Norfolk Public Library

 What I love about the YOUmedia network’s newest (and 31st) member is that they don’t yet have a name. Why not?

Jineane Shorter -Teen Service Supervisor- explains, “We haven’t named it yet!  We have a teen advisory panel that meets once a month, and we haven’t had a meeting with them since we’ve been officially selected. That’s something we want our teens to name - we wouldn’t want to name it for them.”

The teen advisory panel seems to be at the root of Norfolk’s Teen Services.  They confer with staff to design programs and provide supply lists to the library staff.  Student-interest (yea connected learning!) drives the programming.


Currently, library associates provide the programming to the teen patrons in Norfolk, and they fill the role of mentor while the Norfolk team works to bring on more part time staff.  “When I am looking for people, I look for a person that has a Passion for working with youth, that has that creativity…willing to be silly, and foolish, go out on a limb, and think outside the box.  If you can’t do those things you’re not going to be successful with the teens” says Jineane.  

“A lot of times we’ll have a teen...where something is such a big deal, it’s the end of the world…it’s just that they missed a deadline on a paper. You have to have the ability to relate to them where they are, and give them guidance…a lot of times we end up being more than library staff.”  It’s a sentiment many of us can relate to, and illustrates why the role of trusted adult is so important in our learning labs.

Their 17 ongoing weekly programs weekly and several “specialty” programs include intimate work with soft skills -utilizing the skills of library associate Mallory, who has a background in social work -to STEM and maker-centric programs with associate Anton.


Patricia Kendalls -youth associate- says Norfolk joined the YOUmedia network because of the hallmarks, and the commitment to developing learning skills that can cross the line between both hard skills and soft skills -skills that carry beyond the library to college and careers.


Other than naming their YOUmedia learning lab, they are looking forward to launching a series of mobile kits that will go to different branches and engage other library staff that are already engaged in teen programming.  A training model for youth associates is being developed, and they are looking for other specialized mentors to implement programming in their mobile and stationary learning lab.


We're excited to have the talented team at Norfolk Public Library join us, and look forward to what we can share-and learn-from them!  Hillary Kolos (Dreamyard, NYC) visited Norfolk during the onboarding process, and reflected;

"From the moment we arrived at the Slover Library we were welcomed with a kindness and enthusiasm that let us know Norfolk was going to be a YouMedia site. The Norfolk Public Library is doing so many amazing projects - including a huge gaming festival, DJ clinics with local artists, and a Girls Who Code club. Their whole staff is truly engaged with developing their tween and teen programming - from the director, administrators, librarians and IT. I'm so excited for them to contribute their expertise to the network."


 Need a refresher on the Hallmarks Patricia mentioned?

 YOUmedia Learning Labs share the following hallmarks:

  • A balance of opportunities for hanging out, messing around, and geeking out (HOMAGO);
  • Multiple ways for a diversity of youth to engage within the program space;
  • A culture that prioritizes equity, inclusion, and youth leadership;
  • Access to tools, technology, and people who support learning, self-expression, creativity, critical thinking, and innovation;
  • Mentors who are dedicated to the YOUmedia approach;
  • Clear pathways and opportunities that enable youth to apply skills in meaningful ways.


Staff who:

  • Lower barriers to participation in terms of cost and accessibility;
  • Develop programming in response to youths’ interests;
  • Offer a range of leadership opportunities for youth, including opportunities to co-design programs;
  • Connect youth to a wider network of organizations and services.


Administrators who create an environment in which staff work together to:

  • Develop flexible, responsive, and adaptive programming;
  • Pursue professional development and continued learning locally and nationally;
  • Participate in the regular evaluation and improvement of the Learning Lab.



 Content by Niq Tognoni, photo credits Patricia Kendalls