By Don Latham, Chair of the YALSA Research Committee
The YALSA Research Agenda 2012—2016, adopted in October 2011 by YALSA’s Board of Directors, supports the organization’s mission to “build the capacity of libraries and librarians to engage, serve and empower teens.”1 Specifically, the new research agenda helps facilitate Goal 2 of the Strategic Plan, which states, “YALSA is the recognized source for access to targeted research and best practices relating to teen and young adult library services.”2
Developed over a two-year period by the YALSA Research Committee, with input from YALSA members and constituencies, the research agenda identifies key areas of research on the information needs and preferences of young adults, both for today and for the next generation. The previous research agenda was published in 1994, so it was felt that the time for revisiting and re-envisioning was long overdue, this time with an eye toward developing a robust research agenda for the 21st century.
The Research Committee was charged with “survey[ing] the field to determine gaps in research and determine the questions that needed to be answered in order to fill those gaps” (emphasis in original).3 After collecting data and engaging in much thought and deliberation, the committee decided to organize the new agenda around four priority areas:
- Impact of Libraries on Young Adults
- Young Adult Reading and Resources
- Information Seeking Behaviors and Needs of Young Adults
- Informal and Formal Learning Environments and Young Adults
Few people would argue with the importance of these priority areas, but some might wonder why other key issues are not addressed–such as technology and young adults; intellectual freedom; cognitive, emotional, and physical development; information, media, and technology literacies; and the history of young adult services. ‘ In fact, these issues are addressed within specific research questions associated with the various priority areas. The committee felt that these admittedly important aspects of young adult services are present in all areas to a certain extent, so the decision was made to incorporate these across areas rather than “isolate” them by placing them in their own areas. Similarly, the committee developed the priority areas so as not to emphasize particular library types and/or age groups. Of course, some research questions may apply more directly to certain kinds of libraries or certain age groups, but the goal was to achieve maximum applicability and adaptability in the wording of the research questions associated with each priority area. ‘ In addition, the research areas and research questions reflect the inherently interdisciplinary nature of research on young adults, their information needs, and their information seeking behaviors. It is the hope of the Research Committee that the new agenda will inspire researchers in a variety of disciplines and settings–certainly practitioners and academics in the field of library and information science, but also researchers in education, psychology, sociology, public policy, information technology, and more.
The YALSA Research Agenda 2012—2016 is one of three initiatives that serve as the foundation for YALSA’s emphasis on research, the other two being the YALSA/VOYA/Henne Research Grant and the newly established Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults. The Research Committee will use the new agenda in updating the YALSA Research Bibliographies. Clearly, opportunities abound for using the new research agenda, and no doubt the agenda will be reviewed and modified as needed. As such, it should be seen as the “latest word” rather than the “last word” in YALSA’s ongoing effort to promote research as a crucial component in developing and providing effective information services for today’s young adults, as well as those of the next generation.
1. Young Adult Library Services Association, YALSA Research Agenda 2012—2016, (2011).
2. Young Adult Library Services Association. YALSA 2012—2014 Strategic Plan, (2011)/
3. Young Adult Library Services Association, YALSA Research Agenda 2012—2016, (2011).
Don Latham, Ph.D., is associate professor of library and information studies at Florida State University. He has been active in YALSA since 2004, has served as chair and/or member of the Research Committee, Legislation Committee, Organization and Bylaws Committee, and the Continuing Education Task Force, and is the author of “The Importance of Young Adult Services in LIS Curricula: A YALSA White Paper.”