Laura Pitts, a librarian from The Scottsboro, Alabama Public Library shares how “rural, small, and tribal libraries are helping middle schoolers with college and career readiness” through YALSA’s first cohort of Future Ready with the Library funded by IMLS. The program’s mission is to “develop a way, through partnerships with community organizations or educational outlets, to address the issue of college and career readiness initiatives among middle school students.”

In her YALS article, Pitts mentions that “the workforce is moving towards 21st Century skills set that prides itself on encouraging students to look at various career, vocational, and educational opportunities that may be available to them in their own backyard.” Although working in the Future Ready program would be a great opportunity for any library, there are still many things a library can do to help middle schoolers on their own. Part of Pitt’s article discusses how it is important to work with your community, and this is extremely important. Libraries can reach out to local businesses and provide a Career Day program specific for middle school preteens. Preteens could come to their local library and meet local business owners, and learn about their career pathways, and what they do at their job.

Preteens are often overlooked, and a Career Day would be a great opportunity to reach out to them. As Pitt writes: “While students of all grade levels should be afforded opportunities of exposure to college and career readiness, it’s the needs of middle schools students that have been ignored for far too long.”  Often, preteens do not know of the career readiness programs available to them because they are often times advertised for teens. This could be one reason middle school students do not feel ready for college or a career.

One series of programs we offer in my library system, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, is College 101. This series highlights anything a high school student would want to know about college, from living on campus to taking a practice SAT. A great way to get middle school students involved would be to open and advertise these programs for preteens as well. We also have a Career Readiness series that covers how to dress for an interview, write a resume, and more. Again, these too could be open and available to preteens, as well as teens.

Library staff could even offer an outreach program to middle schools where career and college readiness information is shared with students. This could be in a classroom setting, or a parent night, etc. Different types of college majors could be discussed and what jobs those majors would allow you to get hired for in the workplace. Library staff could also bring booklists for students that are interested in different job types; these could be fiction and nonfiction.

In the library, learning is happening in all departments; “…learning [emerges] at all levels in the library,” Pitts writes, and this is very true. Children in the library are learning to read and learn new vocabulary, teens engage in STEAM activities, and adults are learning how to search the internet and set up an email account. The library’s “role as an extension of the school classroom” is very important to our community and middle schoolers. It is important as library staff that we do not forget them in the mix of things, as they are often in between the Children’s Department and Teen Department. In order, to fill the gap of college and career readiness for middle schoolers, it is important for staff to open their programs for this age group; any exposure is good, as it starts a conversation.

Do you have any college and career readiness programs or ideas for middle school students? Share below!

About Maeve Dodds

Maeve is a Teen Lead Librarian for Charlotte Mecklenburg County, University City Branch, in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has worked in adult and children services, and was previously an elementary school media specialist. She likes reading in her hammock and trying new foods.

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