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 Kristy Gale, Young Adult Services Librarian at the Seattle Public Library, University Branch.

What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens?

  • I should first explain that while I am a teen services librarian, I focus a lot of my efforts on serving older young adults experiencing homelessness, as the U-District in Seattle (the neighborhood I work in) hosts a high number of these young adults. Some of them are teens, but the outreach and programming that I provide centers around young adults in their teens through age 26.
  • I’ve applied for and have been awarded ALA’s Great Stories Book Club grant for the past two years (the application for the 2017 grant is now live!). It’s an amazing reading and discussion program that targets underserved teen populations by providing three sets of books, intensive training, and book discussion guides and support materials. I work with the local alternative high school, and we formed a book club. We have monthly discussions using books that are relevant and engaging, giving teens the opportunity to talk about issues that impact their lives. We also have a guest speaker either representing a local service agency or an expert in a career field join us for the discussion. Afterward, the guest presenter shares information on the services and resources they provide or information about their career. When we read the graphic novel March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, we had a local comic book artist join us. When we read Something Like Hope by Goodman, we had a case manager that works with at-risk YA as our guest. Here’s a blog I’ve been using to document our book club meetings.
  • I do street outreach with the organization Teen Feed 1 – 2 times a month. Teen Feed provides case management, healthcare coordination, street outreach, and nightly meals for young adults ages: 13 – 25. I join a small team of staff and peer outreach interns and we meet youth and young adults in the streets, parks, and alleys where they spend most of their time. We make positive contacts with them on the streets, and offer socks, hygiene items, food, referrals to resources, and a relationship with a caring adult. I usually bring paperback book giveaways and flyers promoting the weekly young adult drop-in that I host at the library.


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