June 27, 2018

Helping libraries act as change agents

Recently, young people across the United States have made headlines with a mix of passion, integrity, and openness about issues ranging from gun violence to the environment to immigration. Their engagement with policies that directly affect their lives has captured and held the world’s attention. Many people have a renewed sense of hope in the next generation, which has led to this refreshing development: young people with informed opinions on the state of society and grown-ups ready to listen.

Where do libraries come in? Public libraries are perfectly positioned to act as the space where dialogue can take place and to further facilitate it by pointing the agents of change in the right direction for information. For instance, hosting municipal forums or hearings where people can voice their feelings on current issues might encourage teens and students to participate by giving them a special platform to speak out. Allowing a motivated teen or teen group to facilitate the discussion would be even more likely to draw a young audience. While not every teen seeks political involvement, keep in mind just how transformative the teenage experience is. For every informed youth out there who is already attached to a cause, there is probably another budding activist who hasn’t yet been inspired by the right issue, story, or life experience. Here are some collection-based suggestions for getting the ball rolling.

Highlight key resources 

NoveList continually adds more resources dealing with social issues and political and civic engagement geared towards teens. Here are some titles we found useful that your readers may enjoy too:

  • How I resist: activism and hope for a new generation (2018), an inspiring collection of essays, songs, interviews and more written for a teen audience, discussing the contributors’ own experiences in youth activism and the importance to connecting with social movements from a young age.
  • Be a changemaker: how to start something that matters (2014) by Laurie Ann Thompson focuses less on the actual issues in favor of the methods of organizing a movement using real world examples and individuals and is a practical, hands-on guide for young people looking for advice on organizing, fundraising, leveraging social media, and avoiding common pitfalls of activism.
  • The making of a dream: how a group of young undocumented immigrants helped change what it means to be American (2018) by Laura Wides-Muñoz. The author gives an eye-opening account of the efforts of several activist immigrants to secure guarantees of human rights for themselves and others.

Search for more in NoveList

To put together a display of books focused on young people, political engagement, and social activism, try casting a wide net to find resources in your library. Start by copying and pasting the following search string into the NoveList Plus search bar:

GN ("social issues" OR "society and culture - social activism and philanthropy") AND (AP "issue-oriented" OR SU ("social advoca*" OR "social action" OR "political participation"))

Use Refine Results to filter your results by checking appropriate boxes for Audience, and then click the “Update Results” button.

If you decide the topic is a great idea, but fiction is the best way to reach your particular audience, try this search instead:

AP "issue-oriented" OR SU ("social advoca*" OR "social action" OR "political participation")

To limit your results, check the “Teen” and “Fiction” boxes in Refine Results.

Image of refining results by publication date in NoveList

Remember when using either of these searches that currency matters when it comes to social and political issues and our understanding of them. Consider using the Publication Date slider to further limit results to works published in the last 10 years or so. With a few clicks, you can provide the sparks to light fires in young minds.

For more inspiration search NoveList for "Teens Want to Chage the World" and check out this annotated list of books for tweens and teens. 

To dive deeper into a particular subject or for more help refining your own searches take a look at our search strategy Speed Search NoveList Using Field Codes. Good luck! 

NoveList Plus provides reading recommendations for fiction and nonfiction. Learn more about NoveList Plus and how it can help your library help readers.

Clay Boyer is a Metadata Librarian.


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