Small town public library life and library school topics of interest

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Teens Are People Too: Privacy Rules and the Teen Patron

We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted (American, point III). When the American Library Association crafted these words regarding patron confidentiality, they set a privacy standard that usually called to mind privacy standards for medical or legal professions, and they set that standard for ALL patrons, even those who are under eighteen. The issue of privacy in libraries has two parts: confidentiality concerning materials of interest to the patron and confidentiality of the patron’s library account information.

Teens in the library have the same privacy rights as adults when they seek information, even when asking for  information concerning difficult or controversial issues such as sexuality, drugs, the occult, or mental health. For the most part, it is fairly easy for library staff to wrap their minds around this area of privacy for teens since it is easy for them to put themselves in the teens’ place. Because staff would not want their own reading broadcast to the world at large, they can identify with the teen patron. The time when this does become an issue is when the staff member’s personal values conflict with the request for information. An example of this might be when a teen is asking for a title that has been banned such as Jay Asher’s controversial book Thirteen Reasons Why. This book deals with teen suicide and the reasons one of the characters in the book took her own life. Criticisms of it include: references to suicide, drugs, alcohol and smoking, and offensive language and sexually explicit text. Asher’s book is written in a way that the reader feels uncomfortable with and perhaps even complicit in the suicide by immersing the reader in the after effects of the death. Many people feel the book is inappropriate for the young adult age group for whom it was written, causing this book to be the third most banned book in 2012 (American, n.d.). When confronted with a young person asking for a title with so many potentially controversial topics included in it, a staff member might be disinclined to offer the book as an option; they might try to act in a parental rather than professional role. A solution to this problem is to provide an excellent training program for staff before they are faced with making these types of decisions and to continue that training throughout the staff member’s employment (Rubin, p. 1753). Staff must recognize, as stated by Hansen, that, “Patron confidentiality is a major component of ethical practice. An individual’s reading choices are confidential. The questions they ask, the reference sources they consult, the internet sites they visit, and the books they check out are all confidential” (Ethical, p.10).

A teen’s use of the public internet in the library is also confidential. Search histories and documents can be in danger of being viewed by future patrons who use that computer. At the Paso Robles City Library, unless staff receives a complaint about what the teen is viewing, he can access sites just as any adult user. Confidentiality is further maintained at the end of each day; when the computers shut down, they reset themselves, erasing any documents patrons may have created, and voiding any search history. Teens can request that staff reset the computer at the end of their session as well.

A more complicated  aspect of the teen privacy issue arises when information from the teen’s account is being requested. Usually for teens to open an account at the public library, they must have a parent or guardian sign paperwork saying that they will be responsible for charges incurred on the account. Once the parent has signed the teen up for the library account, the teen is free to use the library without the parent being present. This system usually works well, until a problem with the account arises. An example of this is when the parent who signed for the account becomes aware of charges (overdue or lost items usually) and visits the library to find out what is owed. Staff members often have difficulties with this issue; they take the position of the parent, believing that as the legal guardian of the teen, the parent should have full access to the account. This attitude flies in the face of ALA’s Library Bill of Rights which states, “A person’s right to use the library should not be denied or abridged because of…age.” (Hansen, Professional, para 4, point 5). Libraries have different ways of handling this type of request. At the Paso Robles City Library, I believe we have developed a fair plan that both recognizes the financial liability of the parent while still maintaining the confidentiality of the teen. If the parent either has the teen’s library card in hand or has the teen present with their school ID card, all information from the account can be given. Sometimes, though, the parent visits the library without either the teen or the library card present. Because the parent can be sent to a collection agency since they signed for the account as the responsible party, often the parent’s main concern is paying what is owed. We have allowed lead staff to access the patron’s record and have supplied the parent with the amount owed. Sometimes the parent wants to know the details of the charges, such as title information, and this is where we draw the line. Assuming the parent pays the charges (as is usually the case), we write a handwritten receipt for the transaction rather than a printout that would include title information. If the parent insists on knowing the details of the charges, we ask them to bring in the library card. There have been times when a teen is caught between two households (as in the case of a divorced family) where we have made the decision to open two library accounts for one teen (one with each signing parent’s address and other information) to make it easy for the parents to keep track of their responsibilities regarding their child.

Library records can be accessed by law enforcement agencies if there is a subpoena or warrant for the information. The most recent experience I had with this situation involved an officer from Florida working on a case of identity theft. He wanted to know what identification had been presented when a particular patron’s account had been opened (this example did not involve a teen account, but the procedure would be the same). The officer did not have a warrant or subpoena, so I had to turn down his request. Although I would have liked to have helped the officer with his case, because he had not acquired the proper documentation needed, he did not receive the information he requested.

