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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.
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.
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
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.<
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
Blog: YALSA - Young Adult Library Services Association
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Gretchen came up with the idea of visiting Erin when we found out that our libraries (in southern Connecticut and southwestern Massachusetts respectively) are not terribly far from one another. We were looking for a cultural exchange: to see what was new and exciting in each other’s libraries and teen programs. It’s also just fun to meet Internet friends in real life. (Thanks for introducing us, YALSA and Twitter!) Here’s what we found.
I asked Erin if I could visit for one of her anime club meetings because my manga club is one of the most consistently well-attended programs I run, but I feel like I need more ideas and a better sense of how more established clubs work as mine finds its stride.
Erin’s library is beautiful both outside and inside, with tall ceilings, pleasant lighting, and wood accents everywhere. Their children’s room is downright magical.
After giving me a tour, Erin walked me through their summer reading club: participants log the number of hours they read, earning prizes for reaching different levels. They’re also automatically entered into weekly raffles for bigger prizes. I really liked how she has the raffle prizes on display in the teen area, and I liked that raffle winners selected the prize they wanted from everything that was on display, rather than having specific prizes given away on designated weeks. I also love that she’s giving away a couple of ARCs, billing them as “not even published yet!” That makes the prizes–and reading–more exciting and cool.
Erin’s summer reading program runs on Evanced’s Summer Reader, and she showed me how kids log their reading, how the service desk staff members help teens collect their prizes, and how she selects raffle winners using the software. Since my summer reading club is in its first year, I’m doing everything online by hand using forms on my library’s website and spreadsheets in Google Docs. It’s worked reasonably well, but it’s been more complicated and time-consuming than Erin’s program. I’m hoping to make the case to my administration for summer reading software next year, and being able to see it in action helped.
Teens had gathered outside the room before the anime club meeting, some even coming to the library an hour early just to hang out and read. Once everyone had arrived, Erin unfurled this big (like, the size of the conference table big) collaborative drawing the club had been working on. My manga club has a lot of aspiring artists in it, so I am definitely going to bring this idea back to them!
We watched the first episode of America’s Greatest Otaku and an episode or two of Black Butler, and then, for the last few minutes of the meeting, Erin announced it was Random Stuff on the Internet Time, where teens could show their favorite anime-related things, so long as they were library-appropriate. Lots of kids had anime music videos (AMVs) they wanted everyone to see. I like that her club isn’t just about passively watching: it’s also about finding cool things and sharing them with others.
I went to visit Gretchen’s library last week. She works in an older building, in a well-off suburban town. The older building requires a bit of wandering to find things, but I found that as
I am noticing a big problem at a lot of libraries – mine in particular, since, you know, I’m there a lot. The problem is that the teen patrons only talk to the teen librarian. When I’m not there, reference questions go unasked. Books stay missing. Computers go unused. They are scared to talk to anyone else. A girl approached me that had been looking for a book for three weeks that was sitting on the shelves the whole time because she was too intimidated to ask anyone but me what the call number meant.
The kids, being kids and all, come in after school and are noisy. Shocking to all of you, I know. Since when are kids noisy? It bothers other patrons and usually ends with a staff member scolding them. This scolding is usually the only time the teen patrons interact with any other members of the library staff. They only know people I think of as helpful and kind as yelling, angry adults. Thus, they avoid them. I am in the YA room nearly every day for multiple hours, so I am a familiar, friendly (I hope) face. I have talked to them, so they know that they can talk to me. The rest of the staff are all really fantastic people that would be happy to help the teen patrons, but the teens are afraid and refuse to approach them.
I’m doing my best to encourage the teens to go to the staff with their questions. I have supplied the other reference librarians with book lists and summer reading lists so that they are well-equipped for reader’s advisory and other YA questions. As you all well know, the teen years are when libraries lose most patrons. I want to make sure that we are showing these kids that the library is a place they are welcome to be in. If they feel welcome, they will keep coming here well past their teen years. The question is how to get my staff involved? I am guessing that many of you have dealt with a similar problem. What did you do? I’d love some advice to make my teen population feel more comfortable.
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.