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Blog: YALSA - Young Adult Library Services Association
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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!
Blog: YALSA - Young Adult Library Services Association
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Over the past few months you’ve probably heard about the association’s new Badges for Lifelong Learning project. As YALSA develops badges that you’ll be able to earn online to demonstrate your knowledge and skill related to the association’s Competencies for Serving Youth in Libraries, we thought it would be helpful to regularly provide information on how badge programs support adult learning. To achieve that, this is the first in a regular series of posts on badges that will appear on the YALSAblog.
You know about YALSA’s badges, but you might be asking how will earning badges help me? Or, you might wonder, can I further my own professional development through badges? Check out the three resources below for answers to those questions.
- “By displaying skills and achievements that traditional degrees and transcripts often leave out, badges can lead to jobs, community recognition, and new learning opportunities,” states the Mozilla Open Badges site.
- YALSA Badges will give you proof that you have learned specific skills. As reported in the New York Times badges give you the chance to have non-traditional learning recognized, such as learning done online or that is self-paced.
- The Times also noted late last year that, “The badges will not replace résumés or transcripts, but they may be a convenient supplement, putting the spotlight on skills that do not necessarily show up in traditional documents.” Never might be a long time but for the time being, badges do work as a supplement to traditional forms of professional recognition.
Check back next week to learn more about how badges can help you develop and demonstrate your competency in serving teens in libraries.
If you have questions about the YALSA badge project, contact Lind W. Braun
When I was growing up failure was not an option. It’s not that my parents told me that. It was just a general mindset in the world. People didn’t think that mistakes were something that promoted growth and learning. Trying something and not succeeding just wasn’t done. If someone or something failed it wasn’t talked about, or if it was, it was discussed in hushed tones as if something truly terrible had happened.
Today we are fortunate to live in a world in which mistakes and even failure are OK options. Failure is even looked at as a way to learn and to be able to take an idea or initiative and make it even better. This is a great opportunity for librarians working with teens. We want to accept that failure is OK and be willing to try something new with and for teens even if not sure that it will be 100% successful.
Why is this good?
Why is an acceptance of failure and mistakes something good? Consider when you get a new idea and are really excited about it. If you focus on making that idea perfect and not launching it until you are certain it will go off without a hitch, what happens? You might never get it to that perfect place. Or, it might take so long that by the time you are ready to launch it the idea might not be useful or of interest to teens anymore. But, if you are willing to try things out when in the formation and planning stages, with an acceptance that it might not work right away, then you can actually test out your ideas, get feedback from others, and get them into the community before they fade away, you get bored with them, or are simply out-of date.
This also means that you have to be willing to evaluate all of the work that you do and truly look at what worked and didn’t work with an eye to making change. If you try out a new program or service that you launched before it was perfect, do all that you can to figure out what the positives and negatives of that program are and change things. Don’t simply say, “Oh well, it didn’t work, we’ll move on to the next thing.” Maybe the idea was a good one but it just needed some tweaking to make it more successful. Then, do that tweaking and try again.
Failure in innovation also means you have to listen to what others have to say. Don’t take critiques of a new idea personally. Be honest about what you are thinking about doing, ask for feedback, and if something doesn’t work just as you hoped ask for ideas on how it could have gone better or been more successful. Don’t be embarrassed by what didn’t work. Be proud that you tried something new and were willing to take a chance. Show off your pride by talking about your failures and asking for advice.
I know that it can be hard to admit failures and mistakes and that it might seem like if you do that then administration and colleagues will look at you as unsuccessful in your work. There is no doubt that there is a challenge in balancing acknowledgement of failure with promoting your successes in order to demonstrate how you are helping teens to succeed and grow-up successfully. That means make sure that when you do have a success, talk that up too. Let people know that you and the teens had a great program, or that you were asked to present at a conference, or that a teen came and told you how much of a difference the library made in his or her life. Your work isn’t going to be only about failure.
