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 Jurhandi Pendergrass, Teen Services Specialist for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library at the Imaginon.

What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens? 

The kinds of outreach services that I provide for teens are The Guys Read Program and mentoring with Communities in Schools. The Guys Read Program is a program that I have been a lead since 2009. The Outreach Manager for my library system finds Charlotte Mecklenburg Middle Schools that have 6th and 7th graders that do not read or test well. Most of the schools that I have, and currently work with are inner city schools. Most of the the demographics of these schools are single parent homes where the income is low. With Communities in Schools, I mentor young men who have no positive male figures in their life. I meet once a month with my boys,take snacks, and talk about what is going on in their lives. I provide a voice to their needs, and an ear so they can get things off their chests. Sometimes people just need to be listened to.

Describe a day in the life of you providing outreach

A day in the life of me providing outreach services includes me getting to my school about 8 am. I sign in at the office and go to the boys classroom where we meet. I am there before school starts which is 8:30 am. I put out snacks and drinks and wait for them to show. I greet the boys, and welcome them into the class. Once seated, we do an icebreaker and I make them tell me what is good with them. We meet once a month, and I know something good has happened in a month. We go around the room and then proceed to talk about the book that we are reading. I assign chapters, and they have a month to read them. The boys are usually good about reading. I have also found out that if you split a book into 3 parts in a whole school calendar year, we can read 3 to 4 books within that year. Normally books are graphic novels, or sports books. There are books that the boys would like based on what they see and do at the ages of 11-13. We have an hour, so after we do book discussion, I assign new chapters for future reading and we chat for a few minutes. When their time is up, I walk them back to their classes and then return to my branch.

What resources would you recommend for someone new to outreach to look for ideas for inspiration as well as best practices?
Resources that I would recommend to someone new to outreach would be to look at good reads to see what teen friendly books there are. Webinars, articles, and asking others who do outreach are all a big part as well. I do all of the above. I recently spoke at an outreach workshop last month here in Charlotte on best practices. I have learned that there is no right way to do outreach. You just go in with an open mind, and do it. We are all different and have different way of doing things. I am a laid back person,and that carries over to my outreach. I believe that because I do have a positive demeanor, it does make it easy to talk to others as well. I love life so I smile and laugh a lot. Trust me, it helps. When doing outreach people pick up on this.The best advice that I have is to just be comfortable.

What are some of your favorite things you have heard from teens while providing outreach services?
Some of my favorite things that I have heard from teens since I have been doing outreach is that now they use the library. That always makes me happy. The teens continuing to read after the program is over makes me happy as well. I feel like I helped make a difference when they do positive things. The fact that some young men still keep in touch and let me know what is gong on in their lives is important as well. It lets me know that I am helping these young men be future library users and positive educated males in today’s society.


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