About seven months ago, I noticed a new trend among public libraries of offering adulting programs. When I first saw a posting via social media about this program, my brain screamed, Where were these programs when I was 17?! I didnt know ANYTHING about adultness.If youre unfamiliar with the concept of adulting, it means to carry out one or more of the duties and responsibilities expected of fully developed individuals (Urban Dictionary, 2017, ¶ 1). These included duties and responsibilities that seem bewildering to an older teen: finding an apartment (and roommates), signing up for utilities, managing bill payments, etc. Some youth may receive this type of instruction and guidance at home, within their communities, or by participating in youth-supportive groups but this isnt always the case.

Adulting programs are generally geared towards older teens (16 -18) and emerging/new adults (19 – early 20s) and support these young patrons in developing life and college ready skills. News articles and similar commentary about library adulting programs appeared somewhat flippant and even disrespectful or disparaging of young adult attendees. Yet through such programming, libraries are providing a unique service which appeals to two underserved age groups and impacts their lasting success, health, and wellbeing.

Often times neglected in K-12 education and the home, teaching these critical skills not only benefits young adult patrons, but also parents, employers, and communities. YALSAs The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action highlights a recent concern that young adults are lacking an expanded set of skills that goes beyond traditional academic skills (2014, p. 3). Alongside growing demands for problem solving, critical thinking, and media and digital literacies, youth need financial literacy, civil and social literacy, and task-based literacy (PA Forward, n.d.; White & McCloskey, 2004). Just to name a few. 

On Programming Librarian, North Bend Public Library in North Bend, Oregon provide detailed information about their successful Adult 101 program, which helps teens and college students learn essential skills that are necessary when seeking employment, housing, and utility services. The Los Angeles Public Library, with partial funding from the Institute of Library and Museum Services (IMLS), offered Adult 101 teen programs on managing finances, getting and keeping a job, and nutrition and fitness.

A new but related find for me is partnerships developing between public and university libraries to sponsor adult life skills programming. The Emporia Public Library and the ESU William Allen White Library hosted a series of workshops that brought in presentations and meet and greats from community leaders, and engaging activities on finances, managing stress, and experiencing living away from home for the first time. As public and university libraries combine strengths and resources, they reach and embolden even more youth who come from diverse backgrounds and with diverse needs.   

Older teens and new adults are using their local libraries especially online but are often unaware of other library services available to them (Pew Research Center, 2014). Creating relevant and helpful programming is one step towards getting the 18-20 year olds into public libraries and encouraging lifelong library supporters. There are so many other terrific examples, a few of which Ive included in the references and resources section below. I would encourage curious teen librarians and library staff to contact those who have run these programs and found success (or even missteps). While adultingmay not sound as valuable as SAT studying or traditional college prep, these are the vital skills that promote teen development into healthy, thriving, and thoughtful adults.


References and Resources

Braun, L., Hartman, M. L., Hughes-Hassell, S., Kumasi, K., & Yoke, B. (2014). The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action. Chicago, IL: Young Adults Library Services Association.

Emporia University Libraries & Archives. (2017). Basic adulting 101: Welcome to adulthood program series. Retrieved from https://www.emporia.edu/libsv/adulting101

Lucas, T. (2017, March 22). Adulting 101. Programming Librarian. Retrieved from http://www.programminglibrarian.org/programs/adulting-101

PA Forward: Pennsylvania Libraries. (n.d.). What Are the Five Literacies? Mechanicsburg, PA: Pennsylvania Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.paforward.org/Portals/0/Docs/The%20Five%20Literacies.pdf

Pew Research Center. (2014, September 10). Younger Americans and public libraries. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/09/10/younger-americans-and-public-libraries/

Redmond, K. (2017, July 14). Rockland millennials, grow up! Take Adulting 101.Lohud. Retrieved from http://www.lohud.com/story/news/2017/07/14/rockland-adulting-101/465260001/

Urban Dictionary. (2016 June 12). Adulting. Retrieved from https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Adulting

White, S., & McCloskey, M. (n.d.). Framework: Literacy tasks. National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL). Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/naal/fr_tasks.asp

About Abigail Phillips

Abigail Phillips, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State University. You can find her by e-mail: abigail.phillips@usu.edu or on Twitter: @abigailleigh.

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