Reflection: Tribalism versus Citizenship: Are Youth Increasingly Unwelcome in Libraries? by Mike Males

While I understand and agree that the demographic revolution is happening, I also agree that library spaces might be reacting to that revolution in a negative way by creating separate spaces for teens as a fear-based solution.  Males’ article claims that libraries are guilty of re-tribalizing efforts. While I hope this is not the true motivation for separating teens, it is likely true that adults do not want teens in “their” quiet spaces in libraries. Spaces have been created specifically for teens in order to attract and interest teens. In turn, adult spaces are created to optimize the way they use the library – which is not the way teens use the library. I agree with these statements in Males’ article, but I don’t believe that customized spaces for teens are segregation, or detrimental to those teens using the spaces.

Rather than teen spaces being created because of fear, Males suggests “they need to be reexamined in terms of their integrative rather than segregative potential.” (Males, pg. 159) There are enough positive effects of specific teen areas in libraries to support this view and to outweigh the negative impact of segregating patrons based on age. Targeted areas in libraries give teens spaces to feel connected and develop a sense of belonging. They may not have this kind of space anywhere else, and might not be welcome in other places. A sense of belonging can prevent disenfranchisement – so important in the development from teens to functional adulthood.

While developing teens into functional adults is not usually a primary goal of a library, it can certainly contribute to societal goals. Males touts libraries as progressive institutions – “democratizing through the promotion of universal information.” (Males, pg. 163) Leveraging this position to usher teens along is an important role libraries can take within any library community. YALSA supports this role, citing issues for teens that will effect the future of our country if a greater responsibility isn’t taken by libraries. YALSA has useful lists of ways “that library staff, stakeholders, and community members can help move the future of library services for and with teens forward.” (Braun, pg. 25) Treating teens as our future adult leaders supports the individual teen in a way that is respectful, professional, and moves library services to meet the needs of our future patrons.


Braun, L., Hartman, M., Hughes-Hassell, S., and Kumasi, K., with Yoke, B. (2014).  The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action. Retrieved from:

Males, M. (2013). Tribalism versus citizenship: are youth increasingly unwelcome in libraries?  In Bernier, A. (Ed.). Transforming young adult services (pp. 151-169). Chicago: ALA editions.


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