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Blog: YALSA - Young Adult Library Services Association
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Even if you don’t work in a school media center, I’m guessing your life still tends to run on an academic schedule when you work with teens. So welcome to the new school year! Here’s what I think might be interesting, useful, or intriguing to you and your patrons this month.
- If your teens are interested in what’s new in the going green movement, have them look more globally to see what’s going on. In coastal Ecuador, young people from farming families are heading up efforts to save, cultivate, and redistribute heirloom seeds to revitalize the environment and help farmers prosper. Part of an organization called FOCCAHL, 20-year-old Cesar Guale Vasquez travels throughout nearby areas collecting seeds from farmers and also hosts swapping events so that farmers can trade seeds with each other in order to have more vibrant and diverse crops. Now take that for inspiration and add to it your own library’s resources on climate change, farming, and nutrition and plan an interesting program that combines science with activism and see what your advisory board wants to do with it. Many libraries now are creating their own seed libraries, and whether they’re for wildflowers or corn, they can be a great way to bring communities together, get young people to work with older people, and freshen up your local environment while doing your small part to keep the world cleaner and greener.
Matthews, J. (2012). Ecuador’s seed savior. World Ark, May 2012: 10-15.
- At the beginning of the school year, many teens are interested in refining or experimenting with their personal style. There is generally no shortage of mainstream fashion and beauty advice in the magazines and books you have in your collection already, but there might be a population you’re missing, and they’re getting bigger and more vocal. While the natural hair trend has been growing for years, the recent O Magazine cover presenting Oprah Winfrey with her hair relaxer-free has sparked a lot of talk. The social news web is blowing up with discussions of hegemony (the prevalence of hair relaxers in the African American community has been linked to unrealistic standards of white beauty), harassment (nearly everyone with natural curls, regardless of race, has experienced strangers touching their hair without asking first), and self image (who decides what’s beautiful, and is it more important to do what you think is pretty on you or to make a political statement with your hair?). Take a look at the reports of the Oprah cover at Sociological Images and Jezebel (it’s worth taking a look at the comments, too, but they’re probably NSFW and can get heated), and then consider hosting a discussion club or making a display of books on beauty. If you’re not sure where to start, I suggest Naturally Curly, one of the premiere websites (with social components, news, and shopping) for natural hair of all textures.
- STEM, STEM, STEM. Everybody wants students to engage with science, technology, engineering and math. Federal money is pumped into it. Grants support it. But do teens and tweens care for it? In a study of middle school students, researchers analyzed both boys’ and girls’ wishful identification with scientists on television shows to see what factors influenced positive feelings (possibly indicating an interest in pursuing a science career or hobby). They found that boys were more likely to identify with male scientists and girls with female scientists, which is unsurprising. What was more interesting is that the genre of the television show affected the positive feelings. Scientist characters on dramas were more likely to elicit wishful identification than those on cartoons or educational programs. What can you do with this information? Plenty. For your next film screening, try a drama or documentary that presents scientists in a good light, like Cool It, And the Band Played On, or Einstein and Eddington. If you want to take a crack at those who think that being good at science or math makes you a loser, connect STEM with the things teens already love, like working out, YouTube, and the Web by taking a look at the 35 fittest people in tech, videos by Vi Hart, who turns mathematical concepts and history into snarky audiovisual narratives, or how-tos at Lifehacker.
Steinke, J., et al. (2011). Gender Differences in Adolescents’ Wishful Identification With Scientist Characters on Television. Science Communication, 34(2): 163-199.
- Whether you’re in library school or you’ve been working for years, you might find Hack Library School’s new starter kit series interesting, especially their post on services to children. Anyone want to volunteer to write the starter kit for youth services? On a related note, Teen Librarian Toolbox has a post on what to do about all that stuff they don’t teach you in library school (I’m taking notes).
