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One reason I love my high school library job is that I don’t have to tell people what to do all day. Sure, I’m always checking passes, giving instructions and directions, or pointing the way to obtain the desired outcome. But, when a teen walks through the doors of our school library the decision about what to do next is totally up to them. It is so unlike walking into a classroom where the next 90 minutes are highly structured and choices are circumscribed. The ability to provide an intellectually stimulating environment where teens get to make the choice of what to do next is empowering for our young people and deserves to be protected.
The high school library is one of the few places where students are given decision-making power. Sure, it is the decision-making power over their own actions, but, that is where empowerment starts. When they walk through that library door, decisions await. Where to sit, computer or table? Do they need to work, or socialize a bit? Should they listen to music while they work independently, or work with a group of classmates? Do they want to work with a group of our coders on the 3D printer or lounge in a comfy chair and read a magazine? Perhaps they stayed up late studying last night and just need to take a nap. The library is one of the few places on the high school campus where students can be self-directed.
The library is the third place for our teens. Described by Ray Oldenburg as neither work (classroom) or home the third place is where community building and a sense of place are fostered and nourished. I say it is also a place where youth empowerment occurs. In our library, where teens have choices and can create their own culture we have helped to foster this third place. It is the place where the 3C’s of the 21st Century learning paradigm come together: communication, collaboration and creativity.
In a time when school and district administrators, as well as city government, want to defund libraries, eliminate staff and cut hours it is time for librarians to show that keeping libraries open and accessible is valuable. Just because many of our students research online and are collections are more digital than ever, school libraries remain that third place where students can become creators rather than just consumers. School libraries and teen libraries are that place where kids can meet, create, and communicate. In fact, it is one of the few places left for students to be able to do this and we owe it to them to keep our libraries open and staffed.
Many library’s are in a great position to help teens develop skills and experience they can add to their resume. Whether it be volunteering on a regular basis or honing graphic design or other useful technology proficiency, teens can gain that needed edge through the library for when they seek out other opportunities.
Last school year, I stumbled across a program at my local public school system that gives students school credit for being part of a library program such as volunteering! What a win-win situation for all! Read on for more details on how the program works.
The Academic Internship program is for high schoolers (though targeting 16-18 year olds) to receive work-based learning opportunities and earn school credit. Library programs that are ongoing such as tutoring, volunteering, creating a podcast program, reading to toddlers during storytime, etc. are some examples that would qualify teens for this opportunity. The credit appears on their transcript which in turn reflects their overall academic success.
Feel free to share if a similar program exists in your area. If it doesn’t already, a few suggestions to get started might be to seek out what kind of workforce development opportunities are in existence and bringing the library into the dialogue by sharing a portfolio of information about the programs you feel might qualify. Gathering anecdotes and outcomes from a program can show that it’s really making a difference in the lives of teens and helps connect them to their greater career goals and interests.
Blog: YALSA - Young Adult Library Services Association
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You know how, no matter how many hundred channels you have, there is nothing on TV? More and more, people are turning to webseries and vlogs for fresher kinds of humor and entertainment. So why not start a vlog series for your library website, or get a bunch of teens together to write a script for an original series? You could also take advantage of the short format of these videos and host a “festival” of screenings of the best series and vlogs out there. Now that so many computers come fully equipped with a basic webcam and editing software, this is an inexpensive way to get creative and to learn more about technology.
Here are some great vlogs and webisodes that should provide you with inspiration as they entertain you.
- The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: This relatively new series transfers Jane Austen’s novel to the life of a grad student recording her angst. It’s funny and a great way to make classic literature applicable to our current times. If your patrons are having trouble getting ready for their AP English exam, use this to take off the stress.
- Everyone’s new favorite method of publicity is to film a book trailer, highlighting themes or great one-liners from upcoming books. But there’s no reason why you couldn’t get a group of teens to create their own trailer for a book that came out long ago. Pick a favorite, get a storyboard, and get filming!
