March 16, 2018

Kerwin Pilgrim | Movers & Shakers 2006

Today’s Techie, Training Teens


Juggling school and work, Kerwin Pilgrim earned his degree while going through Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) librarian trainee program, moving to assistant branch manager shortly thereafter. His true calling, though, involves technology and teens. ‘Sometimes,’ says Pilgrim, ‘we neglect to reach out to teens and lose some of them as a result.’

Pilgrim decided against teaching after volunteering with AmeriCorps as a middle school tutor and mentor in Harlem. Instead, he wanted to provide academic help ‘in an environment that wasn’t as structured.’ He currently supervises YA specialists and oversees young adult services at four neighborhood libraries – and now has a BPL trainee shadowing him!

Pilgrim’s commitment to teens shines in Today’s Teens, Tomorrow’s Techies (T4), a grant-funded, two-year technology training project that reached 140 teens in 2005 and an expected 168 in 2006. During the summer, Pilgrim says, many teens ‘would be outside all day without any constructive activities – especially inner-city youths whose parents couldn’t afford summer camps.’ So, he surveyed teens, parents, and teachers and found that teens wanted technology training, parents wanted them to get job experience, teachers wanted students who knew more about computers than downloading games, and library staff wanted constructive projects for summer teens.

T4 trains teens on technology and customer service skills, then requires them to volunteer 72 hours in library branches before receiving a certificate and $150 stipend. ‘The youths gain substance to build résumés and college application essays, and the library benefits from having well-trained youth volunteers,’ says Pilgrim, who will offer additional ‘sparkler’ workshops in 2006 on topics from photo editing to web design. ‘I feel a sense of success,’ says Pilgrim, ‘when I see some of the teens from tough neighborhoods participating in programs like T4 and trying to better themselves and their community.’

Pilgrim’s mission is to advocate for teens, and he excels at getting other library staff on board. As an Everyone Serves Youth (ESY) trainer, Pilgrim communicates ‘the importance of welcoming all users – not only the adult taxpayer – into our libraries.’ Part of his role as an ESY trainer involved helping staff understand developmental stages so they can serve their youth population more effectively. Year two of the T4 grant will teach library staff to provide teen technology training.

Beyond BPL, Pilgrim does ‘outreach to build relationships and collaborate with other youth-serving agencies.’ One program accepts ‘teen ambassadors, who live in housing developments, to work with and learn about the library and go back and conduct outreach within their developments and neighborhoods.’ Sheila Schofer, of BPL, says that ‘working with teens and technology are Pilgrim’s passion and strength, and, if the two are combined (which they often are!), watch out!’



Current Position Supervising Young Adult Cluster Specialist, Brooklyn Public Library
Degrees MLIS, Pratt, 2004
Participant 2005 – 06 Leadership Forum