- If you’ve been trying to find a way to collaborate with nearby schools, see if you can get an advisory group to have a meeting with local teachers (it might be a good idea to make sure that the teachers are not teachers of the teens in your group so as to encourage openness and honesty) and start a dialogue. The topic? Standardized tests. Students may feel like teachers are against them, while teachers probably feel as if it’s administrators who are forcing them to be uncreative. So how do you get all sides to understand each other when schools are still tied to federal standards? For background information, try the journal Rethinking Schools‘ spring 2012 issue, which featured a special section on standardized tests. After a good discussion, maybe everyone can take fun “standardized tests” on personality types, books, or any other fun topics. Then see if students, teachers, and you can work together and form some sort of coalition that bridges the gaps between inside- and outside-of-school education, engagement, and issues. Start a collaborative blog. Take turns hosting book clubs at different places that feel like home to the different stakeholders in your group. What might be an interesting year-long project is to get everyone in the group to develop their ultimate standardized test to replace the ones they’re taking or proctoring in school. What skills do teachers and students think are most important to have before leaving the K-12 system? What topics do people in the real world need to know? Is it better to test knowledge orally? With essays? With student-led, student-designed creative projects? With their perspectives and your skills with information seeking, along with your vast collections, you should be able to create a really interesting partnership. And if you need more inspiration, check out these roundups of education blogs by both students and teachers, both here and here.
What are your plans for this upcoming academic year? As always, your questions, comments and suggestions are welcomed and encouraged!
For some of us, it’s an uphill battle advocating for the teens in our libraries. Budgets are never quite large enough, there’s never enough time to do everything, so if any group gets the short end of the stick, it’s our teens. We all know how important it is to have teen programming and teen spaces and an excellent teen collection, but it can be difficult getting the higher-ups to see it our way. You might find, as I have, that you need to justify your teen programs beyond getting teens in the door.
No one really questions the benefits of Storytime for the kids. It’s fairly obvious how it fits in with the library’s mission. A teen Halloween party, on the other hand, might be subject to more scrutiny. Recently, I found out that the Halloween party I’d been planning for our teens didn’t pass muster in its current state. It wasn’t enough to try something to increase our program attendance. Our circ starts are awesome, but we have an unfortunate floor plan for our teens, so they don’t really have a place of their own to hang out. They get their books and go, which has made it a lot harder in creating relationships and encouraging them to come to programs. There was no way I was giving up on this party. Instead of a Halloween party, it’s now a Favorite Character party, where you must come dressed as your favorite book character (and act the part, if you’re really good). The activities we’ll have will tie in to our collection, like YA horror trivia, and we’ll be more book-focused than Halloween-focused.
The key to justifying a program or a service for teens is two-parted. First, tie it to your library’s mission. Say that your mission statement includes words like informational and enriching your community. There you go. Teens are part of the community and the Favorite Character party will enrich their lives by widening their exposure to the YA collection and allowing them to use their creativity to enhance what they’ve read to a tangible form while testing their knowledge and sparking their interest to seek more information about the horror genre.
Second, beyond the direct result of such a program, look for other possible objectives. For example, providing a program for teens not only accomplishes the objectives of the program, but also gives teens a feeling of being welcome in the library. Teens who feel welcome in the library may be more interested in volunteer opportunities at the library. Teens who volunteer can take over tasks, such as shelving or shelf reading, from staff members, who are then free to complete other tasks. This in turn can lead to improved customer service because staff members will be able to spend more time with patrons and will be less stressed about helping someone with a particularly difficult or time-consuming problem because they will know that they have the time to devote to the problem.
It would be great if we could have teen programs just because they’re fun and it’s what our teens want, but a lot of us are under constraints that are out of our hands. Being prepared to justify your programs might mean that you’ll need to broaden your focus to find the positive outcomes.
Blog: YALSA - Young Adult Library Services Association
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For this post I thought I would share my personal top 10 favorite YA websites. Of course, the YALSA Blog would be on this list, as I check it at least once a week. It is a great resource for YA librarians and for people who work with youth in general. But, since you’re on the blog, reading this post, I’m going to assume you’re already aware of the awesomeness of the blog:) The sites are listed in no particular order, with the exception of number 1, which deserves to be there. Please feel free to share your favorite sites in the comments section!
Number 1 http://socialtimes.com/ Social Times
I discovered this website over the summer and it has become my all time favorite website. It has all kinds of different information that is pertinent to our field. It gives quality info about all things digital. It has information about new technology that is coming out, new websites, old websites, any current news going on in the world of technolgy. This website helps me to stay on top of many different areas of my job and gives me the knowledge to competently speak on current issues in our field.
