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Talk to them like they’re people: a cross-cultural comparison of teen-centred approaches in public library services.

Ornstein, Ella; Reid, Peter H.


Ella Ornstein


The aim of this research is to observe and analyse cross-cultural examples of public libraries with strong teen services, to identify key elements of practice and approach that enable these libraries’ successful and impactful interactions with teenagers. A particular focus is placed on factors that are a matter of mind-set rather than of specific facilities, to offer these as transferable lessons that can be applied widely, including by smaller libraries and those with fewer resources. A comparative case study was conducted at two locations selected as examples of strong teen services in their respective regions: Lava and TioTretton in Sweden and Tompkins County Public Library in the United States. Data were collected via interviews, observation and document analysis. Key factors identified as contributing to successful, teen-centred services include providing a space, no matter how small, that is solely for teens, where they can experience a sense of ownership and belonging; according teens the same respect as any other library visitor; creating a space that is comfortable and actively signals that everyone is welcome; letting teens take the lead, with staff following their interests and serving as facilitators for their projects; creating flexibility in spaces and programming; employing staff who have varied expertise and genuinely enjoy working with young people; mingling and interacting with visitors; and continually re-evaluating and improving practices.


ORNSTEIN, E. and REID, P.H. 2022. Talk to them like they’re people: a cross-cultural comparison of teen-centred approaches in public library services. Journal of librarianship and information science [online], 54(3), pages 451-468. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 12, 2021
Online Publication Date Jun 12, 2021
Publication Date Sep 1, 2022
Deposit Date Jun 21, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jun 21, 2021
Journal Journal of Librarianship and Information Science
Print ISSN 0961-0006
Electronic ISSN 1741-6477
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 54
Issue 3
Pages 451-468
Keywords Public libraries; Young adult library services; Teen services; Scandinavia–US cross-cultural comparison; Social role of libraries; Cultural role of libraries
Public URL


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