Catherine Tong (seated at left), Bridget Kowalczyk (seated center), and Tiffany Bradford-Oldham (seated at right) speak about the speech and debate program they run at San José (Calif.) Public Library at the American Library Association's 2022 Annual Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C., on June 25. Photo by Rebecca Lomax/American Libraries.

Up for Debate

June 25, 2022

Since then, the library has offered six speech and debate series for grades 3–5 over Zoom, with each 12-week session focused on a different social justice topic, such as Black Lives Matter, anti-Asian sentiment, and climate change. Instructors from the program shared insights into their curriculum and success at “Inspiring the Next Generation to Champion … Continue reading Up for Debate


A photo of Jennifer Johnson, the author of June's Youth Matters column

In Training

June 1, 2022

That short exchange planted a seed in my mind: Could public libraries find ways to give kids hands-on library experience in a real-life work environment? If we are to foster learning in innovative ways, shouldn’t we offer opportunities for children who have an interest in libraries? Is this feasible on a library-wide scale? It turned … Continue reading In Training


A Career Path for Youth

May 2, 2022

An October 2021 webinar convened by the Public Library Association (PLA) and members of LibsWork, a national networking group focused on workforce and small business development, explored the ways in which libraries can support young people as they enter the workforce amid these ongoing challenges. Librarians and workforce development professionals shared how such programs are … Continue reading A Career Path for Youth


Youth Matters: Linda W. Braun

Achieving Relevance

May 2, 2022

On the surface, the staffers who decided to put up the banner most likely wanted people passing by to know that libraries provide a variety of services that go beyond checking out materials. Perhaps they also hoped that if members of the community knew more about these services, they would perceive the library as a … Continue reading Achieving Relevance


Prince George’s County (Md.) Memorial Library System partnered with pro soccer team D.C. United in 2020 to create Talon’s Workout Tapes. Here, midfielder Russell Canouse and his dog Lola demonstrate an exercise.

A Dream Team

January 3, 2022

What resulted was Talon’s Workout Tapes, a series of free exercise videos in English and Spanish that debuted in April 2020 on the library’s website. The videos, created by D.C. United’s communications department, featured the fan-favorite bird and team players demonstrating physical activities that kids and their families could do at home without any expensive … Continue reading A Dream Team


Youth Matters: Linda W. Braun

Crisis Averted

January 3, 2022

Consider, for example, a library activity in which teens can talk about the spaces that make them feel comfortable and can help design an area of the library that is just for them. In this exercise, teens articulate what evokes happiness and calm—two emotional states that are central to positive mental health—and are given an … Continue reading Crisis Averted


Brave Conversations: Kids' Club for Social Justice

The Value of Brave Conversations with Kids

June 26, 2021

“Kids are aware. The coverage of [these deaths] was nearly impossible to avoid and events like these continue to happen,” said CCPL Youth Services Librarian Katy Henderson at “Brave Conversations: Kids’ Club for Social Justice,” a June 25 program at the American Library Association’s 2021 Annual Conference and Exhibition Virtual. “We were already seeking out … Continue reading The Value of Brave Conversations with Kids


Youth Matters: Linda W. Braun

What Does It Take?

June 1, 2021

The pandemic has only reinforced questions youth services staffers have asked themselves before: What skills, knowledge, and mindsets are needed to serve young people and their caregivers in the modern age? And in particular, what does it take to reach nondominant youth and families? (That is, those who belong to historically marginalized groups and may … Continue reading What Does It Take?


Teen Librarians Talk Empowerment

November 11, 2020

This year’s symposium focused on partnerships, empowerment, and using YA literature to promote equity. At the Saturday, November 7 session “Our Teens Have a Voice: Methods in Planning and Executing a Youth Conference on Social Justice,” the two presenters—Erin Hoopes, branch manager of Philadelphia City Institute of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and Gabrielle Miller, … Continue reading Teen Librarians Talk Empowerment


Teens at San Francisco Public Library created Life in SF: Luck, Loss, Gain, a board game that explores inequity in their city. Photo: Dorcas Wong/San Francisco Public Library

The Missing Piece

November 2, 2020

In turn, each player’s social class determined their stakes in Life in SF: Luck, Loss, Gain, a Monopoly-esque game that simulates poverty and inequity in San Francisco, complete with properties and transit lines familiar to the group. Around the time the teens were developing the board game last year, San Francisco reported a nearly 7% … Continue reading The Missing Piece


Librarian's Library by Allison Escoto

Empower, Provide, Engage

November 2, 2020

  Social Justice and Activism in Libraries: Essays on Diversity and Change Edited by Su Epstein, Carol Smallwood, and Vera Gubnitskaia For a holistic look at the role libraries can play in the realm of social activism, Social Justice and Activism in Libraries is a comprehensive collection of essays that covers a range of issues—including … Continue reading Empower, Provide, Engage


Youth Matters: Linda W. Braun

From Reactive to Proactive

September 1, 2020

I noticed that youth library workers were, understandably, operating in reactive mode. But a quote from Bob Johansen, the author and futurist who introduced the VUCA Prime model in 2007, helped me realize this may not be the best method: “You have to be very clear where you’re going but very flexible in how you … Continue reading From Reactive to Proactive