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Promising Practices for Youth Services in Pennsylvania's Public Libraries

About the Promising Practices for Youth Services in Pennsylvania's Public Libraries

Promising Practices for Youth Services in Pennsylvania’s Public Libraries provides an overview of the skills and knowledge necessary for youth services professionals to provide excellent library service to youth from birth through age 18. This guide is intended to be a tool for both the staff providing services to youth and teens and the administrators leading the direction of library service.

The number of Pennsylvania libraries represents the rich diversity of communities across the Commonwealth.  Each and every library is different, ranging in size, structure, location, and staff.  The promising practices in this guide will make youth services professionals and library administrators aware of the many dimensions of services to youth, regardless of unique factors.  In addition, this widespread use of this guide encourages consistent service delivery to youth in all Pennsylvania libraries. 

Youth services professionals and their library administrators are encouraged to review this guide together as a tool for planning and to make joint decisions about each recommended practice for youth services.  Together, they should consider the priority of these practices for their library and community and develop goals to be accomplished in a specific timeline.  In order to support collaboration and information sharing, a series of onboarding discussion topics for library administrators to cover with youth services professionals are included in this guide.  It is important to note that each library should customize the process to its own situation. Practices which may be realistic for one library may not be realistic for another. 

In the first phase of work to create this resource, youth services professionals representing library districts and systems in Pennsylvania met annually to discuss mutual concerns and engaged in activities which will advance library services for youth. They decided that clear and consistent practices are necessary to describe excellent library youth services for Pennsylvania and engaged in brainstorming on its content. An advisory committee was charged with producing a guide and worked closely with a consultant to write a draft based on the collective input of the youth services library community and other state models. 

In the second phase of work to create this resource, the draft guide was examined by Youth Services District Consultants and Coordinators to review the guide with the collective knowledge gained during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Each of the practices were carefully reviewed through an equity, belonging, and inclusion lens to ensure that libraries are providing the most excellent and equitable library services to everyone in their communities.

Questions and comments can be sent to Corri Hines, School Age Services Advisor, and Heather Warren Smith, Early Childhood Services Advisor, Bureau of Library Development, Office of Commonwealth Libraries.

Youth services professionals are very busy people!  Every day, these dedicated staff provide services and resources to youth, families, and their caregivers.  In many cases, they are experts in understanding the needs of and building relationships with the people in their communities.  The purpose of this guide is to give youth services professionals a baseline structure of the work they do and how they contribute to excellent multidimensional library service. 

It is the role of the youth services professional to work closely with library administrators to set goals for youth services and to implement strategies to meet the needs of young people in their communities.

Library administrators pave the way for library service to grow within their communities while juggling many demands on their attention. A chief concern for library leadership roles is ensuring that library resources and services meet the needs of their communities. This guide will assist them in evaluating and advocating for youth services in their libraries and call attention to potential service of which they may have been previously unaware.

It is the role of the administrator to fit youth services goals into the library’s strategic plan and to provide the resources and support for youth services professionals to meet the agreed-on goals.

If you are in your first position as a youth services professional, you may feel overwhelmed. You may be wondering what is expected of you, what others in similar positions do, and how you can succeed.  Even if you are an experienced youth services professional, you may be asking these questions as you consider how to elevate your work.

In any case, you should know that you are not alone. Individuals and groups who contribute to the library ecosystem are ready and willing to help you succeed! 

  • Contact the youth services professionals in libraries near you.  Ask questions about how they serve their communities, observe their programs in action, and talk about resources available to you. 
  • Library systems and library districts often have youth services specialists who are valuable resources for you. Youth Services District Consultants and Coordinators provide guidance and advice for libraries of all sizes.  The system and/or the district may also have a professional collection of titles and programming resources for your use. 
  • The Pennsylvania Library Association and the American Library Association offer opportunities to support youth services professional development.  Conferences, special divisions and roundtables, and networking with professionals will provide you with a wealth of information that will support your understanding of promising practices and emerging trends.
  • The Office of Commonwealth Libraries Youth Services Advisory Team is ready and willing to support you in your library work.  The Office of Commonwealth Libraries routinely offers professional development, funding opportunities, and resources for libraries to build their youth services library programs.  In addition, the Early Childhood Services Advisor and the School Age Services Advisor are prepared to offer guidance and advice to youth services professionals and library administrators.