National Forum on Libraries & Teens logoIt’s happened, YALSA’s three virtual town halls on the future of libraries and teens that are a part of the year-long National Forum on Libraries and Teens have all taken place. The first event in March was all about libraries and partnerships. You can view the archive. The second event in April focused on informal and formal teen learning spaces. You can view that recording too. Today, the third event took place. It focused broadly on the future of libraries and teens. You can view that recording as well. (We apologize that the final recording is missing the first few minutes of audio.)

In today’s virtual town hall participants were asked to imagine their ideal library services. What did participants talk about? Ideal library services would:

  • Have a full complement of library staff open to working with teens and able and willing to build relationships with the age group.
  • Have staff that would be able to connect teens to what they are interested in – no matter what package or container that came in and including people as well as physical objects.
  • Have space for teens to create, connect, and work with mentors and coaches.
  • Allow for library staff to outreach to teens physically and virtually. Making it possible to go where teens are in order to provide services, build relationships, connect to resources and information, etc.
  • Not put up barriers to connecting with teens. (These barriers could include everything from disallowing food in the library to not allowing teens to use technology that they want and need in order to create, connect and collaborate.)
  • Enable teens to play a central role in developing services for the age-group.

It’s clear from those items, which are just a few of what was generated during the virtual town hall, that staff, space, connecting, and relationship building are key to success with teens in libraries in the future. (And really today as well.)

Participants also talked about the benefits to the library and to teens that are an outcome of the imagined ideal services. During this part of the conversation participants focused on:

  • How, through giving teens opportunities to actively participate in library services – including connecting with mentors and experts and helping to develop the services – they gain developmental assets: including empowerment, support, positive identity, and boundaries and expectations.
  • How the imagined future of teen services gives teens the chance to gain a variety of skills in a welcoming environment.
  • How relationship building and outreach can help library staff become central to the community overall. For example, the library is thought of when potential partnerships arise in the community. Also, library staff know who to contact and how to connect teens to community members who can help out as needed.

It was important to ask participants not only what they envisioned, and what they thought the benefits of their imagined future are, but also what they thought it would take to get to the imagined future. Here’s some things that came up:

  • The need to look at the overall mission and philosophy of service of a library (and libraries in general) and focus on the imagined future broadly for the entire library and not just teens. The future has to take into account the mission of the library overall, so start there, which helps to bring all staff into the conversation.
  • The need for new professional development and library school classes that focus on, at least in part, how to build relationships with teens and how to be a mentor/coach to the age group.
  • The need to expand teen advisory board types of programs beyond the young adult department. Having teens work with administration and other non-teen staff members on programs and services is a way to help educate and inform about the needs of the age group.
  • The importance of being able to explain why these services are important to teens, to the library, and to the community. Taking what are seen as benefits and articulating them as return on investment.
  • The value of getting out into the community and working with other organizations, institutions, and agencies who have like goals so to use the combined strengths, skills, and knowledge to move forward.

While the virtual town halls are now over, that doesn’t mean the YALSA National Forum on Libraries and Teens has ended. We invite you to continue talking about the topics raised in the virtual town halls in the comments to this post and on Twitter using #yalsaforum.

Over the next few months YALSA will take the information collected during the face-to-face summit held in January ( read about the summit on the YALSAblog) and the virtual town halls and develop a white paper on the future of libraries and teens. A draft of that paper will be available for public comment in the summer. The document will then be revised and available to the public in October.

There are so many opportunities and possibilities for libraries as they work towards creating great services for teens into the future. Keep your eyes peeled for the white paper and make sure you comment on that draft with your thoughts and ideas. And, don’t forget, that throughout May YALSA is partnering with Connected Learning on a series of events all about teens the future of libraries.

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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