4. Youth as Mentors

This section offers guidelines and prompts for designing a mentoring program that suits the needs of your youth community and library.

After completing this section, you will be able to...

  • Develop and support youth mentors at your library

Youth mentors can offer mutual benefits to both the library and to teens, including acquiring leadership skills and learning from the shared interactions with mentees. Within libraries, teens have helped each other prepare for college entrance exams, complete school projects, and experiment with new technologies.1 Some libraries with limited resources may have to accommodate a wide range of ages in their youth programming, making it difficult to provide a deep learning experience for the older or savvier participants. Teen volunteers who serve as mentors can help address this challenge by providing additional support.

After some initial training, youth can serve as volunteer assistants in library programs or as one-on-one technology help for patrons. As an academically-oriented opportunity, youth mentors can complete volunteer credits and develop leadership experience to demonstrate on college applications. For example, at the Kitsap Regional Library, teen interns play a key role and are “treated as leaders, not assistants.”2, 3 As mentors to other youth, teens receive feedback and learn from their peers.4 Friendships are forged, and they have the chance to meet people outside of their school or home settings.5

1: Safe Space and Shared Interests: YOUmedia Chicago as a Laboratory for Connected Learning, by Kiley Larson, Mizuko Ito, Eric Brown, Mike Hawkins, Nichole Pinkard, and Penny Sebring. DML Research Hub, 2013.

2: Connected Libraries: Surveying the Current Landscape and Charting a Path to the Future, p.13, by Kelly M. Hoffman, Mega Subramaniam, Saba Kawas, Ligaya Scaff, & Katie Davis. ConnectedLib, 2016.

3: Kitsap Regional Library

4: Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design, by Mizuko Ito, Kris Gutiérrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, and S. Craig Watkins. 2013.

5: Emery, M. (2016). A teen space made for career prep. Young Adult Library Services, 2016(2).