Transform error into insight
Imagine this: You work in a library in which anything goes. Money is no object. Space is no object. Staffing is no object. Going out into the community is no object. And so on. If you worked in that library what would your wildest and craziest ideas for serving teens be?
- Have libraries all over the community but not in a traditional library facility? For example, a library in the pizza place where teens go every day after school and every weekend? A library in the clothing store where teens go to see the latest fashions? A library in the park where teens hang out?
- Make sure that every teen in the community – no matter what their book reading preference – was a library user in some way?
- Give every teen a tablet of some kind with free Internet access so they could download books and apps, play games, do homework, talk with friends, participate in social media from everywhere anytime?
- Create a large wide-open physical library space for teens where they could collaborate on projects, hangout with friends, eat and have pizza delivered, watch movies, play games, and read and do homework?
- Have the most up-to-date technology possible available to every teen in the community without filters of any kind?
- Go to every meeting of community groups that have some connection to teens and/or education and become highly involved in all those that you might collaborate with?
- Regularly speak to elected officials and community members about youth development, developmental assets, and the ways in which the library helps teens to achieve these?
- Have the physical library teen space, no matter where it is, open 24/7 so that teens can have the access they need to resources, experts, etc. at any time of day, or night?
- Be able to make changes to library programs and services on a nimble and flexible basis? No waiting for making sure something is perfect before it launches. No waiting to get approvals. Beta testing of projects is the norm.
- Make sure that every library staff member and member of the community always gives teens the respect they deserve?
In order to be innovative it’s important to think about the wildest and craziest possibilities so to get to what has true potential. I think that sometimes in libraries we get so caught up in the day-to-day that we forget to simply go crazy and think about what we would really like to see happen in order to give teens excellent service. Sure, there might be barriers. But who cares when you are being purposely crazy as a brainstorming technique? Maybe when you are thinking outside of the box you’ll all of a sudden have an epiphany and realize that something you think is impossible is possible–you just have to tweak the concept a little bit. Or, maybe if you talk to others about your crazy ideas someone might say, “You know what, that’s not so crazy really. We could do that if we just…..”
So, go crazy. In the comments section of this post take a minute to write what are your wildest and craziest ideas in order to provide really great service to teens in the 21st century. Or, if you’ve had a crazy idea and thought it would never fly, but did, write that too. If you read someone’s crazy idea and think of a way to make it work, post that. Lets all go crazy together and innovate for library teen services at the same time.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user David Dennis Photos.com
Last week as a part of the YALSAblog innovation series I posted about failure and how being ready and open to failing is a key ingredient in innovation. Once that post was published, in the comments, and via email and Twitter, I had lots of conversations with colleagues and friends about how one might be open to failure for themselves in the workplace, but if they didn’t feel supported in the possibility of failing in the profession or their work institution, then moving forward with failure as an option was pretty impossible. People I communicated with were particularly concerned about the tone of online discussions over the past couple of weeks. This tone makes those I talked with hesitant about presenting their innovative ideas. Who wants to open themselves up to failure when the profession (and colleagues) is going to call them out on it publicly, and sometimes in not the most supportive manner?
These conversations I had over the last week got me thinking more about how as a profession we need to breed a culture in which innovation can take place and where people feel safe in making mistakes and even in failing. I often talk with librarians about making teens feel safe in the library environment. And by safe I don’t mean safe from violence, I mean safe from bullies and from behaviors that center around putting one person down in order to make someone else feel better about themselves. In libraries in order for innovation to happen we need to make sure that staff feel safe from bullies, embarrassment, and plain old negativity. These are some ideas I have for making that happen:
- If someone comes to you with a new idea or a revision of an old idea, don’t simply say, “That will never work” or “We’ve tried that before and it won’t work.” Talk about the idea, why the person coming to you with it wants to try it, and what the barriers and challenges to success might be. Have an open-mind and realize that something that you don’t think will work can be successful under the tutelage of someone else.
