YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth: Young Adults Deserve the Best

Using the Competencies

The Competencies

Updated January 2010

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA) that supports library services to teens, developed these competencies for librarians who serve young adults. Individuals who demonstrate the knowledge and skills laid out in this document will be able to provide quality library service for and with teenagers. Institutions seeking to improve their overall service capacity and increase public value to their community are encouraged to adopt these competencies.

YALSA first developed these competencies in 1981, which were revised in 1998, 2003, and 2010.   The competencies can be used as a tool to evaluate and improve service, a foundation for library school curriculum, a framework for staff training and a set of guiding principles for use when speaking out for the importance of services to teens in libraries.
Audiences for the competencies include:

  • Library educators
  • School and library administrators
  • Graduate students
  • Young adult specialists
  • School librarians
  • Library training coordinators
  • Public library generalists
  • Human resources directors
  • Non-library youth advocates and service providers

Area I. Leadership and Professionalism

The librarian will be able to:

  1. Develop and demonstrate leadership skills in identifying the unique needs of young adults and advocating for service excellence, including equitable funding and staffing levels relative to those provided for adults and children.
  2. Develop and demonstrate a commitment to professionalism and ethical behavior.
  3. Plan for personal and professional growth and career development.
  4. Encourage young adults to become lifelong library users by helping them to discover what libraries offer, how to use library resources, and how libraries can assist them in actualizing their overall growth and development.
  5. Develop and supervise formal youth participation, such as teen advisory groups, recruitment of teen volunteers, and opportunities for employment.
  6. Model commitment to building assets in youth in order to develop healthy, successful young adults.
  7. Implement mentoring methods to attract, develop, and train staff working with young adults.

Area II. Knowledge of Client Group

The librarian will be able to:

  1. Become familiar with the developmental needs of young adults in order to provide the most appropriate resources and services.
  2. Keep up-to-date with popular culture and technological advances that interest young adults.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of, and a respect for, diverse cultural, religious, and ethnic values.
  4. Identify and meet the needs of patrons with special needs.

Area III. Communication, Marketing & Outreach

The librarian will be able to:

  1. Form appropriate professional relationships with young adults, providing them with the assets, inputs and resiliency factors that they need to develop into caring, competent adults.
  2. Develop relationships and partnerships with young adults, administrators and other youth-serving professionals in the community by establishing regular communication and by taking advantage of opportunities to meet in person.
  3. Be an advocate for young adults and effectively promote the role of the library in serving young adults, demonstrating that the provision of services to this group can help young adults build assets, achieve success, and in turn, create a stronger community.
  4. Design, implement, and evaluate a strategic marketing plan for promoting young adult services in the library, schools, youth-serving agencies and the community at large.
  5. Demonstrate the capacity to articulate relationships between young adult services and the parent institution’s core goals and mission.
  6. Establish an environment in the library wherein all staff serve young adults with courtesy and respect, and all staff are encouraged to promote programs and services for young adults.
  7. Identify young adult interests and groups underserved or not yet served by the library, including at-risk teens, those with disabilities, non-English speakers, etc., as well as those with special or niche interests.
  8. Promote young adult library services directly to young adults through school visits, library tours, etc., and through engaging their parents, educators and other youth-serving community partners.

Area IV. Administration

The librarian will be able to:

  1. Develop a strategic plan for library service with young adults based on their unique needs.
  2. Design and conduct a community analysis and needs assessment.
  3. Apply research findings towards the development and improvement of young adult library services.
  4. Design activities to involve young adults in planning and decision-making.
  5. Develop, justify, administer, and evaluate a budget for young adult services.
  6. Develop physical facilities dedicated to the achievement of young adult service goals.
  7. Develop written policies that mandate the rights of young adults to equitable library service.
  8. Design, implement, and evaluate an ongoing program of professional development for all staff, to encourage and inspire continual excellence in service to young adults.
  9. Identify and defend resources (staff, materials, facilities, funding) that will improve library service to young adults.
  10. Document young adult programs and activities so as to contribute to institutional and professional memory.
  11. Develop and manage services that utilize the skills, talents, and resources of young adults in the school or community.

Area V: Knowledge of Materials

The librarian will be able to:

  1. Meet the informational and recreational needs of young adults through the development of an appropriate collection for all types of readers and non-readers.
  2. Develop a collection development policy that supports and reflect the needs and interests of young adults and is consistent with the parent institution’s mission and policies.
  3. Demonstrate a knowledge and appreciation of literature for and by young adults in traditional and emerging formats.
  4. Develop a collection of materials from a broad range of selection sources, and for a variety of reading skill levels, that encompasses all appropriate formats, including, but not limited to, media that reflect varied and emerging technologies, and materials in languages other than English.
  5. Serve as a knowledgeable resource to schools in the community as well as parents and caregivers on materials for young adults.

Area VI - Access to Information

The librarian will be able to:

  1. Organize physical and virtual collections to maximize easy, equitable, and independent access to information by young adults.
  2. Utilize current merchandising and promotional techniques to attract and invite young adults to use the collection.
  3. Provide access to specialized information (i.e., community resources, work by local youth, etc.).
  4. Formally and informally instruct young adults in basic research skills, including how to find, evaluate, and use information effectively.
  5. Be an active partner in the development and implementation of technology and electronic resources to ensure young adults’ access to knowledge and information.
  6. Maintain awareness of ongoing technological advances and how they can improve access to information for young adults.

Area VII. Services

The librarian will be able to:

  1. Design, implement and evaluate programs and services within the framework of the library’s strategic plan and based on the developmental needs of young adults and the public assets libraries represent, with young adult involvement whenever possible.
  2. Identify and plan services with young adults in non-traditional settings, such as hospitals, home-school settings, alternative education, foster care programs, and detention facilities.
  3. Provide a variety of informational and recreational services to meet the diverse needs and interests of young adults and to direct their own personal growth and development.
  4. Continually identify trends and pop-culture interests of young people to inform, and direct their recreational collection and programming needs.
  5. Instruct young adults in basic information gathering, research skills and information literacy skills - including those necessary to evaluate and use electronic information sources - to develop life-long learning habits.
  6. Actively involve young adults in planning and implementing services and programs for their age group through advisory boards, task forces, and by less formal means (i.e., surveys, one-on-one discussion, focus groups, etc.)
  7. Create an environment that embraces the flexible and changing nature of young adults’ entertainment, technological and informational needs.