- There are tons of book bloggers out there doing innovative things to get readers to see them as the foremost hotspots for new releases. One popular feature is “in my mailbox” (cf. The Story Siren), when bloggers round up the week’s worth of purchases, galley receipts, and more to whet readers’ appetites. Other bloggers, like Loretta at Between the Pages, do this on video, showing off covers and taking readers on tours of local bookstores and libraries. Other bloggers use this as an opportunity to show off that week’s reading list or upcoming titles they’re coveting. What a great way that you could highlight new collections or underused materials!
- For your incredibly crafty patrons, you can plan a great stop-motion video to learn about construction and design. Picturebook writer-illustrator David Hyde Costello has created videos of Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions made all out of paper and cardboard.
- Homemade videos are a great vehicle for critique–of media, of culture, of politics, whatever. Teach your teens the art of a good analysis and create a well-edited video on a topic of their choice. Anita Sarkeesian of Freminist Frequency creates videos utilizing clips of commercials and movies to talk about feminist issues and stereotypes in the media. This is a great way to exercise your Creative Commons and fair use muscles and come up with an excellent, innovative teaching and creating experience.
What are you doing with video and media in your programming?
Throughout the year, teens in my branch come in, check out their things, and leave. Not many hang out in our teen area, maybe because our other branch has a way cooler teen room. Our stats show that they like our collection, but programming-wise, the numbers are never there. This is why I love summer. We see more teens during the summer than at any other time, and they all want to volunteer.
This year we’ve had to turn away teens and send them to other branches because, for once in as long as I can remember, we’re fully staffed with teen volunteers. They run our Summer Reading Club table and completely take care of registration, logs, and handing out prizes. We pull them into help with programs, especially ones where we need another set of hands. We’re getting another problem, though. We have so many teen volunteers that we don’t know what to do with all of them, and the natives get restless during the slow time of the day. We’ve had to get creative in coming up with things for them to do.
When we have more than two teens at the SRC table, and it’s slow, we’ve given them tasks like entering the SRC forms into our tracker software, or labeling the many, many, many pieces of our early literacy station activities. They shelve and straighten and pick up in-house, but we don’t want them doing that all the time (mostly because we don’t like doing it all the time either). They help set up for programs, especially ones that have crafts, but when all of this is finished, there’s nothing left. A lot of them are happy to read at the SRC table until someone needs help. Others are more…boisterous, shall we say, and when they don’t have a task, they’re getting into trouble.
Does anyone else have the problem of too many volunteers and not enough to do? Leave your solutions in the comments!
Do you know if you work in one of the nineteen states that allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections and caucuses if they will be 18 by election day? Might be something to consider if you’re thinking about getting teens more civically involved with 65 days left until the next Presidential election. Even if you’re not one of the nineteen, it’s still a great opportunity to engage teens. If they’re not old enough to vote themselves, they can always encourage their parents or caregivers to vote.
I do admit, the election is a bit on my mind now in ways that it might not be for others. The city in which I work, in fact the block my branch is on and well, frankly the library building itself is playing a role in the upcoming Democratic National Convention. My library building is hosting The Daily Show and a block away is where the current President of the United States will give his acceptance speech.
In both Charlotte, NC where the DNC is being held and Tampa, FL where the Republican National Convention was held, teens and youth organizations are taking so many opportunities to be involved and let their voices be heard in this political landscape. Youth Radio, for example, takes a closer look at Paul Ryan as a Generation X’er on the ticket. Even if your city is not hosting a convention this year, there’s a lot that can be done to encourage teens as advocates in the political arena. Here are a few examples of what we’ve done and that might work or have worked for you:
Encourage civic literacy through developing reading lists. While this might sound like a very traditional response from a library, it’s still important. In my experience we carefully developed several lists that included a variety of political beliefs and shared them with local youth serving organizations such as Generation Nation, to help promote the library and literacy.
