The American Library Association (ALA) defines outreach as providing library services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented populations; populations such as new and non-readers, LBGT teens, teens of color, poor and homeless teens, and teens who are incarcerated. As these populations are often marginalized and underserved, it is crucial for libraries to recognize these populations and provide services and programs to them where they are.

The Futures Report calls out the importance of outreach to underserved populations and ways in which library staff can think about ways to work with targeted communities of teens (e.g. those who are incarcerated, homeless, in foster care, or in classrooms and other inschool locations) and where they are, rather than waiting for teens to find a way to get to the physical library space.

This month I spoke with Courtney Saldana, Youth Services Supervising Librarian at the Ovitt Family Community Library in Ontario, California. Courtney created the STeP program or Skills for Teen Parents, an innovative library services model aimed at connecting pregnant and parenting teens with the resources and services they need to succeed as adults and as parents. Teen parents face multiple, difficult challenges for which they are often woefully unprepared. STeP is making a difference for these teens and changing lives across the state. So far there have been 10 libraries selected throughout California to provide these programs. You may want to watch this Vimeo on a webinar presented on the STeP program


What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens?

In my experience, outreach is less about the service, and more about the fact that you’re present.  .  While we do try and highlight our major programs and services which would be of interest to teens, we are more likely to just be there.  So, we are present at many things.  Our most successful outreach tends to be those outside of the library.  For instance, we recently started visiting a popular local restaurant within walking distance to our library.  I believe, meeting them there, outside of the library, makes us “less” librarian, and more approachable.

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Each month I interview a teen services librarian or teen services staff to share their outreach services and/or programs they deliver to underserved and underrepresented teens. This type of work takes them outside the walls of the library and while some of the programs and services they present may be traditional like bringing books, poetry writing programs, etc. the populations they serve are often the marginalized-teens who may be incarcerated, youth in foster care, populations like new and non-readers, LBGT teens, teens of color, poor and homeless teens.

This month I thought it may be compelling to highlight some of the programs, services and resources you may want to look deeper into to inspire you into getting into some of this outreach yourself.

The YALSA Teen Programming HQ ran a month-long Top Ten Summer Learning Contest in May that focused on programs to the underserved and underrepresented. There were some great examples. Like this one; B-Town Teens, a teen-run, teen-created TV show where the topics related to to the LGBTQ+ community.

Or this one that was an HQ submission, (not part of the Top Ten Summer Learning Contest) Coding Camp in the Frozen North that was part of a grant that allowed Rebecca Webb, the school librarian, to reach out to the under served Alaskan Native population by purchasing the game: Never Alone which is a computer game that was designed in collaboration with Inupiaq tribal elders.

This article (also includes archives of webinars) from WebJunction, focuses on Serving Youth Experiencing Homelessness. Included is an interview with Rekha Kuver from the Seattle Public Library and the work she is doing with teens who are experiencing homelessness and she shares her training she has done with teen librarians to work with this population.

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The theme of the summer issue of YALS (digital edition available now to members & subscribers via the Members Only section of the YALSA website) is college and career readiness and its packed with great articles in support of moving YALSA forward.  Have you received your edition of YALS in the mail already?  “Libraries and Tinkering Things” by Luigi Anzivino and Karen Wilkinson from the Tinkering Studio in the Exploratorium in San Francisco share their views on what the space is, their philosophy, what tinkering is and who can participate (the answer for this is-EVERYONE!) They start out by saying, “As informal educators, our mission is to encourage everyone’s creativity and love of learning, and we believe out-of-school opportunities have the greatest potential to build upon young learners’ interests and abilities. Making and tinkering are perfect vehicles for this, because they rely on personal interest and motivation as drivers. We think that libraries are especially well positioned in this area because they can introduce local makers and tinkerers as mentors within the community, fostering powerful connections.”  What if you are a small suburban, tribal library, rural and are challenged by space and funding to really even begin thinking about creating a space that is dedicated to learning and is transformative? Let’s think about some of the concepts shared in the article and think about some ways to try and create a transformative space like this where you are.