- Don’t take things personally. If someone comes up with a new idea that changes something that you’ve been working on don’t feel like you have been hurt or that you’ve done something wrong. If the idea is a good one take yourself out of it and help to create something great for teens using what someone else came up with.
- Don’t be jealous. In every profession I’ve seen that people with new ideas are often held back because of a fear that the new innovative idea will make someone else look bad. Instead of worrying about how you look (or that people won’t even notice you) focus on how the new idea might actually make the lives of teens in the community better.
- Spend time each day or week or month talking with colleagues about innovative ideas. Perhaps at your library you can have a monthly crazy new ideas day in which whatever anyone says, no matter how out of the box, is taken as an opportunity to improve service. This can help people to get their creative juices going and regularly come up with innovative ideas-some of which might work and some which might not.
- Be careful about your use of social media. Remember that what you post about an idea being discussed in your own library, or that has been implemented by someone else’s library, was at one point a new idea. Perhaps that idea will work in unexpected positive ways, perhaps it will prove to be a failure. Social media isn’t the place to discourage someone from their new idea. If you want to write about something innovative that you don’t agree with try to keep it from getting perso
We are creative people, we do a lot of creative things in our work, and we are subject to the kinds of fear and burnout that can come with being creative. How do you fight burnout? Take inspiration wherever you can get it.
I find a lot of inspiration in other people acknowledging the struggles and triumphs of creativity. One person who inspires me is Ze Frank, who I believe I once referred to as the father of modern video blogging. He had a successful Internet show, The Show with Ze Frank in 2006 and he is now, with the help of Kickstarter, returning to the Internet to start up a new show.
Ze says if you have an idea, you should just do it. Don’t worry about the skills or resources you might lack, just go for it. Because if you wait too long to get your idea out into the world, it becomes brain crack, an obsession with the perfect version of the idea that just gets more and more impossible to achieve. So fight brain crack, take the leap, put your ideas in motion, and don’t be afraid to fail.
His latest video, an Invocation for Beginnings is about just that.
Disclaimer: There is a bit of swearing in this video. (As there is often a bit of swearing in the creative process). I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily NSFW, but I also wouldn’t watch this on a public desk with the volume all the way up.
So often I’ll hear my colleagues say something to the affect that YALSA put out information such as programming ideas for Teen Read Week or Teen Tech Week that we should consult to see how it might work at our own library. While they’re absolutely right, and that’s the point of YALSA putting out information (so that it’ll be used by other libraries) in the first place. But sometimes I think they forget that they’re YALSA too (as members) and can share their own ideas and thoughts with each other as well.
I’m using YALSA as one example of an organization that is innovative. It could be your own library that maybe you feel you need to have a title other than what you do to be able to have an idea recognized as innovative.
Chances are most people work their way through several positions whether it’s through the library or YALSA, getting to know people and sharing ideas along the way. You don’t need the title of Librarian or Manager or whatever it might be to be heard.
Maybe you’re not invited to all the meetings where it could move your idea faster, but there’s usually more than one way to share information or contribute to an organization. Like YALSA, everything from posting on this blog to writing an article for YALS, being a committee member or chair, posting programming ideas on the wiki are just some of the ways to contribute. At my library, one of the ways tasks are organized for Teen Services across the system is through various people taking leadership roles to help organize and run the event. This structure can help put innovation to use through rotating responsibilities and giving everyone a chance at seeing something grow and make an impact.
While being a leader isn’t the same as being innovative, there are some books on the topic of how anyone can make a positive difference: You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader: How Anyone, Anywhere, Can Make a Positive Difference by Sanborn (2006) or The Titleless Leader: How to Get Things Done When You’re Not in Charge by Russell (2012).
