A Call to Action: the Future of Library Services to Young Adults: A National Forum Proposal

I. Assessment of Need

In an effort to ensure that young adults in the United States continue to receive relevant and necessary services and resources from their libraries, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) proposes a National Leadership Grant National Forum to hold a face-to-face summit and open, online town meetings under the umbrella title A Call to Action: the Future of Library Services to Young Adults. These events will bring together national stakeholders to develop a white paper and aggressive outreach efforts that focus on how young adult services in libraries must develop in order to meet the informational and recreational needs of 12-18 year olds. The summit will focus on three areas: 1) Research (what is known about the informational and recreational needs of young adults); 2) Programs and Services (what library programs need in place to support these needs); and 3) Resources (what resources are needed to enable school and public libraries to effectively meet the informational and recreational needs of contemporary young adults). A major focus will be on how the library community can collaborate with other organizations, including academic institutions and national non-profits and foundations, such as The Pew Internet & American Life Project and The MacArthur Foundation, in order to support the needs of young adults in each of the areas noted above.


Libraries are vital but challenged sources of support for the growing youth population in the United States [1]. Census data shows that in 2010 there were over 42 million young people aged 10 -19 (comprising 13.6% of the population) in the US.1 In 2010, half of the nation’s 14 - 18 year olds reported visiting a library to use a computer. The Opportunity for All study2 reported that youth ages 14-24 make up 25% of all library users, which makes them the largest group in study, and that youth were drawn to libraries to use computers, receive help with homework, socialize, and participate in programming. Similarly, school libraries are available to about 62% of youth enrolled in public schools3 and youth turn to their school libraries for recreational reading, learning support, and technology access. However, critical library resources are endangered by widespread economic impacts on public libraries4 5 and school libraries6 7.


Young adults are likely to suffer most in the absence of library services. Libraries are key to supporting social learning8; new literacies for learning and expression9 10 supplementing the strictures of centralized, classroom curriculum11 and gaining workplace preparedness. Additionally, preparing young adults for the workforce is a major concern in the U.S. In the last three decades, the skills required for young adults to succeed in the workforce have changed drastically, but the skills emphasized in schools have not kept up with these changes.12 13 This has led to a widespread concern that young adults lack the necessary skills for job success and are entering the workforce unprepared. Several recent studies including Workforce Preparation in the Context of Youth Development Organizations14 and Literacy Skills and Self-Views of Ability among First Year College Students15 have documented this skills gap. However, this concern is in sharp contrast with the skyrocketing occurrences of young adults, enabled by nearly ubiquitous access to the Internet, taking on the roles of self-initiated learners who create and share content.16 This dichotomy adds additional imperative to a community discussion in which all perspectives can be exchanged.


The 2008 discussion on the future of museum and libraries, hosted by IMLS, has left no doubt that libraries are changing and remain key instruments for providing important home-to-school connections and ensuring access to relevant programming and resources that will enable youth to be civically, economically, culturally, and intellectually engaged. Furthermore, young adults in the 21st century have needs that are different from those of other library users. However, discussions at the national level about young adults and libraries have not taken place.

While there have been conferences on the future of libraries, including types of libraries such as school libraries, as well as conferences focused on youth, there has never been a gathering that examined library services specifically for young adults, despite these requests for action:

  • In 1960 YASD sent delegates to a White House Conference on Youth

  • In 1979 the ALA Youth Caucus sent delegates to the White House Conference on Library and Information Services

  • In 2002 the White House hosted a conference on School Libraries

  • In 2003 Museums and Libraries Engaging America’s Youth final report was published

  • In 2008 the IMLS hosted a discussion on the future of museums and libraries

Additionally, young adult services in libraries are not a mature segment of librarianship. National guidelines for library service to young adults didn’t exist until 1966, and it wasn’t until 1998 that the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published its first national survey of YA services in public libraries.17

Clearly, the time is now for committed parties to support the Learning and Community goals of the IMLS Strategic Plan and create a nation of learners by equalizing and revolutionizing services to youth18, and investigate how these important needs can be met in a time of diminishing resources and rapid technological change and application. The proposed summit will enable the library community to identify and understand the steps they need to take in order to provide effective service to young adults who live in a fast moving and technologically based world.

