Investing in Relationships with Teens

I just read Reframing Adult-Youth Relationships: If Relationships are So Important, Why Doesn’t our Society Really Invest in Them? by Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, a Search Institute blog post, which describes a gap between how the public thinks about relationships with teens and what research shows.

There is “compelling evidence” that teen’s relationships with people outside their family “play vital roles in healing from trauma, resilience, academic learning, social-emotional development, and multiple areas of thriving.” There is “emerging evidence” that relationships are the key to effective teen programs.

Relationships with teens is critical, but society doesn’t really invest in them and many of our libraries don’t either. What can we do?

  • Reframe the conversation” so your colleagues and teens both see themselves as part of the solution to improving teen services.
  • Innovate, improve, and share relational practices.” Work with other community organizations and programs that serve teens in your community to “reinforce the multidimensionality of relationships;” try new ways of building relationships with teens; and discuss what works, doesn’t work, and get ideas from your fellow teen service providers.
  • Reimagine the role of technology, programs, and policies” and update them to fostering and strengthen relationships with teens. “How can our programs… be designed in ways that scaffold relationships?”


Search Institute. (2019). Relationships Gaps Chart [Diagram]. Retrieved from

Roehlkepartain, E. C. (2019, November 7). Reframing Adult-Youth Relationships [Web log post]. Retrieved from The Search Institute Blog.

Imposter Syndrome

Do you want to be one of those expert librarians who have written articles in American Libraries, presented a training at a YALSA Symposium, or even written a professional book published by ALA?

Do you want to be a library leader like those who have served on the actual Printz Award Committee, were recognized as a Mover & Shaker by Library Journal, or been elected YALSA President?

Do you want to change the field of librarianship so it is more inclusive, equitable, and accessible for diverse library staff and patrons–especially teens?

But… you don’t feel like an expert now, don’t think you’ve had enough experience yet, or don’t know where to start.

At a recent Renée Watson author talk, she told her story about transitioning from writer to paid and published author. Her message to teens (and adults!) was you are doing the real work now, building your skills and experiences. If you work hard to improve and grow, then you will be ready when you get your dream opportunity. Getting involved in OYAN is a great place to get started!

Don’t feel like an expert? Share anyway. by Sara Wachter-Boettcher, is a great, quick read with practical advice and perspective. Here are a few highlights:

  • You don’t have to know everything about a topic to give a talk about it… Or to write an article. Or be on a panel. Or present at a meetup.”
  • It’s often harder to learn from people with tons of expertise… The longer someone’s been doing something, the less likely they are to remember what it was like to learn how to do it for the first time.”
  • Don’t present to or write for the experts and leaders in the field.
  • Present or write about what would have helped you 6 months or a year ago when you “didn’t know a damn thing about this topic.” Present or write for the people who are “staring at the problem for the first time” and could really benefit from your recent experience, perspective, and work addressing the same problem.
  • “Different people come at a topic with a different experience and perspective to bring to the table…” Your experience, perspective, and style might be just what someone else needs to have their “ah-ha” learning moment.
  • Your work may be obvious to you, but “To everyone else, it [may be] a revelation—a new way of looking at challenges.” What seems straightforward in your everyday work, may seem innovative to someone else and help them improve their Teen Advisory Board, teen summer reading, collection, or workload planning.
  •  “We desperately need more voices, and different voices, if we want this industry to change — and those ideas could absolutely be yours.”

To learn more about getting involved in OYAN and start building your skills and experiences, contact the Chair at

Planning High-Quality STEM Programs

I recently read To Pin or Not to Pin? Choosing, Using, and Sharing High-Quality STEM Resources on the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). While the article discusses choosing STEM activities for children, it applies to teens too! I recommend reading the article to learn about when STEM isn’t really STEM and more. If you don’t have time, this is what I found to be most useful:

Questions to help you choose and use high-quality STEM resources (these are direct quotes from the article, with the word ‘teens’ replacing the word ‘children’):

  1. How meaningful is this activity to teens?
  2. What is there for teens to do? (i.e. is it a hands-on activity?)
  3. What is there for teens to figure out?
  4. What is there for teens to think about?
  5. What is there for teens to talk about?
  6. What opportunities are there for teens to collect and record data?
  7. What is there for teens to learn about?
  8. What opportunities are there for teens to share their findings with others? (super important for teens!)
  9. What opportunities are there to integrate language and literacy?
  10. What opportunities are there for teens to collaborate?