The issue of privacy in the library can be a complicated one. Although the guidelines for staff behavior in enforcing patron confidentiality are clear and mostly simply worded, staff often let their personal beliefs override their professional behavior. This happens frequently when staff are working with young people (under 18) as it is easy for adults to want to guide them in a parental way rather than treating them the same as they would an adult. This can lead to breaches in confidentiality, a real problem for the agencies to which the library belongs. It is important that all staff be trained, and reminded of this training, throughout their employment with the library to avoid these breaches in confidentiality, particularly when assisting teens in their use of the library.


American Library Association. (2010). Intellectual freedom manual. Retrieved from http://www.ifmanual.org/codeethics

American Library Association. (n.d.). Frequently challenged books of the 21st century. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10

Hansen, D. (n.d.). Ethical issues and the information seeker. Retrieved from https://sjsu.instructure.com/courses/1117618/files/34242003/download?verifier=mc7nxBK5jp5knHCLvI1zuFdxYErpAHtYTuiFi8Gi&wrap=1

Hansen, D. (n.d.). Professional codes of ethics. Retrieved from https://sjsu.instructure.com/courses/1117618/files/34242012/download?verifier=8kUQ6JixZhAQlMmtdrLvCAAPcTeiP3OigzR98Ppw&wrap=1

Rubin, R. & Froehlich, T. J. (2010). Ethical aspects of library and information science. In Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences.  (pp. 1743-1755).




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College Bound Teen User Experiences

In my blog from September 29, I introduced two students, Jordan and Stephen, college bound teens from Paso Robles High School. Although they have rather different career goals, these two students both used similar sources when searching for information, namely the Internet, friends and family, and the Crimson, the high school newsmagazine. I will now look at how these teens approach the user experience and see how their user needs compare to the course literature authored by Bivens-Tatum, MacManus and Wu (et al), including a third student, Taylor Ellstrom, a bit of a statistical outlier in terms of his perspective and needs.

Seventeen-year-old senior classman Taylor Ellstrom is busy with five Advanced Placement classes and applying to four-year colleges. His top college choices are the University of California at Berkeley and Azuza Pacific University. He is interested in a biology degree, emphasizing cellular biology, specifically viruses. Being a creationist, he hopes to write about biology from a creationist’s perspective for a creation institute such as the Creation Studies Institute (http://www.creationstudies.org/). Taylor is active in the local Calvary Chapel Youth Group, and this past summer traveled to South America to help impoverished people there build new homes. He was on the city’s Youth Commission for two years, and plays flute as a hobby. Taylor has been a volunteer in our library’s Summer Teen Volunteer Program for several years.

Richard MacManus (2012), in writing about user experience, states that an elegant user interface, valuable results, fast start-up, consistency, and an ability to “revolutionize the way we do things” (It changes you, para. 1) are all essential features for a successful product. Jordan, Stephen, and Taylor all enjoy reading the school newsmagazine, a popular source that meets all of MacManus’s criteria for a positive user experience. They all remarked on the layout of the paper and how eye-catching it is (elegant user interface). This monthly publication is available in both hard copy and online (http://issuu.com/crimsonchronicle); all three interviewees read the hard copy; none mentioned the online version. I did access the online version for purposes of this assignment (although I, too, usually read the paper copy which comes in my local newspaper subscription), and I found the start-up to be fast and easy to access – just click on the issue and read away (fast start-up). Because the magazine is written by and about student life in Paso Robles, the value placed on the Crimson by each student was high; each student said the newsmagazine is read cover to cover (valuable results and consistency is presentation). Finally, the students all said that they have been inspired by feature articles on such tough topics as homelessness and the dangers of Raves. This is also their favorite way to receive everyday entertainment information when making decisions about what local events to attend (It changes you). No other source named by the students in our interviews received an equivalent amount of praise as did the Crimson.

Wayne Bivens-Tatum (2010) describes the ideal user interaction as having “ease (of use), familiarity, simplicity, and quality…in that order” (Sympathy for the user, para. 5). Although Bivens-Tatum was talking about interactions with library staff specifically, I believe his standards for an excellent user experience can apply to social media sites as well. In discussing social media sites with Stephen, Taylor and Jordan, the only site all three currently use is Facebook. These teens use Facebook mainly to follow the activities of friends and family and to share their own life experiences. Both Jordan and Stephen regularly use Facebook, and Taylor describes himself as an occasional user. They all described Facebook as something they could look at quickly between classes or when taking a quick break from homework. They found it easy to share information, comments on others’ postings, and add photos to their own postings. All the teens were very familiar with Facebook, which is not surprising since it started up about ten years ago when these students were in elementary school. The one area that Facebook did less well in Bivens-Tatum’s list of standards is in the area of quality (the least important factor). None of the students would consult Facebook for any serous research, finding the articles that circulate to be, as Taylor stated, “a bunch of videos of cat antics.” Because they all use the site to keep up with family and friends, it is possible, however, that for finding out what their friends are planning for the weekend, the site might be put to good use. When setting up these interviews, for example, I Facebook messaged both Jordan and Stephen which led to successful interview scheduling.

