Principles for Working with Young People

Wednesday, 19 June, 2019

ASCEL, Libraries Connected and The Reading Agency Launch Principles for Working with Young People


In 2013 The Reading Agency received a five year Anniversary Gift from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation which provided the opportunity to create and develop Reading Hack, a programme for young people aged 13-24 years in public libraries and schools.  

In the first two years the Reading Agency worked with young people, library and youth organisations to develop the programme from concept to its delivery from April 2015.  The programme aimed to engage young people in reading by making it relevant to their passions and motivations and supporting their personal and skills development. Examples of how young people have taken part in the programme include managing author events, setting up book clubs, planning activities and events to support reader development initiatives in libraries such as the Summer Reading Challenge and planning and delivering small scale library festivals.

53 library authorities participated in the programme in year one with this rising to 170 library authorities in the third year.  27,000 young people have taken part as volunteers, cultural programmers and peer advocates from 1,790 libraries across the UK.

In 2015 OPM Group, an experienced independent evaluator was commissioned by The Reading Agency to evaluate the Reading Hack programme and the final report was published in May 2018.  The evaluators found that the success of the programme has demonstrated the demand for a co-produced, locally owned volunteering offer that young people can build and adapt for themselves.

The Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) wished to identify a set of principles for working with young people that would underpin ASCEL’s Children’s Promise and shape the way in which libraries work with young people.

Funding from Paul Hamlyn has enabled the identification of a set of principles to underpin library work with young people which will form part of the legacy of Reading Hack.

Researchers Marianne Bamkin, Birmingham City University and Sarah McNicol, Manchester Metropolitan University were commissioned to research and develop a set of principles and they published the report Developing Principles for Working with Young People in Libraries Sarah McNicol said, “It’s been exciting to work on a project that brings together so many years’ work in engaging young people in libraries.  We hope that the report and principles, which are based on the views of young people themselves as well as practitioners from the library sector and beyond, are helpful for library staff working with young people in a variety of contexts.”

Marianne said, “I had a strong personal motivation in developing principles because I have worked with young people in school and public libraries.  It was incredibly rewarding and a lot of fun to work together with young people who encouraged me to share their passions and allowed me to feed their appetite for books and stories.  I hope the principles will help and encourage library staff to engage closely with young people and have fun, like I did, while helping to shape their future.”

ASCEL Chair, Stella Thebridge said about the report, “ASCEL members were delighted to receive this useful report with practical principles that can be applied to our work in public libraries with young people.

It will strengthen both the relationship between library staff and those participating in activities and our offer to those young people who volunteer to support activities for others, like the annual Summer Reading Challenge.

This builds on the excellent work of the Reading Hack programme facilitated by The Reading Agency, who are key partners with ASCEL.  The principles formulated by the researchers in this piece of work are validated because they stem entirely from the views of young people themselves.  We look forward to applying them in our libraries across the UK.”

Sue Wilkinson, CEO of The Reading Agency said, "We are grateful to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for allowing us to use the funding for Reading Hack to commission ASCEL to develop these principles. Reading Hack showed how important it was to empower young people to use their skills and creativity and identify ways of involving their peers in reading. I am delighted that the learnings from Reading Hack participants and Marianne Bamkin and Sarah McNicol’s work has ensured that we now have a sustainable legacy from the programme which can help shape the work we all do with young people in the future."

The President of Libraries Connected, Mark Freeman stated, “Young people are vital to the present and future success of library services. Research shows that young people are amongst the most active users of library services and we want more young people to join them. These new principles will give libraries guidance to reach out to young people and collaborate with them to design services that are relevant, inspiring and meaningful to young people now and into the future.”

Supporting Resources

A power point presentation for ASCEL members to discuss at regional and strategic meetings  

A power point presentation for ASCEL members to introduce the principles to library staff  

A template for planning, monitoring and evaluating work with young people using the principles

** NEW** ASCEL has produced some resources to help members to implement the Principles in their libraries (July 2019)

The Youth Employment Skills Framework mapped against the TRA & ASCEL principles for working with young people and young people volunteering in libraries.

Youth Employment Skills Framework