In edition to all of this useful information, it also has a very cool web video section. Every week the editor puts together viral youtube clips on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Whenever I am stuck trying to find something to post on my library system’s teen Facebook page, I just go to this section and find a funny video to post – total lifesaver!
Number 2- www.teenreads.com Teen Reads
This is a great source for checking out new (and old) YA titles. This site offers reviews of newly released or soon to be released YA books. It has booklists and resources for starting a teen book club. It has author interviews- some are podcasts, some are written. I’ve also seen video book reviews on this site. You can sign up for their monthly newsletter so you don’t have to remember to check it all the time. There’s also fun stuff- like polls and all kinds of different giveaways ( I enter every month and haven’t won anything yet. I still keep trying- it’s gotta be my turn sooner or later, right?).
Number 3- www.etsy.com Etsy
I’m going to assume most childrens and YA people know about Etsy. It’s a website where people sell handmade crafts and crafting supplies. Don’t judge it yet- there are REALLY nice things on Etsy. If you’ve heard of it and have been meaning to check it out, today is the day. When I’m totally stuck on what to do for a teen program, I check out Etsy. There are all kinds of different craft categories and I just start browsing through for inspiration. Some of the things they sell are really cheap. ( I also just found out about www.regretsy.com – crazy stuff found on etsy and similar sites- funny stuff:)
Number 4- http://www.the4yablog.com/ 4YA
I decided to just go ahead and keep with the craft theme and mention the 4YA blog here. One of my co-workers had this site up one day when I came to take my turn at the desk. HELLO- it’s awesome! It has all kinds of great ideas for YA librarians to use from program ideas and crafts,plus useful information about things like new gaming systems and video game reviews. It has a focus on outreach oppurtunities.
Number 5- http://www.webjunction.org/1 Webjunction
Do you need to brush up on your reader’s advisory? Want some tips on how to deal with unhappy patrons? Tyring to figure out what ereader is the best for your library system? Have no fear, webjunction is here. The website has fantastic FREE webinars for library workers. I have listened to three or four dif
To Err is Human. It is also human to look for a scape goat, make excuses and wrap denial around ourselves like a cloak of invisibility. Alina Tugend, author of Better by Mistake, summarizes the process in her book. However, I think we can all recognize the steps we take to distance ourselves from mistakes. For example…
In December, I had a holiday party for our library’s anime club. The teens had been asking me for an anime trivia game, and I kept putting it off because I thought it would suck. I figured that I would do trivia at the Holiday Party. It would be like a special treat. I was delusional. I spent days coming up with trivia questions. I sat in my living room watching anime taking notes. I consulted the listserves. I read and reread fan sites and Wikipedia. I took online anime trivia tests. I drove myself mad writing questions. I stood in front of them with my list of questions, and they answered me with blank stares. There were 14 kids. They got 1/10 questions I wrote down. My more outspoken teens gave it to me straight. “Those series are old, I don’t know what you are talking about.” I kept my head on right. I started making up new questions on the spot, but I also started making excuses. Internally I was passing blame to the teens. “They should have told me what series they wanted me to draw from” and “I’m not a thirteen year old girl, I’ve never read Chibi vampire.”
In her book, Alina Tugend relates the definition of error established by James Reason, a Professor of Psychology in England. “Reason defines error as the failure of a planned sequence of mental or physical activities to achieve its intended outcome when these failures cannot be attributed to chance.” I knew things had not gone as planned. The teens were not so overjoyed with my trivia they raised me on their shoulders and elected me King Nerd. It was clear to me, that I had failed somewhere.
That night I laid in bed reflecting on my day and my errors. I was still frustrated with how the program went. But I was frustrated with myself. I had finally begun removing the layers of bull shit that I constructed to protect my ego. My father says “every failure is your friend.” I made a lot of new friends that day. I went over my own performance with a fine toothed comb. I found a lot of them. My mistakes were not limited to the execution of trivia, my buddy and co-worker Peter made sure I knew that. But the trivia stood out in my mind.
One, I should have asked them the kind of trivia questions they’d like. I could have easily asked them what series they would have liked too. Two, I could have had them help me write questions a few months ago when they first brought it up. Three, writing trivia the same week you have library school assignments is unintelligent at best. Four, and this is the most important, it’s not about you it’s about them. Five, I’ll say it again; I could have had them help me to write the questions. No matter how badly I wanted to be right, or how hard I worked. If they were not satisfied, then I needed to look for my errors. After that, the rest were easy to see.
