Thursday, January 14, 2016

Advocating for Teen Library Services

As a YA Librarian, it's my job to advocate for teen services. It's my job to make sure the teens have the same rights as everyone else in the library - not better and definitely not worse. Everyone needs to be treated equally and with Respect. No one wants to be frowned upon. No one wants to be ignored because of their age. No one wants to get up their courage and ask a question only to be bounced to the YA Librarian (even if the YA Librarian is nice.) Everyone in the library should have the same right and the same services and the same positive experiences.
My roundtable met this week and we talked about advocating. There are SO many different types of advocacy for teens.

There's advocating for teen services outside the library: at the schools, in the community, at various community organizations, and of course for tax payers (Especially around budget season)

But there's also advocating for teen services Inside the library:your co-workers, your director, the Friends' group, and the library board. It's hard helping them understand what a YA Librarian does and how it benefits the library. It's hard when you're making cookies or creating earrings or hosting a live action game. Not everyone will understand that you're making connection with teens, that you're forging a bond with them, or that your activities within the library are helping to shape teens. Because from the outside, it looks like a whole lot of fun (and it is) but it's also so much more than that.

When I was in library school, I never thought I'd have to prove that teens deserved more - but I did. Time and time again. I never thought that I would have to attempt to change the attitude of co-workers about teens - but I did.

Sometimes it worked. Often it didn't. Mostly I tried to make the librarian experience for teens easy, painless, and enjoyable.  It didn't always work, but it helps them to know that someone is on their side. Someone is interested in hearing about their day. Someone wants to talk about books with them. Someone wants to show off a new craft idea, or talk about the newest blockbuster movie, or just hang out for a few minutes. If you can be that person in a teen's library experience, that's the best thing ever.

Still it's not easy if you feel you have to fight for their rights all the time. But you do it because it's the right thing to do and it's your job.

I worked in two different libraries as the YA Librarian.  They were in different states and in different types of towns. but they had things in common. Not every library is the same, but often I hear similar stories from other librarian - not everyone wants the library to be a hang out for teens. Obviously I disagree. The library is the perfect place for teens. We have great programs, great books, and hopefully a great YA Librarian willing to chat for a few moments. We just need to make sure the teens know it too.

So how do you tell them how awesome you are? No really, how do you tell them...

A Few Things I've Done to Advocate for Teens:
I made a video with teens, many who were regular library users, those who worked at the library, or volunteers. They talked about why they enjoyed the library. I showed it around.

The school librarian filmed me talking about the summer reading program. She made the videos pop with graphics and my dorky moments. She had the schools play it for the younger kids moving into the teen program.

Using circulation statistics with fantastic visuals to advocate for more of the collection budget. (If your a librarian in CT - I hope you know about Tom Newman's graphs. If not, check them out.)

I prepared sound bites with statistics about programs or book circulation and shared them with library staff, school librarians, library board members, and other people who promoted the library. And it doesn't have to be just about teens. Talk up what you're co-workers are doing to. Every little bit helps.
(This is probably the best thing I could do when talking about teens in my community; it worked the best and there's always something new to talk about - a new program, summer reading numbers, or what you and a volunteer created) 
Around the Web:
Making a case for a YA section in your library from the Teen Services Underground blog.

YALSA has an Advocacy Toolkit - it's a few years old, but it's worth a look

I always thought remaking a song would be awesome, I haven't done it yet, but I think it showcases how awesome the library it's a great way to get your libraries name out there.

So, what's the best way you advocate for your teens? Let me know in the comments - every little bit of knowledge helps, especially during budget season. Let's create a discussion...

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