The main point of looking at user experience is, of course, to see how these teens and their peers are using the library and its resources. Jin Wu and others (2014) state that there are “three critical facets for designing student-focused library technology products: device ownership, awareness of software and technology, and willingness to use devices and software to interact with the library” (p.125). All three of these students had multiple technological tools to access the library including smart phones and home computers (both desk and laptop), so accessing the library’s online content is easy for any of these students. When asked if they use our online databases and downloadable eContent, Jordan and Stephen were surprised to find out that we have such things, and Taylor, although a library volunteer, did not think we would have anything that would be of use to him. These college-bound teens had no idea that we have databases with practice AP and SAT exams or that we have a Tuition Funding Source database to help them find money for college. They also were not aware that we have hundreds of downloadable classic ebooks that could be found on their college-prep reading lists. Clearly, our library needs to focus on making the teen population in our city aware of what we offer. Only when we find better ways to communicate what we have will we be able to encourage our college bound teens to access the library’s collections and services.

The teens I have interviewed have all been bright, enthusiastic, tech-savvy students. Our challenge continues to be finding new ways to reach out to let them know the library has free offerings for them, many of which can be accessed right from their home computer or smart phone.

Bivens-Tatum, W. (2010). Imagination, sympathy, and the user experience. Library Journal, 8. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2010/11/ljarchives/imagination-sympathy-and-the-user-experience/#_ 

MacManus, R. (2012, January 29). 5 signs of a great user experience [Web log post]. readwrite. Retrieved from http://readwrite.com/2012/01/29/5_signs_of_a_great_user_experience#awesm=~ ocL9VnevIGi9qB

Wu, J., Chatfield, A., Hughes, A., Kysh, L., & Rosenbloom, M. (2014). Measuring patrons’ technology habits: An evidence-based approach to tailoring library services. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 102(2), 125-129. Retrieved from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/ login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?irect=true&db=ofm&AN=95705185&site=ehost-live 

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Literature Review: College Bound Teens

Although it was not required to include this assignment as a blog posting, and although this is no longer formatted properly, I am finding it to be useful to have everything I write for class in one location.

College Bound Teens: A Literature Review

LIBR 200: Information Communities

Karen Christiansen

Ms. Ellen Greenblatt

San José State University

Fall, 2014


In my twenty-eight years of working as a librarian for the City of Paso Robles, I have taken pride in greatly improving service to our teen population. When I first began working in the Carnegie Library in the middle of the City Park, the teen fiction section of the library consisted of one sad range of hardback books, most of which appeared to be written in the 1970’s. Flash forward to today, our library is located in a beautiful modern facility, and we have a teen area that, although being awkwardly located, has more than doubled in size, containing fiction titles mostly written in the last ten years. I created our Graphics collection which is housed near the teen fiction section. We also now offer teen programming, including our popular Teen Summer Reading Program which I started in 2006, and a Summer Teen Volunteer Program which is an offshoot of “Club Teen,” a teen advisory board of sorts that I established in an effort to increase the teen presence in the library. Although I feel that I have made our library a welcoming place for teens, the facility is still not heavily used by teens, nor do our teen programs have high attendance. I believe that by researching this age group, particularly college bound teens, I will be able to get some new ideas for communicating our offerings to teens and inspire them to use the library more.

Review of Writings

Researching teens’ information behavior has proven to be something of a challenge as there is not a wealth of scholarly work on this topic. While there is quite a bit of information available on the information behavior of adults or children, there has been only “limited attention to adolescents.” (Agosto, 2011, Abstract, para. 1). Shari Lee (2014) also remarks on the “dearth of research that examines public library services to teens” (Abstract, para. 1) and also the mediocre quality of “several recently published books about teen library services” (Abstract, para. 1). Fortunately, there are professional organizations that focus on the state of public library service to teens, namely the Public Library Association (PLA) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). YALSA in particular has high-quality practical suggestions for inspiring teens to participate more frequently in their public library.

