Association Aims to Make Libraries Cooler to Teens

The Young Adult Library Services Association hopes to attract more teens to their local libraries with an approach deeply rooted in social media and digital content. Could it help to transform them from quiet study hubs to thriving digital spaces?

There once was a time when libraries frowned upon people using their mobile devices there. But now, they’re turning into digital-friendly spaces that encourage BYOD.

I would never want a teenager to pull down content after it’s posted.

In recent months, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a national organization made up of librarians and advocates dedicated to strengthening services for teens, has created a platform for brainstorming about how to integrate digital and social media learning spaces among the book collections.

In a month-long discussion series sponsored by the YALSA and the online-learning network Connected Learning, Chicago-based YOUMedia worked to start a conversation about how to better engage teens in libraries through social media learning spaces. These conversations took place on a number of social media outlets, including Twitter, Google+, and Livestream, reports the tech- and library-centric site The Digital Shift.

Among the ideas that emerged:

Creating designated learning spaces: The future of libraries relies on building designated learning spaces, like the five YOUMedia spaces in Chicago public libraries, that foster digital content production and social interaction among teens. The YOUMedia spaces aim to provide teens with content production tools that “allow them to stretch their imaginations and their digital media skills.”

Establishing media literacy: Encouraging teens to get creative with social media is only half of the learning needed; media literacy is the other half. Chris Shoemaker, director of the Free Reading Room in Rye, New York, works closely with students to increase their understanding of policies on privacy and fair use. He believes that stronger media literacy will help teens learn ways to build an identity online. Shoemaker  also helps them revise their posts before they share them. “I would never want a teenager to pull down content after it’s posted,” he told The Digital Shift.

The cool factor: The efforts by YALSA and YOUMedia focus on social media and digital learning, but as part of a bigger goal: making libraries appeal to the cool kids. “Brother Mike” Hawkins, associate director of YOUMedia, believes that encouraging teens to post status updates and pictures of themselves at the library will spark conversation among their friends and bring more teens to their local branches. He told The Digital Shift that “if [students] see something cool, and they see a place where adults care about them…they’re going to promote it more than we ever could.”

Building a platform for digital learning and media literacy has applications beyond teens and libraries. How is your association encouraging digital creativity?


Jasmine McGee

By Jasmine McGee

Jasmine McGee is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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