Peterson, S., Hoisington, C., Ashbrook, P., Dykstra Van Meeteren, R. G., Yoshizawa, S. A., Chilton, S., & Robinson, J. B. (2019, July). To Pin or Not to Pin? Choosing, Using, and Sharing High-Quality STEM Resources . Young Children, 74(3), Retrieved from

Diversity in Children’s Books 2018 Infographic

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center has updated their Diversity in Children’s Books infographic to reflect books published in 2018. I highly recommend taking 5 minutes to read Picture This: Diversity in Children’s Books 2018 Infographic by Sarah Park Dahlen and David Huyck.

In the article, you will find links to the graphic in PDF and JPG format, and different sizes. They also include the full citation you should use when using the graphic.

The article include a link to their 2015 version of the graphic; which is very interesting! The percentage of books depicting white characters decreased from 73.3% in 2015 to 50% in 2018. The biggest increase by far… Animals/Other increased from 12.5% in 2015 to 27% in 2018 while books depicting American Indians/First Nations characters increased from 0.9% in 2015 to 1% in 2018. Sadly, we’re still missing the mark!


Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: Retrieved from

Diversity Audits

Does this sound familiar: I want to do a diversity audit, I know I need to do one, but I…

  • Don’t have time
  • Don’t know where to start
  • Am overwhelmed by the thousands and thousands of materials in my YA collection
  • Identify with most of the dominate identities/cultures and I don’t know everything I should, I’ll miss things and make mistakes

If this sounds familiar, take 10-15 minutes to read Measuring Diversity in the Collection by Annabelle Mortensen. I just did and learned…

1. Start small: Identify one or two small, but high profile areas and just audit those materials. For example, only audit the books used in teen book club and videos used in teen movie nights last year.

2. Set a time limit: If the identity of the characters and authors isn’t clear, set a time limit for researching that information. The library featured in “Measuring Diversity in the Collection” set a time limit of 7-8 minutes. If they didn’t find the information they needed in 7-8 minutes, they marked the item as “unknown.”

3. Don’t recreate the wheel: Use the same tracking categories as the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, Measuring Diversity in the Collection (which is adapted from CCBC), or this School Library Journal blog post.

4. Use an easier tool: Create and add data via a Google Form rather than creating and working in a spreadsheet.

5. Embrace discomfort: “It’s awkward and a bit unsettling to be actively looking for details on someone’s race or gender, not to mention that the entire exercise was naturally subjective, susceptible to user bias and errors… Nonetheless, we reasoned that a flawed audit would still be better than no audit at all.

6. Set diversity goals: After you view the results of your diversity audit, set a few goals. “Each library will have different criteria for its diversity goals, whether they are tied to local demographics, strategic initiatives, or other considerations.” Measuring Diversity in the Collection has a few ideas about what your library can do to accomplish its goals.

If you want more detailed information on diversity audits, you might read the Complete YA Collection Diversity Audit series by Karen Jensen on the School Library Journal Blog.

How do we deal with the increased workload?

Summer reading = more patrons + more programs + more circulation + more marketing + + + + +

How do we deal with the increased workload?

Read Ways to Cope with an Increased Workload, a super short article (5 mins or less). You might learn a couple new-to-you strategies to try to deal with your increased workload this summer.

