4.1 Supporting and Encouraging Youth Mentors

Some other ways that youth librarians have encouraged young people to become peer mentors in both informal and formal instances include:

Teens becoming mentors by “geeking out” with the library’s resources

“… He was a teen and then he graduated to what we call Geek Status and now he’s teaching other teens how to use the [recording] studio.”

— Teen Librarian at a suburban northeast library

Other libraries have been successful in training high school students to operate and teach technology in libraries studios which may include 3D printers, tablets, and design software. Youth librarians have encouraged teens to“geek out” by designing their own programming for other teens while librarian mentors guide them and offer feedback.1, 2, 3

Spaces and group activities that encourage peers to interact with each other

“The goal of something that you’re building or making or trying to finish is a great way to spur on interaction with teens who are often not interested in talking to other people… There’s a space where you can hang out, you don’t get kicked off the computer after a certain amount of time”

— Adult Librarian at an urban western library

When teens are encouraged to participate in group tasks and teams, they are more likely to engage in peer mentoring.

College student mentorship programs

Local colleges and universities can be a source of mentors for young people. For example, students receive volunteer experience or fulfill a class project and the libraries get tech-savvy mentors that are closer in age to their teen patrons. Many libraries have found support through college students serving as mentors. A youth librarian at an eastern library found that their mentorship program with the local college helped their youth community improve their school performance and prepare for college.

Teens helping to run workshops and programming

Teen volunteers recruited from the local high school helped with one library’s film festival, and the students also gained beneficial media internship experience. A librarian at an urban western library describes the teens’ experience: “…those interns were high school students who were essentially volunteers, but they were the ones who were given specific roles to help run all the workshops… That was a really fun program that really was able to bring in the technology and professionals… all in a single program.”

In another example, Houston Public Library’s summer volunteers were treated as staff and provided input in programming and the library’s offerings for teens.4

Teens designing their own internship goals and programming for other youth

“They’re collaborating and creating this program themselves, and I’m just kind of in the background.”

— Youth Services Coordinator at an urban midwestern library

A youth services coordinator described how her teen advisory board helped develop an Engineering and Physics Intro program for younger kids. By providing opportunities to give back as experts, teens were encouraged to engage in community service that suited their interests and inspired other teens to consider STEM fields. Teens also act as peer mentors in a coding workshop where teen girls “…code to hang out, get together, meet each other, and network.”

At the Kitsap Regional Library, teens have designed their own internships goals—like starting a book blog or facilitating a program for teens—and work with staff who mentor and guide them along the way.1, 5

Teens helping other kids through community partnerships

“It’s a crazy collaboration where the Parks and Rec paid for youth job corp kids to get paid to learn from the science museum on how to conduct classes in the library…“

— Youth Services Coordinator at an urban midwestern library

Youth librarians we talked to consistently described the mentoring opportunities available through community partners.

Teens sharing their stories and experiences with other teens

In a long term program, a librarian at a western, urban library invited young YouTube stars “….to come and speak about their experiences…”, giving the youth time to ask questions in a panel discussion. Other library initiatives, like the YOUmedia library model, have helped youth and mentors to collaborate on digital media projects in an out-of-school contexts using social and digital platforms.1, 6

1: 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.

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

3: Kitsap Regional Library

4: Stout, R. 2015. Hand in hand: Teens, tech, and community engagement. Young Adult Library Services, 2015(2), 21–24.

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

6: Zywica, Richards, & Gomez, 2013