‘ Mapping Out the Road to Adulthood

‘ Across Washington State, a familiar scene plays out in libraries each day after school in rural or urban branches alike. Teens stumble through the doors in a cluster of street noise and bravado, but a cloud hangs over them. Some of the cloud may be Axe Body Spray, but what permeates is the uncertainty. As adults, we expect so much, yet so little from teens. The world asks them to behave. And to participate. And to be quiet, speak up, work hard, worry less, relax, follow their dreams, get a real job and floss. Rarely do we show them how to accomplish these things.washington

The road to adulthood is a bumpy one, with potholes and flashfloods and lots of uncertainty. The vehicle to get there varies with each teen, with some still on training wheels and others needing a rev limiter. What remains constant is the need for a map. Somewhere within the library, wedged between biographies of presidents’ wives and costume encyclopedias and book groups lies that map.

Recent research‘ from YALSA tells us that many teens are unprepared for the future ahead. Changing technology and a lag in school curriculums to adopt that technology has created a culture where reliance on social media for second-rate information is commonplace. These teens are a stone’s throw away from voting age and choosing “my friend said” over facts and figures. We want them to vote and when they do, they’ll pull out their Bic pens and scribble through an oval with spite or zeal, or the sensation of new civic responsibility.

Our libraries have mapped out so many possibilities for teens: from study and volunteer experience, intellectual adventures, to pure escape. Member libraries of the Washington State Library Association are guiding them through the rough patches in the road with literature and information. The teen years spent in a library may be a mere pit stop along the journey, but they’ll be back, most likely as bleary-eyed parents clutching toddlers, desperate for information and truck books.

At the dawn of adulthood, the road is open. The public library has prepared them for this moment. When their tires hit the road, they can do anything. They’ll participate, and work hard, and worry less, and follow their dreams and get real jobs. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll floss.

Submitted by Darcy Brixey

Darcy Brixey is a teen services librarian from King County Library System. She is also Chair Emeritus of the Children’s and Young Adult Services interest group of the Washington Library Association. Danielle Marcy, Library Supervisor from Spokane County Library District also contributed to this article.’ ‘ 

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