Here area few highlights from the article:

  • Let go of perfection… Good enough is good.” It’s hard for me to let go of perfection so I like to identify what should be as perfect as it can, and what really can be good enough. For example, the media blast that will be everywhere all summer ( as perfect as possible) -vs- my library’s table at the fair (good enough is good).
  • Identify time-wasters. Once you’re clear what they are, start reducing them.” Sometimes I get lost in certain tasks that I particularly enjoy (selecting books for anything) and they become time-wasters. I find that if I chunk these tasks together and set a timer  for how much time I want/need to spend on them, then I significantly  reduce time wasted.
  • Establish priorities… it is imperative to be clear on your priorities, because they may not be what you think they are.”

When my workload increases everything seems URGENT! and super important. When I stop, take a few breaths, calm down, and really think about it (often finding and reading over my original planning document)… my mind starts to work better. I realize, in my overwhelmed state, I prioritized a few things wrong and some things weren’t really as urgent or as important as I thought.

Ways to Cope with an Increased Workload has a great priority matrix I plan to try using. I think I’ll also write the priorities of my projects or work group directly above the chart so they are right in front of me, instead of having to dig through my files to find my planning document.


Mental Illness Narrative in YA Lit

The March 2019 issue of The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults includes an article about the representation of mental illness in young adult fiction by Diane Scrofano. I’m at the beginning of my learning on mental illness representation in literature. I understand that this article is not the only perspective and the suggested theory for reviewing mental illness in YA lit may not be the best theory. For me, it is a starting point and it may be for others too.

After reading the article, I had a couple of concerns. Trying to sort the plethora of YA novels of mental illness into only three story types seems like over simplifying something that is extremely complex and personal. I wonder if this degree of simplification could be emotionally harmful to folks experiencing mental illness and misleading to those who are not?

When Wonder by R.J. Palacio was published, I remember reading about the author’s story and concerns from readers that the main character’s role was to educate others about disfigurement, help others see people with disfigurements as “normal,” and make people without disfigurements feel comfortable. Whether or not we agree on this critique of Wonder specifically, it illustrates an important type of story that is by and/or for people not experiencing disfigurement, disability, or mental illness. Diane Scrofano doesn’t discuss this type of story in her article, and just touches on #OwnVoices a little bit. How are authors’ backgrounds taken into consideration in this theory? How are stereotypes and harmful tropes taken into consideration? Scrofano’s doesn’t explain her thinking enough for me to understand how she took these issues into consideration and how that thinking informed her theory.

On the other hand, I found learning about the three story types very helpful!

  1. Type 1 Novels: Restitution and Attempted Restitution

These types of stories focus on finding a cure, or figuring out how the character can get back to living how they did before the onset of mental illness. “While many novels feature characters in different stages of denial, other stories make a shift from denying the illness (or the need for help) into admitting but hiding the illness.”

  1. Type 2 Novels: Chaos

These types of stories focus on uncontrolled symptoms that can seem chaotic, typically before diagnosis. “While books about the onset and diagnosis of a mental illness are important, in reality life with mental illness plays out in a more complicated way than it would in a simple problem novel.”

  1. Type 3 Novels: Quest and Problematic Quest

These types of stories typically start with diagnosis and explore the journey to incorporation, emancipation, or recovery. “Novels that fall into this category will emphasize how characters rebuild their lives after the chaos and crisis stage”

Additionally, the author explored how all the types of novels may be helpful and harmful to teen readers. I recommend reading the article in full to get a broader and deeper understanding of disability narrative theory and how the Scrofano applies it to YA novels that include characters with mental illness. At least look at the chart on pages 10-12 that categorize about 50 YA novels of mental illness and the chart on page 6 that attempts to align a few disability narrative theories that may of particular interest.

Article citation:

Scrofano, D. (2019, March). Disability Narrative Theory and Young Adult Fiction of Mental Illness. The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, 10(1), Retrieved from

Community College


Earlier this year, I wrote about nontraditional and vocational post-high school options. The Spring 2019 edition of the office journal of the Young Adult Library Services Association is the community college issues.

