Academic Libraries Have Outreach Too!: University of Michigan and the Washtenaw County Summer Youth Program


By: Monica Porter, Access Services Supervisor, University of Michigan, Shapiro Library and Substitute Librarian, Ypsilanti District Library

Academic Outreach and Young People!

Monica PorterI am an Access Services Supervisor and a librarian by degree at the University of Michigan, “U of M.” We are partners with Washtenaw County which assists young adults, 16-24 with internships. Many of the students have stories to tell that range from living in shelters to being in single-parent homes. We have been a part of the Summer Youth Employment program since 2016 and it has been a true success. We have even gotten an intern who is currently working for us now as a student employee. Our student employee has not only been a part of the program for two years but has become a full mentor to the interns as of last year.

Working Out the Kinks: Challenges and Successes

In the beginning, the program had its challenges. One is the fact that it was more project based. We also had to work out timekeeping, scheduling, transportation, University of Michigan ID cards, and teach staff innovative ways to communicate with young adults. This was especially important for the academic library and having the library willingly be the first to test out the program.

After the trial of the first year, we received constructive feedback from university departments and those departments became involved. The program ended up being a great success the second year. Our work ended up moving away from projects and became more of an actual job for our interns. Each intern had a training, scheduling, and mentorship diversity%20%28002%29like our student staff. We also partnered our interns with the student staff to learn about college life. This was a win for our student staff, which gave them leadership skills and for our interns who were thinking about attending college. When you think about the library profession, this is a win. The profession needs more diversity and what better way than to start at the high school age level? We are introducing future youth to understanding what a librarian does and understanding the library culture as a whole. Being a librarian, especially a librarian of color, and working with young adults is a beautiful position to be in at this time. Young people are the voices of today using social media platforms for social justice topics and libraries are a strong part of this.

african%20american%20librarian%20%28002%29Passion is Needed for Recruitment

When working in diverse communities as a librarian, it is important to understand the community that you interact with. One important factor is when a young person sees someone that looks like them behind the reference desk or leading a program; it can be very powerful, right? There is that commonality and a better understanding of community culture, literacy culture, and generational culture. I want the library to have a voice, be an advocate, build partnerships, and be innovative with ideas. This is my goal.

I am known as a student advocate for undergraduates and young adults as well as the lead on this collaboration of Washtenaw and the U of M. The program highly acknowledges some of its success based on the library’s participation. I ensure that the interns have as much exposure to life as possible whether it is an academic one or professional. I am here to make sure that the environment is inclusive and that the staff understands the stories of these young people before they enter our doors. I know our mission is to get the work done, but that is not the only mission. It is the mission to educate and teach these young people about life in general and what that means. Summer Interns