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Burlington library receives federal grant for study on teen mental health -- by teens

The Journal Times - 12/6/2023

Dec. 6—BURLINGTON — Teenagers coming together at the Burlington Public Library soon will be working on solutions that could become a national model for combatting teen mental illness.

The library has received a federal grant designed to explore the issue of teen mental health through the lens of young people meeting at their local public libraries.

Burlington is one of only six communities nationwide selected for the grant program, which is being funded by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The library has received $6,000 and will partner with other grant recipients in trying to leverage the ideas of young people in searching for new programs or services for teens struggling with mental illness.

Juan Rubio, who is administering the "Nourishing Minds" federal grant, said the Burlington library was chosen because library staff already has made an effort to serve teenagers through other special outreaches.

"They had a strong connection with teens already," Rubio said. "They really showed interest in how they wanted to go deeper."

The library will empanel a group of high schoolers and middle schoolers to spend several weeks on the project. Meeting in the library, the group will discuss teen mental health, and brainstorm for new approaches on the issue.

Similar work will be taking place at libraries in Oregon, New Jersey, Indiana, North Dakota and Kentucky.

Rubio said the ideas emerging from the grant project will be shared on a national level and could be implemented in cities across the country.

Emily Laidley, youth services librarian in Burlington, said 30 or 40 teens are regular visitors and participants in the library's ongoing programs for young people. The "Nourishing Minds" group will be culled from that population and will continue working through the winter months.

Laidley said she applied for the grant because teens frequently discuss mental health issues, and many have asked the library to consider related programming.

The library is not just a place for books and reference materials, Laidley said, but it aims to serve the community's needs in many ways.

"That's the beauty of the library," she said. "The library is the community's space."

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