Tough Sell, Big Payoff

I was very intrigued this week by a research study we had to read for class. It is the report of a research study conducted by Denise E. Agosto and Sandra Hughes-Hassell concerning the information seeking behaviors of Urban Teens.  This is an issue near and dear to my heart because I am very interested in serving in an area that serves traditionally underserved groups (do I get a point for using served so many times in a sentence?)

The researchers came to many conclusions based on a qualitative study they did of inner-city teens in Philadelphia. The conclusion that struck me that most was "that services for teens need to support the entire person--the physical, cognitive, affective, and social being--yet many libraries still support primarily homework and pleasure reading needs" (Agosto and Hughes-Hassell 1401.)

This conclusion is more like a call to action.  Libraries need to provide services for teens beyond the realm of school assignments and reader's advisory.  I see so many stories about libraries holding "off-site" programming for adults (everything from reader's advisory at their local Starbucks, to speed dating!) but I rarely, if ever, see such programs for tweens or teens.  Libraries need to bring in people from healthcare organizations to banks with the idea of presenting information to tweens and teens in fun and non-school based platform.  The early and late stages of adolescents are a time when young people want to at least feel like the adults and institutions around them are supportive of the fact that they are doing all they can to learn how to function and have fulfilling lives outside the realm of parents and teachers.  Libraries are in an excellent place, they offer a safe location in which to provide services that tweens and teens not only need, but want.  When they continue to patronize libraries as adults--and support library funding as full-grown taxpayers--we will know that our efforts were worth it!


  1. When I worked at a small public library in Illinois many years ago, it always alarmed me how disrespectful some of the staff was towards the teens who hung out at the building. There was no teen library available at that time, only an adult and children' area, so the teens would often gather in the rotunda or stairwell, only to be kicked out for "loitering". I always felt sympathetic that we didn't have a space designed to benefit them, or services tailored for their needs, and instead sent them away. Unfortunately, I think have heard similar things from other librarians as well...

  2. After reading the Agosto and Hughes-Hassell piece, I often find myself returning to the diagram they included that shows the different teen 'selves' that librarians need to have in mind when they offer services in programs: the cognitive self, the creative self, the physical self, the reflective self, the emotional self, the social self, and the sexual self. I think it is a really valuable tool in evaluating a library's services. As you say, reader's advisory and homework help are really not going to cut it in serving the WHOLE teen. I am going to try to keep this little diagram in my head as I think through different programming ideas. You're right: it's a call to action! We can't assume other institutions and programs are meeting these critical information needs, it is the library's role to make sure it is proactively responding to youth info needs in all of their complexity.


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