Knock on wood, but I’m pretty sure that the universe won’t be able to top the craziness that was my 2012.  In the same month I:  became my library system’s first Youth Services Manager, was voted to serve as YALSA President, and had a baby.

Why do I mention that personal trifecta? Because quite soon thereafter, the year that I was President, The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report came out and challenged me profoundly. As we all now well know, it called for a “paradigm shift” in the way that we approach and implement teen services in libraries and I happened to have been in the unique position to think through those shifts on both a local and a national scale… while at the same time managing significant personal and professional capacity issues (as so many of us often do).

I mention all of this in a post intended to focus on this year’s Digital Media and Learning Conference because as I’ve worked to support future focused outcomes related to youth and libraries, I’ve spent a lot of time:

  • Trying to achieve perfect solutions for complex problems
  • Feeling like a weirdo for piecing together concepts, research, and tools from disparate sources
  • Worrying about the general mess that comes with change

As it turns out, I need to get over myself. It’s not just me, or even just libraries for that matter, that are struggling with these issues. At DML, I had conversations with or heard from computer scientists and afterschool club organizers, intermediaries and funders, researchers and teachers who are all feeling as messy as I have been. But as we talked and connected, that messiness felt good, exciting, and full of possibility. That messiness felt like we were all moving forward to help this country’s most diverse demographic of teens be successful in an ever evolving tech, career, and cultural landscape.  That messiness felt like progress.

I’ve often talked with youth and staff about the need to iterate ideas and to self-reflect, but this conference made me think about how I don’t often afford myself that same grace.  As one tweet from the conference suggested: “Follow #2016DML all day if you want to inspire your face off.” I’m inspired. Check out that feed and video content from this year’s conference and I think you will be too.

About Shannon Peterson

Shannon Peterson is the 2013-2014 YALSA President and Youth Services Manager at Kitsap Regional Library.

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