This post was written by Amanda Barnhart. Amanda is a teen librarian for the Kansas City Mo. Public Library and began her career as an undefined teen library services member in 2003. She serves as the YALSA ALA Liaison.
By its very definition, the journey of a Continuous Learner is never complete. The skill attainment levels within YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff are set out vertically in order to illustrate how the initial skills build upon the next, much like Maslow’s hierarchy. Yet, the way in which we navigate through “developing, practicing and transforming” may not necessarily lead us straight down the list. Once we start becoming competent in one area, we more fully begin to understand how far we still have to go treading up and down along the scale as we deepen our knowledge of a topic.
A couple of years ago, I was awarded an LSTA grant to utilize tabletop games for the development of young adults’ job readiness skills. I established a small, four person learning cohort that was made up of both teen and children’s professionals within the Kansas City Mo. Public Library organization. At our branch libraries, we already had several teen groups that enjoyed video games. However, we wanted to offer a different type of gaming experience, one that more strongly connected with specific skills. The cohort met 1-2 times per month, for a couple of hours around these topics of Tabletop Games, job readiness skills and youth programs. Read More →
For over a year I’ve been thinking a lot about libraries and social emotional learning (SEL). In part because many school systems are developing curriculum (or integrating SEL into curriculum), in part because it’s something that library activities support – even if library staff don’t think of what they do in that way, and in part because the new Teen Services Competencies of Library Staff include Dispositions and Content Areas that strongly connect to SEL.
Researchers, educators, and policymakers alike have trouble pinning down exactly what’s included in this broad domain—and what isn’t. The popular press has highlighted a wide array of skills, such as grit, empathy, growth mindset, social skills, and more. At its core, SEL involves children’s ability to learn about and manage their own emotions and interactions in ways that benefit themselves and others, and that help children and youth succeed in schooling, the workplace, relationships, and citizenship.”
Think about that. Wouldn’t you say. that in order for youth to gain SEL skills they need adults in their lives who help them to “learn about and manage their own emotions and interactions in ways that benefit themselves and others, and that help children and youth succeed in schooling, the workplace, relationships, and citizenship?” These adults include library staff and teachers along with family members, caregivers, community members and so on. Read More →
On Sunday, February 11, at 8:30 AM, is a session titled, Incorporating the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff into LIS Curricula. This 90 minute session looks at how LIS educators and continuing education coordinators can leverage YALSA’s new Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff to better prepare future library employees to work for and with teens. In a participatory format attendees will have the chance to redesign and re-envision their very own youth and school library courses to support successful teen services skill development. Those who plan on attending are encouraged to bring a current syllabus, or lesson plan, to use in re-envisioning activities. This session will be facilitated by YALSA President and Professor at the University of North Carolina School of Information and Library Science, Sandra Hughes-Hassell, YALSA Board member and Associate Professor at the University of Maryland College of Information Studies, Mega Subramaniam, and YALSA CE Consultant, Linda W. Braun. Read More →
One of the topics you want to consider when reviewing the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff is what impact the document has on job descriptions within your organization. Does your job description reflect what’s included in the Competencies? Do your staff member’s job descriptions support what’s in the Competencies? Do your colleague’s job descriptions make it possible to maintain the ideas of the Competencies in your organization? As you ask yourself these questions perhaps you will realize that it’s time to re-envision the job descriptions in your institution to better reflect the Competencies.
Get started by reviewing job descriptions and asking questions like these:
What in the job description supports the dispositions outlined in the Competencies? Are there areas where it’s clear that the dispositions listed are required in order to perform the job successfully?
How do the tasks outlined in the job description reflect the skills and knowledge needed by library staff?
What opportunities does the job description provide for improving/leveling up within the different content areas of the Competencies?
“Library staff actively promote respect for and seek self-understanding of cultural diversity. They come to know and respect diverse cultural backgrounds and characteristics through interaction with individuals from diverse linguistic, cultural, socioeconomic, and other groups; and to fully integrate the culture of diverse groups into planning, implementing and evaluating culturally sustaining and bias-free programs, services, and workplaces. The development of complex, interconnected, and evolving cultural competencies on both personal and organizational levels requires dedication and cumulative and consistent work.”
