Educating and Empowering Teen Activists in Public Libraries: A Case Study of the Impact of Reading on Young Adult Social Justice Actions

  • Author / Creator
    McDevitt, Jennifer A
  • In recent years, young adult (YA) fiction has, like its Generation Z audience, turned to social justice issues and activism. At the same time, the discussion of social responsibility in librarianship has begun to include human rights and social justice. This thesis investigates the relationships between social activism narratives in YA fiction, real actions taken by teens who read that fiction, and public library programming. To do so, I conducted a participatory case study in partnership with the Camrose Public Library. I involved the youth who participated as research partners, inviting them to provide feedback and make adjustments to each stage of the process. My aim was to discover how public libraries might use YA fiction featuring social activism narratives in their programs to engage with youth and empower them to actively create change in their communities.
    In general, this case study found that, on their own, neither social activism narratives nor library programs motivate teens to conduct social justice actions; instead, they contribute to a network of learning opportunities and information that leads to teens becoming motivated to make a difference in their communities. Thus, public libraries can provide teen programming that uses social activism narratives and collaborative discussions to teach teens more about social justice issues, show them how to get involved in social justice movements, and instill in them the confidence to do so. The ability of libraries to accomplish this rests on a symbiotic relationship between inspiration, education, confidence, and motivation. Having inspiration, education, and confidence leads to increased levels of motivation, while already being motivated leads to a desire to acquire more inspiration, education, and confidence. The participants brought their already-established values and opinions about social justice issues and actions to the text and, from the books and the program, took away a deeper understanding and increased confidence. They were most inspired, and thus motivated, by social activism narratives that they had enough prior knowledge and experience to find enjoyable and relatable, as well as those that featured characters who took direct action. Collaborating during the program and participating in the research process made the participants feel appreciated and succeeded in teaching them tools for taking social justice actions.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts/Master of Library and Information Studies
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.