2. National Impact & Intended Results

National Impact

The potential national impact of the proposed summit speaks to the need to modify existing or to develop new graduate school curricula and library services that support the needs of current and future young adult library users as well as to the strategic and research goals identified by IMLS and YALSA. We are in an age when libraries of all kinds play important roles in the academic, work, and life success of young adults. The momentum, personal and professional connections, outreach, and white paper produced as a result of the proposed project will provide librarians, educators, researchers, and other community stakeholders with a framework for ensuring that libraries provide timely, progressive, and excellent services to young adults in this constantly changing environment.

Librarians and library workers working with young adults will be able to use the materials disseminated as a result of this project as an advocacy tool. Information gathered via the summit and online town meetings along with the white paper will give these librarians talking points for presentations to administrators, elected officials and funders. Gaining funds for young adult services can be a challenge in the current community and economic climate. Providing those serving young adults in libraries with information on the best way to serve young adults in the early part of the 21st century will enable them to better speak up for the need for services to this important age group.

The findings from this project, as disseminated through the white paper, will also have an impact on library school curricula. The white paper will provide youth services faculty as well as faculty focused on the future of libraries, public libraries, and school libraries with a road map for training the next generation of librarians to serve young adults effectively. As a result these schools will have the best information available from researchers and practitioners to train their students to successfully work in libraries today and into the future.

Intended Results

The proposed summit will focus on three areas: Research, Programs and Services, and Resources. The outcome for the summit will be the development and dissemination of a white paper that addresses each area: Research, Programs & Services, and Resources. It is our intent that this white paper will act as a call to action for the library and education communities and beyond. The white paper will help YALSA to address each of the areas covered in the association’s Research Agenda (found online at http://bit.ly/AAyWas), adopted in October 2011, while also helping to meet IMLS’ strategic goals through the pursuit of the proposed research questions, as outlined in Table 1.


The outcomes of the summit will help libraries of all kinds develop effective services and resources for young adults as well as have the potential to inform graduate school curricula for the next five to ten years. Moreover, the summit will provide a model for engaging researchers and practitioners in productive dialogue and will establish a framework for the ongoing review and continual development of young adult services and resources.

Table 1. Alignment between IMLS Strategic Goals, YALSA Research Agenda Goals, Proposal Focus Areas, and Summit Topics

IMLS Strategic Goal

YALSA Research Agenda

Proposal Focus Area

Summit Topics

Strategic Goal 1: IMLS places the learner at the center and supports engaging experiences in libraries and museums that prepare people to be full participants in their local communities and our global society.

Priority Area 2: Young Adult Reading and Resources

Priority Area 3: Information Seeking Behaviors and Needs of Young Adults





• What are the information needs and behaviors of 21st century young adults?

• How can libraries support teen acquisition of 21st century learning skills?

• What barriers exist to the information seeking behaviors of today’s young adults and how might librarians address them?

• What special skills and/or knowledge are required of librarians to successfully support informal and formal learning opportunities?

Strategic Goal 2: IMLS promotes museums and libraries as strong community anchors that enhance civic engagement, cultural opportunities, and economic vitality.

Priority Area 1: Impact of Libraries on Young Adults

Priority Area 4: Informal and Formal Learning Environments and Young Adults


Programs and Services

• How do young adults create and enact literacies within and outside of school and public libraries?

• How can public libraries work with schools to develop connected informal and formal learning opportunities for young adults?

Strategic Goal 5: IMLS achieves excellence in public management and performs as a model organization through strategic alignment of IMLS resources and prioritization of programmatic activities, maximizing value for the American public.


Priority Area 1: Impact of Libraries on Young Adults

Priority Area 4: Informal and Formal Learning Environments and Young Adults


Programs and Services

• How have emerging technologies, such as mobile communication devices, social networking tools, and digital resources impacted the information seeking needs and behaviors of young adults and how might that impact inform the work of libraries?

• What is the impact of lack of access to new and emerging technologies in schools and libraries on teen successful and safe use of technology for informational and recreational purposes?

• What is required for libraries to support informal learning through the use of a variety of media tools?


3. Project Design & Evaluation Plan

The proposed project will take place in five phases.

Phase 1: Planning

The first phase of the project involves planning for the summit. Planning begins in October 2012 with the formation of an advisory board. The members of the advisory board include representatives from various stakeholder groups and bring expertise in understanding the literacy needs of young adults, serving diverse populations, developing and implementing school and public library programs for youth and young adults, writing and publishing for youth and young adults, and conducting research. Biographies of the advisory board members and letters indicating their willingness to serve on the advisory board can be found in the Supporting Documents 2 and 3. It is anticipated that the work of the advisory board will be conducted primarily through conference calls, email, and virtual meetings using tools such as Adobe Connect, Google+ Hangouts, SKYPE, and Google Docs. Invitations have been extended to the individuals listed below. Those with an asterisk have accepted the invitation as of Jan. 27. 2012.