Over the past couple of weeks as a part of the 30 Days of Innovation series I’ve written about the importance of embracing failure and the need to breed a culture of innovation in libraries. Last week I had some people ask me what happens when you understand the value of failure and innovative culture in the workplace, but your colleagues and administration do not? People wonder how they can feel safe in failure and get the innovative juices going when those around them aren’t supportive. Some ideas:
- Ask Yourself Why: Why are your colleagues and/or administrators against innovative practices? Is it because they are scared of looking bad to others? Do they not know how to articulate the ideas of innovation so that they are understood by elected officials and other town administrators? Have they never really had a chance to understand what it takes to be innovative? Do they think that innovation means throwing out everything, even what works really well, and starting from scratch? Ask yourself where the barriers to innovation are and then find ways to break through them. For example, If fear is an issue then come up with low-risk innovative opportunities to get things going so that colleagues and administrators can gain a track record of innovative success. Then build from there.
- Be an Innovation Advocate: In order to serve teens successfully in libraries we need to be constantly trying new things and advocating for the value of innovation. Since you should be advocating regularly as a part of your teen services job, then make sure to add talking points, stories, and examples that advocate for innovation in teen library services. Explain why a program or service is important to teens and also why you needed to innovate (and why the innovation was successful) in order to provide that program or service. Don’t just explain the what of the innovation get into the why it was required too.
- Read Together: In some libraries staff all read the same book and talk about it. Suggest that you do just that in your library and read a book like Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson or The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen. Volunteer to facilitate the discussion and help to make the conversation a positive one by coming prepared to talk about the ways the ideas discussed in the selected title are possible to achieve within your library.
- Be a Role Model: While it is definitely hard to do it alone, someone has to start. That means if you are ready to innovate and use innovative practices in your library then do what you can to lead the way in order to demonstrate how it’s possible to achieve innovation success in your library. Let others watch what you are doing without saying too much. Just do it. You’ll set an example that will help others feel more able to take your lead and try and support innovation themselves.
- Be a Mentor: As people in your library start to see you succeed in innovation and want to try their own hand at being innovative, help them in their efforts. Let them know what you have learned about being innovative and support them as they learn what does and doesn’t work. Make sure to help them understand that if the idea doesn’t go off as planned, and perhaps is a failure, that that’s OK.
It is never easy to go it alone and be the first to try new ideas. That&
Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between May 4 and May 10 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.
[View the story "YALSA Blog Tweets of the Week: May 4, 2012" on Storify]
I’m the only YA librarian at my library, and despite the things I do to stay in touch with my colleagues locally and nationally, it can sometimes be very lonely work somtimes! If you’re in the same boat (or if you just love the chance to be with your people), add YALSA’s Speed Networking for YA Librarians to your Annual schedule.
The speed networking event is a fun, simple way to connect with others who work with teens in libraries. It’s inspired by the speed dating model of getting to know someone: everyone will be divided into small groups and seated at tables. Every few minutes, groups will swap tables, giving you a chance to get to know a lot of your fellow teen-serving librarians in a more personal way in short period of time.
You’ll talk about great ideas, swap stories of successes and failures, and have the opportunity to meet people from across the country who are at all different points in their careers and professional involvement. Conversations will be informal and fun. Bring your expertise and your curiosity!
This session will be held on Sunday, June 24th at 1:30 in the Pacific A room of the Hilton Anaheim hotel. I hope I’ll see you there!
It was spring of 2011. I had only been an intern for a few months at Patchogue-Medford, and I was just a face to many people in the area. Barbara Moon was looking for volunteers for the first Author’s Unlimited, and I showed up decked out for work. Tie and all. Imagine my surprise when everyone was wearing yellow. It was my job to greet, so I stood outside the doors to St. Joseph’s Danzi Center. Barbara tells me I did an excellent job greeting, but I’m not sure how I could have screwed that up. In between bouts of providing directions, I stared at the trees across the athletic field and pondered my new profession.
Barbara Moon, she always smiles. It mystifies me.
