The American Library Association (ALA) defines outreach as providing library services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented populations; populations such as new and non-readers, LBGT teens, teens of color, poor and homeless teens, and teens who are incarcerated. As these populations are often marginalized and underserved, it is crucial for libraries to recognize these populations and provide services and programs to them where they are.

The President of YALSA, Candice Mack, is focusing her year as President with an initiative, “3-2-1 Impact: Inclusive and Impactful Teen Services,” which will focus on building the capacity of libraries to plan, deliver and evaluate programs and services for and with underserved teen populations.  Visit YALSA’s wiki to find and share information about serving diverse teens and building cultural competence.

Each month I will profile a teen librarian or staff working in teen services providing outreach services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented teens. The purpose is for us to learn, connect, network and share with each other the crucial work we are doing in this area.

This month I interview Candice Mack.  Candice is the Interim Coordinator of System-wide Young Adult Services for the Los Angeles Public Library as well as the YALSA President.

What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens?
As the interim coordinator of system-wide Young Adult Services at Los Angeles Public Library, I help coordinate system-wide partnerships with different local organizations, which all 73 of our libraries will collaborate with on outreach and services.  Some of the main partnerships we’ve developed recently are with the LA LGBT Center, which has a youth center that provides transitional housing and drop-in education, career and social services to LGBTQ youth in the LA area, many of whom are teens who originally from out-of-state who have either been kicked out or ran away from home to try and find a better and more accepting future in LA.  Last year, we did a book drive and participated in two of the LA LGBT Center’s resource fairs.
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We have also been working with LA City YouthSource Centers, which help students aged 16-24 find jobs and or complete high school, and Schools on Wheels, a local nonprofit which helps provide tutoring to homeless youth.
Our library is also participating in the 100K Opportunities Job Fair in Los Angeles on February 11th at the LA Convention Center.
We are also offering a system-wide fine amnesty to all patrons from February 1-14th this year for the first time ever, which we expect to really help the teens and kids in our communities gain and/or regain access to their library accounts, have made it easier for homeless patrons of all ages to get library cards by making our proof of address requirement more flexible to include transitional housing, and providing patrons with the ability to add their preferred name to their library cards – this especially impacts patrons who are transgender/transitioning.
Because of our participation in the LA LGBT Youth Center’s resource fairs, we’ve met lots of other cool organizations that we now work with including Peace Over Violence, which provides education about dating and relationship violence prevention/intervention to folks of all ages.
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Describe a day in the life of you providing outreach
There really isn’t a typical day, which is one of the things I love about my job! I’m always looking for ways that our Young Adult Services Coordinating Office can provide support to teens and to our staff helping teens, whether that is by forming new relationships with local organizations, maintaining current partnerships, filling in for short staffed branches with their local outreach efforts, providing contacts, swag, brochures, etc. for staff to give away during their outreach and more.
What resources would you recommend for someone new to outreach to look for ideas for inspiration as well as best practices?
Keep your eyes and ears open and read your local newspaper to discover what is going on in your community with relation to youth and youth-serving organizations. Usually, once you connect with one that is quite established, that will lead you to other organizations.  The Ready by 21 website has a lot of amazing resources, including their Mapping Moving Trains packet, which has a worksheet to help folks learn more about the coalitions and networks that are working on child and youth issues in their community.

What are some of your favorite things you have heard from teens while providing outreach services?
I love hearing teens’ excitement over all that the library has to offer them and also what they have to say about what the library should and could be doing to better support their needs.

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