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The American Library Association (ALA) defines outreach as providing library services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented populations; populations such as new and non-readers, LBGT teens, teens of color, poor and homeless teens, and teens who are incarcerated. As these populations are often marginalized and underserved, it is crucial for libraries to recognize these populations and provide services and programs to them where they are.

The Futures Report calls out the importance of outreach to underserved populations and ways in which library staff can think about ways to work with targeted communities of teens (e.g. those who are incarcerated, homeless, in foster care, or in classrooms and other inschool locations) and where they are, rather than waiting for teens to find a way to get to the physical library space.

I spoke with Hayden Bass, Outreach Program Manager, for the Seattle Public Library about her work in outreach and priorities she focuses on.

What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens?

I was a Teen Services Librarian for about 10 years, and in that role I provided all kinds of outreach for teens. I visited youth shelters and drop-in centers, job training and readiness programs, youth arts and technology programs, schools and alternative schools, and lots more. The kinds of programs and services I provided depended on the needs and interest of each partner organization. I might lead resume or library resource classes, table at a job fair, provide onsite library card registration, or connect youth with books.

In my current role as Outreach Program Manager, I am a point person for outreach to patrons of all ages system-wide. My focus is on eliminating barriers for patrons who might otherwise not have access to library programs and services, especially those who are face barriers around income, housing status, language, etc. I still do direct outreach and create community partnerships, but a lot of my work involves providing support for the librarians who are doing this work all over the city.

Describe a day in the life of you providing outreach.

I think the most important thing to remember about outreach is that it’s a two-way street. If you’re just focused on marketing library services, and don’t take the time to understand the partner organization or the community they are working with, you’re missing a huge opportunity. All good outreach should start with listening.

When I’m getting to know a community contact or an organization, I try to start by having at least one or two meetings that are dedicated to getting to know each other. I want to have a holistic understanding of what their work is all about, the services they provide, what’s going well for them (and what isn’t), and the important issues they are hearing about from their community. And of course, I also make myself available to answer questions about the library. Often, our community partners have limited knowledge of the resources that the library can provide; those initial, open-ended conversations help partners understand that while we do have books, we can also offer a lot more.

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The American Library Association (ALA) defines outreach as providing library services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented populations; populations such as new and non-readers, LBGT teens, teens of color, poor and homeless teens, and teens who are incarcerated. As these populations are often marginalized and underserved, it is crucial for libraries to recognize these populations and provide services and programs to them where they are.

The President of YALSA, Candice Mack, is focusing her year as President with an initiative, “3-2-1 Impact: Inclusive and Impactful Teen Services,” which will focus on building the capacity of libraries to plan, deliver and evaluate programs and services for and with underserved teen populations.  Visit YALSA’s wiki to find and share information about serving diverse teens and building cultural competence.

Each month I will profile a teen librarian or staff working in teen services providing outreach services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented teens. The purpose is for us to learn, connect, network and share with each other the crucial work we are doing in this area.

This month I interview Jurhandi Pendergrass, Teen Services Specialist for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library at the Imaginon.

What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens? 

The kinds of outreach services that I provide for teens are The Guys Read Program and mentoring with Communities in Schools. The Guys Read Program is a program that I have been a lead since 2009. The Outreach Manager for my library system finds Charlotte Mecklenburg Middle Schools that have 6th and 7th graders that do not read or test well. Most of the schools that I have, and currently work with are inner city schools. Most of the the demographics of these schools are single parent homes where the income is low. With Communities in Schools, I mentor young men who have no positive male figures in their life. I meet once a month with my boys,take snacks, and talk about what is going on in their lives. I provide a voice to their needs, and an ear so they can get things off their chests. Sometimes people just need to be listened to.

Describe a day in the life of you providing outreach

A day in the life of me providing outreach services includes me getting to my school about 8 am. I sign in at the office and go to the boys classroom where we meet. I am there before school starts which is 8:30 am. I put out snacks and drinks and wait for them to show. I greet the boys, and welcome them into the class. Once seated, we do an icebreaker and I make them tell me what is good with them. We meet once a month, and I know something good has happened in a month. We go around the room and then proceed to talk about the book that we are reading. I assign chapters, and they have a month to read them. The boys are usually good about reading. I have also found out that if you split a book into 3 parts in a whole school calendar year, we can read 3 to 4 books within that year. Normally books are graphic novels, or sports books. There are books that the boys would like based on what they see and do at the ages of 11-13. We have an hour, so after we do book discussion, I assign new chapters for future reading and we chat for a few minutes. When their time is up, I walk them back to their classes and then return to my branch.