  1. Carla Hayden, CEO, Enoch Pratt Library

  2. Hillias J. Martin, Assistant Director for Public Programs and Lifelong Learning, New York Public Library*

  3. Priscille Dando, High School Librarian, Fairfax County, VA*

  4. Denine Toor, Director, Community Initiatives, Dollar General Literacy Foundation

  5. An-Me Chung, Associate Director of Education The MacArthur Foundation*

  6. Larry Wilkner, Publisher at ProQuest*

  7. Erica Compton, Idaho Commission on Libraries, Teen Programming*

  8. Stacy Aldrich, California State Librarian*

  9. Anita Krishnamurthi, Director of STEM Policy, Afterschool Alliance

  10. Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project

  11. R.D. Lankes, Associate Professor, Syracuse University

  12. Kathy Ishizuka, Technology Editor, School Library Journal*

  13. Karen O’Brien, Director, ALA Office for Accreditation*

  14. Sandra Hughes-Hassell, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina*

  15. Don Latham, Associate Professor, Florida State University*


The project’s advisory board will begin meeting in October 2012. In these meetings, the board will work with the Summit facilitator, Maureen Sullivan (an organizational development consultant) to finalize the summit agenda, identify potential panel presenters, and select potential summit participants from each stakeholder group. In collaboration with the project staff, Maureen Sullivan will coordinate the content of the Summit event including contacting the keynote speakers and panel members; corresponding with potential attendees; making arrangements for meeting rooms and hotel accommodations; and creating the project website.

Phase 2: Face-to-Face Summit

The face-to-face summit will take place January 23 and 24, 2013, just prior to the American Library Association 2013 Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, Washington. For the summit to be most effective, it is imperative that as many stakeholder groups be represented at the Summit as possible. Along with advisory board members approximately 20 other members of the library, education and stakeholder community will be invited to attend the Summit. Those included in this invitation are faculty at schools of library and information science and schools of education, front-line school and public library staff, researchers, state library agency youth consultants, those who focus on workforce development, those involved in educational programs such as Badges for Lifelong Learning, and individuals from organizations such as the National Afterschool Association and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The advisory board will develop and use criteria to identify the 20 invitees. Along with the invitees and advisory board members, approximately 15 slots will be available for applicants to the program. YALSA will implement a marketing plan to advertise the summit and seek applications from stakeholders and library workers who are eager to participate and who would have something unique to contribute to the process. The project staff will develop the application and the advisory board will vet applicants and select those who will attend. A stipend will be provided to advisory board members, invitees and accepted applicants who show a need for financial support in order to attend.

The summit will be a working meeting. As the tentative summit agenda illustrates in Table 2, the participants will be divided into working groups and will engage in facilitated discussions. The face-to-face summit facilitator, Maureen Sullivan, will be assisted by selected YALSA members who will serve as facilitators for the working groups’ discussions.

The summit will include presentations by those in the fields of adolescent development; young adult library services; education; information; and recreational needs of young adults. These presentations will help set the stage for the small group discussions that will follow each. A representative panel of experts and speakers will be solicited by the advisory board that reflects innovative ideas on young adult research, resources, and programs and services. The names provided in the table are representative of those who will be invited.


Table 2. Tentative Summit Agenda




Jan. 28, 2013

AM Focus Area: Research


Why do young adults need libraries?


What do we know about teen needs?


PM Focus Areas: Research & Programs and Services




10:00 to 10:30


11:00 to noon






Noon to 2:00


2:00 to 4:00


4:00 to 4:30


4:30 to 5:30


7:00 to 9:00

Welcome, breakfast, keynote George Needham, Vice President, Global & Regional Councils OCLC



Panel (proposed participants: Nichole Pinkard, Program Founder, Visiting Associate Professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University; Mary Vermeer Andringa CEO of Vermeer Corp. Mizuko Ito, Associate Researcher at the Humanities Research Institute at the University of California, Irvine)




Working Groups




Reporting Out


Dinner, Summary of Progress, Goals for Next Day

Day 2 (Jan. 29, 2013)


AM Focus Areas: Program and Services & Resources


How do we determine what library services to/for young adults should like for the foreseeable future?