For the purposes of my research, I looked for a broad overview of teen information seeking, information about rural dwellers’ information searching and needs, how online resources are being used, and how the concept of library-as-place plays out when providing service to teens. The few scholarly resources I located were authored by professors in the field of Library and Information Science, with Denise Agosto being the preeminent source. YALSA provides a professional venue for Young Adult Librarians and other library staff to discuss various examples of what worked for them when serving teens. The PEW Research Center had current applicable data that is relevant as well. All the studies that led to the available research on teen library use were based on surveys and interviews with surprisingly small populations of students. Novotny’s (2004) protocol analysis study of online catalog usage was based on the information provided by eighteen students (p. 527), Becker’s (2009) study surveyed 47 students (p. 341), Harlan (2012) had a mere seven students in her study (p. 572), and even Agosto (2005) only interviewed 27 students in her seminal study of urban youth (p. 141).  Of the sources I consulted, only the PEW Research Center (2014) study consulted a large number of subjects, 6224, although admittedly these were subjects aged 16-29 (p. 5). The 2012 PLA Public Library Data Service survey received information from 1832 libraries (19% of public libraries in the United States and Canada), but this was data from librarians rather than from the teens themselves (Agosto, 2013, General findings, para. 1). For my own research, I hope to collect data from a larger population of local teens.

When researching general teen information seeking behavior, several commonalities are presented. The first of these is that teens use a wide variety of sources when seeking information including people they know, online sources, and television. Agosto (2005) notes that teenagers “identified people as their preferred information source,” (p. 162) but found that teens have “widespread negative perceptions of libraries and librarians,” (p. 161) so librarians are not likely to be consulted by information-seeking teens. This is further proven when we look at teen brain development as related by Evans (2014) who describes teen information seeking as a “need to use different pathways to completely different parts of the brain (from the underdeveloped frontal lobe cortex) when they react, decide, and interpret” (p. 12). By 2009, Becker found in his study that teens “unanimously chose Google” (p. 341) as their favorite source of information; this is perhaps indicative of the popularity of smart phones. Adding to teen use of technology is Bilal’s (as cited in Dresang, 2005) finding that “overall, children did not explore text-only sites often; (they) preferred sites with high visual content and short, simple textual content, and liked to see more animation and interactivity in the Internet” (p. 183). Even students in rural areas, who may have less access to technology, “used a variety of tools to create content” (Harlan, 2012, p. 572).

“Ease of use” is another common theme found in the literature about teen information behavior. In his article, “I Don’t Think, I Click,” Eric Novotny (2004) found that college student users of online public access catalogs (OPACs) searched at a rather rudimentary level, sticking “with phrases” (p. 528) and foregoing the use of Boolean searching and even the use of synonyms (p.529), coming to the conclusion that OPACs need to be designed to operate more in the manner of popular websites such as Amazon (p. 533). Becker (2009) remembers back to his own teenaged years when he consulted the almanac for information because “it was fast, easy to use, and at (his) fingertips,” (p. 342) demonstrating that “ease of use” is not a new concept. Cellular phones are the teens’ go-to media of choice because, according to Agosto (2005), they offer “the most convenient method of finding answers to their questions” (p. 150).

One area where the research demonstrated differing conclusions is in the perception of libraries as viewed by teens. In her 2005 study, Agosto found that libraries were seen as “dirty, unwelcoming, and unexciting” (p. 151) and teens rarely consulted librarians “because of negative past experiences” (p. 154). Islam and Ahmed (2012), when studying world-wide rural libraries, found that “public library services are largely inadequate and ineffective in rural areas as their collection and services do not always meet the needs of the local residents” (p. 144). Lee (2014) described a “disconnect between teens and library culture” with barriers to service such as “poorly designed teen spaces…unappealing teen websites (and) teens’ lack of knowledge regarding library programs, services and collections” (Disconnect between teens and libraries, para. 2-3). In spite of the academic research, the Pew Research Center data shows that teens aged 16-17 actually have a favorable impression of libraries, with 95% finding them “important because they promote literacy and a love of reading” (p. 26), 94% valuing the public library providing “free access to materials and resources” (p. 27), and 90% feeling that a public library “improves the quality of life in a community” (p. 28). It will be of interest to see on which side of this debate Paso Robles teens fall.

In looking for local solutions for our lack of teen participation in the library, I looked at the Paso Robles City Library’s mission statement which defines the library as a “place to discover, to learn, and to grow” (http://www.prcity.com/government/departments/library/library_ about.asp), and our local teens should not be left out of that goal. Teens need to have a sense of place just as other age groups do, and much of the research on teens’ use of libraries bears this out. Lisa Wemett (2008) posits that the smallest rural library can have a designated area for teens, even if it must be shared with other age groups depending on the time of day. She presents various ways of separating/delineating the teen area with the use of color, lighting and furnishings. Evans (2014) also suggests that creating “ a friendly space for collaboration” (p. 13) will enhance the experience of teen information seekers. Agosto (2011) states that in addition to being an “information gateway,” the public library has two other purposes: to serve as “social interaction and entertainment spaces; and…beneficial physical environments” (Models of young adults’ information practices, para. 2).

