It has been almost ten years since I would have been considered a young adult. Since that time, I have rarely had the chance to work with young adults in particular. I was looking forward to taking this course because of the disconnect that I felt I had between my own experiences and what teens might be going through today. During the first few weeks of this course I have learned that while time may have passed, a lot of the same problems I had a teenager still ring true today.
I have always loved reading and during my teenage years particularly, I would go to the library at least once a week to get books to read. While I enjoyed reading in my personal time, similar to that of the students interviewed in Kittle’s video, I almost never read the assigned readings in school (2010). I found it difficult to connect to the stories and it almost got to a point that if it was an assigned novel I would not even give the book a chance. This is the same problem that many students still continue to face, when they “do not have opportunities to hear their voices, concerns, and dreams in literature they are reading, they become disengaged” (Bull, 2012, p.62). Similar to my own experience, when pushed to read books teens have no attachments to, the library may be one of the few places they can turn to for encouragement to read purely for enjoyment.
I have learned that one of the most important components for a library, or the librarians who work with young adults, to encourage this population to read for enjoyment is to have a collection of materials that they will want to interact with. Collection development has been one of the main focuses in many of my courses in this program, it has been interesting to see how concepts I have previously learned are targeted towards young adult literature. Kittle has the philosophy that if teens were allowed to pick what they wanted to read, they would read more (2010). While I agree that reading for pleasure is important, librarians have to find a balance between materials that teens would choose to read and also provide access to the classics that students may eventually need. One way of encouraging this population to read those classics may be through offering these books as audiobooks, this allows access for all readers, no matter their reading level (Pattee, 2014). There has also been various adaptations of what is considered cannon young adult literature, these adaptations can introduce teens to the themes and plots of the stories and can lead to further interest in the originals.
Through our readings and discussions I have begun to see the possibilities of the all encompassing role that a library could play in the lives of young adults in the community. Libraries are moving past the perception that I had of them as a teenager, of only being a safe space to go to do homework or get books to read. While it can still be difficult to get teenagers to attend various programming because of this mentality, libraries are striving to provide teens with educational opportunities as well as social engagement (Kolderup, 2013). These opportunities are vastly necessary when “nearly 7,000 teens [are] dropping out of high school per day, and approximately 40% of high school graduates [are] not proficient in traditional literacy skills” (YALSA, 2014, p.30). Public libraries in particular have the opportunity to support teens in their communities by providing additional learning opportunities outside of school.
One idea that I am really excited about concerning possible learning opportunities in public libraries is connected learning (YALSA, 2014). This concept allows learners to use their personal interests to gain further educational and social knowledge. Connected learning can be done at libraries through makerspaces or arranging access to “skilled people around the world, either physically or digitally, to support teen needs by providing coaching, mentoring, and hands-on opportunities for learning” (p.10). One of the keys to connected learning is that the librarian will take a step back, instead of instructing or providing the information, they become co-learners along with their young adult users. Connected learning reminds me a lot of spiral teaching, it involves multiple disciplines and areas of education, allowing for a more cohesive learning experience.
Corey Wittig, the Digital Learning Developer and Teen Mentor at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh discusses how his library implements connected learning.
(Ateneus de Fabricació, 2015)
Just a little over a month into this course and I feel that I have already gained a lot of information about young adult patrons. The readings and class discussions have not only expanded my view of the possibilities for teen patron engagement at the library, but has inspired me about the potential my own library has moving into the future. There is a part of me that is slightly jealous of all the technological opportunities teens get to experience, but I always have the possibility of becoming a co-learner implementing connected learning at my own library.
Ateneus de Fabricació. (2015, April 29). Inspiring kids with connected learning – Corey Wittig [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/Q2VG643l7zA
Bull, K. (2012). Identifying obstacles and garnering support. In Hayn, J. & Kaplan, J. (2012). Teaching young adult literature today (pp. 61 – 77). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
graur razvan ionut. (2011, July 5). Woman reading a book [Stock photo]. Retrieved from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Reading_g400-Woman_Reading_A_Book_p48477.html
Kittle, P. (2010, March 15). Why students don’t read what’s assigned in class [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/gokm9RUr4ME
Kolderup, G. (2013, May 22). What I wish I knew about building teen services from scratch [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org
Pattee, A. (2014). Developing library collections for today’s young adults. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.
YALSA. (2014). The future of library services for and with teens: A call to action. Chicago: American Library Association.