Teen Services Specialist Clinton-Macomb Public Library Clinton Township, Michigan
When visiting a library, teen patrons are often met with unengaged staff, lack of resources, or inconsistent service; they struggle to see themselves represented and are unlikely to feel ownership of their spaces in libraries. Many library staff see teens as disruptive or as barriers to other library users, but meeting the needs of teen patrons is just as important as meeting the needs of any other patron. In fact, neglecting to do so not only further alienates these teen patrons but will also likely devalue their view of the library both now and in the future. It is a misconception that teen behavioral challenges are their issue and that library staff cannot help to improve upon their attitudes and behavior through positive interactions and relationship building. By educating and empowering library staff on ways to address the unique challenges of serving teen patrons and inspiring them to advocate for teens inside the library, we can not only meet the needs of these patrons as teens, but also solidify the library as a relevant and indispensable resource as they navigate library services as teens into adulthood. Providing adequate service for teens is more than just “cool programs with food,” and teens often have many more obstacles staff must navigate before even reaching the kind of starting point we typically have with a child or adult patron. These obstacles stem from a variety of sources; from something as difficult as adverse childhood experiences to simply teenage brain growing pains. In order to successfully navigate these interactions, library staff need to be able to recognize these obstacles. This could be as simple as noticing a teen being loud because they’re feeling overlooked or overwhelmed to understanding some of the science behind what a teen brain is even capable of comprehending and executing, so that developmentally appropriate expectations can be applied. Mental and behavioral health expertise is not needed to succeed in most of these scenarios, but if needed, reaching out to partner with local community organizations who have this expertise is an excellent solution. These community partners can equip library staff with extra tools to help handle mental and behavioral health challenges via staff training or by personally interacting or engaging directly with teens. By the end of this presentation we expect to show that any library can be a safe and welcoming environment for all patrons, including teens, if library staff are willing to learn the tools to ensure equitable and inclusive services.
Upon completion, the participant will feel confident serving teens patrons and their unique needs in a library setting.
Upon completion, the participant will be able to better recognize the root of behaviors in teens due to issues such as trauma or based on developmental milestones.
Upon completion, the participant will be able to demonstrate their knowledge of providing equitable services to teens by facilitating a training for their fellow library staff.