PM Focus Areas: Resources & Research

9:00 to 10:00



10:00 to Noon


Noon to 2:00


2:00 to 3:00


3:00 to 4:30


4:30 to 5:30


5:30 - 6:00


Proposed Keynote Speaker: Mark Furman, Mozilla Foundation



Working Groups (Facilitated Discussions) & Lunch




Proposed Keynote: John Palfrey Center for Internet and Society at Harvard


Working Groups (Facilitated Discussions)


Large Group Discussion—Working Groups Report Out


Closing Comments/Next Steps


Phase 3: Online Town Hall Meetings

In order to provide more opportunities for members of the young adult library services community, young adults, and stakeholders to participate in planning the future of young adult library services, a series of town hall meetings will be held in the spring of 2013. The topics and focus of each meeting will be determined by the outcomes of the face-to-face summit. Educational Technology Consultant Linda W. Braun will facilitate these online meetings and both will work with the advisory board to develop the framework for each session. By waiting to plan the focus of each town hall meeting, the advisory board and the consultant will be able to focus directly on the questions and needs brought to the fore by librarians and stakeholders in Seattle.

The open, online town hall meetings will take place using software such as Adobe Connect, which is already being used by YALSA. YALSA members will be enlisted to synchronously post information from the meetings on Twitter and Facebook in order to bring in discussion from those not able to attend and who make use of social media for professional learning.

Following each town hall meeting conversations will be posted on the project web site. Those who can not attend the meetings but would like to have a voice in the project will have another opportunity to comment asynchronously via this project website.

Young adults will be recruited from YALSA members’ teen advisory boards to participate in the town hall meetings in order to provide their perspective on the information and recreational needs of today’s young adults. Public and school librarian participants will be asked to help identify teen participants. In addition, YALSA members will assist with the town hall meetings by tweeting during the meetings, taking notes, and providing summaries of the discussions from each meeting.

Phase 4: White Paper Development and Feedback

The summit and town meetings will be fully documented. The facilitators, Maureen Sullivan and Linda W. Braun will take notes throughout the sessions. Sullivan and Braun will compile findings from the sessions and submit them to the project team. Keynotes and panels will be recorded, and during the summit the advisory board will meet at the end of each day to review the ideas, questions, etc., that have been generated and to identify gaps that need to be addressed.

Once all materials from the summit and online town hall meetings have been gathered, the YALSA Research Committee in collaboration with the Editor of the Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults will draft the white paper. The draft will be sent to each member of the project staff and advisory board for their review and comment. Following comment and revision from the project staff and the advisory board, a revised draft of the white paper will be distributed for public comment by the library and education communities and key stakeholders. The draft will be posted on the project website and a series of questions will be posed for commenters who will respond via an online form. Once outside comments are received and evaluated, the white paper will be finalized by the Research Committee.

The white paper will outline for the library and education communities and stakeholders the challenges in providing library services to young adults, the future of library services to young adults, and strategies for ensuring young adults have the services they need from a broad coalition of organizations locally, regionally, and nationally.

Phase 5: Dissemination of the Summit Outcomes

See the communications plan below (Section 4, under “Management”) for details on this phase of the project.


The evaluation plan for this proposal will take place in two phases. This evaluation will be led by the Partnerships Advocating Library Media (PALM) Center at Florida State University and include members of the advisory board and summit participants.

Formative Evaluation

The first phase of the evaluation will use participatory evaluation techniques to elicit formative feedback from summit attendees, town hall meeting participants, and project staff. Because it is essential that the Summit and ongoing activities be guided by the needs of young adults, young adult participation is an important aspect of formative evaluation19 and will be integrated into that part of the evaluation process. Additionally, participatory evaluation will be used in all phases of the evaluation activities to ensure that the activities are meeting the needs of identified stakeholders. The advisory board will work closely with the evaluator to ensure that their perceptions are in line with those of the other project participants.

Summative Evaluation

The summative evaluation will be performed by the PALM Center using an approach based on Outcomes-Based Planning and Evaluation (OBE). Table 3 depicts the project phase, outcome, and measurement that will be used in all phases of the evaluation, culminating in the OBE used at the end of the project.


Table 3. Overview of Outcomes Based Evaluation Plan

Project Phase



Phase 1. Planning

Literature review

Final meeting agenda

Project website

Was the literature review completed?

