Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Friction, Traction to Social Action: Training in Library Services for Queensland Teenagers

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Friction, Traction to Social Action: Training in Library Services for Queensland Teenagers

Article excerpt

Cross sectoral, holistic, service provision supports the developmental, informational, emotional and social growth of young people. Libraries have a central role to play in resourcing and facilitating their journey to adulthood. The materials, space and activities that libraries provide enable young people to explore the world around them in a safe environment. The skills they develop, particularly information literacy, are life skills. The skill of recognising an information need and of being able to find out--knowing where to go, to whom to speak, how to do it--is not a secret art or an inherent personal quality. It is a discipline that is taught and learnt. Edited version of a paper given at the fifth national information literacy conference Adelaide 30 November-1 December 2001


`Life is extraordinary, it's exciting, life is as big and interesting as your brain is--if you can imagine it, you can do it.'

Teenagehood, as understood by sixteen year old Sarah, is a time of high energy, bursting enthusiasm, unparalleled creativity and unbridled potential. In the words of France's favourite poet Rimbaud, whose work spanned only his teenage years `This is the season of love; I'm seventeen years old. The age of hopes and fantasies ... this is what I call springtime'. (1) The capacity of ordinary teenagers for heroism, oration, commercial success, creative expression, is evident at every level of society throughout history. Social reformer Frederic Ozanam was only twenty when he founded the St Vincent de Paul Society, a life direction the seeds of which would have been taking root during his adolescence. Closer to home, contemporary Australian writer Melina Marcetta began Looking for Alibrandi in her eighteenth year.

From childhood to adulthood

As the transition from childhood to adulthood, adolescence is a time of immense and rapid change during which young people negotiate many social, family, community, environmental and cultural forces that impact on their health, well being and development. For them to thrive as they grow they need to be able to think independently and critically, be able to problem solve, be mentally and physically strong, be thoughtful and caring human beings--and they need to be literate. The responsibility for their educational, emotional and social development clearly lies with parents, carers, educators, and human service organisations.

However, according to Dr Howard Sercombe, coordinator of the youth work studies program at Western Australia's Edith Cowan University

   ... we have been neither kind nor accommodating to young people. We haven't
   tried to work out ways of facilitating their movement into productive and
   positive adulthood. We haven't tried to find ways of negotiating active
   citizenship for young people. We haven't welcomed young people as partners
   in this dynamic game we call a society. We have treated them badly. (2)

Lecturer in services to young people at Queensland University of Technology, Phil Crane, points out that

   ... young people are increasingly carrying more of the burden and cost of
   social difficulties ... such as unemployment, homelessness, ill health, and
   conflict with family and authorities ... as mechanisms for the collective
   sharing of risk. (3)

Youth unemployment levels are currently running at 40 per cent. That is, two in every five unemployed people are between 15 - 24 years. (4)

Comments by rural young women and men specifically about the lack of employment opportunities in their communities include

* there are just not enough jobs, and what jobs there are, are boring and dead end

* they need to eliminate discrimination against employing young people

* employers should provide real wages, given many young people are living independently of parents and receive no support from them (5)

Society's general response to high unemployment levels is to try to stop young people from leaving school, make them economically dependent on their parents until they are 25 or make them work for the dole. …

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