In my orientation for Library School, the CUNY Queens Faculty impressed on us the importance of being involved. I thought this was a networking thing. Blah blah, jobs. You know? But Author’s Unlimited was my first exposure to Librarians undertaking a massive amount of work, on their days off and with little expectation of thanks from anyone else. I was stunned.
Librarian Sheila Doherty and her team of teens gave up a Saturday to make the event a success
This year, I was again amazed at the amount of work Barbara, her assistant Tracy and the Suffolk County Young Adult Services Division put into making this event a success. Because I’m annoyingly curious, I started badgering Barbara about the origin of the event.
Of course it led to another Librarian who does stuff for free, and it led to another central aspect of the profession that I believe is central to our future success. It is the willingness of librarians to share the guts of their personal projects. I am sure when Stephanie Squicciarini first organized the Rochester Teen Book Festival it was a huge amount of labor and time involved. That in itself is an amazing thing, but she went the extra mile.
At the 2007 Spring conference of the Youth Services Section of NYLA, Stephanie shared her experiences organizing Teen Book Fest. Her hand-outs from the YSS conference got Barbara started in 2009. In 2010, Stephanie shared her model for the Rochester Teen Book Festival at the ALA Annual Conference. She provided Barbara with templates for programs, schedules, letters and checklists. Continued badgering, I’m an expert pest, led Barbara to say this:
“This program has been a model of professional cooperation. Stephanie has helped us with a vision of what can be accomplished. Our committee is indebted to her for her willingness to share her experience and expertise with us.”
In short, Stepanie is responsible for the Rochester Teen Book Festival. But she is also responsible for inspiring others to provide oppurtunities for tee
Spring brings a time crunch for teen librarians everywhere: as the school year wraps up, public librarians must amp up for summer reading, and school librarians must set the media center to rights in those last, finals-crammed weeks. There is no easier time of year to overwork ourselves. However, if we wish our superiors to know our value, and if we care for a true work-life balance, the 40 hour work week must be honored.
The 40 hour work week became standard in America by the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. Since that time, employees have been expected to work 40 hours a week, with salaried employees (such as most full-time librarians) exempted from the overtime pay awarded to hourly employees. Countless studies conducted throughout the early 20th century by universities, the military, and business and industry associations, supported the increased productivity of the 40 hour work week, to the point that “’[i]n 1962, the Chamber of Commerce even published a pamphlet extolling the productivity gains of reduced hours.’” Additional studies demonstrated that productivity decreases when employees work over 8 hours a day, with the fine-line exception of a short burst of overtime resulting in short-term gains (such as creating Summer Reading Program promotional materials before your scheduled school visits, when the raw materials do not arrive until a week before your visits).
Given the available evidence, we teen librarians should stick to working 40 hours a week. Despite our passionate belief in the importance of our programs and services, can-do attitudes, and general helpfulness, we discredit the value of our time, overestimate how much we can reasonably accomplish, and prevent our superiors from recognizing the need for additional employees, when we consistently log 50 and 60 hour work weeks. Without knocking the importance of workplace efficiency or volunteering for committees and organizations, the point here is to not sell yourself short. You are being paid for your time each week, and you devalue that time when you consistently contribute more than what is in your contract.
Early in my career I fell victim to the siren call of Silicon Valley types who encourage living for the job. After all, success stories of great Americans from Olympic champions to Michelle Rhee spoke again and again to their dogged pursuit of betterment, i.e. 90 hour work weeks. Predictably, burnout ensued. At this point in my career, I have decided to leave the 90 hour work week to those great American heroes. As for me, I will be doing my part as a humble Youth Services Librarian, at 40 hours a week.
How do you maintain a 40 hour work week? Do you maintain a 40 hour work week?
Tell us in the comments.
T-shirt image references the infamous t-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with “90 Hours/Week and Loving It” that Steve Jobs distributed to his employees while developing the Macintosh.
 “Handy Reference Guide to the FLSA.” Compliance Assistance – Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). U.S. Department of Labor, Web. 20 May 2012..
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