Saturday, January 8, 2011

Teen Services and the Whole Library Experience

This is the view from my hotel room. It's a wonder I ever leave it!

Yesterday was a full day of work and play at ALA. I attended the all-day YALSA institute on Teen Services and the Whole Library Experience. To tell the truth, I wasn't quite sure what this meant, but it sounded great - and lord knows I need all the training and tutorials on YA services that I can get. As it turned out, this was a primer on how to get all the other folks in your library branch and/or system to understand and buy into the idea of giving good service to teens. Although the workshop didn't offer all the features and speakers promised in the link above, it was worthwhile for some good nuggets of information.

There were several enthusiastic speakers, plus a long and wonderfully chatty luncheon at the Old Spaghetti Factory (with wine! but we would have had fun anyway), so some good tips. I was particularly taken with Sara Ryan's remarks on how to talk to non-YA librarians about teens. Here are my notes:

Sara Ryan (author of Empress of Nowhere; Teen Services Specialist at Multnomah) “Make it work”
Multnomah has a mandatory training for all staff on serving teens
Crucial to give other staff tools/resources that will make them feel more able/comfortable to give good service to teens, whether it’s reader’s advisory or homework assistance
Some good exercises to do in meetings/trainings with other departments
  • Remember the teen that you once were
  • Imagine a hypothetical teen and walk with him/her through a typical library experience
  • Ask: Why do teens need libraries? Why do libraries need teens?
  • Who are we trying to convince and what is the crucial info we want them to know about teens?
Strategies for convincing people:
  • Charts (to display stats on everything from circulation to teens in community)
Info about teen brain development
  • Info about adolescent development - ages and stages; no one ever operates at “developmental best” all the time
  • hot vs cold cognition - emotions affect our thought processes
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Surroundings - doing better in familiar, comfy surroundings
  • Practice makes perfect
  • Support - modeling, taking an interest, mentoring, working alongside
  • Info about development assets and how your programs contribute to them
  • Stories and anecdotes - take it from the scary and vague to the real and personal (how to measure the “invisible” work YA librarians do? the mentoring, the supporting)
  • Keep folder on ref desk to write down anecdotes
  • Ask teens to write up what the library means to them or what they like (during summer reading programs; when they ask for a recommendation, etc)
Penny Johnson, teen specialist at the Baraboo Public Library in WI, shared some strategies for effecting change in one's organization, focusing on how to share proposals and say "PLEASE:"
P=Proposals, not problems. L=Liaisons. E=Expertise A=Avoid arguments. S=Share success. E=Exemplary Excellence. My favorite of these are those two "E"s - my goal is not only to continue to grow and learn, but to encourage Children's and YA Librarians to be as fabulous as possible, with the ultimate goal of changing and improving the lives of our kids and teens. And if this makes LAPL shine like a beacon of light... awesome!

The strength of the workshop was that all the attendees came away with a renewed sense of purpose and a strengthened commitment to teen services. I'm lucky in that the Los Angeles Public Library administration, and in particular our director Martin Gomez, is extremely supportive of teen services, and in fact has made "helping students succeed" one of his three main service goals, with an emphasis on teens. But of course there are individuals throughout the library system who are not so wild about teens (including, perhaps, some of the more than 20 former adult librarians/new YA librarians who just began their new positions last week).

Some personal resolutions for 2011:
Be relentness. Never go off-message. Keep advocating for children and teens AND their librarians - within the library system, in our community, and beyond.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the summary. I hope that as a library administrator, I am a good supporter of services for teens in my library. But I enjoy having a reminder that I need to keep teens in mind when making decisions that I may not see as teen-related.