This is a guest blog post by Teen Outreach Librarian Maty Cropley.
In early 2022, the Boston Public Library received American Rescue Plan Act funds, distributed by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, for use in funding library services for people who are incarcerated or youth in the juvenile justice system. These funds have been appropriated to support the expansion of the Department of Youth Services (DYS) core collection of paperbacks. Core collections are collections of books that serve the specific needs and requirements of an outreach partner.
The memorandum of understanding between DYS requires that all books brought into the two Metro facilities be in paperback, and that books fulfill the recreational and intellectual needs of these teens. With this in mind, teen services librarians at BPL founded a 'core collection' of books that respond to the interests and to specific requests coming from the teens at DYS, as well as addressing the challenges of using circulating collection materials for outreach.
The DYS Core Collection is for exclusive use with the youth at Metro DYS facilities. Selections for the collection are made based on new and previous requests, youth responses to surveys, and topical or genre interests vocalized by the teens in conversation during visits. New books are labeled and arranged by genre and then author's last name or book title. Recently, the collection was moved into a new, dedicated space off the Mezzanine at the Central Library. Library staff who choose to work with DYS can browse the collection via an online spreadsheet in Airtable, and make electronic requests to the teen outreach librarian for books for their visit date.
The DYS Core Collection of paperbacks has been greatly expanded with these new funds. Youth at DYS have access to an expanded selection of books in the required paperback format. This allows library outreach librarians to respond quickly to teen book requests by having relevant books in the required format on hand, and have more agility in acquiring a requested book. The collection now has over 1,300 paperback books in the collection, including graphic novels, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays and essay collections, and a collection of Spanish language titles.