If you’re working with teens in a library – any kind of library — you should be a leader. Being a leader doesn’t have to mean you’re the boss – or that you ever want to be the boss, but it takes intentionality and may mean thinking about your role in serving teens a bit differently.

Leaders see talent: Did you just see a colleague do a great job of helping a teen get a new library card? Make sure to let him know — and if it was really fabulous, maybe you should let his boss know, too? Do you have a colleague who made a really good point in a staff meeting — make sure you let her know! If you see a library staff member that’s a natural with teens, how can you involve them in your work?

Leaders share the credit: When your program was successful, publicly thank your colleagues who helped make it possible by setting up the chairs, cleaning up the rug and issuing all the library cards.

Leaders have goals: So much of public service is reactive — you never know what question or situation will present itself. Compensate for that by planning and goal-setting for other parts of your work– identifying your goals and making a plan for working with schools this fall, for example, or your goals for your precious two hours of off-desk time tomorrow.

Leaders ask around: What’s your first thought when faced with a challenge or something you don’t know how to do? Before asking your supervisor, talk with your colleagues– at your library or other libraries — what are they doing? Have they faced this before? What advice to they have for you? A colleague in a school who had recently gone to a 1:1 mobile device program told me their philosophy in helping kids with their devices is now: “Ask three, then ask me,” meaning kids should talk to each other to problem-solve — if they’ve asked three peers and still nobody knows, then they can ask the teacher (By the way, that colleague said it was much harder for the teachers to follow the same rule than it was for the students).

Other resources that may be of interest about leadership and management include

Sarah Flower’s YALSA blog series from 2013, “What Your Manager Wishes You Knew,” and YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth.

Level Up Your Leadership Skills will be a regular feature on the YALSA blog, designed to provide practical support for library staff in strengthening existing leadership skills. In what other ways are you leading in your library? In what areas do you need more resources?

About Maureen Hartman

I am the Division Manager for Strategic Services at the Hennepin County Library in Minnesota and a former Board member for YALSA.

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