In her teens, Charlotte Lanae Hinniger worked for a youth-focused reading program at her local library in Fort Wayne. That experience led her to become a librarian – and has inspired the Luddy Indianapolis student’s graduate research work.
“My first job was as a Team Reader for the Allen County Public Library’s summer Team Read program,” she says.
Through the program, Indiana teens are hired for the summer to visit parks, community centers, and library branches and work with elementary students. They serve as mentors, reading books, playing games, and connecting kids to the joy of reading. (The photo above shows Team Readers this past summer working with kids at the Allen County Library’s Pontiac Branch in Indiana.)
Listening to teens
Hinniger (right) is earning her Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree through IU’s Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering in Indianapolis. Her experience with the Team Read program inspired her to research how the program has influenced its teen workers.
“One of my primary goals with this research was to evaluate the program in the teens’ own words,” she explains.
“The research suggests Team Read teens have sought out and desire inclusive work environments that allow them to be themselves,” Hinniger says.
“Additionally, teens cultivate inclusive and supportive environments for the children they serve. During the focus group, one teen told me, ‘You make more diverse connections than you would in your day-to-day school life. You realize you have something in common … that you didn’t know you had before.’
“These programs can have a powerful impact on how youth view the library,” Hinniger adds, “and contribute to a lifetime of positive associations, and for some may serve as a first step into librarianship.”
Luddy Indianapolis Library and Information Science Acting Assistant Professor Charles Sutton (left) noted, “This important research highlights the dual impact youth employment programs have on youth development and local community issues.
“It signals an opportunity for more community-engaged research with students and local youth in addressing complex challenges related to social-spatial constructions that affect belonging and learning.”
Planting the seed
Hinniger says Team Read helped guide her to her career path.
“Although I had visited the library every week (sometimes twice) growing up, I hadn’t considered librarianship as a career,” she says. As a teen-ager, “working with Team Read, I fell in love with the community service aspect of librarianship.”
“When I aged out, I returned as a summer assistant. That summer, working as an assistant sparked my interest in a future career in public library administration. “After completing my undergrad, I began my MLIS at Luddy Indianapolis in Fall 2021. Since then, I’ve worked at Allen County Public Library in a variety of capacities, and most recently became a Teen Services Librarian.”
Seeing her summer job in a new light
Hinniger credits her Luddy Indianapolis class work and Sutton’s encouragement with leading her to research Team Read.
“I took Introduction to Research (LIS-506), which inspired me to evaluate Team Read as a Positive Youth Development program,” she says.
“Given my experience, I inquired how library Youth Employment Programs such as Team Read contributed to positive youth development and inclusive library environments.
“I was specifically interested in two questions: how Team Read was successful as a Positive Youth Development Employment Program, and how Team Read might support library goals to create a more inclusive workforce.
“Luddy Indianapolis’ Department of Library and Information Science offers courses directed readings (LIS-601) and directed research (LIS-602) that have supported my development and research interests.”
Classes and mentorship let her customize her studies
“Professor Sutton’s interests in library leadership and community-engaged research aligned with my research goals and career aspirations,” Hinniger explains.
“The independent research courses with him provided guidance and support to execute my research. These courses, supported by and aligned with a faculty member’s research interests allow students like me an opportunity to shape their education in a way that centers work they are passionate about while advancing research and practice.
“They have given me greater opportunities to make real change in public libraries and in my local community.”