Earlier this month mk Eagle wrote about working with guidance counselors. Collaborating with other librarians and people who work with teens in the community is an important aspect to providing great YA services, but we can also find opportunities for collaboration within our own libraries by working with our non-YA coworkers.

The necessity of collaboration
In my last post, I talked about my job search and mentioned that I had an interview the next day. I was lucky enough to be offered that job (yay!) and had my first week at work last week. The library where I’m now working has never had a dedicated YA librarian before and I’m excited about developing great teen services, but there’s only so much I can do as just one person. Many YA librarians find themselves on something of a team of one, the only professional at their libraries dedicated to serving teens. When we’re not at the desk or in the building, taking care of teens’ reference questions and readers’ advisory requests falls to non-YA staff members.

We can help bolster teen services at our libraries when we’re not present by providing non-YA librarians with some of the resources we use in assisting teens. For example, for adults who haven’t read a YA novel since they were teens themselves, annotated lists of popular titles and series or readalike lists can go a long way in getting them up to speed with the cool new stuff teens are reading now.

If you have the occasional behavioral problem with the swarm of teenage beasts that descends on your fair garden of a library shortly after school gets out, keep in mind that successfully responding to patron behavior requires a unified effort. At the PLA conference this spring, the panelists at SYASS: Save Your After School Sanity talked about making a whole-library effort to restore harmony during after school hours.

There are also more specific things we can do to work together with non-YA librarians to enhance library service to the entire community.

Working with adult services librarians
It seems like there’s sometimes a drop-off in library usage between when people graduate high school and go off to college and when they return to the library with their own children. By working collaboratively with adult services librarians, we can better ease the transition from teen services to adult services. Plan events that target college kids or 20-somethings in your community with video game nights showcasing more mature titles, book clubs with a mix of upper YA titles and contemporary adult books (check out Genre X for ideas), or host a wine tasting event. Subscribe to the OTYA (Older Teens and Younger Adults) listserv to discuss program ideas and more.

Collaborating with adult librarians is also necessary for hosting successful intergenerational programs. Have experienced grownup knitters from the community give tips and show off projects to your teen knitting club. Host an intergenerational video game tournament, pairing up teens and seniors to compete in teams against one another in Wii Bowling and a card game or board game. Organize an intergenerational book group. The ALA has more on the benefits of intergenerational programming.

Working with children’s librarians
As we’re working with our compatriots in adult services to ease the transition from the teenage years to adulthood, we can also work with our counterparts in children’s services to help older elementary school kids or middle schoolers transition to the wonderful world of YA. If there are favorite programs the children’s librarians host for older children, consider creating slightly-more-grown-up versions of the same programs for your younger teens.

Working with children’s librarians also gives our teens the chance to build their leaderships and role modeling skills by working with children. I’ve heard of a few libraries that have a carnival every year for school-age children that’s entirely organized and run by teen volunteers (often the members of the Teen Advisory Board). Allowing your teens to develop programs for younger children gives them experience in organizing events, working within a budget, and considering the needs of an audience with different needs and interests than them. It also gives children at the library a fun event and the chance to get to know older kids in the community.

Another way to work with children’s librarians is to collaboratively plan and host a Book Buddies club in which young readers get to practice their reading with an older friend. You can even go further with having children and teens develop a story and illustrations together. Emerging readers will gain practice with print literacy skills and storytelling, and older readers gain mentoring experience and maybe even rediscover some of the joys of children’s literature.

We have so many opportunities for collaboration with school librarians, English teachers, and other people and organizations within the community. But we also have great opportunities to collaborate with other librarians within our own libraries, bridging the gap between children’s services, teen services, and adult services–to everyone’s benefit.

2 Thoughts on “30 Days of Back to School: Working With Non-YA Librarians

  1. Brilliant reference to Fair Garden and the Swarm of Beasts — I love that book. Margaret Edwards was such a visionary.

  2. Penny Johnson on September 27, 2010 at 4:44 am said:

    For more information, inspiration, and solid practical ideas on this subject, register for the Midwinter 2011 Institute in San Diego. This all-day pre-conference event entitled “Teen Services and the Whole Library Experience” will give you the skills and talking points you need to collaborate with directors, non-teen staff, board members, and Friends groups in providing quality teen services at your library. Join us in San Diego on January 7, 2011!

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