Nearly all the articles cited in this review call for further studies to be completed regarding teens and their information seeking behavior in order to increase teens’ use of the library. Lee (2014) calls for further research to be done to bridge “the enduring gap in LIS literature” (Lack of research on teens and libraries, para. 1). In 2006, Agosto (as cited in Lee, 2014) is dismayed that “little youth-centered research exists that examines either the basic information-seeking behavior of teenagers, or reference and information services for young adults.” (Lack of research on teens and libraries, para. 3) Islam and Ahmed (2012) find that “more research is…needed to understand the information needs of rural dwellers in developed countries” (p. 144), showing the lack of research regarding the rural community as a whole. Clearly, there is demand for more information regarding the information needs of teens.


By researching the manner in which local college bound teens seek information for academic as well as everyday needs, I hope to find new ways to connect the library to them. In interviewing two local teens to test the waters, I found that they find information from many different sources, and they are not aware of the many services we offer including collections which can be accessed from home and teen programs here in the library. A survey of the larger high school college bound population will provide me with the ability to make changes to our service to this underserved population as well as find better ways to serve them in their information-seeking endeavors.


Agosto, D. E., & Hughes-Hassell, S. (2005). People, places, and questions: An investigation of the everyday life information-seeking behaviors of urban young adults. Library & Information Science Research, 27(2), 141–163. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2005.01.002

Agosto, D. E. (2012). Young Adults’ Information Behavior: What We Know So Far and Where We Need to Go From Here. Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, 2(1).

Agosto, D. E. (2013). The big picture of YA services: Analyzing the results of the 2012 PLA PLDS survey. Young Adult Library Services, 11(3), 13-18.

Becker, C. H. (2009). Student values and research: Are Millennials really changing the future of reference and research?. Journal of Library Administration, 49(4), 341-364.

Dresang, E. T. (2005). The information-seeking behavior of youth in the digital environment. Library Trends, 54(2), 178-196.

Evans, A. (2014). How understanding teen brain development can help improve YA reference services. Young Adult Library Services, 12(3), 12-14.

Harlan, M. A., Bruce, C., & Lupton, M. (2012). Teen content creators: Experiences of using information to learn. Library Trends, 60(3), 569-587.

Islam, M. S., & Ahmed, S. Z. (2012). The information needs and information-seeking behaviour of rural dwellers: A review of research. IFLA Journal, 38(2), 137-147. doi: 10.1177/0340035212444513

Lee, S. A. (2014). Beyond Books, Nooks, and Dirty Looks: The History and Evolution of Library Services to Teens in the United States. Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, 4(1).

Novotny, E. (2004). I don’t think I click: A protocol analysis study of use of a library online catalog in the Internet age. College & Research Libraries, 65(6), 525-537.

Pew Research Center (September 10, 2014). Younger Americans and public libraries: How those under 30 engage with libraries and think about libraries’ role in their lives and communities [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/09/10/ younger-americans-and-public-libraries/

Wemett, L. (2008). Teen space and the community’s living room: Incorporating teen areas into rural libraries. PNLA, 72(4), 13-18.

Annotated Bibliography

Agosto, D. E., & Hughes-Hassell, S. (2005). People, places, and questions: An investigation of the everyday life information-seeking behaviors of urban young adults. Library & Information Science Research, 27(2), 141–163. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2005.01.002

Denise E. Agosto, Associate Professor, College of Information Science and Technology at Drexel University and editor of the Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults and Sandra Hughes-Hassell, Professor, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, are well-qualified to research and discuss information habits of young adults. This scholarly, peer-reviewed study has been cited in over one hundred twenty-five other publications, making it one of the definitive articles on the subject. In their study, twenty-seven urban teens were assessed in writing and group interviews to determine how they find information in their everyday lives. They found that urban teens generally prefer to seek information from people such as peers, teachers, and parents rather than librarians, and in fact see libraries in an unfavorable light. Agosto and Hughes-Hassell hope to inspire public librarians to create a more welcoming environment for these students in five ways: (1) by finding out the types of assignments the students are being given in school so librarians can “support the students in their academic pursuits” (p.162), (2) make teens materials collections more visible to teens who do visit the library, (3) use media such as telephones and computers to reach out to the teen population, (4) find ways for librarians to become part of the network of people teens consult for information, and (5) provide off-site library service, bringing the library to the teen. Although this work was written nearly ten years ago, public libraries are still experiencing many of these same issues as the data in a recent PEW research study (Pew Research Center, 2014) shows. What are not taken into account are the roles smart phones and social media play in the information-seeking habits of teens in 2014.