We all know we make mistakes. The thing that is hard to do is own them. Not just confess them, but internalize them. Make them a part of yourself and your fiber in a positive way. No matter how difficult, the steps are simple.
1) Stop making excuses to yourself and others – Admitting failure is like swimming in the ocean on a hot summer’s day. I dread the cold of the water going in, but once I’m in I love it. Really.
2) In the words of my father “First stop the bleeding, the system can be overhauled later.” – The other day, three teens come in looking for memoirs in a short period of time, so my coworker put a cart of books together in under ten minutes. It is mistake Triage. Changing tactics in the middle of something is scary, but if you realize you are failing, do it with style. Go the extra mile.<
My colleague, YALSA member, ALA Emerging Leader, and first time conference attendee agreed for me to post her observations of Midwinter. I’ve no doubt we’ll be hearing from her more often! A warm welcome to Catherine Haydon!
I’ll admit that I’m a bit jet-lagged, over-caffeinated, and used every ounce of remaining energy I had to be enthusiastic and on-point for an outreach visit to a local middle school once I returned from Dallas– but today’s slugglishness was definitely worth the amazing experience attending my first ALA Midwinter Conference. I’m participating in the 2012 ALA Emerging Leaders Program and had the opportunity to learn more about the organizational structure of both ALA and YALSA, as well as observe ALA and YALSA leaders in action throughout the conference. I sat in on a YALSA Board of Directors meeting and was pretty impressed with our leaders. Connecting with and providing support for librarians, whether in school or public libraries, in order to ultimately engage and empower teens was kept at the core of every topic they discussed; I observed a particularly engaging discussion on ways YALSA can partner with state library associations in order to have the greatest impact on teen-serving library staff.
While in Dallas, I also braved a chilly morning walk and attended “YALSA 201,” a short session that provided information on how members can get more involved in YALSA. I’ve been a YALSA member for five years and have relied on programming, technology and advocacy resources developed by various YALSA Committees and Taskforces to get me through my day-to-day work with teens. I’m sure it was the buzz and excitement that came with finally being at an ALA Conference, plus all the friendly encounters I had with YALSA folks, but I got the final push I needed and feel that it’s now my time to contribute to YALSA. I’m excited to work on YALSA’s project through the ALA Emerging Leaders Program and hope to serve on a committee or two in the next few years.
Now that I’m back at home, several colleagues have asked me about my favorite experience at Midwinter. I’ve shrugged some folks off or just replied that I enjoyed the entire experience, but when I thought a bit harder there’s one moment that really stood out. It was Monday morning during the ALA Youth Media Awards, and specifically when they were announcing the Morris Award finalists and winner. A group of librarians several rows in front of me jumped up and screamed loudly when YALSA President Sarah Flowers announced Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
as the winner; while my attention was initially focused on the group of excited librarians ahead, I was distracted by the librarian sitting directly in front of me who leaned over to her neighbor and whispered, “That’s it! That’s the book I was telling you I wanted to recommend to Drew. He comes by the library every afternoon and I know he’d love it.” Miles away from home and sitting in a theater with hundreds of fellow librarians so focused on the books, this librarian remained focused on the teens she served. As the next award was announced, I smiled and silently thanked the librarian for reminding me why I was there – to connect teens with books. I spent the remainder of the awards presentation thinking about these new award-winning titles and the ways in which they would engage, inspire and challenge the teens at my library.
Was this your first time attending an ALA Conference? If so, I’d love to h
A major goal of every YA librarian is to increase her market share, that is, to increase the number of teenagers using her library and those teens’ level of engagement in the library. In my experience, the most reliable and lasting way to accomplish this goal is for the YA librarian to actively embed herself in her community.
When I moved to Mitchell, I had no ties to the community: I knew nobody except the library staff who interviewed me, and the only time I had been in town was the one day I drove out for the interview from 400 miles away. From this thin knowledge base, I have in three years fostered connections throughout the community that grew my library’s offerings from 7 youth programs a year to nearly 200, 8 summer reading program community partners to 16, and 0 grants earned in the prior 6 years to 3 in the 3 years of my tenure. I have fostered new partnerships with local homeschool groups, the elementary schools’ teacher groups and principals, the high school science department, the local state park, an assisted living facility for youth, the pregnancy care center, the charity consignment shop, 4H, youth groups at a local faith-based agency, 100% of listed preschools in our taxing district, and more. These successes are largely due to embedding myself in the community.
