Happy TeenTober!: Talking with Kelsey Socha

In a press release this August, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) introduced the library world to TeenTober, an exciting nationwide celebration of teens, for teens, and yes, named by a teen. Fast-forward two months, and the brand-new initiative, which seeks to promote “year-round teen services” and teen engagement within and outside the library, is upon us—and I was lucky enough to speak with Kelsey Socha, who chaired the task force behind it. To see what she had to say about TeenTober festivities, educational resources, and boosting the signal to teens and libraries everywhere, read on.

So this is the first-ever TeenTober celebration (YAY!), and it replaces previous YALSA initiatives (Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week). I know that this move is, in part, to offer libraries and library more flexibility. What else went into this decision? And what other exciting changes are you hoping library staff and teens see this TeenTober?

A lot went into creating TeenTober, long before my task force was even established. YALSA has been discussing launching a month-long celebration for many years (at least since 2014) for a number of very good reasons: building advocacy and local partnerships, giving tools to library staff who might not already be providing regular services for teens, and making it really clear that libraries of all kinds are for teens. Celebrating tech and reading are both really important, but TeenTober is really centered around celebrating and giving voice to teens across the community. In future years, we’re really hoping TeenTober’s resources allow library staff to start planning earlier, and networking with community partners. (Though we offer a range of resources and suggestions, all should be fairly simple to tailor to different needs.)

You’re already providing great interactive posters that promote civic engagement, makerspace guidelines, and more at the ALA Store. How else can librarians or teens unfamiliar with the initiative best engage with it?

Our hope is that TeenTober helps library staff celebrate teen services and connect with stakeholders and community partners. Admittedly, this year is a soft rollout of the event, but even so, we hope that TeenTober gives library staff something to rally behind and focus their energy on and helps teens learn about the resources available in their communities; it’s really special to have an opportunity to celebrate teens and help empower them. Next year, we aim to have a full-fledged roster of resources to help library staff celebrate.

One of the fantastic things about TeenTober is that it encourages engagement both within and outside of the library. This seems especially important when it comes to educating new voters and voters to-be. How might library staff utilize TeenTober to energize teens about voting—and/or other out-of-library events?

This is a great question! A lot of our TeenTober resources involve reaching out to local legislators and critically evaluating the news. In an ideal world, this will translate to teens getting to meet a lot of city/town officials and learn more. It also would definitely be a good opportunity to celebrate voting and civic engagement.

We also have a new task force called the 22×20 Task Force, and its main focus is to create new resources to help teens become more civically engaged and understand the importance of voting and other civic activities. In collaboration with ALA Graphics, the task force created an informational poster and a matching bookmark aimed to guide teens through the voting process. In addition to the print version, there is a customizable digital version that libraries can use to add information about their own state’s voting process. TeenTober would be a great opportunity to highlight these resources.

While TeenTober will take place every October from here on out, do you have any suggestions for how library staff might elevate their teen services year-round?

YALSA has an amazing range of resources for library staff all year-round! If you’re wondering how to get started or how to frame your search for information on teen services, definitely check out the Resources and Tools page or the YALSA Hub blog for ideas!

What can Booklist—and others—do to get the word out about TeenTober?

Post about what you’re doing for TeenTober! Talk about it! Whether you’re doing a passive display or hosting 30 programs for teens a month, the best way to raise awareness is to let other library staff and advocates know about it!

What other YALSA-related news or programs should be on our radar?

Our 2020 YA Services Symposium will take place in Reno, Nevada, from November 6 to 8. Program proposals open December 1 and registration opens in April. Sign up to receive updates here.

Our Morris and Nonfiction Award Finalists will be announced the first week of December.

For the latest news from YALSA (and about TeenTober), be sure to follow @yalsa on Twitter.

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About the Author:

Briana Shemroske is Booklist's Marketing Associate. She graduated with a BA from Lake Forest College where she studied English Writing and Art History. In her free time she can be found eating cheeseburgers, frolicking with her schnoodle, Moritz, and feebly attempting to play board games. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Briana.

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