While are several good articles worth reading I want to discuss “Next Steps: Preparing Teens for Growth and Success at Community College” by Camila Jenkin, (pages 19-4). This article provides a few idea about how teen librarians and high school librarians might support older high school students transition to community college specifically. However, a lot of the suggestions are relevant to any type of college or university experience and some are also relevant to teens who go to trade school or enter the workforce after high school.

  • Talk with teen about who and how to ask for help, providing real life examples.
  • Invite current college students to be on a panel to discuss their college experience; be sure to include more than one first-generation student.
  • Talk with teen about how they find information, including the Internet and Library of Congress classification system.
  • Foster growth mindset thinking. “Many teens have been socialized to believe that they bring nothing of value.” Help them realize the valuable experiences and skills that they bring any college class… or trade school or job.
  • Encourage teens to join a club, study group, or similar soon after they start college—it can be more difficult for community college students to develop a social/support network at college and feel part of college life.
  • Learn about the options your local community college provides to students for getting text books—they are very expensive—and share that information with teens. They need to know their options before they start school, including Fair Use copyright, so they know what to do the first week off college when they don’t have their books yet.

How to Communicate More Effectively About Teen Development

Busso, D., O’Neil, M., Down, L., & Gibbons, C. (2018). Amplifying positive frames: The shape of organizational discourse on adolescent development. Washington, DC: FrameWorks Institute.

New research from FrameWorks Institute indicates that organizations “working on and communicating about adolescent issues” produce informational materials that “rarely mention adolescent development.” These are missed opportunities to educate the public about teen development, thus perpetuating “unproductive patterns in public thinking” about teens and their behavior.

While there isn’t a lot of research on this topic and this study was fairly small, it still makes me wonder… How effectively are public libraries communicating about teens and the services we provide them?

The following are a few of the recommendations from the article that we may want to consider in library communications about our work with teens:

  • Include a brief explanation about part of the teen development process that is relevant to the library program/service/material you are communicating about
  • Emphasize how teen development, in the context of the library program/service/material, benefits the broader community
  • “Balance discussions between risk and opportunity;” mention both the positive influence of the library program/service/material and how they may reduce harm to some teens
  • “Amplify productive communications pattern;” when you provide information created by other organizations about teens make sure they are following these recommendations

As you think about applying these recommendations, I highly recommend reading pages 23-28 of Amplifying Positive Frames because they provide great examples of better, more effective communications about teen issues. For example:

“Adolescence is a time of significant, at times, rapid change in physical, neurobiological, and psychological development. Many of the changes that take place during this period of life, such as increases in risk-taking behavior or heightened sensitivity to social status and rewards, are adaptive parts of the development process; they are vital for the learning and change that takes place during this time of life. These features of adolescence are not and should not be viewed as inherently problematic.”

Perhaps you want to try a teen program like Will it Waffle, and you anticipate push-back from co-works and patron complaints of rowdy teens. You might consider providing information to co-workers, parents, and patrons  like:

Will it Waffle provides teens an opportunity to take risks and reap the rewards with their peers! Risk taking and socializing are important parts of teen development, vital to learning and becoming self-reliant. The library strives to be a positive influence that supports teens as they develop and become capable adults in our community.

Note: I am not suggesting that your or the library should promote the program to teens in this way!


Being Good Enough

 It’s Okay to Be Good and Not Great (Brad Stulberg, Oct. 16, 2018, Outside) is an important reminder that it’s okay not to be perfect and provides some helpful advice.

Here are my key takeaways from the article:

  • This [good enough] mindset improves confidence and releases pressure because you don’t always feel like you’re coming up short.
  • It also lessens the risk of injury—emotional and physical—since there isn’t a perceived need to put forth heroic efforts every day.
  • The result is more consistent performance that compounds over time.
  • Research shows that sustainable progress, in everything from diet to fitness to creativity, isn’t about being consistently great; it’s about being great at being consistent. It’s about being good enough over and over again.

Here is the advice from the article that I think is particularly relevant to teen librarians and teens:

  • Accept where you are
  • Be patient
  • Be present
  • Be vulnerable
  • Foster an “in-real-life” community