It’s made an astonishing difference

Pilot program addresses youth behavioral issues with compassion and inclusivity

One of the Library's goals is to make our buildings welcoming to people of all ages. In an effort to create more welcoming spaces for youth, the Library has piloted a program that offers youth facing suspension for behavior that doesn’t align with the Code of Conduct a way to make amends without losing library privileges. Library Restorative Practices for Youth (LRPY) encourages youth to meet with a board of community members and work together to address behavioral issues.

Sofia Blue, a former librarian and current Special Staff Assistant for Pima County Supervisor Ramón Valadez, and Manuel Abril, a facilitator for local art therapy groups, served on the first LRPY Board, which piloted at Eckstrom-Columbus Library in the fall of 2017.

In Manuel’s opinion, “It shows a spirit of inclusivity… and gives young people a forum to be heard.”

Throughout the pilot year, Manuel and Sofia were part of interactions that offered genuine examples of restorative practices at work.

Sofia recalls one youth who said she was so embarrassed about what she had done that she felt it in her heart, while Manuel remembers meeting a teen who used her time in front of the board to open up about social exclusion and the ways it was affecting her and her behavior.

There is one teen whom Mary Sanchez, manager of the Eckstrom-Columbus Library, will never forget. This participant had been referred to the LRPY board three different times, but there was no change in behavioral issues, which included getting into fights, yelling, being rude to staff, and bypassing the computer system.

Mary says, “During one of the sessions, we asked his older sister to attend. She brought her mother and translated to her throughout the meeting. The difference was astonishing. The teen was more attentive and respectful and really listened to what his mother and sister had to say. Having them come to the session made a huge impact. Since then, his attitude and behavior have drastically improved.”

“The first year has been very positive....This model shows youth that they are part of and responsible for the well-being of their library,” says Manuel.

Sofia agrees, “The kids that cause disruptions are often the ones who need the library the most. It’s not easy for kids to talk about why they got into trouble, but they always have interesting insights and they really do want to make things right. They just need guidance on how to make it right again. That’s what restorative justice is all about.”