Agosto, D. E. (2012). Young Adults’ Information Behavior: What We Know So Far and Where We Need to Go From Here. Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, 2(1).

Denise Agosto’s many written works about youth and their information seeking behaviors have been cited hundreds of times, making her one of the top scholars in her field. In this peer-reviewed article, Agosto touches on several aspects of teen information seeking, offering suggestions for improvement of service. She tells of several categories of information that teens regularly seek including popular culture, mental and physical health, relationships with peers and others, consumer and leisure interests, and academics including college and career information. She discusses the barriers that teens often face when seeking information in the library including: negative perceptions of libraries and librarians, and access issues similar to those faced by rural populations in the research of Islam and Ahmed (2012). Agosto discusses roles that public libraries can serve: “1) information gateways; 2) social interaction and entertainment spaces; and 3) beneficial physical environments.” Finally, the information behaviors of teens online are discussed. In each of these areas, Agosto offers a series of questions that should be asked if service is to improve.

Agosto, D. E. (2013). The big picture of YA services: Analyzing the results of the 2012 PLA PLDS survey. Young Adult Library Services, 11(3), 13-18.

The Public Library Association (PLA) has been surveying public libraries in the United States and Canada annually for nearly thirty years. Denise Agosto, Associate Professor in the College of Information Science and Technology at Drexel University and author of over one hundred written works on library service to children and teens, has evaluated the results of the 2012 survey in order to provide food for thought about the future of service to teens. Teens are still a somewhat underserved population in public libraries, with only one-third of all public libraries having a dedicated Young Adult specialist on staff, and many libraries, particularly small libraries, not having a separate space for their teen materials. While two-thirds of the libraries had designated space on their library webpages specifically for teens, under half had teen Facebook pages and under twenty percent used Twitter to communicate with their teen population. Most public libraries do have a good relationship with their local schools and community groups with teen members (like Girl Scouts). While this professional article provides useful recent data on all things “YA” the data presented by the PEW Research Center (2014) is both more current and more comprehensive.

Becker, C. H. (2009). Student values and research: Are Millennials really changing the future of reference and research?. Journal of Library Administration, 49(4), 341-364.

Charles Becker is the Library Director for the East Campus of Pima Community College. In his article for the peer-reviewed Journal of Library Administration, Becker explores how student values can influence research habits. Most Millennials, in his experience, start any search with Google because it is fast, easy, and usually provides a large number of results. When he discussed the importance of authority, most students did not feel this was important which Becker feels is a product of their age. “Choice” is one of the things Millennials value above all others, including “personalization, customization and instant gratification” (p.346). A second value is technology, but Becker’s peers have found that while students are adept at entertainment technology (social media, gaming, music, etc.), they are not so skilled at educational technology, in other words, they excel at the type of searching they need to do for everyday life information seeking as described by Agosto (2005), but may not be skilled at the type of technology skills they will need in the workforce. Becker also explored student library use, finding that they use the library because it is convenient and is conducive to studying. While Becker postulates on the value of libraries to Millennials (and beyond), he does not offer any good specific solutions to the problems of ease of use.

Dresang, E. T. (2005). The information-seeking behavior of youth in the digital environment. Library Trends, 54(2), 178-196.

Eliza Dresang, Professor in the College of Information at Florida State University, is most well-known for book Radical Change: Books for Youth in a Digital Age, which discusses how the reading experience for children is shifting due to interactive digital books and hypertext formats. In this peer-reviewed article, Dresang discusses how the theory of Radical Change affects the information-seeking behavior of youth. She postulates that because people seek answers in the easiest way possible and also have poorly developed information-seeking skills, they often miss out on information that would be of use to them. Dresang says that children adapt to technological radical change in information gathering fairly easily because they naturally read in a nonlinear manner so surfing the Internet is easy for them. A second aspect of information seeking that she notes is that children prefer to seek information in groups, looking for the social connection as well as the information being sought. Children become less marginalized in the online environment where they are allowed to freely express their opinions just as anyone else can. Youth also have access to more diverse subject matter. She states that brain research similar to that mentioned by Allyson Evans (2014) may shed even more light on the possibilities for youth seeking information.

Evans, A. (2014). How understanding teen brain development can help improve YA reference services. Young Adult Library Services, 12(3), 12-14.

