Community-based librarianship and youth advocacy: Some sources

As we pull together a list of resources related to youth advocacy librarianship, one theme that’s emerged is that youth advocacy has a lot of connections to movements for community-based librarianship and civic librarianship. These movements position the library as embedded in the community, and driven by goals related to community-building and civic engagement. Here are some readings that explore this relationship:

Hall, R. (2010). Public Praxis: A Vision for Critical Information Literacy in Public Libraries. Public Library Quarterly, 29(2), 162-175.
Hall writes, “If public libraries are to embrace critical information literacy, they must first forfeit their identities as neutral information receptacles” (p. 170). For libraries and librarians to promote critical civic literacy, she argues, they must offer resources and support in a collaborative context and “remain non-authoritative while still taking action for social change” (p. 171).

Kranich, N. (2006). The civic mission of school libraries. Knowledge Quest, 34(4), 10-17.
Kranich constructs the school library as a key agent in the civic librarianship movement, pointing out its functions as a civic space, an enabler of civic literacy, a public forum, a civic information center, a community-wide reading club, a partner in public service, a service-learning center, and an advocate of free expression.

Kathleen de la Pena McCook. (2000). Reconnecting Library Education and the Mission of Community. Library Journal, 125(14): 64-65.
McCook advocates for instilling the values of civic responsibility and engaged service into LIS higher education practices as part of a movement to renew the social role of professional education. The article discusses the importance of service learning, outlines the “scholarship of engagement,” and offers four examples of long-term community engagement projects that involve librarians and LIS students.

McCook, Kathleen de la Pena & Rachel Meyers. (2001). Public Libraries and Comprehensive Community Initiatives for Youth Development. Public Libraries, 40(5), p. 282-288.
McCook & Meyers describe a case study of a library project achieved in the context of the library’s deep engagement with its local community, arguing that this approach to providing library services can help libraries succeed in outreach to youth in poverty.

Pinderhughes, H. (2007). The production of knowledge and community empowerment: organizing and research on youth violence. Barlow, Andrew L., ed. Collaborations for social justice: Professionals, publics, and policy change. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
In this consideration of participatory action research, Pinderhughes discusses the power dynamics and conflicting goals that can accompany cooperative research. He contends that the research process, as well as the research itself, can yield important outcomes when done, such as generating data that is actionable by community members in their existing programs. However, it is always important for researchers to remain aware of their own biases. Pinderhughes writes, “An outsider asks the questions, ‘What is wrong with those kids? Why are they so violent?’ The very structure of these questions focuses the lens of inquiry at the individual level. Community members, who have watched neighborhood children grow up and change, are more likely to ask, ‘What happened to our children that made them violent’” (p. 109)?

There’s a lot of interesting scholarship out there about libraries, community engagement, social justice, and youth outreach. What do you think of these? What other resources would you recommend?


Brown, Ruth Nicole (2009). Black Girlhood Celebration: Toward a Hip-Hop Feminist Pedagogy. Peter Lang.



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