Encourage civic engagement through content creation. This summer, Jimmeka Anderson, a co-worker of mine, and I, developed the Teen Fashion apprentice program. Teens attended workshops to build skills around designing and upcycling clothing, entered an outfit they made into a fashion show, and then apprenticed with our partner organization, The Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. How this relates to being civically engaged? Aside from fine tuning their job development skills, hearing their stories of the thought process that went behind designing their outfits to fit the theme, would have you convinced that yes, clothes are political too. They represent everything from the color of the landscape to inspiration from rappers and actors. The teens that won the apprenticeship have their clothes displayed at the library. Hopefully it will be an invitation and conversation for visitors to understand the many opportunities libraries have for teens.
Content creation can also mean digital. In this case, a video. My library partnered with several youth serving organizations in the community to share teen voices on camera about what the organization they affiliate with; whether the library or other group, means to them. This project is still in progress and wasn’t quite ready for the convention, but video is always a great medium in which teens can have their own voices heard not to mention develop editing and other technological skills to perfect telling their story.
In looking at the bigger picture of getting teens involved civically beyond your own library is having them participate in YALSA’s District Days. There’s been great information on the blog here about how to get involved, how to get the library involved, and what better way than to get teens involved but ask them to be an advocate for the library.
Stay tuned. . .and feel free to share how you are engaging your teens in relation to the upcoming election.
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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!
Teen Tech Week 2012 is still months away (March 4-10), but planning for it is well under way at my library, Niles Public, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. The deadline for finalizing spring programs at my library is January 9 (gulp) just a month from now.
Fortunately, the official Teen Tech Week website has a planning toolkit that includes ideas for events and activities, including one that I worked on over the summer that called “No Budget, No Time Book Adaptations.” The goal is to create a short movie adaptation (2 minutes tops) of a favorite book. Pull out only the most important parts and write a 2-page script, draw stick-figure storyboards, and put together simple costumes and props from materials you have on hand. Shoot it in order and do just one take of each shot. Edit it using simple software like Windows MovieMaker or Apple iMovie, or upload your footage to youtube and edit it there (yes, youtube has some editing software built into their site, now).
The idea sprung from a project I worked on with the Niles Teen Advisory Board for James Kennedy’s 90-Second Newbery festival. The TAB members chose to create a 90-second adaptation of The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle. They did everything from writing the script to selecting royalty-free music for it. I was there to serve as an adviser and help with the editing.
The end result is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6GJZZDNsWU. Go watch it right now, then come back. Here are a few things that I learned from working on that video:
1. More Script = More Time
Umm, you probably noticed that it’s a little longer than 90 seconds. The script the TAB-members came up with was about 5 pages; 3 pages too long if you figure that one page of script amounts to about 1 minute of screen time. The dialog was really funny though, and when it came time to edit the finished video I didn’t have the heart to cut out all of those funny lines. A longer script also means more time spent shooting and editing, so if you only have a few hours to work on a video then you’ll need to set a page limit and stick to it.
2. Let the Teens Do All the Work
Besides writing the script, they came up with costumes and props. The locations we used were all in the library, and the teens were in charge of decorating the set. One teen worked the camera while another one worked the microphone. I did a lot during the editing process (more on that, later) but they were there with me, telling me what parts I could cut. The teens have more fun when they are doing everything. Give everyone a job, even if it is something deceptively simple like monitoring the set and props to make sure nothing is missing from shot to shot (this is an actual profession called “script supervising” that is perfect for people who like to pick movies and tv shows apart for continuity errors).
3. Don’t Skip Steps Like Storyboarding
We did, because the TAB members who like to draw were unavailable when we were in the planning stages. I think the video suffered because of it. Storyboards are basically a rough comic book version of what your video will look like when it’s done. They show you what each scene should look like from the camera’s point of view, which makes deciding where to set the camera much easier. Storyboarding takes time in the beginning, but having that visual guide ends up saving time later, especially when you get to the editing stage.
