Welcome to Kidulthood

I didn’t really get a chance to unpack this perspective of mine in the Twitter chat. I was fortunate in that several people were vocal in agreeing with me on the subject.

Some people might disagree. From a legal standpoint, some consider you a child until you turn 18, and treat you accordingly. I find this thinking simplistic, and ignorant of the ability for opinions to change over time. I consider myself a strong advocate of teen rights, because frankly, patronising adolescents gets us off to a rubbish start in developing relations with the generation below us. Their opinions matter, and will matter even more as the decades roll on.

But I digress.

My point here is that teenagers often have a better idea of what’s right for them than their parents do. Yes, teenagers don’t know everything. I certainly didn’t and thought I did at that age. But teenagers do know something. And when I was 16, there were definitely some things going on below the surface that I didn’t want to discuss with my family. We were in opposition on some things. Enough that it made me uncomfortable.

And I’m just a cis white girl. Imagine being trans. Or bisexual. Or not believing in Jesus in a Christian household. Imagine attempting to access the information in your own home, only to be blocked by your parents either directly or indirectly. Well what now? You have a moment of panic. How can you trust them? They’ve already made it so hard for you to answer your burning questions. Where will you go now?

The library might not be the first choice for today’s teens, but it is still an option for them. And as an act of altruistic good, I think it is a library’s responsibility to allow open access to patrons in need.

The Ontario guide to teen rights is an excellent start to outlining how teens from all walks of life can be catered to ethically. In particular, the following two points are of interest to this discussion:

1 . Intellectual freedom

The library establishes clear policy statements concerning the right to free access by young adults to library resources and information sources; and respect for the rights of young adults to select materials appropriate to their needs without censorship, the Library’s teen collection, policies and services should be consistent with the concepts of intellectual freedom defined by the CLA, OLA and Ontario Human Rights code.

6. Welcoming, respectful, supportive service at every service point.

The Library promotes friendly, positive, non-biased customer interactions with teens, providing staff development and training and ensures that services for teens embrace cultural and gender diversity and economic differences. Library staff will endeavor to respect the teen’s need for privacy and nonjudgmental service and assist young adults in acquiring the skills to effectively access all library resources and become information literate.

– (Dalgetty, 2012)

So what these two rights add up to is an assurance for scared or uncertain teens, that their internet access and research will not only be unfettered, but openly supported by library staff. At a time in their lives where they might be very used to closed doors, it fills me with comfort that, at least in Ontario, there is an open door.

Are there any ‘open doors’ you want to share with the learning community? Feel free to tell us about it in the comment section.


  1. Leela Wittmer

    I think you are so right Bec.
    This is a real issue in wider society but also something that the changing library space should look at in itself. The library is so much more than a place of reverential (and sometimes uptight) quiet.

  2. Helen Treherne

    Hi Rebecca
    This is a gréât post, raising censorship and right to privacy questions, especially in relation to older teens. It is indeed a question of judgment about the level of control ‘children’ have over their own affairs despite the current legislation. As a parent and formerly a school library cataloguer my primary objective was protection for my children and the students. Protection from fear, mainly – especially where extreme violence or cruelty was explicitly expressed. However, I also understand that my boundaries may have been more restrictive than others’ boundaries.
    It’s a very diverse discussion topic. Moody’s 2005 paper provides a gréât insight into censorship and libraries (http://eprints.qut.edu.au/3071/1/Censorship_discussion_paper.pdf). For a completely different perspective read about Rona Joyner and her Society to Outlaw Pornography STOP at http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/jol/tag/censorship-in-queensland/

    • Bec

      WOAH I had never heard of Rona Joyner before. If I had been a librarian (and alive) back then, boy I would have had some spitfire for her!

  3. Anitra

    Hi Bec , the Ontario guide is truly inspiring – linking the equity ethos into a tangible document . It has been useful for me to look at library policies & their relationship to ALIA /ALA etc . Unfortunately some of this is being eroded/ challenged in the US & this makes more interesting reading – Chloe @chloepickard highlighted this in her blog . I read a great article in the reference week about test cases of people looking up potentially judgement interests & their right to non judgemental & private service . Anitra

  4. Karen Eyre

    I’m totally with you – libraries should be non-judgmental spaces where kids can explore things they are not comfortable in doing elsewhere. Like a teen mother being able to read about pregnancy without having her parent/guardian find it on her browser history. Or the ASD kid who no one wants to hang with in the playground but EVERYONE wants to play chess against in the library.

    On a totally different tangent, your title “kidulthood” reminded me of an article I read about the increasing popularity of YA fiction with adults leading to the infantalisation of the “adult race”.


    I wonder if in the decades to come, there will not be the child/adult divide in the library as we will merge into a blob of “people” who like “stuff”.

    • Bec

      Ooooh the merging of boundaries and divides is an interesting prospect. I wonder about that too, because for centuries upon centuries we were adults vs. children and there was a distinct line. But the kids on the industrial revolution conveyor belt would probably tell you with hindsight that the cutoff for childhood was too damn low.
      What we’ve got right now is a continual fracturing of groups. It’s not just kids, it’s babies, toddlers, children, adolescents, teenagers. It’s not just male and female, it’s intersex, it’s nonbinary, it’s genderqueer. At this point, I think the groups are going to keep splintering further and further until indeed we have “people who like stuff”. But that might not be for a few decades yet.

  5. Sharee Cordes

    Hi Bec,
    I really like this point about enabling teens to access resources appropriate to teens without censorship, but I wonder how many libraries (even in Canada) are actually providing this. I thought a lot about sex education when my older two were teens – not just the biology of it, but the dynamics so to speak – when you think about it this is a really important area to be skillful and knowledgeable in, but how do you find info about it? For info about most topics they wanted to find out about my kids would, like every other teen, search the internet but do you really want to do this for sex education?! Imagine the sites that would pop up! I haven’t seen too many sex books on the shelf at my local library either though (mind you, I haven’t really looked). I wonder if librarians are actually brave enough to make that call and put the books that teens need on the shelves – knowing that there may be community backlash. I think perhaps it is easy to say, but a lot harder to actually put in to practice!

    • Bec

      I tried to run a quick Google search just then, to see if any of the Canadian librarians were commenting on the success of their programs and couldn’t really find anything. But I do have a skerrick of faith that Canadian librarians are putting their money where their mouth is. That’s a massive document for them to have written up about open access and non judgement. I think we would have heard by now if Canadian librarians were not following through with that.

  6. Sharee Cordes

    Actually, I just did a search of the catalogues for ‘sex’ in the Vancouver library and the Brisbane library – unfortunately I can’t post the screen shots of the results here but it was very interesting. Turns out that -yes- Canadian libraries are standing by the mission to provide information needed by teens – well at least they are if their impressive collection of sex books is anything to go by!


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