In this brief but compelling professional article, Allyson Evans, YA Librarian and Manager of the YA Department at the Waldorf West Branch of the Charles County Public Library in Waldorf, Maryland, discusses how the brain development of teens affects their ability to access information. She explains that teens tend to rely on the amygdala of their brains because the frontal lobe is less developed, causing them to feel less secure and finding neutral or ambiguous communication to be perceived as negative or threatening. Evans then provides a synopsis of suggestions made during a discussion by members of YARS (Young Adult Reference Services Committee) at ALA Midwinter 2014. These suggestions fall into broad categories as outlined in YALSA’s Guidelines for Library Services to Teens (http://yalsa.ala.org/guidelines/ referenceguidelines.pdf) emphasizing the use of current technology being used by teens on a daily basis and providing information and materials appropriate to both educational and entertainment needs of teens. Like Novotny (2004), Evans recognizes that teens have both academic and leisure needs that could be met at the library, but Evans has access to the YALSA Guidelines that were adopted in March 2008 as a starting point.

Harlan, M. A., Bruce, C., & Lupton, M. (2012). Teen content creators: Experiences of using information to learn. Library Trends, 60(3), 569-587.

Mary Ann Harlan, Professor of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University, Christine Bruce, Professor at Queensland University of Technology, and Mandy Lupton, also of Queensland University of Technology, provide an excellent team for a discussion of where the Radical Change brought to light by Desang (2005) can lead. In this project, rural teen students were asked to use a variety of technological tools to help them learn to create and participate in an online community. They were asked to gather information and share it. “Serendipitous encounters” (p.573) occurred when students were inspired by information when they were not seeking it; this sometimes led them to seek more information on a topic. Focusing browsing was another way information was gathered; in this instance, students consciously look for information to inspire them, but are not looking for specific information. Direct Searching occurred when students needed to find specific information on a topic such as skill building to create content that matched their ideas. The students demonstrated particular thinking patterns as well including “choosing” a community in which to participate, “evaluating” the value of information based on its authority, “considering” information by collecting various samples of information to be inspired to make a particular thing, “planning” where the skills and tools to create were acquired, and “reflecting” where skills are refined in the creative process. Once the information is gathered, creating can occur. Teens “participated” in their chosen community by liking or commenting, “copied” techniques or skills they learned until they mastered them, “modeled” the technique to enhance what they liked about it, and finally “composed” their own creation.

Islam, M. S., & Ahmed, S. Z. (2012). The information needs and information-seeking behaviour of rural dwellers: A review of research. IFLA Journal, 38(2), 137-147. doi: 10.1177/0340035212444513

In this peer-reviewed literature review, Islam (University of Rajshahi) and Ahmed (University of Dhaka) examine how rural peoples in both developed and developing countries throughout the world find information. They discuss studies about the differences in the information resources available between urban and rural dwellers, and the different information needs these two groups have with a goal of identifying “some of the key issues and future research directions in this field” (p.138). Islam and Ahmed examine rural information needs in the United States, finding that information about practical topics such as parenting, job skills and personal finance and environmental concerns such a water quality and housing standards. Rural people in developed countries are concerned with the relevancy, timeliness, and quality of the information they receive. In developing countries, rural people have much more immediate needs for information: about food production (where does one buy seeds? What type of fertilizer should be used?), service professions such as clothing production, hair dressing, and construction trades, and health concerns (where is there safe drinking water? How does one prevent the flu?). They leave the reader with suggestions to provide better service to this population: design library service to meet specific needs of each community, provide the opportunity for the community to adopt new technologies, and recruit community volunteers to supplement staff support. While this literature review provided a general overview of studies of rural communities, it mainly focused on rural communities in developing countries, mainly in Asia, whose information needs are more at a subsistence level than most rural communities in the United States.

Lee, S. A. (2014). Beyond Books, Nooks, and Dirty Looks: The History and Evolution of Library Services to Teens in the United States. Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, 4(1).

Assistant Professor in Library and Information Science, St. John’s University, in this peer-reviewed article, Shari Lee focuses on the history of the public library as a place to better the lives of the underserved as exemplified by the Boston Public Library’s original goal of “providing young people with the opportunity to ‘carry on their education’”  and the Public Library Association’s recommendation that public libraries look at their community and build services that meet their needs. Lee provides a history also of public library’s service to youth, from not allowing children under a certain age to be admitted to the present day when we try to provide teens with what they want. Teens and libraries have suffered a disconnect between what teens want (homework help, friendly spaces where they can study and socialize, access to technology) and what they often get (unfriendly librarians, unwelcoming spaces). She concludes that public libraries are in a position to turn this situation around by focusing on the teen as a whole person, rather than on the traditional services provided. It is unfortunate that Lee did not include any specific ideas for improvement as Agosto (2005) did.

Novotny, E. (2004). I don’t think I click: A protocol analysis study of use of a library online catalog in the Internet age. College & Research Libraries, 65(6), 525-537.