4. Editing Can Be Tedious, Simple Software Can Make It Less So
The more time you spend trying to figure out how your editing software works, the more time editing your project is going to take. My libra
Well, not really, but kind of. If you’ve ever read Paper Towns, you might catch a few things in the above screenshot that don’t seem quite right. Did Margo and Q REALLY switch places-and he becomes the enigma and she the one to follow his clues? Did Paper Towns REALLY debut as #1 on the NY Times Bestseller list AND appear on Oprah? In my world it did but I’ll share a secret. I put on my X-Ray Goggles and they helped me see John Green’s site in a whole new light. (John can thank me later of course for not sharing EVERYTHING I saw)
Okay, joking aside, YALSA shared these online tools early this morning at the Midwinter Hack Jam. Jack Martin, YALSA President-Elect, said that Hackasaurus started as a project about two years ago with the New York Public Library, YOUmedia with Chicago Public Library, Hive Learning Network NYC, the MacArthur Foundation, and Mozilla.
Teen Tech Week is an obvious fit for introducing this at your library, but introducing digital literacy concepts and content creation span year round for both school and public libraries where this could be easily implemented.
When we hear the word ‘hack’ we might understandably feel a bit nervous as it can have connotations of going against the rules, being dangerious or worse case scenario even be something illegal. There have been previous discussions on this blog in regards to hacking and how it can be considered as a library program.
Jess Klein, Design and Learning Lead of Hackasaurus, with Mozilla, gave an overview and explanation of what hacking is, particularly in relation to this project. It lets youth do the following to the web:
Nothing illegal there. In fact, because of how the web is built (those pages that use html), it encourages participation and to reshape it to make it more personal and meaningful.
Back to the X-Ray Goggles. Once the goggles are installed and downloaded on your computer (is browser based and works with Firefox, Chrome and Safari), teens will be able to see through the surface of a web page. Html tags for images can be shown and easily replaced with another image, background colors, text (think newspaper headlines), and more can be altered. While the change is local (i.e. on your computer), a URL can be generated to then ‘publish’ the work or share with friends the changes made. Think of how empowering this can be for teens to literally shape their own world on the web.
Hackasaurus comes with a Hacktivity kit where suggestions for lesson plans, information on running a hack jam, and learning goals are included.
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
When it comes to advocating for teen services, many of us have had to justify the importance of our role to our communities, library boards, and sometimes even fellow staff members; the unfortunate reality is that we will need to continue doing so for the unforeseeable future. With cuts to staffing and operating hours affecting how we do our day-to-day jobs, it can be easy to put advocacy on the back burner instead of keeping it at the forefront of all that we do. As we rush from program to program, patron to patron, we could all use more help advocating on behalf of the teens we serve. What better resource than the teens themselves to help promote libraries and, more specifically, teen services!
Recruiting teens who frequent the library, be it for programming, use of the collection, or homework help, to assist in promoting services that they use is a win-win situation. Teens can provide first-hand testimony that can be more effective than that of library professionals, and by empowering them to be heard, especially in something as crucial as this, we reinforce how much we value their input.
So, what are some of the ways that teens can become more involved in advocating for teen services? Check out some of the resources that follow:
- The soon-to-be-released Being a Teen Library Services Advocate by the esteemed Linda Braun (Neal-Schuman, 2012) is a comprehensive guide that covers everything a teen services advocate could need to address our value and importance, including a chapter devoted to teens advocating on behalf of their libraries.
- The YALSA wiki “Advocating for Teen Services in Libraries”
is brimming with information, including tips and ideas, additional resources, and the spectacular “Speaking Up for Library Services to Teens: A Guide to Advocacy”. Many of the ideas that are aimed at library professionals can be easily adapted for teen participation, including creating pro-library T-shirts.
- Karen Jensen, the mastermind behind the awesome “Teen Librarian’s Toolbox” is a Teen Services Librarian whose The 2012 Project seeks to collect 2,012 photographs of teens using their libraries in 2012 to demonstrate their value in their lives. Whether driven by teen librarians or the teens themselves, this is a great way for all involved to “show, not tell” how important our libraries are in a visual and creative way.
