UPDATE: Under Latonia’s leadership, Teen Services expanded and changed its name to “Middle and High School Services” in August 2022.
Say hello to the newest member of our team, Latonia Jackson!
“I am passionate about helping others reach their fullest potential,” Latonia says. “I am eager to grow and learn every day. If you’re willing, learning takes place in many forms.”
Before joining the library in January, Latonia spent over 20 years working at Oak Park and River Forest High School, most recently as Outreach Coordinator. She has extensive work and volunteer experience serving teens and their families, and is part of a peer network that meets monthly, with members from Oak Park and River Forest organizations such as the townships, schools, libraries, the Community Mental Health Board, and Thrive Counseling Center.
“I’m happy and proud to be in a position to cultivate, encourage, and support teenagers,” Latonia says.
Read on to hear more from Latonia, including what makes her feel hopeful about teens today.
What drew you to this position?
My goal is to make coming to the library—utilizing the resources, books, and all—cool and common.
Collaborating with the library over the past couple decades, I noticed many teenagers not visiting the library, not knowing what the library had to offer, so I jumped at the opportunity to connect the people to the product.
I’ve been saying the library is more than books, and we are. Once Teen Services is fully staffed [with a new full-time Teen Services Coordinator], we will strategically plan programming that’s appealing to all teens.
This will take some thinking out of the box, collaborating with the Leading Edge Teen Advisory Board, and robust marketing, but we hope to see a quick uptick in patron visits, online event participants, and, as soon as we can, full-to-capacity in-person programs.
How can the library help make a difference in teens’ lives?
The library is already rich in resources, and we can make a difference by connecting entire families to the wealth of resources we have to offer.
We can also make a difference by being a welcoming environment for all. Everyone should feel comfortable with every library staff member; every encounter should be positive. Patrons should feel a sense of, “This is my library.” When that happens, it’s easier to engage. Patrons will want to visit, sign up for events, and so on.
This is particularly important for teens. Outside of home, there are not a lot of places in town for teens to truly be themselves. We have created that environment and are ready to entertain their ideas, hear their dreams, help map out their personal and educational goals, and broaden their horizons in general.
What are some things that young people are doing right? What is making you feel proud or hopeful?
There are so many, I’ll name a few:
- Teens are caring for and taking care of the environment. This happens in many ways.
- They are socially conscious, unapologetically advocating for themselves and others. They know their history and exercise their rights.
- Philanthropy. They are not selfish. Teens collect things, raise money, and donate their time to better the lives of others.
- They are so creative and talented in every art form. Thanks to mass/social media we have a front seat to their awesomeness.
What are you reading, watching, or listening to?
I’m reading The Unspoken: An Ashe Cayne Novel. It’s the first in a trilogy by Dr. Ian K. Smith. I’m listening to a variety of music. I’m a music lover. And I’m watching any singer or group story. My latest was Aretha Franklin’s Respect.
What is something you are grateful for?
I am grateful for love and support from family and friends. Everybody doesn’t have that and I don’t take it for granted.