Advocating for Teens

attentionWhat kind of services does your library provide for the teens in your community? Are you telling anyone about them, and the difference those services are making in the lives of the teens and the impact they are having on the community? Your advocacy efforts can help turn your community members into supporters of library services for teens!

According to the American Association for School Librarians, advocacy is the “on-going process of building partnerships so that others will act for and with you, turning passive support into educated action for the library program.”

To help you advocate for teen services, YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association, has prepared an Advocacy Toolkit. For effective advocacy, it recommends:

  • Identifying the right audience: In the case of libraries, this could be your library director, coworkers, board of trustees, school board, city council, county commission, or some other group or individual.
  • Having a persuasive message: Clearly state what you want and why it is important.
  • Including an individual or local perspective: Tell a brief story about how a program or service has helped teens, their families, schools and/or the community at large. Better yet, get teens and their parents to tell the stories about the importance of teen library services in their lives.

Advocacy doesn’t have to be time-consuming. The Toolkit offers suggested advocacy activities that can be completed in 5-30 minutes, such as:

  • Add key stakeholders like school board members and the mayor’s office to your library’s newsletter and holiday card mailing list. If you keep your name in front on them, it will be easier to approach them when you have a specific issue or problem.
  • Print out photos of successful events and mail them to key stakeholders with a brief note about how the program adds value to teen lives.
  • Watch for issues in the local news related to teens/libraries and write a letter to the editor that explains how the library supports teens and their families in the same area as those mentioned in the news story

The Toolkit points out that advocacy is not the same as marketing or lobbying. Whereas marketing stops at spreading the word about your programs, advocacy goes on to explain the value teens and the overall community are receiving as a result of your programming. While lobbying attempts to influence how someone will vote, advocacy aims to educate policymakers about issues that affect the lives of those in your community.

Included in the Toolkit are also tips for meeting with elected officials and inviting them to library events. For more information, check out YALSA’s Issue Brief or brochure.

How do you advocate for teens in your community? Share your stories in the comments!

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