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EUROLIS SEMINAR 2019: How to attract young adults to the library?

Updated: Feb 11, 2020

On Friday 6 of December, the Italian Institute welcomed the librarians who are part of the EUROLIS* network for a day of workshops and talks. This year’s team was focused on how to attract young adults to the library.

Speakers included:

  • Sue Ball (Stock, Services and Activities Manager at Staffordshire County Council)

  • Lara Meana (Independent bookseller specialised in children’s literature and illustration)

  • Christelle Gombert (Editor in Chief of the journal Lecture Jeunesse)

  • Kathrin Joswig (Media Educator at the central public library of Hamburg)

  • Marta Sordyl (Community Development Worker working with Lambeth libraries and local residents)

  • Antonella Lamberti (children librarian in Florence)

  • Pierdomenico Baccalario (Italian author of young adult fiction)

  • Isabel Stilwell (Portuguese journalist and writer)

When dealing with young adults, it is key to understand whether reading is part of their identity. Not everyone loves reading from a young age and many of us only started reading as adults.

Besides, the focus does not necessarily need to be on books and literature exclusively. It is possible to engage in a conversation about storytelling and use different types of materials (film, video game, illustrations) to try and understand and talk together about the mechanics of fiction construction.

Stories are universal and everywhere. Librarians should curate a collection for their interest without judgement. It is also a good idea to first read the books which are popular among young adults. The aim is to learn from each other and collaborate.

Media Educators can teach young adults about coding, game design and organise events using tinker boxes. Making zines or newspapers are also fun.

Overall, it has been noted that conversations about programming should include the kids as they bubble with wonderful ideas and they can tell the librarians what should be implemented for their community. Thereafter, they will stay involved and eventually become role models for other kids.

Partnerships with schools, youth associations, prisons, hospitals and foster homes are also great initiatives. It has been shown that many kids and teenagers do not read because they do not have enough time. Librarians are the key to showing them that reading is not a loss of time. It can meet current needs.

For instance, a partnership could be set up with students studying to become paediatric nurses and a library as the students can then come to the library and borrow kid’s albums and realise there are many free resources available.

“Texts don’t’ provide pleasure only. They can also dazzle, disturb…That is why I’d rather talk about investments, gratifications or benefits. One can find many things in reading: relational interests, intimate interests, mundane interests, etc.” Jean-Marie Privat French professor of literature and cultural anthropology.

A method can be followed to try and determine future goals and partnerships.

4 questions need to be asked:

- Where are the young adults around me? (school, academy of music, sports clubs, bus stop, square, fast food restaurants, prison, hospital)

- What are the needs of the structures welcoming them?

- Why would these young adults need to read?

- How can I help young adults and encourage structures to get involved?

Finally, the architecture and interior design of the building should be considered. An area exclusively dedicated to teens and young adults is highly recommended.

*EUROLIS: Librarians of the European Cultural Institutes based in London

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