When moving to Mitchell, I made the conscious choice to become engaged in the community. I leased an apartment in walking distance to the library, shopped for a church, volunteered at local charitable events, attended community meetings, and generally stomped the pavement for the combined purposes of making myself known and publicizing the library. When attending school board meetings, dropping off brochures at preschools, and even when buying groceries, I introduced myself as “Jacqui the Librarian” to give people a person to connect to the library building.
Following the age-old advice that “you have two ears and one mouth, use them proportionally”, I spent the vast majority of my first year getting to know the community’s priorities, concerns, prime movers, and average citizens. I also let them know me, so that they felt they had a personal connection at the library. From there, in my second and third years I was able to make scores of suggestions for collaborations with the library, new initiatives for patrons, and personalized suggestions for library usage. Again and again to every group who would listen (and plenty who wouldn’t), I suggested how the library could assist them in accomplishing their own goals; and again and again, they took me up on my offers.
You too can find collaborative opportunities by embedding yourself in the community. Wherever possible, I would encourage you to live in the same area as your patrons, attend social events that they attend, volunteer with charities that serve your patrons, and always be prepared to represent the library. Wherever your library is and whatever size your YA department takes, you can increase its market share in teenagers present and engaged by building collaborations within your community, to the ultimate effect that you serve more patrons and in more diverse ways, create funding opportunities, and increase community support for your library.
I’m going to have to keep this brief today, which is fitting because today is all about time. When did you last say that you had too much time on your hands? If you’re like a lot of us, you don’t remember the last time you could just sit back and relax. There’s always something else that has to be done – another program to plan, more weeding to be done, desk hours, etc. You keep putting things aside to do later, but later never comes. If you already have a fail-proof method that keeps you scheduled and on task, I’m super jealous, and please share in the comments!
I, on the other hand, tend to be really disorganized, so at the beginning of this month when I started NaNoWriMo, I had no idea how I was going to manage that on top of everything else. I had to come up with something to do differently, or else I was never going to make it. So, here are a few tips for keeping your head above water:
1. Start using your calendar!
Whether it’s Outlook or Google or a planner that you keep in your desk, start putting every little thing you have scheduled or need to accomplish in there. Is there something that you constantly have to find time to do? Put it in your calendar and set a reminder. The key to this is using something that’s going to be in your face and hard to ignore.
2. Use your apps!
It can be an app on your phone – I use one that syncs with my Google calendar – or a site online. The folks over at Lifehacker suggest Zirrus, which allows you to prioritize your tasks in the form of a tag cloud. Using an app online or on your phone gives you the added advantage of taking your organization wherever you go, and if it syncs to your calendar, that’s even better.
3. Write it down!
Even with having your calendar and prioritizing your tasks, I’ve found that writing out what I have to do the next day makes it easier to best my arch nemesis: procrastination. Put it on sticky notes, real or virtual (I use Evernote because I can access my notes online or from my phone), and even if I don’t look at them again, what I have to do the next day is already in my mind.
That’s all I have time for today. I have 3,300 more words before I hit the 50,000 mark, so I have to get crackin’. Be sure to leave your own tips and tricks in the comments. This is Heather, signing off from my tablet on the go!
Tuesday, Nov. 1st (ahem, tomorrow) is the deadline to submit your nomination for Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers list. That doesn’t leave you much time to nominate that person you met at ALA Annual whose efforts caught your attention. Or your co-worker who seems to be ahead of every trend. Or yourself! It may be that you don’t know anyone who fits the strict criteria. Oh, what are the criteria, you ask?
A M&S is a “leader in the library world” who is “innovative, creative, and making a difference”. Previous teen services-related winners have kick-started teen services in their branch, library system, and community. (One winner got gaming systems in all 20 branches in her library system!!) Others began a project on a small scale only to have it adopted by their surrounding community. Let me highlight a few previous winners so that you might be inspired to nominate someone or strive to be a contender for next year’s award.