Whether grassroots or nationally organized, advocacy campaigns for teen services are important to our continued survival. With funding remaining in jeopardy across the country and library services facing cutbacks, now more than ever we must rally our teen support to help us so that we will be able to continue helping them. By getting today’s teens actively involved now, the future of teen services and libraries as a whole can only benefit.
Familiar with other teen-friendly advocacy resources? Please share them in the comments.
With the Hunger Games movie premier right around the corner (11 days, folks!), everyone is talking about Katniss and Peeta and their fight for survival. While no one in this country is fighting to the death to feed themselves, their families, and their communities, hunger – and the desperation that goes with it – is a real thing. Some libraries are using the movie’s popularity to bring light to this difficult and often overlooked social problem.
- Some branches of the DC Public Library system are sponsoring “Hunger Action Stations” throughout the month of March. The branches are official drop-off locations for non-perishable food items (to be delivered to the Capital Area Food Bank). They are also handing out information on child hunger in the DC area, with ways to help/volunteer as well as ways to acquire food for hungry children.
- The Kitsap Regional Library in Washington state is hosting a retired US Navy Medic and her K-9, who will tell teens true stories of survival, and how they can be vigilant in staying safe. They are also hosting a fundraiser at their local movie theater. For $25 people can buy a ticket to the movie premier of The Hunger Games and be eligible for door prizes. All proceeds benefit the library’s foundation.
- The Frederick County Public Library in Maryland is hosting a program on teen survival skills. Another program
These libraries are taking advantage of the movie’s popularity to do good things for the community and to build the skills of their teens. It makes sense to use such a trendy thing to promote safety and community service. What other books or books-turned-movies are coming out that could be turned into community-serving platforms?
We have tons of wonderful resources at our fingertips to create an awesome environment for our teens. Maybe you’re chatting with others about what they’re doing for the Hunger Games release, or you’re scanning Pinterest for new craft ideas. You hear people talking about how such-and-such program was a huge hit, and you think, “I’ve got to try that. My teens will love it.” So you spend time and money planning this sure-fire program, or maybe you’re creating your own Teen Space so they have a place in the library that’s theirs, and the time has come for the big program, the big reveal … and no one comes.
We don’t get a lot of teens at my branch year-round. They come in the summer, and teen programs at my branch during the summer are a lot more successful than other times of the year. Summer, though, is not nearly long enough for everything we wish we could do with our teens, and other times of the year are hit-or-miss, emphasis on the miss. The last teen program we had, no one but two middle-schoolers came, and while we didn’t turn them away, everything we had planned kind of went out the window. Summer aside, this happens time and time again, so we’ve cut our teen programming to once a quarter, which we know sucks, but with one librarian for birth to 18, it’s hard to justify spending more time and money on programs that are constantly unsuccessful.
But we keep trying. Different programs at different times on different days of the week. These kids are busy, and we have to compete for their attention. We keep trying to cultivate relationships with the teens we see during the summer to get them coming back the rest of the year. Our YA collection is fairly awesome, and our circs are good. We know that what works even at a different branch may not work for us. We go back to old programs that flopped years ago because it might work for this group of teens. And even if no one comes to the mini-Ren Faire we have coming up, I’m still dressing up, even if I have to joust with my co-workers. If teens are scarce in your library, leave a message in the comments with what you’re doing to draw them in.
As a part of redesigning the teen space at my library we were looking for a way to partition off some space without building an actual wall. We thought about moving bookshelves, we daydreamed about sound proof glass, but nothing seemed feasible. Until my director came up with an idea: what about movable partitions that you can hang things on? Where would they go? Wherever we wanted. We could reserve the right to change our minds whenever we liked. What would we hang on them? Colored paper? Teen programming information? We settled on sketchbooks, figuring that would make it easy for content to change.
At first patrons weren’t sure what to do with them, but after I got some of my regular teens to start drawing on them, they began to catch on. Later, I added a sign that says:
“Teens! Want to draw?