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In last week’s post  on working with teens who may be at risk we started to discuss what barriers people may face in working with teens who may be at risk as well as some examples of work people are doing in their libraries.

This week in discussion related to working with teens who may be at risk, let’s talk about successes that people have had with working with teens who may be at risk. Thinking about what you’ve read related to this topic, and what you’ve been able to accomplish, let us know:

  • A success you’ve had in your library implementing YALSA Futures Report related ideas that helped make change in your work with and for teens who may be at risk
  • What you think helped to make that success possible
  • Ideas and suggestions you have for others who are also working with teens who may be at risk
  • Questions you have about implementing some of the ideas in your work with and for teens who may be at risk

Here is the first post in this series if you would like to be part of the discussion and share some of your thoughts. Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section and feel free to comment/question on anyone else’s. Feel free to reach out directly to me if you have any questions about any of the posts



Last week in the first post in this month’s YALSAblog Professional Learning series on working with teens at risk, I posted a set of resources to read, listen to, and view. This week it’s time to start a discussion about working with teens at risk AND steps to take in order to work with teens at risk.  

One of the barriers I hear from teen librarians is they feel they don’t have the support from their libraries to go outside of the library and provide library services and services and programs to teens at risk, nor do some of the libraries have in their strategic plan or priorities to focus on providing services/programs to these populations.  Reading and learning more about what the Madison Public Library is doing specifically with teens who are incarcerated with the Making Justice program really made me think how a library is recognizing a marginalized population that is limited to services and programming and bringing those services and programs in.  With the institution as a whole acknowledging and focusing services and programs specifically to this population says a lot about how it feels about working with teens at risk as well as promoting and using this program as a model.

This week let’s talk about this:

  • What barriers might you face within your library to focus services on working with teens at risk either in the library or outside the library? Maybe your barrier is that you are interested in working with working with teens at risk and don’t have administrative support or don’t know even where to start.
  • What did the resources from last week get you thinking about in relation to those barriers?
  • What are some examples of work people are doing in their libraries with teens who are at risk? Is it something that your library acknowledges, recognizes and supports (is outreach and working with teens at risk in your library’s strategic plan for example or a specific focus for your library?)
  • What questions or comments do you have from what others are writing?

It would be great to have a discussion on this topic, so feel free to post your own thoughts as well as replying to others.

  1. What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens?

I’m one of three School Outreach Librarians (plus our Coordinator), which means I am a liaison between Brooklyn PreK-12 school communities and Brooklyn Public Library.  Specifically, I focus on the eastern neighborhoods of Brooklyn (including East New York, Brownsville, Bushwick, and Canarsie).  A large part of my job is devoted to working with schools enrolled in the MyLibraryNYC program, a collaboration with the NYC Department of Education.

Our outreach to teens involves a variety of programs and services, including in-class lessons on research methods, booktalks, using digital and print resources, and accessing job and career assistance through the library.  I consider students, families/caregivers, and faculty to be part of the school community; taking a holistic approach to outreach is essential because outreach to one part of the community informs the whole.

I’ve been in my current role as School Outreach Librarian for only six months, but previously I was a Young Adult Librarian at Brooklyn Public Library’s New Lots branch in East New York.  My time there helped prepare me for school outreach, especially because I still work within that same and surrounding neighborhoods.  I love to build partnerships with other departments internally, as well as outside organizations.  While at New Lots, I hosted The Octavia Project’s inaugural free month-long summer workshop for young women (including trans*, genderfluid, and questioning folks, etc.) ages 13-18 that focused on STEAM skill-building.  I also programmed regular weekly visits from Protecting the East, (a project within the CBO, United Community Centers), that does outreach surrounding HIV education and prevention, and sexual health generally, in addition to training peer educators.  One of the last connections I forged before leaving the branch was with a local family shelter who hosted a weekly drop-in “teen summit” to provide general support to teens in and out of the shelter.  I also put together a deposit collection of books that were delivered to the shelter as a temporary collection to be used by shelter residents.

