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YALSA’s Call to Action!

It is a moral imperative for libraries to leverage their skills and resources to effect positive change and better the lives of millions of teens. In turn, libraries will be providing an invaluable service to their community and position themselves as an indispensable community resource.

Executive Summary: The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action YALSA/IMLS

Yesterday, YALSA released its The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action

It’s an important document.

The result of a yearlong national forum conducted by YALSA, with funding from the IMLS,  A Call to Action cuts across ALA divisions, to explicitly recognize libraries as the lifelines we know they can be and to articulate the critical roles libraries play in the lives of teens.

The report also recognizes seismic paradigm shifts:

The library can no longer be viewed as a quiet place to connect to physical content. Instead it needs to evolve into a place, physical and virtual, where individuals can learn how to connect and use all types of resources, from physical books to apps to experts in a local, regional, or national community. Libraries must leverage new technologies and become kitchens for “mixing resources” in order to empower teens to build skills, develop understanding, create and share, and overcome adversity. In addition to the impact of new technologies, the definition of literacy has expanded beyond the cognitive ability to read and write, to a recognition that literacy is a social act that involves basic modes of participating in the world. New research also points to a concept of connected learning, in which studies show that young people learn best when that learning is connected to their passion, desires, and interests.

A three-page chart (15-17) compares past and present service with envisioned future services.  The Executive Summary presents key points from that future column:

Space: a flexible physical library space that allows for teens to work on a variety of projects with each other and adult mentors to create and share content. Virtual spaces also allow for teens to connect with each other and with experts. Libraries recognize that teens need and want to make use of the entire library space or site, not just a designated teen area.
Programming: programs occur year-round, leverage the unique attributes of libraries, allow for teens to gain skills through exploration of their interests and measure outcomes in terms of knowledge gained or skills learned.
Staffing: Degreed library professionals focus on developing and managing teen services at the programmatic level, while face-to-face encounters are made up of a hybrid of staff and skilled volunteers who act as mentors, coaches, and connectors
Youth participation: is integrated throughout the teen services program and enables teens to provide both on-the-fly and structured feedback for the library staff. Teen participation is not limited to formally organized groups
Outreach:is on-going and occurs in order to identify the needs of teens in the community and then work with partners to alleviate those needs.
Policy: focuses on serving teens no matter where they are. The policies are flexible and easy to update in order to reflect changing needs
Professional development: Takes a whole library/whole school approach to planning, delivering and evaluating teen services. Investigates attributes and resources unique to libraries and identifies means for leveraging those to achieve library goals.

A Call to Action is a comprehensive framework for visioning and planning.  It is must reading for school and public youth services librarians.

If you’ll be in Philadelphia for ALA, check your schedule for discussions and briefings.

The report is Creative Commons licensed.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


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