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Title:Radical engagement: public library partnerships with activist organizations for young adult engagement
Author(s):Conway, Patricia C
Department / Program:Library & Information Science
Discipline:Library & Information Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:M.S.
Genre:Thesis
Subject(s):Public Libraries
Young Adults
Community Engagement
Library Partnerships
Abstract:The Richmond Public Library in Richmond, Virginia is aggressively pursuing young adult engagement through literacy and skills-based workshops. Librarians at Richmond Public strive to increase participation and program counts in order to maintain funding levels for young adult programming, levels which have already been reduced over the last decade. Librarians are additionally motivated by Richmond’s soaring illiteracy rates, a particularly acute problem among young black males. Due to the coupling of reduced funding and staff with increased community need, Richmond Public librarians have pursued partnerships with community groups to increase the visibility of the library in the community and to expand the library’s programming workforce. Several of the most successful partnerships at the Richmond Public Library have involved programming for young adults provided by activist community groups. These programming initiatives include partnerships with Girls Rock! RVA and the Free Richmond Instrument Lending Library, the People’s Library Project, and the librarian-driven BMER (Black Male Emergent Readers) project. The most successful young adult engagement initiatives at Richmond Public Library from 2013-2014 year have involved activist community groups. This success can be measured in terms of program attendance numbers, retention of program participants across events, public visibility through press and social media, program funding brought in to the library through community partner expenditure, expanded leadership opportunities for young adults at the library, and the quality of relationships between program participants, the library, its community partners, and adult program directors. Partnerships with activist community groups benefit the Richmond Public Library through increasing program counts, attendance numbers, public visibility, and community engagement. It can be argued that activist groups are valuable community partners for public libraries because they provide an expanded workforce of passionate and dedicated volunteers for programming, are used to working for free or on a tight budget, provide meaningful experiences and learning opportunities for young adults, and engage young adults through pointed, political, and empowering work that is embedded in the teens’ community and day-to-day life. Community activist groups share core values with libraries, librarians, and teen library users, and should be sought out as partners for programming in public libraries. This writing examines the process of forming these community partnerships from the perspective of the library, the community activists, and young adult users. Research includes quantitative analysis of program counts, attendance numbers and retention numbers, materials circulation, and library spending. In addition, interviews were conducted to gain qualitative insight into the experiences of young adult library users, community activists working with the library system, and members of library staff. Current literature on community partnerships, young adult engagement, and activism in librarianship will be reviewed and evaluated in order to contextualize the findings and to make recommendations for all public libraries to pursue similar engagement initiatives.
Issue Date:2015-04-29
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/78540
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Patricia Conway
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015


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