Updated Edition of Transforming Young Adult Services by iSchool Professor Anthony Bernier Explores Evolution of YA Librarianship


Transforming Young Adult Services book coverHighlighting a rigorous debate in YA librarianship, the newly published second edition of Transforming Young Adult Services incorporates recent developments in critical youth studies by Anthony Bernier, author, editor and professor at San José State University’s School of Information.

“The work advances a conceptual debate about the practice and theory of YA librarianship by addressing one core question: How should LIS envision its YA users?” Bernier said. “The key provocation invites LIS students, practitioners, and researchers to consider a more complex identity of young people, one better suited to library service, rather than reducing them to mere subjects of developmental psychology.”

Published by ALA Neal-Schuman, an imprint of the American Library Association, Transforming Young Adult Services, Second Edition examines topics including:

  • the historical roots for current theories and practice;
  • how intellectual freedom, storytelling, library collections, and other service topics can connect with the library’s notion and vision of young adults;
  • diverse YA identities, including critical race theory;
  • competing perspectives on young adults’ rights in libraries;
  • envisaging YA librarianship from a teen-centered perspective;
  • youth identities and the school library; and
  • moving beyond coaching to copilot with young adults.

At the heart of this updated edition of evidence-based contributions from 14 experts, including Mary Ann Harlan, assistant professor at the iSchool, is “an essential critique about how the profession has become lulled into a false consensus about youth in society, as well as the position of young adult librarianship within the institution, and thus currently implements a dated vision of young people in daily practice,” Bernier said. He noted that all of the book’s contributors were “proud to deliver this conversational tool for classes, practitioner training, and to inform future research on young adult services.”

Bernier received a Doctor in Philosophy in History from University of California, Irvine in 2002, a Master’s in History from University of California, Irvine in 1995 and a Master of Library and Information Science from University of California, Berkeley in 1987. He designed and teaches both the introductory YA course, INFO 261A – Programming and Services for Young Adults, and the youth services research methods course INFO 285 – Applied Research Methods at the iSchool.

While serving 14 years as a practicing YA librarian and administrator in large urban public libraries, Bernier engineered Oakland Public Library’s first YA services department and designed the nation’s first purpose-built library space for YA services at the Los Angeles Public Library. He also served a four-year ALA presidential appointment on the Committee on Accreditation, and has chaired national committees and task forces, including the New Directions Task Force at the Young Adult Library Services Association. He currently serves as chair of the iSchool’s Youth Services Committee.

Harlan, who earned a Master of Library and Information Science from SJSU in 1999 and a doctorate from the iSchool’s Gateway PhD Program in 2012, has worked in California public schools for 20 years; 11 of those years in middle and high school libraries. Harlan’s contribution to the updated edition of Transforming Young Adult Services explores “the understanding that in school libraries, ‘student’ is an identity role that youth adopt, and with that comes certain expectations and power systems.” Harlan added, “We are trying to address this by using ‘learner’ rather than ‘student,’ but I am not convinced we truly are embracing how the language change is meant to disrupt power hierarchies within school systems. Part of this is examining policy documents for assumptions.”

Recognizing that advances in critical youth studies have been slow to impact LIS, Harlan said there’s rising acknowledgement in LIS that youth identity and culture may not always reflect established scholarly paradigms about adolescence. “Our identities impact our lived experiences in ways that do not necessarily align with developmental notions that have underscored so much of our work. We need a more nuanced understanding of how identity and culture are impacting how we view the process of development,” Harlan explained.  

At the iSchool, Harlan teaches INFO 233 – School Library Media Centers, INFO 237 – School Library Media Materials, and INFO 295 – School Library Field Work. When asked how this revised edition may be used to benefit learners in the iSchool’s Teacher Librarian Services Credential and Master of Library and Information Science programs, Harlan responded: “We need to be able to critique dominant narratives in order to be information professionals, and as this book does this in several chapters, I can see using it for examples of how to do this, and to open up to this idea of how identity and culture may challenge dominant discourses related to adolescent development — as well as what that means in working with youth.” 

In addition to Transforming Young Adult Services, Bernier has published several books and articles on equitable library services with young people; received the iSchool’s Distinguished Service, Outstanding Professor, and Outstanding Researcher awards; and received two National Leadership Grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. His regular column, “YA Strike Zone,” appeared in Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) between 2013-2019.

Instructors interested in adopting Transforming Young Adult Services for course use may request an examination copy at the ALA online store.