1. I’ll start with a woman I have met on a few occasions. She spoke at a small workshop at my previous library, and at a few other, larger settings. Jamie Watson of Hartford County, Maryland is so high-energy, you cannot help but get a little excited when you hear her talk. Her humor and candidness is likely what attracts teens to her. She was recognized as a 2008 M&S because of her involvement with YALSA (Quick Picks Committee member), and because her blog was is syndicated by a Washington DC-area public TV station. *Traits to mimic: enthusiasm, blogging
2. One of 2010’s M&S winners was Monique Delatte, a librarian in Los Angeles, CA. This customer service oriented librarian has won grants for the La Puenta public library as well as the Rio Hondo College (where she is an adjunct professor) totaling over $57,000. Delatte serves a very impoverished community where low income and low education levels are common, so that money is more than needed. *Traits to emulate: grant-writing, customer service
3. Librarian Maureen Ambrosino took her role as Youth Services Consultant for Central Massachusetts Library System very seriously, and took the opportunity to teach her co-workers all about the benefits of working with and for teens. Maureen brought in trainers to teach staff members how to “work effectively with teens”, which resulted in a significant growth in the number of teen summer reading programs. *Traits to imitate: imparting knowledge on others, dedication
The efforts of previous M&S winners are noteworthy. They saw a need and they met it, usually with so much success that it garnered community- or state-wide attention. We can all strive to be Movers & Shakers. Even if Library Journal never recognizes our achievements, your teens, your coworkers, and your community will notice.
If you’re like us at my library, you’re fairly limited in the software you’re allowed to use (ahem, Microsoft Office suite), and your in-house publicity is made with Publisher. If you’re in the habit of making signs or flyers for your programs, check to see if you’ve gotten into the clipart-gradient background-text rut. If this isn’t you, please please please help your fellow librarian who fits this description. If you’re thinking, But what’s wrong with my clipart?, I beg of you, please keep reading.
Flyers and signs should be eye-catching, especially when you’re competing for the short attention span of teens, and it all starts with your background. It shouldn’t be just any color, or a color at all. The background you choose can determine what images you use, as well as the type and color of your font. If you choose a plain background, you’d better have an image that pops, and your font color should be a high contrast. On the other hand, if your background is an image, use other pictures or clipart sparingly (if at all), and consider a “washout” effect, essentially increasing the brightness and lowering the contrast. You want the text to be readable from a distance, and an image background can obscure readability.
Think about cropping an image in a neat way to only use part of it. Instead of a floating ninja head, put that same head with the chin cropped off at the bottom of the flyer to make it look like it is looking over something. If you’re looking for something fresh, try searching through Google Images, Flickr, or other photo sites. Remember to keep copyright in mind, though, and look for images licensed through Creative Commons instead, which is often easier to use and understand.
The last important element is the font. Even if your IT department protests every time you try to install something new, that doesn’t mean you can’t use special fonts. For a Halloween program, use a Friday the 13th-esque font or some other font that embodies your gruesome theme. Having a spa program for girls? Use a super girly font with a lot of flourishes. You can even try to match the font from a book cover (think Hunger Games). Here’s the trick: download the font, unzip it if required, and save the TrueType file to your desktop. Open the file, and like magic, the font becomes available when creating WordArt in Publisher. As long as the font file is open while your Publisher file is open, the font is available and will show up properly (Side note: even if you save the Publisher file, the font will revert back to a standard font if the downloaded font file is not open. To avoid this, save the file as a .jpg). Fonts can come from a number of sources, but my usual choice is dafont.com
The most important thing is don’t forget to have fun with this! What tricks have you learned along the way to keep your publicity from getting boring? Leave your answer in the comments.
Last spring some library school students asked me how to avoid burn-out. We’d been talking in class about all of the activities that librarians serving teens needed to be involved in – collection development, advocacy, programming, management, outreach, personal professional development, technology, and so on. When I was asked the question I had to stop for a little while and think about my answer. Here’s how I did answer:
- Be involved in professional organizations that help you to re-energize by talking to others outside of your personal work location. Talk with those in these organizations about library and non-library topics. When I talked about this with students it became very clear to me that this is a key piece of my involvement in YALSA. It’s through my active participation in the association that I am able to keep refreshed and excited about teens and teen library services. I am always talking with other YALSA members about new ideas, ways to overcome challenges, the positives of teens, and so on. As a result I don’t get burned-out I get excited by possibilities. National, local, and regional organizations can all provide refreshing opportunities for those working in teen services.