1. Grab a sketchbook
2. Draw a picture
3. Hang it back up
Need some art supplies? Borrow some at the Circulation Desk.
<3, your librarian, Erin”
After that the art really started to take off. Mostly manga style, often just in plain pencil, but sometimes in bright colors, the teens have been making these blank pages their own. Now almost every day I come in to find new art.
The Art Wall, as we’ve come to call it, is part passive program, part art installation, part wall, and always eye-catching. Seeing art from their peers and being invited to contribute their own really draws teens in and helps them to feel a sense of ownership of their space.
You don’t need a whole wall to incorporate teen art into your space. Start small by displaying some pieces from teens you know. Create a gallery on a window, or as part of a book display or teen info bulletin board. Leave a communal sketchbook on a table, prop one up on an easel, or find a creative way to hang one where teens will see it. None of your regulars like to draw? No problem. Invite them to display a poem, or make a collage. Having teen participate in the decor of their space is the important bit–the particulars are up to you.
I admit that this is more of a call for you all to innovate than it is me giving you ideas. I’ve been thinking lately about how today’s popstars, especially Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Jessie J, are all about having distinct, out-of-this-world style and attitude to go along with their music. Instead of the concept albums of the 1960s and 1970s, today’s pop culture likes its concept artists. Gwen Stefani mixed ska and angst with Jean Harlow, Katy Perry fetishizes and infantilizes herself, and the UK’s Marina & the Diamonds is unabashedly seeking popstar superstardom, and her aesthetic is all about how she’s “obsessed/with the mess/that’s America.” You can argue whether or not these artists are good or bad, whether they’re obvious or esoteric, whether they’re legitimate or faking it–I know I do–but you can’t deny that they are memorable and fascinating.
So what does that have to do with youth services? Lots, I’m sure. Thinking about popstars and performance/concept art can lend itself to all kinds of interesting book displays and programs. You may even end up inspiring a new generation of quirky songstresses and 21st century Bowies.
- First, check your catalog for CDs by any musician you would consider a “performance artist” or “concept artist.” You can also check at the end of this post for some suggestions. Next, create a display where you connect these albums to biographies that may be in your adult nonfiction section, novels about teen musicians, and other nonfiction titles relating to the artist’s aesthetic, from vintage fashion to abstract art. If you don’t feel you know enough about this topic, this is a great opportunity to bring in your teen advisory board or an awesome library student intern.
- Sponsor a night of music video deconstruction–only you’ll have to call it something better if you want anyone to come. If you have a teen advisory board, they should be the ones to facilitate the evening. Queue up the most interesting videos by the most out-there musicians, print out copies of song lyrics, and invite the teens to play producers, critics, and artists. When I taught music videos to a group of high schoolers, I took a variety of approaches: 1) play the song first, ask what they imagine the video to look like and the song to mean, and then show the video; 2) play the video with no sound, ask for feedback, and then play again with sound and looking at the lyrics; 3) read the lyrics, talk about the meaning of the lyrics and the potential video, and then watch and listen. All of these offer the chance to get creative juices flowing, conversation happening, and criticism going. If your teens are up for it, ask them to pair each song/video with their own words or images about what it means to them, or get them to lead a discussion on why they think the artists make such choices. End the night with an open mic.
- You probably know of some individual patrons or of teen groups already meeting in the library who are interested in music, art, and writing. Put them together! What’s interesting about these artists is that they seem to have a whole team of people, as well as a library of influences and inspirations, behind them. So get your teens to do the same! Using your fiction and nonfiction collection and their imaginations, get them to create one or many performance artist concepts–someone who dresses only in hoop skirts, who dyes her hair purple, and sings about calculus? A male-female duo who cross-dresses and makes sure only to sing songs written in sonnet form? Possibilities are endless, and this can easily be a theoretical activity that anyone can participate (just leave materials on a table in your teen room, and decorate a bulletin board or wall to put up people’s ideas) or a large-scale, longer project that culminates in an end-of-summer concert.
