Community Involvement - Teen Library Board Members

I've been talking a lot lately about new approaches for public libraries, especially in relation to community involvement. It's no secret that I am a huge proponent of getting feedback and input from the community in regard to library decision making. Many libraries have shown their openness to involving adult patrons (users and non-users) in this way using fairly traditional approaches such as conducting surveys, holding focus groups and/or information sessions, and/or including patrons on committees.

The next jump in library evolution includes active and ongoing teen participation and partnerships. Over the past 10 years, Teen Advisory Boards (TABs) have grown in popularity and number, in both public and school environments. This has been a big step in teen involvement. Over the past couple years, a few libraries have stepped up to the plate to include young adults in focus groups and committee work. What's really exciting is the forward leap that libraries like Multnomah County Library (OR) are taking -- they are changing the "rules" to include teen members on their Library Board.

Ellen Fader, Multnomah’s Youth Services Coordinator, felt it was an idea whose time had come and the director and chair of the Library Advisory Board (LAB) agreed. The LAB proposed changes to county code under which they were established. The Library Advisory Board proposes the following changes to Multnomah County Code:

  • Increase the number of board members in (A) from "15" to "17"
  • Add the following subsection: (D) Two of the board members shall be youth representatives. a) Youth board members shall be appointed by the County Chair, subject to Board approval, and shall be between the ages of 13 and 17 at the time of their appointment. Youth board members shall be users of the Multnomah County Library and be available to serve the entire tenure of his or her term. b) Youth board members shall serve for a term of two years, without the possibility of reappointment. The terms of the two youth board members shall be staggered by one year. To facilitate the staggering of terms, the initial appointment of a youth board member shall be for the term of one year. c) Other than the limitations placed herein, youth commissioners shall share equally in all other powers and responsibilities afforded members of the library board.

The motion passed unanimously! I am a big fan of Ellen, the Multnomah staff, their Director, and the chair of the Library Advisory Board (LAB). I applaud them for their willingness to move forward and include teenagers in decision-making for “their” library.

Visit Multnomah County Library at www.multcolib.org.

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