Eric Novotny, Humanities Librarian at the Pennsylvania State University Libraries, performed a protocol analysis study to examine how college-aged students perform searches using a library online catalog. Students spoke out loud and were recorded as they conducted each step of a series of directed searches. Researchers evaluated the data collected with an eye toward improving their web screens for ease of use. Users were divided into two groups, novice and advanced (basically representing new and returning students), based on their prior experience with the online catalog. They were surprised to find that both groups were rather naïve in their searching skills, sticking with phrases with no Boolean operators. Not only did they fail to use Boolean searching, but they performed poorly at using synonyms to conduct another phrase search. Searchers also failed to explore the search screen for helpful hints, instead accomplishing their task as quickly as possible. This theme of the necessity of ease of use comes up over and over again in information seeking literature. Charles Becker (2009) and Eliza Dresang (2005) also explore this concept is their studies of teen information seeking. Where Novotny’s study differs is in the attitudes of his users; he found that these students already believed that they are proficient at searching (p.530). Also of interest in the protocol study is the concept of Internet searching versus library catalog searching: in Internet searching, typing in more information often gives the searcher a better result; in catalog searching, keywords and Boolean searching work best. In his study, Novotny found four areas for improvement of the online catalog: inclusion of summaries and tables of contents similar to looking at selections in Amazon, relevancy rankings and exact title matching to decrease the confusion experienced by searchers, “find related” suggestions similar to those in Amazon, and context-sensitive and interactive help so patrons can get help with their exact search (p.532-533). It is of interest to note that although this peer-reviewed article was written ten years ago, librarians are still struggling to have online catalogs operate in the same manner as popular websites such as Google or Amazon.

Pew Research Center (September 10, 2014). Younger Americans and public libraries: How those under 30 engage with libraries and think about libraries’ role in their lives and communities [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/09/10/younger-americans-and-public-libraries/

According to pewresearch.org, The Pew Research Center, a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, is an organization who provides “numbers, facts and trends shaping the world” (according to their masthead) by conducting public opinion polls, researching demographics, and the like. They do not take policy positions, preferring instead to let the results of their research speak for themselves. The two primary researchers for this data file are Kathryn Zickuhr, a graduate student and Associate Researcher for the Internet Project and Lee Rainie, Director of Internet, Science, and Technology Research. Rainie in particular is an expert in his field consulted by various news media about technology trends. Although this report is not peer-reviewed, it is scholarly in nature. This study gathers data about three groups of young adults, “high schoolers (ages 16-17)…college-aged (18-24)…and a third generation is 25-29” (p.1) and their information gathering habits, focusing on their use of technology and the library. Data was collected on reading habits of these groups as compared to older age groups as well as their relationship with their local public library. In looking at the potentially college-bound teen population the research showed some compelling data regarding teens’ use of the library with the majority of them having a library card (67%) and using the library within the past year (65%) (p.15). Although they are using the library, the majority of the high school age group are not very familiar with library services, something that my own interviews with rural college-bound teens confirms. Unlike in the Agosto findings from 2005, the Pew data finds that high schoolers find the library a “nice, pleasant space to be” (p.20). Zickuhr and Rainie also polled the under-30 group about the importance of library services and found that under half of those polled found many of the services to be important with one exception – that the library is a “quiet, safe place” (p.22). Although this work is current, the focus is on a large population – Americans under 30 years old – and the data may not apply to my much smaller focus group.

Wemett, L. (2008). Teen space and the community’s living room: Incorporating teen areas into rural libraries. PNLA, 72(4), 13-18.

Wemett serves as the Assistant Director for reference and teen Services at the Webster Public Library in New York, and here discusses the concept of the library as the “community’s living room,” meaning a place that has many uses and is available to all ages. She discusses how, especially for small rural libraries, the space must serve many purposes from gathering place for community members to children’s playroom, to home office, to program room. In looking at a way to fit teens into this picture, Wemett examines possible activities that would occur in the designated teen area including: home work space; a space with technology for listening, viewing, or reading; or a place to meet with friends (hang out). She discusses possible furnishings for the area as well as the use of light and color. To make the space truly a teen area, furniture may need to be arranged in a manner that helps establish a special “zone” with signage that stands out from the rest of the library space. Visual interest is also recommended and can be achieved with artwork or interactive displays such as magnetic poetry sets. A well-designed space for teens would definitely aide in changing the negative perception of libraries as noted by Agosto (2005), who had teens describe them as “dirty, unwelcoming, and unexciting” (p. 151) and Lee (2014) who noticed a disconnect between teens and libraries. It is not known if this article is peer-reviewed; according to their website (http://www.pnla.org/quarterly), PNLA Quarterly “publishes both peer-reviewed and high-quality non-peer-reviewed articles.”