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 Pamela McCarter, Outreach Specialist for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Pamela McCarter 2

What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens?

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is very lucky in that we have a department of eight people and our focus is exclusively outreach, we don’t serve on public services desks, we provide services and programs outside the walls of the library.  We serve teens in transition or custody, in juvenile detention centers, behavior help hospitals, foster care, alternative schools and special needs.  I work with teens and I work with teens in each of these focus areas. My colleagues work with adults, seniors and children in each of these areas.

Describe a day in the life of you providing outreach

I do rotations of seeing each of these populations twice a month.  I would say too that each time is never the same and you never know what could happen.  Sometimes a unit in the juvenile detention center may be on lockdown and I won’t be able to go in and see the teens but I won’t know that until I get there.  In the detention centers for example, the teens want the library to visit, it’s a special privilege for them and they have to earn it.  The teens always have a deep appreciation the library is there to see them.  I’ve done so many great programs that the teens will really respond to, things like book discussion groups, 3D animation, story boarding. We did a Facetime visit with staff in the Imaginon and the Loft  so teens could get a sense of what the spaces look like, meet staff and find out more about possible programming and services they could hook into when they are on the outs. We do summer learning programs with teens in all of those locations, we’ve done song writing, comic artistry programs and have brought in authors to meet and talk with the teens.  I really try and bring things, programs, books and services that will help them as well as supporting their recreational reading.

What resources would you recommend for someone new to outreach to look for ideas for inspiration as well as best practices?

There are a lot of resources that I use on a regular basis that may be helpful to people coming to outreach.  Some books that I look at;


*             Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers (Youth, Family, and Culture)

*             Speaking to Teenagers: How to Think About, Create, and Deliver Effective Messages by Doug Fields

*             The Youth Worker’s Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis by Rich Van Pelt

*             The Romance of Risk: Why Teenagers Do the Things They Do by Lynne E. Ponton, M.D.

*             Ask Me if I Care: Voices from an American High School by Nancy Rubin


*             At Risk Youth, 5th Edition 5th Edition by J. Jeffries McWhirter

*             Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers by Cris Beam


TimeOut Youth Time Out Youth Center serves LGBTQ youth ages 11-20.

Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance The Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance connects Charlotte mentoring organizations for the purpose of promoting best practices through providing workshops, resources and standards for quality service delivery.

The Relatives  The Relatives is a system of resources that helps children, youth and young adults find safety, stability and pathways to successful futures.


Library Services for Youth in Custody

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention 

What are some of your favorite things you have heard from teens while providing outreach services?

I did a program called “30 days in the life of a teen” at the hospital.  They had to journal each day and put something in it that close to them.  Many of the teens hat participated in the program said they felt they made something creative and they had never felt they were.  One girl wrote a poem where she really discovered things about herself and was able to reflect and think about ways to make changes. These have been my most favorite things I have seen and heard.


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