Every Teen Deserves a Place in the Library (Winter 2014)

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image by NYCDOTMany teens find that they are categorized by their peers, friends, teachers, and even family members. They might find they are thought of as goth or jock or overachieving or underserved.

Being professionals serving teens means making sure to serve all teens no matter what category they place themselves in, or are placed in by others.

The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action, published by YALSA, offers a look into information focusing on how we need to serve all teens today and tomorrow. Some of the quotes that jumped out at me as highlighting this need to actively work towards serving as many teens as possible include:

  • “There are currently 74.2 million children under the age of eighteen in the united States; 46% of them are children of color.” p. 2
  • “Today more than one-fifth of America’s children are immigrants or children of immigrants.” p. 2
  • “The number of unemployed youth ages 16-24 is currently 22.7%, an all-time high.” p.2
  • “More than 1.3 million children and teens experience homelessness each year.” Family alcohol /drug abuse, physical/sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, and homosexuality are reasons for them leaving. p.2
  • “Issues like poverty, homelessness, failing schools, and bullying have physical and psychological ramifications for teens.” p. 4

The teens we see each day in the communities we serve have things happening in their lives that we may not be aware of. The teens we see every day may be in one of the categories mentioned above or fall into one of the areas covered in the quotes I list above. But, the beauty of our opportunity to work with teens is that we have the ability to make a difference in all teen’s lives, individually and collectively, no matter what category they fall into. YALSA’s Call to Action helps you to do this.

Additionally, Sarah Ludwig’s article Everyone Deserves a Place in the Library, published in the winter issue of YALS, gives pointers on how to be inclusive of all teens in the library. She is clear that we can sometimes forget that teens who seem to have it all need the library as much as those who are underserved. In her article, Ludwig describes an experience she had when a very popular teen in school who always seemed to have it together, broke down one day. Ludwig was quite surprised at the totally unexpected event. It can be hard to imagine teens as hurting or feeling something more than what we see on the surface. But, that is our job as professionals serving teens. Teens deserve to have people with open-minds and a vested interest in their lives and the things that affect them.

I urge you to read Ludwig’s article as well as YALSA’s Call to Action to gain more insights about what it truly means to serve all teens.

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