- Don’t take things personally. Some days may be really hard. The teens, administration, colleagues, community members, parents, teachers, everyone might seem like they are against YOU. But, they are not. They might have trouble understanding an idea you want to work on or provide the support you think is necessary. But, it’s about the ideas and the support not about YOU as the person initiating those ideas and looking for that support.
- Do new things. This is actually something that should be pretty easy when working with teens. Since trends and interests of the age group change regularly it’s possible to frequently update collections, programs, initiatives, and so on. I know it’s easy to get into a rut and repeat what you’ve done before. I know that by doing what’s been successful at another time you don’t have to spend as much time planning and implementing something new. However, if what you do becomes rote and old-hat then it can become boring to you and stale to teens. By doing new things as much as possible, it’s possible to get excited all over again, every day, about teens and teen services.
- Take risks that give you the opportunity to try new things and get ideas about how best to serve teens in the community. Risks can be scary, but if you go into endeavors that seem risky with the knowledge and understanding that it’s OK to make mistakes in order to learn what will be successful with teens, then you can look at risk-taking as a way to improve service. Not all risks are worth taking, but don’t treat all risks as something that should never be done. Analyze each risky possibility and go forward with some of them.
- Don’t let history rule your library life. What this means is to be careful not to think, “Oh we tried that and it didn’t work.” Or, “The director has vetoed this kind of thing before so I’m not even going to attempt getting it going again.” The thing is, you never know. Maybe the first time you tried that program that didn’t work you and the teens didn’t have all of the pieces you needed in order to make it a success. Or, maybe since you talked with the director about an idea last time he’s had some new information or has been thinking about it and has changed his mind. You won’t know unless you give up history and try again.
- Talk to teens all the time. As you no doubt know, the excitement and energy of teens can be contagious and invigorating. Also, teens will have lots of fun, interesting, cool, exciting and possible ideas for you to work on with them. Listen to wh
You’ve got the materials. You’ve got the space. So, what can a teen librarian do to draw the teens in and get the books in their hands? A lot, actually. What follows is a brief list of some of the techniques that can be used to make the most of your teen collection.
1. Displays, displays, displays!
By far the easiest way to highlight new books to your collection, under-the-radar reads, and staff favorites. Themed displays work well to capture those audience members who like a particular genre or subject, but eclectic displays can also be just as effective. (Blue-covered books, anyone?) Let the display do all the work for you.
Filling displays with books is a no-brainer, but don’t forget to include other formats including audiobooks, Playaways, music CDs, magazines, and whatever else you may have available to enhance your displays and invite potential use.
3. Build the buzz
Create a display featuring books that are in high demand—if you can keep them on the shelves—and include a visual that indicates when the sequel is due. Not only does it answer readers’ questions about when the next book will be coming out, it also builds anticipation and discussion between yourself and your teens.
4. Highlight crossover authors
The YA publishing industry is still going strong, and many authors who have typically written for an adult audience are finding that there’s an untapped teen market out there. Best-selling authors including James Patterson, John Grisham, Jacquelyn Mitchard, and Harlan Coben have made the leap into young adult fiction, so featuring their work not only introduces teens to well-established writers but also draws adults into the amazing world of YA books.
5. Make use of your TAB
What better way to get the word out about your library’s materials and resources than by having the teens themselves do the marketing for you in a convincing, authentic way.
6. Tag your titles
If your library catalog supports a tagging system, such as Encore, used by the Cuyahoga County Public Library system, then make use of it! Tagging your books allows similar titles to be linked to each other, so when searching the catalog by tag, other like-minded titles will appear as well. It’s a great way to “recommend” titles to those patrons who’d rather discover books on their own.
Of course, these are just a few of the ways to feature what you have in your collection, and really, there’s no wrong way to do this. Experiment with different approaches, be creative, and have fun; if you can do these things, then your teens will get what they want and need from your collection.