  1. Describe a day in the life of you providing outreach.

The stock answer is true: there is no typical day.  I could be teaching in-class workshops, training teachers during their professional development period, and representing our team at parent/teacher conferences and education fairs, to name a few common occurrences.  Specifically, here are a few snapshots of things I could be doing on any given day to provide outreach to teens:  visiting a non-secure juvenile detention facility to give a one-on-one consultation to a student who will soon be re-entering the community so he knows about the resources and services that Brooklyn Public Library can offer him; designing a workshop on comics and storytelling for middle schoolers with Interference Archive, for Cypress Hills Community School’s annual Write to Read Day; hosting a professional development workshop for educators on teaching LGBTQIA+ topics in the classroom and incorporating them into the school community.

  1. What resources would you recommend for someone new to outreach to look for ideas for inspiration as well as best practices?

The best way to learn about outreach is to jump in and do outreach.  But, there are certainly some great resources on which I rely.  Media scholar, danah boyd’s, blog and her book It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens are essential reading for anyone working with teens.  At the Intersections: A Collaborative Resource on LGBTQ Youth Homelessness report shines a light on the connection between youth homelessness and teens’ personal identities.  Finally, half of doing outreach is being knowledgeable about available resources and how they can be accessed, empowering teens by letting them know their individual rights and how to be their own advocates.  The US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights website is a go-to resource in this capacity. The department’s mission is “to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence through vigorous enforcement of civil rights in our nation’s schools.”  The site has information on students’ rights, as well as ways to file a discrimination/harassment complaint, and resources for community engagement.  They have materials in many languages.

  1. What are some of your favorite things you have heard from teens while providing outreach services?

One 9th grader told me my last name sounded like a creature from Harry Potter.  I received a thank you card from a reluctant reader who told me she was grateful for my recommendation of the graphic novel version of Coraline (by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Craig Russell) because she doesn’t like to read but she now reads it every day, and she was excited that I was able to determine what kind of book she would like to read based on her interests.  Many teens often tell me they had no idea the library had more than just books, and that always makes me feel like I’m doing my job.

bookriot_bkmatch_crop (3)


Welcome to the second in YALSA’s new monthly professional learning series. Each month we’ll highlight a topic and give readers the chance to learn about it as well as discuss it with others. Here’s how it works:

  • On the first of each month the YALSA Blog will post an overview of the topic of the month. That overview will include links to resources to read, watch, listen to, etc.
  • If you are interested in participating in the learning during the month, comment on the initial blog post to say something like, “yes, I’m in.”
  • Each week the facilitator of the topic – that’s me this month – will check-in with participants with a post that poses questions and helps to focus conversation on the topic.
  • Participants can converse with others about the topic by commenting on those posts.

We hope this is a low-stress way to learn something new or expand your knowledge on a topic. There is no pressure, just a desire to learn and discuss your learning.

Onto this month’s theme – Working with teens who may be at risk

In 2013 YALSA published the Future of Library Services For and With Teens: A Call to Action. That report, based on a year of research, prodded library staff working with teens to think differently about the teens they serve (and don’t serve) and think more broadly about who they are, where they are and what their needs may be.  Like the Future’s Report itself, this isn’t something that just happens, it takes time, conversations with your colleagues, really looking at your community and also thinking outside the box. 

The resources below should help you to begin thinking differently about your services for and with teens. It’s up to you what you read and/or watch. Pick and choose from the selections as a way to get started and to focus on what you think is most useful. You may make your way through them all, you may not. I’ve included some ideas of what to consider while you read or view so as to help provide context and focus.

Definition of “at risk youth” There are a lot of definitions of “at risk” youth and they can be loaded as well as sounding negative toward youth.  A broad definition can be that at risk teens can be at risk for not completing high school, may struggle socio economically, homeless, involved in drugs and/or alcohol, in foster care, court involved and each of these can put them at further risk and trauma.