Along with that introduction, the Developing Level of the content area includes the following two items for staff that are developing their Cultural Competency and Responsiveness skills:
Is aware of own cultural beliefs and practices
Recognizes barriers such as racism, ethnocentrism, classism, heterosexism, genderism, ableism, and other systems of discrimination and exclusion in the community and its institutions, including the library, and interrupts them by way of culturally competent services
The January YALSA webinar titled, Acknowledging the Elephant in the Library: Making Implicit Biases Explicit helped library staff understand what is required to gain skills in this area and ideas on how to work with colleagues, administration, and community members in advocating and leading in this work. In this session Nicole Cooke clearly addressed topics such as stereotypes and micro-aggressions and provided concrete examples of what these terms mean and the impact they have on library staff and customers. In this 13 minute YALSA Snack Break, a clip from the webinar, you can hear some of what Nicole covered.
In January 2017, YALSA’s first cohort as a part of the IMLS-funded Future Ready with the Library project got to work. Cohort members a part of this project (the 2nd is just starting and the 3rd will begin in November 2018) are working with community members and middle school youth and families to design, develop, and implement college and/or career readiness services for middle school youth. There are several parts of the work library staff participating in the Future Ready project are gaining skills related to and demonstrating the Teen Services Competencies for Library. Staff. For example:
Cohort members are gaining community engagement skills through projects that require them to learn about the work going on in their communities, identify gaps when it comes to middle school youth, and setting up listening meetings (in which the staff listen to a potential partner instead of telling what the library can do).
Learning how to have good conversations with young teens is key to project success. For example, members of the first cohort talked about the kinds of questions that are best to ask of middle schoolers in order to learn about their lives and interests. The question isn’t, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Instead positive interactions start with questions like, “what do you like to do in your spare time?” or “What something fun you did in the past week?” Read More →
When I started out as a librarian (35 years ago) much of the work I was involved in was about the things that I liked. I liked a certain type of book. Or, I liked a certain type of program. Or, I didn’t like a certain type of activity or book. The services I provided for the youth in the community in which I worked weren’t terrible. But, they were really just for those children and/or teens who had interests similar to my own. Can you imagine how many young people I didn’t support as a result? A lot. At that point I didn’t realize that library services require putting teens first. Focusing not on what the library staff thinks is good for teens to have access to or what library staff are interested in themselves, but instead looking at what teens in the community want and need. And, even if those wants and needs don’t match skills or interests of library staff finding ways to support them.
That’s why the phrases “teens first” or “putting teens first” that YALSA often uses are so important. It sends a message to everyone that it’s not about us. It’s about teens. As Kate McNair recently pointed out in her blog post, the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff do that very well. The Competencies are focused on categories that support learning about and supporting teen needs and interests first. Read More →
Giving teens the chance to develop leadership skills is a component of YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff. In the four minute audio recording below, hear how Rachel McDonald, Teen Services Librarian at the King County Library System (KCLS). gives teens the chance to lead programs and services. In her youth leadership work Rachel demonstrates how through competencies in areas such as Youth Engagement and Leadership, Cultural Competence and Responsiveness, Interactions with Teens, and Continuous Learning, youth have opportunities to engage in experiences that are connected to, and meaningful within, their own lives.
One teen described their experience as a part of the KCLS program in this way:
“Participating in planning the Teen Voices Summit gave me a chance to experience firsthand the behind the scenes of hosting a successful event. I was given an opportunity to work with my peers to form a meaningful event for people my age. I learned to have patience and discipline. It took over a year to plan this event and at some points, it felt very tedious. After many long days of planning seeing the event finally come to fruition made me feel very gratified. What I learned will translate to future successes at school and/or in a job because like planning an event these are very long processes and in order to successfully complete them I will need to attain discipline and have the virtue of patience.”
You can also watch a video with teens taking part in the KCLS programs and hear what they have to say about the value of the experience. Read More →
As you read the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff you may think to yourself, there are some things that I want to learn. Or, there are some areas that I want to get better at. One way to get started with that learning is with YALSA’s Snack Breaks. These videos, published monthly, are between 3 and 15 minutes long (well there might be a couple that are a bit longer) and cover a range of topics related to the new Competencies. Check out the Snack Break on Restorative Approaches to Behavior Management in Libraries.
Have you noticed? The name of YALSA’s new competencies doesn’t say “for teen services staff” or “for teen librarians.” The title is Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff. Why is this important? Because it brings to the fore the idea that all library staff need to think about what it takes to work successfully with teens. Think about it, isn’t it likely that staff in reference, circulation, children’s services, and other library departments will encounter teens in the library? If that’s true, those staff members need to be able to support teen needs from the perspective of the job that they do.
When thinking about connecting all library staff to the Competencies a good place to start is with the dispositions. Many of the attitudes and mindsets in this section of the Competencies are easily relatable to the work of all staff in the library. Take a look at the dispositions listed below. Are there any that you would say, “Oh, only those that work with teens need to have that disposition?”: Read More →