Guest Blogger

Thinking about Positive Youth Development at #PLA2022

After a career-empowering opening talk, and a 35 minute wait in the coffee line, I meandered into my first program of the day: Thane Benson’s Teens’ Perspective on Positive Youth Development. The room was bustling with librarians talking about Mo Willems earrings, awesome cat masks, and the varying sizes of our libraries. 

While Benson was the only presenter live and in-person in Portland, the presentation kicked off with recorded insight from some of the diverse teens on his Teen Advisory Board in Denver, Colorado. They all talked briefly about why they got involved with TAB, and what positive youth development meant to them, and while all made great points, one sentence really stuck out to me. 

One of the teens said that, for them, positive youth development was about “allowing me to discover myself.” That stuck with me, as a youth services librarian often grappling with teen behavior and finding the right program to entice them.  How could I tailor my work to be about allowing them to discover themselves, to grow, without prescribing a certain future for them? 

We broke into small groups a lot during this session—I was in a group with people from Kansas, Oregon, and Nevada—and we had some excellent, short conversations about what the different principles of positive youth development looks like in our current lives, and how we can be better at using them. These principles—strengths based, sustainable, collaborative, inclusive, and youth as partners—are great jumping off points when thinking about creating relationships with our teens and empowering them in library spaces. 

How will you ensure your next teen program is strengths based? How will you make it inclusive? How can you incorporate your teens as partners, and not just participants? And how can you use these principles in a way that allows the teens to discover themselves and who they want to be without feeling pushed down one path or another. It’s our role as librarians to give teens the resources to discover themselves and the space to do so—we don’t have to steer them down a particular path, and that can apply to our work with children of all ages. 

It’s not just teens discovering themselves—discovery starts so much younger. How can we focus on strengths based story times and youth as partners middle grade book clubs and collaborative arts and crafts programs? 

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

Guest conference blogger Aryssa Damron (she/her) is a children’s librarian with the District of Columbia Public Library system and a member of the ALSC membership committee. This is her first PLA, and she’s so excited to attend in person, and present in person on Thursday the 24th! Aryssa is looking forward to learning more about some of the great new books coming out this year and meeting other librarians from around the country. Her favorite snack is grapes and pepperjack cheese, always in the exact same bite.

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