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“Challenge yourself at #PLA2016 to be extraordinary because extraordinary libraries
create extraordinary communities.”  This was the theme for the bi-annual conference and it seemed to have genuinely expressed just that.

I began the conference by leading a preconference titled “Emerging Adults in Our Libraries: Who are They and Where do we Find Them?” and while the theme doesn’t specifically pertain to teen services I think a lot of teen librarians (and this was part of the impetus for the research for the presentation) will attest to the reality that this is something they see and think a lot about with serving teens; what happens to them in terms of services and programs after they “age out” of teen services?  This was a central focus of the research that myself and three other librarians embarked upon in 2015 by launching a nation wide survey into the work libraries are doing with and for emerging adults (ages 18-25/30).  The presentation at PLA introduced our research findings, had participants do an activity based on real life scenarios we heard from librarians with our research, participants shared out possible solutions and then an expert panel spoke about the work they are doing with emerging adults and their families as well.  Tomas Mejia, Director of Migrant Education at the Department of Education, Colorado, Clayton Gonzalez, Director of Programs, Urban Peak (a Denver, Colorado nonprofit that provides a full convergence of services for youth age 15 through 25 experiencing homelessness or at risk for becoming homeless) and Alberto Pellicer, Early Literacy Librarian, Denver Public Library.  A blog has been created that includes information from the preconference, articles about this population, outreach to this population, and opportunities for other librarians to share the work they are doing with this population.

The Bubbler @ Madison Public Libraries: A System-Wide Approach to Learning through Making was a great introduction into the work that Madison, Wisconsin Public Library is doing with and for peoples of all ages with technology programming, DIY programs, an artist in residence program and more.  The Bubbler is a program and not a specific space, the programs take place in the Central Library, the 7 branches, schools, juvenile justice centers and in the community.  There is a BIG focus on this kind of work with teens in schools, in the library and in the juvenile justice system and this is a library recognized effort.  Making Justice  is a community-based learning program for court-involved teens that includes weekly workshops and an artist-in-residence opportunity.  They are doing all kinds of programming opportunities for teens involved in the juvenile justice system with music programming, bringing in hand drawn animation stations and more.  The Bubbler is through an IMLS and NEA grants. Check out the Teen Bubbler site.

making justice

I visited the Denver Public Library and had a chance to see the Idea Lab in action during time for teens in the space; Monday through Friday 3:00-6:00 pm.  The SM Energy ideaLAB is a makerspace and digital media lab at the Central Library. With equipment and software, people can make videos, games, music, art, crafts, and more. The lab is free to anyone – no library card necessary!  Not too many barriers for teens to use the space in terms of not having a library card, no problem.

Sustainable Connected Learning for Youth focused on the initiative that the Cuyahoga County Library System has rolled out as a pilot in five locations with Connected Learning. The Information and Technology Department spearheaded this initiative by training staff in the focus areas of Connected Learning as well as provided ideas and worked with staff in identifying program ideas like STEAM programming, mentoring/social component and on the fly programming.

The article in School Library Journal in March 2016 introduced some of us to the work Denver Public Library is doing with asset mapping and I joined the session, Teen Asset Mapping: A Community Development Approach to Teen Services Expansion to learn more about what they are doing.  The Director of Denver Public Library and a staff consisting of librarians (one being the only Teen Librarian on the staff at DPL) and library associates worked tirelessly on this project beginning in 2013 with the idea that they weren’t providing teen services and wanted to but what would that look like in a city with a strong number of organizations that do provide teen services/programs.  The idea was to identify what the assets for teens are in Denver; this would be outside library organizations and find out what exactly they are doing with and for teens.  They developed questions and interviewed over 40 organizations and through the responses created a list of categories like juvenile justice system, teen parents, homeless youth, along with services/programs being provided.  What came out of the research was a better understanding of what services/programs there were in Denver and what services/programs weren’t being offered and what needs there may be.  The staff at DPL did an incredible amount of work on this and they are accessible; contact them through the link above as well as check out the resources they have available for more in depth information.