectations are clearly relayed as you can’t expect them to pull your expectations out of thin air, right?’  With so many ways for things to go wrong (in your head) this type of trust is known as Radical Trust.’  This idea of Radical Trust can be as simple as dropping the requirement of parental permission slips for content contribution, or it can be as complicated as asking a group of teens to actively participate in all stages of your collection management process, and you follow their lead.

I’ve learned first hand what Radical Trust can encompass while working and studying under Michele Gorman, Teen Services Coordinator for the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County in Charlotte, NC.’  Michele has shown some crazy radical trust in Charlotte’s teenage population by allowing them to plan and carry out programs, involving them in the development of the library’s policies and procedures that will directly impact their age group, and even has groups of teens involved in the interviewing of Teen Librarians.

Just think back to when you were a teenager and an adult put some trust in you.’  It is an important step in development, not to mention a great way to give some ownership to the teens.’  We are transferring the power from us to them, where it belongs according to developmental needs.’  Yes, failure is a possibility.’  Yet failure and the opportunity to fail are such important tools in building character.

About Jesse Vieau

Teen Services Librarian - Madison Public Library - Madison, WI

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