Los Angeles County’s Public Library’s Head Librarian, Skye Patrick, truly defines the word innovative when it comes to youth programming and career development opportunities. Patrick, a native of Michigan who grew up as a foster youth, “started working when she was just 10 years old. That may not sound like a hallmark of an ideal childhood, but for Patrick, it was a saving grace. Those formative work experiences provided a constant in her life and kept her striving toward success, she said.” The public library system of Los Angeles County consists of eighty seven libraries, serving 3.4 million residents with an annual budget of $201 million. According to a 2016 report by the American Library Association titled “The Nation’s Largest Public Libraries,” the County of Los Angeles Public Library ranks fourth overall “in four specific statistical measures; namely, by size of population served, by the size of the library collection, by the number of times items in the collection were checked out, and number of visits to the library.” Despite the myriad of work Patrick is tasked with, she understands the importance of fostering our youth and does not shy away from being part of the amazing programming her library system is hosting.
As L.A. County Library director, Patrick is making a special effort to maximize career development opportunities for the county’s foster youth. In addition to fundamental classes and workshops on topics like resume writing and acing job interviews, Patrick has helped introduce newer offerings at county libraries that are meant to attract younger Angelenos. “That is a really important thing to keep them out of trouble, to keep them focused, and give them an opportunity to make money and be self-sustaining,” Patrick said. What many adults from older generations take for granted are those life skills they learned when technology was either in its infancy or almost nonexistent. That’s not to say our youth today cannot learn those important life skills that are foundational to adulthood, but the boom of technology, the lack of resources readily available to humble communities, and the digital divide have left many underserved communities behind. Patrick hopes to bridge that gap.
One innovative way L.A. County is providing opportunities to youth is by offering a “DJ Boot Camp” program. The DJ training program is nine weeks long and it “teaches teens not just how to remix a song and scratch a record, but also how to market themselves and navigate the business world. Reflecting both today’s changing job market and the interests of teens, the library is beginning to offer more courses around S.T.E.M. — science, technology, engineering, math — and the arts. Many public schools across the country find themselves unable to provide music or art classes due to shrinking budgets. Patrick acknowledges that fact and sees the library as a builder of bridges, as opposed to a builder of walls. Why not provide those art and music classes at libraries across L.A. County? Youth who find themselves underserved in their communities can now turn to their libraries to provide them with creative and innovative programs. This provides youth with a sense of worth and independence, and allows them creative authority over their music and marketing.
All library courses and programs are free and open to the public, meaning the youth who cannot take advantage of innovative programs like DJ Boot Camp elsewhere, can take advantage of it at L.A. County libraries. Thanks to the wonderful work of Patrick and L.A. County library staff, youth and adults across Los Angeles can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they can count on their libraries to provide them with pertinent programming that advance their life skillset. Patrick is a champion of not only youth, but of everybody. “Patrick is also the county’s first-ever African American library director and the first openly LGBTQ individual in the position — so ensuring the library as an inclusive environment is personal to her. ‘There’s a place for nearly everyone here and we have a willing and ready and able staff to assess whatever needs they have in terms of discovery,’ she said.”
 Tiano, Sara. “L.A’s Head Librarian, a Former Foster Youth, is Putting a New Spin on Career Development Opportunities.” The Chronicle of Social Change, August 30, 2018. Accessed September 13, 2018. https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/news-2/library-putting-new-spin-on-career-development-opportunities
 Tiano, Sara. “L.A’s Head Librarian, a Former Foster Youth, is Putting a New Spin on Career Development Opportunities.”