Was the agenda completed?

Was the website completed?

Phase 2. Summit

Participant entry surveys

Participant exit surveys

Participant interviews

Session notes

What are the common themes in participant entry surveys?

What are the common themes in participant exit surveys?

Did the summit meet participant needs and expectations?

Phase 3. Online Town Hall Meeting

Meeting transcripts

Attendance records

Exit surveys

Analyzed transcripts

Counts of attendees

Analyzed surveys

Phase 4. White Paper Development

Completed White Paper

Did the white paper go through revisions?

Did the white paper receive feedback?

Was the white paper finalized?

Phase 5. Outreach & Dissemination

Distributed White Paper

Postings on email lists

Mentions on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Ads in ALA & YALSA publications

Articles in ALA, YALSA and other publications

Presentations at state, regional and national conferences

How many times was the white paper downloaded and distributed?

How many hits did the website receive?

How many Tweets were sent?

How many conference programs were presented?

How many articles or mentions appeared in publications?


4. Project Resources: Budget, Personnel, and Management



For full budget information see Detailed Budget, Summary Budget, and Budget Justification. Major expense categories include: the costs of the summit (meeting space; accommodations and meals; a travel allowance for the advisory board members and invited participants); keynote speakers and meeting facilitator fees; web site hosting and printing and postage.

Key Project Staff

Project Team

Nichole Gilbert, Senior Personnel, will be responsible for planning and organizing the face-to-face Summit, including securing the block of hotel rooms, securing meeting space, ordering AV and food, liaising with hotel staff.

Stephanie Kuenn, Senior Personnel, will be responsible for the design and maintenance of the project/town hall website as well as overseeing the implementation of the communications plan.

Letitia Smith, Senior Personnel, will coordinate the 1) application process for those individuals who apply to participate in the Summit, and 2) the mailing of the final white paper

Beth Yoke, Project Director, will oversee all phases of the project; help coordinate the planning process; help coordinate the Summit; work with Linda Braun to facilitate the virtual town hall sessions; assist Nancy Everhart with evaluation efforts; facilitate the development of the white paper; and engage in dissemination efforts through conference presentations and published articles.

Consultants, Keynote Speakers & Small

Group Facilitators

Maureen Sullivan will participate in the planning process and will lead the Summit.

Linda W. Braun will participate in the planning process and will facilitate the online town hall meetings.

Nancy Everhart will coordinate the evaluation efforts through the PALM Center

Keynote speakers & panelists who are experts on various aspects of young adult research, resources, and programs and services will provide lectures/discussions at the summit.

Select YALSA members will facilitate the small group discussions at the summit and in the online town hall meetings.

Management Plan

The Call to Action: the Future of Library Services to Young Adults program will be administered by YALSA in consultation with the advisory board. The YALSA Executive Director will serve as Project Manager, who along with key YALSA staff, will comprise the project management team and will provide day-to-day management of the one-year project. The project staff will lead implementation of the project, manage grant funds, oversee record keeping and reporting requirements, serve as primary liaison to the advisory board and consultants, and assume oversight of the dissemination of the white paper. The Project Director will handle all grant programmatic and fiscal reporting requirements, including regularly meeting with the ALA Finance Department to ensure accounting requirements are maintained. The Project Director will keep IMLS and the YALSA membership informed of the progress made on the project. Project activities will be managed via project team meetings (held at least monthly) to ensure tasks are occurring in a timely fashion and also via communications with the advisory board and consultants via conference calls, Adobe Connect, etc. as appropriate.

5. Communication Plan

YALSA will use its national connections, including close ties with state library agency youth consultants and partners within and beyond the library community, throughout the process as well as to support and widely disseminate the white paper. Those partners include OCLC and Search Institute both of which have submitted letters of support (see Supporting Document 1). Several communication and marketing strategies will be used throughout this project. They include:



Email blast

Post on web site

Post on listservs

E-news piece

Social media

Print journals

(ads & articles)


(online & in-person)


Overall communication with the library & stakeholder communities to inform them of the project, its goals, & intended impact














Communication & marketing to inform potential attendees of the application process in to participate in the face-to-face summit














Informing members of the community of the opportunity to participate in online town hall meetings














Communicating the need for library staff & stakeholders to read & comment on the draft white paper














Informing the library & stakeholder communities of the white paper once complete & working towards implementing ideas outlined in the document


















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