By Jana Fine
Famed tennis player Arthur Ashe once said, "From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." His causes were many and he shared his knowledge and passions with the world. People who work with and advocate for young adults can use this quote as a daily affirmation of what we do. How many of us provide some sort of outreach, whether in the form of visits to schools, hospitals, jails, recreational centers, or even just “reaching out” to that one teen who is struggling with a dilemma? Most of us, I expect. I would also like to think that as libraries continue to recognize the value of providing resources and programs to teenagers, one of the reasons has to be outreach.
Thousands of librarians and associates partner with organizations, engage audiences with good reads, plan and implement not only tried and true teen programs, but also new and innovative activities to bring that elusive Generation Y group through the library doors and into a more literate future. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, one of the definitions of “outreach” is the extending of services or assistance beyond current or usual limits. While we ultimately try for this definition, we can be hampered by many obstacles. Administrative staff may not see the overall value of outreach; especially in small rural and tribal communities where there are few staff to perform even the most basic services. Larger systems may also not see the “big picture” when it comes to frontline staff spending time outside the workplace, especially when there may be a department for Outreach Services. All of these barriers can be overcome. Staff training can make some difference, perhaps conducted by YALSA’s Serving the Underserved (SUS) trainers.
The theme for this issue is outreach and each article presents a different piece of outreach throughout the library community. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the beginnings of SUS and we bring you in depth information as well as personal stories of trainers. SUS has become a successful way of promoting outreach on a national level. In addition, you will have the opportunity to read speeches from Ursula LeGuin, the 2004 Margaret A. Edwards Award winner, Angela Johnson, the 2004 Michael L. Printz winner, as well as Printz honorees Jennifer Donnelly, Carolyn Mackler, Helen Frost, and K.L. Going. As you read these wonderful speeches, think about how the authors are “reaching out” to us and the intended teen audience and what an impact these books have made. Also included in this issue is outreach to incarcerated youth as well as how a state library association has reached out to assist library staff in service to teens. Reaching out to teens takes on an international perspective as we visit a library in Croatia that has carved a path for YA services that is inspiring and timely.
There is very slender line that connects each article in this issue to what each of us does every day, and that is to empower the teens of today to reach out to their future.