A Library that is More Than Just a Place to Go

Columbus Metropolitan LibraryWhen kids know you care, they’re motivated to keep coming back. That’s exactly why the staff of Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) in Columbus, Ohio, adopted the Developmental Assets as a framework for working with youth.

CML staff members know how important it is to be a positive force in the lives of young people. The 21 libraries in the system serve the Columbus metro area and provide many services for youth, including homework help, story time, teen programming, and school outreach.

Yet, the most important work they do for young people might not be a specific activity or program, but the support and care the staff shows to young people every day through the use of the Developmental Assets. As Youth Services Supervisor Brandy Biegler explains, “Definitely one of the reasons we’ve applied the Developmental Assets is that a lot of the kids we see come in here aren’t just looking for something to do—they come to have adults in their lives who will listen, whether it’s school issues or personal issues.”

CML adopted the Developmental Assets framework three years ago in order to make youth development a priority among their library staff. “We really wanted something that all staff could be told, ‘here’s this framework’ and really make it our own and make it a fit for us,” says Ms. Biegler. “We also wanted to make it an expectation of all staff to infuse the assets in their daily work—it’s a part of customer services at CML, everybody serves youth.”

To train staff to support the young people the library system serves, Ms. Biegler worked with the organizational development department to bring Search Institute senior facilitator Jim Conway to Columbus to give two workshops: More Than Just a Place to Go, which focuses on supporting youth in out-of-school-time settings, and Igniting Sparks, which explains how to motivate youth by nurturing their deep passions and interests. “All of our staff say it’s the best training they’ve ever been to,” says Ms. Biegler of the workshops.  

This is the third time the staff has experienced a workshop with Jim Conway and appreciate how the information is tailored to fit their situation at the library.  “I always speak with Jim before the workshop. He’s really great at making it work for us and what we’re doing with it and making it fit for our staff so they can apply it to what they’re doing,” says Ms. Biegler.

The staff also appreciates how interactive the workshops are. “The thing I have heard about the most from staff is probably the idea the method that he uses is very interactive,” says Ms. Biegler. “The staff has input, they get to move around and talk to each other and share ideas. It’s not just a lecture.”

During CML’s latest workshop experience, the staff most enjoyed learning about sparks. “The whole idea of sparks and how Jim presents it really makes it personal,” explained Ms. Biegler. “The staff could identify with the idea that somebody—an adult—helped them cultivate their spark in some way. It motivates them to want to do the same.”

Going forward, CML has developed several ways to incorporate the Developmental Assets into the library system’s work, including making it a requirement that all youth programming be tied to the developmental assets. “We are definitely practicing building assets and it’s really been great to see as more and more staff members are picking it up, buying in, and really using it,” said Ms. Biegler. “It makes a huge difference.”

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

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