Erin Hoopes | Movers & Shakers 2018 – Community Builders

In April 2015, when a group of Philadelphia teens shared their distress over the death of Freddie Gray while he was in Baltimore police custody, Erin Hoopes found a way to help them voice their emotions by creating the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Social Justice Symposium for Teens. Library staff regularly converse with teens about issues such as police brutality and racism, and Hoopes, who has extensive experience designing programs for teens, sought to deepen the dialog.
Erin Hoopes

CURRENT POSITION

Branch Manager, Philadelphia City Institute Branch, Free Library of Philadelphia

DEGREE

MSLIS, Drexel University, 2004

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Erin's post on Free Library of Philadelphia blog

Photo by Kate Copp

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Social Justice Teens

In April 2015, when a group of Philadelphia teens shared their distress over the death of Freddie Gray while he was in Baltimore police custody, Erin Hoopes found a way to help them voice their emotions by creating the Free Library of Philadelphia’s (FLP) Social Justice Symposium for Teens. Library staff regularly converse with teens about issues such as police brutality and racism, and Hoopes, who has extensive experience designing programs for teens, sought to deepen the dialog. “Many of us found that the current political climate triggered more questions and a greater need for teens to connect with each other and supportive adults,” she says.

More than many such programs, Hoopes’s symposium focuses on younger teens, age 13–14, offering intense immersion and breakout sessions. Since 2016, the symposium, now in its third year, has featured presentations from local advocacy groups, juvenile justice advocates, and prominent authors Renée Watson and Angie Thomas.

Participant surveys indicate most teens leave with increased confidence in their ability to become involvedin their community and a greater awareness of community issues—as well as with a desire to come back next year, setting Hoopes up to meet her goal of again doubling attendance as she did from 2016 to 2017. For this year’s symposium, Hoopes is mentoring a Youth Planning Committee to select the theme, keynoter, featured book, workshop topics, and more. She’s particularly attuned to adapting to teenagers’ changing needs: “What matters to the kids walking through our doors and what will bring in kids who haven’t yet found our libraries?”

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