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Youth Services Librarianship Pathway

Youth Services Librarianship Career Pathway

Youth services librarianship is an umbrella term that covers services for youth from birth through high school graduation or early college, and usually refers to services offered in public libraries. Youth services librarians construct and maintain a developmentally appropriate collection, provide reference and reader’s advisory services, conduct programming that is designed to support and extend print, media, and information literacy. Programs may be as varied as lapsit programs for babies to robotics for youth, to research or life skills development for older youth.

Youth Services Librarians: Position Titles and Descriptions

These are but a few of the many positions youth services librarians hold. For more position titles and job requirements, consult the ALA JobList.

  • Children’s Librarians work with youth from birth through elementary school, although the upper age may vary depending on the library’s definition. In some libraries the upper boundary may be fifth grade, while in others, it may be middle school (7-8th grades). The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) defines “children” as birth through age 13. Children’s librarians typically also provide outreach to daycare centers, kindergartens, and elementary schools.  
  • Directors of Children’s (and Young Adult) Services, Youth Services Managers have responsibility for the overall operations of the children’s and/or young adult departments. They schedule and evaluate librarians and paraprofessionals, oversee budgets, and may be members of the public library management team. In addition, depending on the library’s size, they may also conduct programs and provide reference services. 
  • Young Adult (YA) Librarians, Teen Librarians, Young Adult (YA) Specialists focus on tweens and teens, depending on the library’s policy. According to the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), the ages served are 12-18. Teen or YA librarians may provide reference services, maintain collections, provide programming, and do outreach to middle and high schools.  
  • Youth Librarians, Youth Community Services Librarians work with the full range of ages, from birth through high school graduation. In certain cases, they may be called “children’s librarians” but have responsibility for services to youth through high school.  
  • Public Services Librarians typically have a dual role in adult and youth services. For instance, they may be working out of the adult services reference department, but have responsibility for children’s/YA programming or school visits.  
  • School Librarians have many of the same responsibilities as public librarians, in the areas of collection development and literacy training. Their jobs focus almost completely on curriculum support, although it is becoming fairly common for them to offer other types of programming as well. If you are interested in this type of librarianship, see the sheet specifically about school librarians.  

Preparing to Enter Public Library Youth Services Librarianship:

Professional Development:


    • Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association
    • Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association
    • Public Library Association (PLA), a division of the American Library Association
    • National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE),
    • Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN)
    • International Reading Association (IRA)
    • Other ALA divisions or organizations depending on interest
    • Tennessee Library Association (TLA)


    • ALSC biennial Conference
    • YALSA biennial YA Literature Symposium
    • State-level or regional conferences (e.g. TLA, VLA)
    • Others, depending on interest area

Publications of Note:

    • Children & Librarians (CAL)
    • Horn Book
    • Young Adult Library Services (YALS)
    • Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults (JRLYA)
    • School Library Journal (SLJ)
    • Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
    • Booklist

Recommended Courses (in SIS):

In addition to completing the courses required for the MSIS degree, students with an interest in youth services librarianship might consider enrolling in some of these courses (please note that this listing is not a substitute for consulting with the MSIS Program Advisor). 

Everyone interested in working with youth in public libraries should take: 

    • 571 Children’s Materials 
    • 572 Young Adults’ Materials 
    • 573 Programming for Children & Young Adults 
    • 576 Storytelling in Diverse Settings 
    • 577 Picturebooks Across the Curriculum 

Recommended, regardless of interest area:

    • 550 Management of Information Organizations 
    • 559 – Grant Development for Information Professionals 
    • 560 Development and Management of Collections 

Youth Informatics:

    • Youth Informatics is a pathway for graduate students who wish to expand their role in youth services to bridge the gap between traditional youth librarianship and information/communication technology. The growth in digital information, information systems, communication technologies, and fields of study including, but not limited to STEM, require individuals who have the necessary knowledge, critical thinking, and problem solving skills to help public libraries, school systems and other institutions integrate and use these technologies, as well as offer services in support of teaching, research, and practice. Learn more about youth informatics classes and the YI Certificate here.

Public/ User Services:

    • 534 Government Information Sources
    • 535 Advanced Information Retrieval
    • 557 User Instruction
    • 587 Mining the Web

Real-World Experience:

Recent Practicum Settings:

    • Henrietta Public Library, Rochester, NY
    • Knox County (TN) Public Library
    • Portsmouth (VA) Public Library
    • Tennessee State Library

Recent Placements of UTK-SIS Alumni:

    • Clarksville-Montgomery County (TN) Public Library
    • Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC)
    • Nantahala Regional Library, Murphy, VA
    • Knox County (TN) Public Library

Where to find jobs: