Back in 2010, I was a member of the taskforce that worked on what was then called Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth. With the release of YALSA’s new Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff and my ten year anniversary in my current role, I have been looking back and remembering past projects. I think the evolution of these competencies is an excellent example of the paradigm shift that staff serving teens have felt over the last five years, that was so eloquently illustrated in the Futures Report.

The first thing I noticed comparing these two documents is pretty simple, putting teens first. In 2010 each competency was very staff and adult focused. It was still a time when staff serving teen weren’t seen as industry professionals and you can see that reflected in the document. The 2017 competencies leads with teens! Competency areas like “Teen Growth and Development” and “Youth Engagement and Leadership” are the first thing you see. The Futures Report described a shift to put teens first and YALSA’s organizational plan followed suit. Now the Competencies reflect that change and will continue to lead us into that paradigm shift.

The second big change is the development of the Developing, Practicing and Transforming levels. Previous versions gave a simple list under each Competency about what a staff member should be able to do. I appreciate the continuum of practice explained in these levels (check out this great quick look guide to see them all in a glance). As I look back over the last 8 years since the competencies were updated I can see how we have built learning pedagogy into everything we do, including how we evaluate ourselves. It gives me fresh eyes and language to evaluate my own practice and performance. Even the active language of Developing, Practicing and Transforming reminds me that learning and growing is never done (see Content Area 10).

Lastly, and perhaps the most abstract, is the shift from very concrete concepts (like “Formally and informally instruct young adults in basic research skills, including how to find,
evaluate, and use information effectively.”) and takes them to the next level (see “Expands access to information and resources that support teen needs and interests and fosters digital citizenship skills.”). As our profession has changed, and become more abstract, more complex and more rewarding, so our competencies must evolve too.

These Competencies are another stepping stone toward the envisioned future laid out the Futures Report. We can use this new tool to track our progress toward the open, supported and safe learning environments we are working to create in our libraries. It is a new year and this is a great time to check out the easy Competencies At A Glance and talk with your teammates,  your manager and peers about where you want to be.


About Kate Mcnair

Member of the 22x20 Taskforce

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