3.3 Youth Librarians as Digital Media Mentors

Youth librarians can play a distinct role in helping young people navigate our digital world.1 A Youth Services Librarian at a rural western library described how digital media mentorship can support digital literacy “…particularly for kids who don’t have access elsewhere either because of economic reasons” or their “geographic location” . Emerging technology like 3D printers can be intimidating to people, and some youth may not try it if it looks challenging. This is where youth librarians can play a role.

A few ways that youth librarians are serving as mentors in the use of digital media include:

Forming relationships to support interests in STEM

Librarians and mentors work alongside youth on creative, digital media projects in learning lab or workshops. The people and relationships forged at the library are what encourage youth to learn and create with new technology.

“What really brings them back is the mentors and the relationships… What we always go back to is: Do they feel a sense of belonging in the space first?”

– Youth Services Coordinator at an urban midwestern library

In another example, librarians at the Kitsap Regional Public Library work closely with youth interested in STEM fields, acting as connectors to help youth access peer leaders, adult mentors, and community partners.2, 3, 4

Guiding youth through facilitation, collaboration, and trial and error

Most of the youth librarians we talked to discuss how their role as a digital media mentor is more about collaborating and working through problems together, rather than being a technology expert.

“If a teen comes to one of us and say ‘I want to do this thing’ and if none of us know how to do it, we sit down and we figure out how to do it together whether it be trying to find information in the book, looking up a tutorial on YouTube, reaching out to maybe another mentor or someone else in our life, who might know what’s going on.”

– Teen Librarian at a suburban northeast library

Braun and Vissner’s Ready to Code report outlines case studies of librarians as facilitators in learning with technology. For instance, a teen girl found the support and resources she needed to develop her own “Girls Just Wanna Compute” club in her local library.

Providing support for family uses of digital media

Youth librarians are helping families and youth to access, understand, and evaluate digital media. They may guide parents with teens and tweens in finding high-quality, age-appropriate digital media and answer parents’ questions about media use.1 Some libraries have created blogs with recommended educational and literacy apps for young people of all ages.5 To families and teens, a Youth Services Librarian at a rural western library curates audio books and digital magazine collections available on iPads. In addition, the library provides families with instruction and “access to the library Minecraft accounts… those are pretty costly so a lot of families can’t afford those.”

1: Haines, C., & Campbell, C. (2016). Becoming a Media Mentor: A Guide for Working with Children and Families. American Library Association.

2: Barnes, S. (2016). Grow a little. Young Adult Library Services, 2016(Fall).

3: Connected Libraries: Surveying the Current Landscape and Charting a Path to the Future, by Kelly M. Hoffman, Mega Subramaniam, Saba Kawas, Ligaya Scaff, & Katie Davis. ConnectedLib, 2016.

4: Make Do Share, Kitsap Regional Library.

5: Campbell, C., Haines, C., Koester, A., & Stoltz, D. (2015). Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth. American Library Association.