Any teen librarian who is fortunate enough to work with a talented children’s librarian knows that the possibilities for collaborating on innovative programs are endless, providing youth from birth to young adulthood with programming that meets their developmental, social, and educational needs. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to work closely with your children’s librarian on a project, there’s no better time than now to do so. Why collaborate? Here are three good reasons:
1. Youth-oriented resource
While teens aren’t their primary focus, children’s librarians are just as concerned with the development of youth as teen librarians, so working together on collaborative programs not only benefits the youth the library serves but the librarians themselves. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there’s another resource within the library who understands the unique demands of serving youth and shares your vision on how to do so; someone whose support and knowledge are invaluable tools, especially when working together on tween programs and those that provide mentoring possibilities for teens. Joint teen/children’s projects can provide librarians with much-needed resource-sharing and insight.
2. Assets builder
Collaborative programs can provide teens with opportunities to mentor younger participants, and in some settings, earn the teens service credit as volunteers. Not only do these joint efforts reinforce many of the 40 Developmental Assets for adolescents, but they effectively and organically grow future teen participants in library programs. For example, our system has offered a successful “Reading Buddies” program for years, and many of the teen “Big Buddies” who mentored young readers this past summer are “Little Buddies” graduates and are equally as comfortable working with the children’s librarian as they are with the teen librarian. Programs such as this help develop strong, self-actualized teens while encouraging children to see themselves as future library leaders.
3. Entertaining process and product
Who else can appreciate teen programs such as creating “Gocks” or playing extreme musical chairs? Why, the same person who makes paper plate masks: the children’s librarian, of course! Brainstorming with the children’s librarian when you’re seemingly fresh out of ideas will get both of your creative juices flowing, and when the intent is to come up with a joint program that will attract youth to the library, then bouncing ideas off one another may result in something that can be developed into an engaging and innovative program. Turn the library into a giant game board? We can do that! Have teens help children build and decorate spooky, edible gingerbread houses in October? No problem! There’s no limit to what can be accomplished when teen and children’s librarians work together.
Whether you’re looking to expand your programming repertoire, create volunteer opportunities for your teens, or just find a comrade-in-arms, then look no further than your friendly children’s librarian, one of the best resources for a teen librarian. You’ll be glad you did.
In August, I left my job at the Darien (Ct) Library to become the Academic Technology Coordinator at Hamden Hall Country Day School. While I’d begun my library career as an independent school librarian (at Wilbraham & Monson Academy in western Massachusetts), I have never been in the classroom before. Having now switched from a school to a public library and back again, I feel like I’m getting a pretty good sense of the overlaps between the two areas, as well as the significant differences. If you’re considering making the move to a school, here’s what I’ve learned in my few weeks on the job.
You’ve got a lot of names to remember. One thing that surprised me about working at a public library was that I didn’t really get to know the teens in the same way that I did as their school librarian. And already, I can see things swinging back in the other direction; when you see students every week, you do get to know them a bit more quickly, and perhaps even more deeply. I’d always assumed that working in a public library meant you could be more relaxed with your patrons–they can call you by your first name, you have more unstructured time with them, there aren’t teachers giving you dirty looks when you don’t shush the students (cough)–but in actuality, I found that I was more cautious with the teens, and they never opened up to me in the way that my students have. Now, I’m sure there are public librarians who will have had totally different experiences, so your mileage may vary. I will only say that as a teacher or a school librarian, you are a constant presence in your students’ lives, which can help build trust.
There’s a LOT to learn. If you are joining the ranks of the school librarians or becoming a teacher without any formal education or training, as I did, you are going to have to play a lot of catch-up. Not only are there new rules to follow, there are new resources, new politics, new challenges. And I have never worked at a public school, which I imagine is even more of a culture shock in terms of regulations and policies. In terms of school culture, I would recommend finding a mentor. Try to avoid putting your immediate supervisor in this role, though certainly that person should be a go-to resource and sounding board. A true mentor can help guide you through the uncharted territory of your new workplace and can listen to frustrations that you don’t necessarily want to run by your boss. Ask lots of questions: what is expected of me in this situation? What resources are available to me? What’s the best time to hit the caf? I noticed people wearing jeans even when the dress code says we can’t – what’s up with that? Schedule regular meetings with as many people as you can fit into your busy schedule: your boss, administrators, key teachers, the librarian (if you’re not that person). Ask for feedback.
And in terms of learning how to do your job, well, maybe that’s another lengthy post for another time, but in short: reach out. Use social networks to get human answers to your questions (as opposed to Google). I use Twitter constantly, both to ask questions of my network of friends and to follow professionals who post great ideas and resources. Follow the blogs