Do you sometimes wonder what you could do to get more administrative support for teen services in your library? There are some relatively simple steps you can take to win friends and influence managers! This is a six-part series that shares some tips from managers that you can integrate into your work life and maybe make some positive changes in your library.

In the first four weeks, I talked about’ presenting yourself as a professional, speaking the language, collecting data, and about sharing information up the ladder.’ This week let’s move ahead to:

Taking a Big-Picture Look

You may think that it is obvious that changes are needed in your library. It may be crystal clear to you that teen services needs a bigger materials budget, more staff, and a higher profile. But somehow, your library’s upper-level management is not seeing the same thing you are. Now what?

As we discussed in the earlier weeks, managers need to see where teen services fits into the library’s bigger picture. But teen librarians need to see that, too, and too often, they don’t. In YALSA’s survey of members who were identified as supervisors and managers, the first question we asked was “What are the primary concerns that upper-level decision-makers in your library are dealing with right now?” The top two responses, indicated by two-thirds of the respondents, were:

  • budget matters
  • demonstrating the library’s value to the community

Since managers care about the budget and about demonstrating value to the community, that’s what you need to care about, too. We talked a couple of weeks ago about collecting data‘ on teen services.’ Now is the time to take that data and think about how it can be used to tie into that big-picture view of the library.

Be critical and analytical about what you are already doing. If you look at the data you have collected and realize that you are reaching the same group of 20 teens with every program that you do, you might need to start thinking about whether the time and money spent on programs would be better spent in reaching out to under-served teens in your community–teens who aren’t already coming to the library. This might in turn call for more evaluation: who are those under-served teens? Where are they? What kinds of programs and resources are available to them, and what kinds of programs and services might the library offer? Are there community partners who might be able to help?

Once you know some of these pieces of information, you will be in a much better position to make a recommendation for change to your supervisor or library director.

It is easy to get complacent about what we are doing. If you can look at your department with a new eye, it may lead you to see places you can make changes. One of my favorite ways to get an “outside” look at my library is to give someone else a tour. As I explain what everything is, and what I do there, it becomes clear to me that some things make sense and feel right, while others require far too much explanation, or seem a little silly when put into words. Taking that big-picture look may help you see things from your manager’s viewpoint, and that in turn will help you decide how to present recommendations for change.

Next week, we’ll conclude this series with a look at how you can get everyone in the library on board with your ideas for improving teen services.

Sarah Flowers

YALSA Immediate Past-President


About Sarah Flowers

Sarah Flowers is a YALSA Past President and former Deputy County Librarian for the Santa Clara County (CA) Library. Currently she does writing and speaking on topics related to teen services and teaches online courses for California's Infopeople Project.

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