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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Teen Services, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Teens as Information-Mediaries: An Investigation of Teens, Technology, and Design

Today, we often take for granted how teens use technology. It seems to be embedded into their every day lives and something they pick up easily. But have we ever wondered how teens use technology to help others every day, especially others who do not understand technology as well? A group of researchers at the University of Washington’s iSchool are investigating these teens, whom they refer to as “info-mediaries” (InfoMes). Karen Fisher, Philip Fawcett, Ann Bishop, and Lassana Magassa are working with mainly groups of ethnic minority teens in the Seattle area to gain a better understanding of how teens, as information mediaries are using information and technology to help others.

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My group working on our app. We are in the visual stages where we are drawing out what our problem is.

To gain this insight, the research team created Teen Design Days (see video link for a longer explanation). This is a three-day workshop where the teens gathered to discuss, learn, and explore how they help people in their social networks with information and technology. The teens are paid for their time and by the end of the workshop, will have created a design project that would help them. The design days are structured around the developmental needs for teens, identified by J. Davidson and D. Koppenhaver in their 1992 publication, Adolescent Literacy as “physical activity, competence and achievement, self-definition, creative expression, positive social interaction, structure, and clear limits.” This means that along with the learning, the teens take an active role in shaping the outcome of the workshop. From designing the rules and expectations, to participating in “light-and-lively” activities (physical activity component), the teens are truly front and center. As they begin to move from discussing their role as information mediaries to more fully fleshing out designs and solutions to improve their InfoMe work, the teens talk with each other, share ideas, and revise their design.

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Our prototype app, Don't Think Twice, It's Alright.

From a research point of view, these design days allow the group to collect large amounts of data in a short time, create friendships with the youth they work with and the larger community as a whole, and get an insight into what the teens are facing on a daily basis and what ideas they have to solve these problems.

One of the researchers, Ann Bishop, made a visit to University of Illinois in early October to share InfoMe. I attended one of her presentations in which she gave an outline of their research. At the end of the session, the group expressed interest in participating in the “train-the-trainer” workshop model. We hoped that a session like that would give us ideas on how to design similar programs for the teens we currently serve.

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Telling the story of our problem (the stress of going home and visiting family and friends).

Our train-the-trainer workshop took place over a three-and-a-half hour time block at the Champaign Public Library. Bishop led us through a condensed design workshop, which included brainstorming problems we encounter daily and then splitting us into three groups based on the type of problems we identified. My group looked at the problem of visiting family and the hassles and stress that we confront. Through critical thinking, some storytelling, and using our limited drawing abilities (see photo, complete with stick figures), we more clearly defined our problem and then moved into thinking about what could help us out. My group created the beginnings of an app; one that would allow for family and friends to see your schedule when you’re visiting, for you to track your flight or train, and also a spot for stress relieving activities such as calming music or cat photos (whatever floats your boat). We created a prototype and if we had more time, would have continued to refine the app based on feedback from the rest of the group. When I left the workshop, I was energized and excited about the possibility of this for the future.

I believe the ideas behind InfoMe can be applied in our libraries. Not only is there potential for new designs to be brought forth, but also for teens to collaborate, and for librarians to gain insight into the teens they serve. I’m looking forward to following InfoMe and seeing what other insights they uncover with future Teen Design Days. For more information, make sure to visit their website, and read their various publications.

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2. Hour of Code

In celebration of Computer Science Education Week Dec 8-14, students, parents, teachers and professionals will all engage in coding.

Dozens of websites will highlight free one hour tutorials to inspire and teach computer programing skills.

Curriculum has been created for use in classrooms all around the world, even if students don’t have internet.

57,000 events are scheduled to happen next week.

Here are some ideas for what you can do to celebrate!

  1. Complete an hour of code yourself using one of the many resources available on Code.org:
  2. Sign up as a teacher and get access to offline lessons you can do with kids in a library program. Like Graph Paper Programing
  3. Set up one of Thinksmith’s Unplugged Activities in the library for families to complete together
  4. Display Computer Science books with Hour of Code Posters found online
  5. Display Science Fiction books with Posters about hour of code
  6. Invite Teens to add pages to Feminist Hacker Barbie
  7. Install Scratch on library computers,and encourage to use them to make something (now is a great time to make a digital Christmas card)
  8. If you can’t host an event, volunteer at a CoderDojo or other coding club near you.
  9. Work with a colleague to plan at least one event in 2015 using one of the many tools available through hour of code.
  10. Encourage everyone in your life to complete one hour of code.

Hour of Code is less than a week away! What will you do for the hour of code?

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3. Instagram of the Week – October 27

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform. This week we’re looking at ways libraries can use Instagram to market services. As librarians, we know that we provide our communities with so more than books, but how can we show patrons everything we have to offer? From audio books to online materials and wireless printing to smiling faces at the Information Desk, here’s a few ways to get that information out there. The key to this week’s installment is reading the captions — there are many different approaches libraries can take.

Have you come across a related Instagram post this week, or has your library posted something similar? Have a topic you’d like to see in the next installment of Instagram of the Week? Share it in the comments section of this post.

 

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4. Fall Appointments Update

Happy Fall!

I just wanted to thank our members for the 537 volunteer committee applications that were submitted and to give everyone an update on the award and selection committee appointments process!