- Less vocal (terrible pun, sorry
Platform: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later
Since 2003, the nonprofit organization StoryCorps has been traveling around the United States collecting digital recordings of the stories of regular people. According to their website, their “mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. …StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 30,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind.” You may have seen their silver airstream parked at a public building near you as they continue to collect new stories.
The organization has partnered with National Public Radio so that portions of recordings can be heard on Morning Edition weekly. They also maintain a podcast. Thus far, they have published two anthologies of interviews: Listening is an act of love and Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps. Perhaps your library has these titles. Perhaps you have already incorporated their oral history initiative into your teen programming.
If not, showcasing their App may be just the entry point you’ve been looking for.
Along with including audio clips of some of the thousands of stories the organization has collected, the app includes a How-To Guide, including a helpful video, for setting up interviews.
There is also an interactive Questions list so that you can choose commonly asked questions about growing up, love & relationships, working, and military experience, to name a few. All a user has to do is check off the questions that look good and then click finish. The list of chosen questions will appear and are able to be emailed.
Finally, the app suggests two iPhone recording apps an
Platform: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch (4th generation), iPad 2 Wi-Fi, and iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G. Requires iOS 3.1 or later
Cost: $1.99+ (several “hipstapaks” come with the initial cost, but additional ones cost extra & it can add up, so choose wisely.)
You know those cool pics you’ve been seeing on Flickr and Facebook lately? The square ones with the grainy edges or shiny middles? The ones that look like they may have been taken by rock star photographer with an old holga camera? Chances are those photos were taken with this app. Hipstamatic can turn even the most mundane images interesting.
For example, here are a few pictures I took of simple things: my glasses, an owl. Which, I think, makes them look even cooler than usual. No additional touch ups were done to the photos.
Great for taking photos at book clubs, library events, and other occasions, Hipstamatic spruces up the simple iPhone picture into something eye-catching, stylized, and mood creating. At a recent event, I took hipstapics of my students, and they LOVED how the photos matched the feel of the night.
Photos can sorted into stacks (max of 9 shots sadly) where they can then be sent to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, or email. Photos can also be printed onto real live non-digital versions. For more info on their features, check their launch press release and this demo video: Hipstamatic User Interface Demo from Synthetic on Vimeo.
Do you use this app? How? Why not ask your teen advisory to use Hipstamatic to represent a book in one photo, since as they say a picture is worth a thousand words…
At the end of this week, the masses will descend upon my library here in Texas. Our Summer Reading Club kickoff starts as soon as school gets out, and we’re expecting pandemonium. Most of our participants, just like in years before, will be elementary-aged, and we’ll hope, just like in years before, that we’ll see more teens that aren’t our volunteers.
The thing is, at least with us, the number of teens we’ll see this summer doesn’t even begin to come close to the number of children that will be running around the library. We’re in a suburban area with a lot of neighborhoods, and we’re right down the street from a high school, so what gives? Simply put, we’re in competition for their attention. No big surprise there. They have summer jobs and their own activities, and for many, the library falls low on their list of priorities. Many of us have found that even when teens do come to the library during the summer, they get their books, magazines, CDs, and movies and leave without ever hanging out here.
Conversely, some branches get more teens than they know what to do with. One of our branches across town has a much better showing of a teen population, but for the most part, they can count on seeing the same people. The question is, how do we get teens who don’t normally come to the library because of homework and after-school activities to visit in the summer? I think the biggest problem is perception. The library can’t possibly be a fun place to hang out because it’s a library.
But what if we have a space just for teens that feels less like a library and more like a place where they can be themselves? What if we don’t make teens adhere to the Summer Reading Club formula we use for children and give them something completely different (and what if our incentives — if you’re in favor of incentives, which I am — don’t suck)? What if we connect with them the way that requires little to no effort on their part? Having a Facebook page is great, but they have to see it to be a fan of it, and that’s effort. What if we fit our programs and our services to meet their interests and needs before we stretch their trust trying to introduce something new?
I know these ideas have worked for other libraries. What’s worked for you? Leave a comment!