This fall YALSA is launching two brand new online courses! ‘ Amy Alessio, instructor for Tapping Youth Participation to Strengthen Library Services, chatted with me about the course.

Eve: You’re teaching a new class for YALSA that starts in October. Tell us about Tapping Youth Participation to Strengthen Library Services (TYP)?

Amy: TYP is an interactive online class where participants can learn’ about different types of teen volunteering in libraries and communities, from teen advisory boards to teen-designed spaces.’  So many places are dealing with tight budgets and fewer staff, so this is the perfect time to look at how we can best utilize our volunteers. Teens have very few places where they can find paid work these days, and volunteering at their library or media center is a good way to gain real-life work experience and confidence.

Eve: What should students expect to learn from this course?

Amy: I am hoping everyone in the class will leave with lots of realistic ideas that can be implemented in their own facility right away. We will be looking at examples of youth participation from peer juries to technology projects to teen-run events that have been used in both school and public libraries.

Eve: Tell us a little bit about the readings and assignments for ‘ this course? How do they fit into your typical librarian’s work schedule?

Amy: I work, have two boys, and many freelance projects,’ so I understand busy schedules and how students’ time is at a premium. With that in mind, readings are brief. They will highlight best practices throughout the United States and will evaluate the effectiveness of youth participation in different forms. Assignments are different every week, and range from looking at examples of teen spaces, to finding teen-run websites and more. The final project asks students to find an area of service that could be improved with youth participation and to develop a simple plan to incorporate it into their library.

Eve: How do class discussions work? Are they real-time or can I post on my own schedule?

Amy: Just like good teen services do not run without teen input, good classes do not run without interactive discussions! There are a couple of questions each week where students can provide ideas or solutions at their own pace. At the end of the course, I compile any idea lists we generate and send them to all the students.

Eve: What can students take away from this course? How can they use the lessons of this course in their day-to-day jobs?

Amy: Students will enjoy several benefits from this course. I hope they will find that working with teen input from small-scale projects to big events, offers benefits that far outweigh any challenges. I’ want students to’ enjoy networking and sharing ideas with other school and public library staff from all over the world.’ Students should have resources to empower them in the future with several forms of teen volunteers. And I find that once one teen volunteering initiative takes off, it’s a positive chain reaction on all areas of service for teens.’  The circulation at the Schaumburg Township. Library, where I work, went up 70 percent each year of the first 10 years we had a Teen Advisory Board and it continues to rise.

Eve: What motivated you to develop this course?

Amy: I’ve been enjoying constant teen input for almost 15 years in my work at the Schaumburg Township Library in Illinois.’ I often get asked how to develop a teen advisory board, or what to do with volunteers who have to complete hours for graduation. I also encounter librarians who tell me they have tried to have a teen advisory board, and it just did not work at their facility.

No one program is going to work the same at every facility — this course is about tapping into youth participation in your school or community.’  It can be challenging’ to work with teen volunteers, just as it can be hard to work with adult volunteers! But there are some things I’ve learned that make utilizing teen input easier, and in my mind there is no way to have a successful teen collection, space or programs without it.

There are also plenty of mistakes I’ve made, and I’ve incorporated several of those into hypothetical situations students can solve (so they can avoid them in their own experiences).I very much enjoyed teaching the online classes for YALSA on programming and on the competencies, and thought this’ would be’ fun as well.

Eve: What are you most excited about in this course?

Amy: I always enjoy “meeting” students online. I’ve had students from as far away as Egypt and Samoa and as close to me as ‘ Illinois and it’s always amazing to find we are all having the same struggles in our work. It is very rewarding to hear from students that they were inspired to try something new at their work, or that they feel better about issues they may be having. That’s what makes this exciting for me.

Tapping Youth Participation to Strengthen Library Services is a four week online course that begins on October 4. Registration is now open at, but hurry: registration ends September 27. Questions? Contact Eve Gaus at or 1-800-545-2433 ext. 5293

About Eve Gaus

Eve Gaus is the program officer for continuing education at YALSA.

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