Career Strategies for Librarians
An Advocate for Teens: the Young Adult Librarian
by Dora Ho
In my career as a librarian, I feel the most fulfilling and challenging work I have so far experienced is
working with teenagers. In our library system, teens/or young adults are between the ages of 12 and 18.
Most Young Adult Librarians do not have previous formal training working with teens. It is important to
read and familiarize yourself with the body of literature written for this age group. Staying abreast of
media reviews in publications like VOYA, School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Booklist is important to
know what is current in the literature and materials. I am active in the Young Adult Reviewers of
Southern California (YAR) and find this membership to be particularly invaluable. In this group, Young
Adult Librarians come together to review and discuss materials currently published for teenagers.
Recently, manga (Japanese comics and graphic novels) has gained in popularity with teens, and it is
important to be aware of popular trends in teen materials in addition to knowing about homework
assignment material and literary classics.
Networking with colleagues is useful in finding out what has been useful in their experiences working
with teens. They will tell you about successful and unsuccessful activities in their libraries that might be
of help to you. Talk to teens in your library. They are forthcoming in sharing their interests, their likes and
dislikes. Talk to teens hanging out in the library, waiting for their parents to pick them up, or the ones
using the computers. I established a Teen Council/Teen Advisory Board in my branch library. I seek
their advice and input regarding materials selection, including books, magazines, videos, and music
CDs. We also do fun activities together. I established a Reading Theater Program where teens do
dramatic readings from a variety of plays and literary classics. At the beginning of program, many of the
teens were reluctant to participate because of shyness or problems with reading. As time passed, they
immersed themselves in the plot and characters and participation increased. The program has been
very successful in introducing and enhancing interest in library materials they might not have previously
When I started as a Young Adult Librarian, I found it difficult to get teens to attend programs in the library,
especially if the programs were of a serious nature. Programs like how to be a successful student,
improving your study habits, learning about college scholarships & grants, and SAT preparation, are
examples of hard to sell programs. I now do these kinds of library programs in conjunction with one of
my local school’s guidance or careers classes. This works out well. In addition to the more serious
programs, our library creates and sponsors a variety of programs of interest to teens, including a
Sidewalk Astronomy Program, Drawing Comics and Animation Workshops, and Wildlife on Wheels to
name a few. Recently, we went on a walking field trip to a nearby, newly completed subway station in our
community. They enjoyed learning about how it was built, and had the experience of seeing the finished
product before the general public. I try to strike a balance between serious and fun programs so teens
can have a well rounded experience in their library.
One of the major challenges I encounter as a teen advocate is the struggle to get a larger portion of the
materials budget and library space for the young adult section. Staffing the reference desk is a priority
and some times I cannot spend as much time as I would like working and interacting with teens.
However, if your branch manager is a teen advocate, they will make it possible for you to create a vision
and plan for library services to teens in your community and time to implement the plan.
Each time I find out that one of my students is going to college, it gives me a deep sense of satisfaction.
Many times, students ask me to write them reference letters. I love writing these letters because I know
this is going to enhance their chances of getting into college and ultimately better their lives and improve
their chances for a brighter future.
Nothing can compare with the rewards I receive working and interacting with teens in the library
environment. If you enjoy spending time with teens and you want to make a difference in young people’s
live, a career as a Young Adult Librarian might be the choice for you!
About the Author:
Dora Ho is Young Adult Librarian at the North Hollywood Regional Branch of the Los Angeles Public
Library. She received her M.L.S. from UCLA in 1992. She is a member of the Young Adult Reviewers of
Southern California, American Library Association, Young Adult Library Services Association, and is
President of the ALA New Members Round Table (2001-2002).
Article submitted March 2002
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necessarily represent the views of the LIScareer editors.