YALSA to launch eCourse on neurodiversity, mental health in the library

For Immediate Release
Fri, 06/17/2022


Carla Jamison

Program Officer

Young Adult Library Services Association


Chicago—The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) announces a new eCourse, A Place to Belong: Supporting Neurodiversity and Mental Health in Your Library.  Ashleigh Torres and Adriana White will serve as the instructors for a 4-week facilitated eCourse starting on July 11, 2022.

Learning outcomes

After completing this course, participants will:

  1. Gain a better understanding of neurodiversity and mental health.
  2. Read about how stories can improve teens' mental health.
  3. Develop the confidence and ability to bring improved programming to their libraries.
  4. Discuss resources and programming ideas, and how they can be catered to the needs of their local community.

Mental health is important, but it is even more critical during a global pandemic. Teens deal with major life changes and tremendous stress. Autistic teens face additional challenges - many of which have been exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic. Our teens need support, now more than ever, and our libraries can serve as essential safe spaces. People are talking more about the importance of mental health, but how can we keep this important conversation going? How can we update our collections to better represent our teens’ experiences? How can our programming promote empathy and compassion among all library patrons?  In this course, two librarians will share insights from their own practices, plus a variety of resources that you can use to make your own library a better place for everyone.

eCourse outline

July 11 - July 15

Week One: What is Mental Health?

  • Introductions
  • Explaining Mental Health to Teens
  • The “Take a Deep Breath” Club

July 18 - July 22

Week Two: What is Neurodiversity?

  • Terms and Definitions
  • The Intersection of Neurodiversity and Mental Health
  • How to Improve Autistic Mental Health

July 25 - July 28

Week Three: Why Stories Matter

  • Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors
  • Accurate and Respectful Representations of Neurodiversity and Mental Health

August 1 - August 5

Week Four: Programming and Other Considerations

  • Race, LGBTQ Status, and Other Intersections
  • What You Can Do in Your Library

About the Instructors

Ashleigh Torres is a library branch supervisor with the Yolo County Library. She is at the joint-use Winters Community Library which is located on the campus of Winters High School. She is very passionate about library services for teens. She almost exclusively reads teen books and loves to talk about them just as much. She is the Northern California Representative for the California Library Association's Youth Services Interest Group.

Adriana White is an autistic librarian, former special education teacher, and children’s book writer. After being diagnosed with autism and anxiety in her 30s, Adriana now advocates for more inclusive schools and libraries. Her writing on neurodiversity and mental health in children’s books has appeared on KQED’s MindShift and We Need Diverse Books, and she advises educators and librarians about the importance of these books through workshops and presentations. Adriana has a Master’s in Education with a specialization in Special Education, and a Master’s in Library and Information Science with a certificate in Storytelling. She is a staff editor for the website A Novel Mind, and she was a 2021 recipient of the Walter Grant from We Need Diverse Books.

Registration for this eCourse, can be purchased through the American Library Association’s e-learning site .  Since this is an asynchronous online class, each student may work in accordance with their own schedule but will be expected to participate fully in the online discussion forums - checking in at least three times a week to read and respond to comments. Our discussions will be based on a combination of required course readings and on the personal and professional experiences adult learners bring to the classroom. In addition, there will be weekly optional Zoom sessions for those students who want an opportunity for real-time face-to-face discussion.

Through networking, advocacy, and professional development, the Young Adult Library Services Association empowers all those involved in the profession to provide equitable, diverse and inclusive teen services.