competencies coverOn Sunday, February 11, during ALA Midwinter YALSA sponsored two sessions on the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff.

The first session was facilitated by University of Maryland College of Information Studies Associate Professor, Mega Subramaniam. In this quick 90 minutes LIS faculty discussed how they can integrate the dispositions, skills, and knowledge that are the focus of the Competencies into the pre-service and in-service library staff educational setting. The conversation included review of a current syllabus – the syllabus that Mega is using for a Design Thinking course – and considering where the syllabus helps students to gain skills and knowledge highlighted in the Competencies and where changes and additions might be made in order to help students achieve what is outlined in the Competencies. The small group discussed how the Competencies aren’t just about the activity of library staff but also about infrastructure and systems of/in libraries – including job descriptions and internal and external policies. They also brainstormed ways their own syllabi could be revised to support the ideas in the Competencies.

Towards the end of the session, Sandra Hughes-Hassell, YALSA President and Professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, reminded the group that at the LIS level, instructors don’t need to focus on the bits and pieces of the Competency content areas. Instead they need to support students in being able to demonstrate what is outlined in the Competencies.

The second session on Sunday focused on how library staff can gain and/or demonstrate the Competencies in their work with community, youth, families, and colleagues. The session included short presentations:

  • Mary Hastler, CEO of the Harford County (MD) Library, discussed how the Competencies can be used in on-boarding and evaluation. In on-boarding, as library staff begin working in the System, the Competencies can be used as a tool to help staff understand the work they will be doing and what expectations are of that work. And, speaking of expectations, Mary also mentioned that they Competencies are a good evaluation tool in assessing the work of library staff.
  • Jack Martin, Executive Director of the Providence (RI) Public Library, spoke about the projects taking place in his library that reflect the dispositions, knowledge, and skills of library staff. These projects include the library’s Teen Squad, Rhode Coders, and MyCity My Place programs. For each of these staff have to bring youth development, youth voice, cultural competence & responsiveness, and community and family engagement to the fore.
  • Kate McNair, Teen Services Coordinating Librarian at the Johnson County (KS) Library, reminded session participants that the ideas expressed in the Competencies are a continuation of those that are a part of the YALSA Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action (commonly referred to as the Futures Report). Kate highlighted that the staff she works with has worked towards the Competencies since the Futures Report was published. Now Kate is working with staff on the ideas brought forth in the Outcomes & Assessment Competencies area. The work being done at the Johnson County Library supports staff moving from the Developing level of the Competencies to the Transforming level.
  • Heather Dickerson, Teen Services Librarian at the Helena (MT) Library, spoke about how she had to let go of her own ego when reviewing the Competencies and determining where she needed and wanted to develop more skills and knowledge. She discussed how the Competencies have helped her to set priorities in relation to the library’s strategic plan. Heather also explained how she brought the Competencies to community members and teens and asked them to talk with her about how the Library is doing in the various content areas.

Following the presentations participants broke into small groups to discuss one content area of the Competencies. There was a lot of interesting discussion during this time (there was not enough time). With groups highlighting that the Competencies:

  • Demonstrate the need to reframe and expand what learning looks like.
  • Point to the reality that fun is not the end goal of the work that we do with and for teens. Fun can be an entry point but should not be the ultimate impact library staff work towards.
  • Highlight that youth voice is key to success and that youth need opportunities to have a voice in the community and in activities that move communities forward
  • Support the need to do a better job in providing equitable access to teens.

The Midwinter sessions are just one example of the ways YALSA is providing library staff with opportunities to learn about and explore how to use the Competencies. Free monthly webinars and Tweet chats start next month. Stay tuned for information on related sessions at Annual Conference in New Orleans.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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