The appointments task force was finalized in October and award and selection committee chairs were selected. The appointments task force and I are still working on filling all of the award and selection committee member vacancies, but rosters should be finalized soon.

Appointing the local arrangements committee for Midwinter 2015 is the next priority.

ALA Appointments: There has been one ALA Appointment call to review the general ALA appointment process. The slate for the nominating committee has not been officially presented, but does include one YALSA member.

ALA President Elect Sari Feldman has put out a call for volunteers for the ALA committees listed below. Please let me know if you are interested in being recommended for any of them. The ALA application form closes this Friday, November 7, 2014.

It’s been a pleasure and privilege to go through all of the your applications. Thank you so much for your dedication to YALSA and to teen library services!

 

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5. Operation Military Kids: Teen Services in a Rural Library

The fall season is a favorite season for many—warm sweaters, fall leaves, pumpkins and apple cider. Autumn is also a time to reflect on the year’s bounty and to say thank you. November brings Election Day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving—three days we can extend a special thanks to our troops and veterans and to acknowledge the children and teens also affected by military life.

In my rural community, many young people are impacted by military deployment. The statistics show that many of the teens in your town may be as well. According to the Department of Defense, 1.8 million children and teens in the United States have family members who are currently serving in the military, and 85% of those teens attend public schools and most likely use public libraries (National Military Family Association).

Even if a teen doesn’t have a parent in active service, he or she may have a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or cousin serving. Studies have shown that “rates of anxiety among military children—as well as emotional and behavioral difficulties—are higher than the national averages” (NMFA), but families cope better with deployment when they receive community support. The best way to help teens manage the stress of deployment is to acknowledge their experience by showing that you know who they are and that you are available to talk (NMFA).

One of the things I have cherished most at my library is an ongoing relationship with Operation Military Kids. OMK is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Army, 4-H, and other national, state, and local partners that supports children and teens impacted by deployment. This wonderful organization is active in 49 states and offers academic support, mentoring, and intervention services; arts, recreation, and leisure activities; life skills, citizenship, and leadership opportunities; and sports, fitness, and health options.

Through an ongoing partnership with OMK, we have delivered several programs to teens and children impacted by military deployment over the last several years. These programs help teens steer clear of risky behaviors by providing a strong, supportive community atmosphere. We also open the opportunities up to the public so that young people can take part and learn with their peers while forming a sense of belonging. Through a Speak Out with Art program, local youth learned about ceramics, painting, and other ways to communicate feelings during a family member’s deployment. Their work culminated in a mural in our library’s community room. Teens were also invited to learn about action photography and to help create a Purple Up for Military Kids quilt that is now displayed at the Family Assistance Center at the Belgrade Armory. This week for Veterans Day, teens will come together again to create handmade greeting cards to send to loved ones overseas.

Has your library thought about ways to engage teens impacted by military life?  Are you doing any special events in honor of Veterans Day, Month of the Military Child (April), or National Purple Up Day? As you design your programs, I encourage you to checkout the “10 Things Military Teens Want You to Know” toolkit offered by the National Military Family Association.

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6. Instagram of the Week – November 10

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform. From cupcakes to duct tape and candy sushi to spin art, this week we’re looking at how libraries advertise for teen programs, show off what participants made, and recruit new members for TAB and TAG groups. Does your library have an Instagram account specifically your teen population or TAB group? Who decides what gets posted on there?

Secondly, we mustache you… are you doing anything special for MOvember? If yes, please don’t shave it for later! We want to see your crafts, displays, and decorations in the comments section below.

Have you come across a related Instagram post this week, or has your library posted something similar? Have a topic you’d like to see in the next installment of Instagram of the Week? Share it in the comments section of this post.

Due to technical difficulties, please follow this link to view this week’s post directly on the Storify website: Instagram of the Week – November 10

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7. Preparing students for Life After High School.

Free Events for Life After High SchoolFor me, my focus on helping teens transition from high school to adulthood began during the recession. I was working the help desk and there was a customer who was trying to complete the FAFSA on a paid website. I redirected them to FAFSA.ed.gov, but a few days later there was another customer who was doing a similar thing, only they had paid $80 for someone to fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

It may be the beginning of the school year, but one of my focuses this year is partnering with other organizations to ensure that accurate information gets to students and recent grads about college and alternatives to college.

We’ve divided our focus in two parts. In the fall we focus on promoting the services the library offers to prospective college students, while hosting SAT/ACT Practice Tests, and Finding $ for College Nights at the library.

I’ve found that most parents and students aren’t even aware that the public library often has study guides, scholarship listings, and college ranking guides that they can use to help decide where they want to go to school. We worked with Sylvan, Princeton Review, and Kaplan who host the Practice Tests and other information sessions. Library staff handout a targeted flyer to students who show up for the events that promotes our collections and e-sources related to college.

For our Findfafsa[1]ing $ for College programs we started with resources from the Department of Education. They offer a Financial Aid Toolkit and training for anyone who works with students and wants to share accurate information about paying for college. We created a library program that highlights FAFSA and scholarships, and explains the various ways to pay for a college education. We partner with local community colleges, who send a Financial Aid Advisor to answer parents specific questions. It has been very successful.

Last year we made a decision that as a public library we wanted to also emphasize that there are other valuable career choices if college isn’t the right fit for you. This past spring we worked with Labor & Industries to highlight apprenticeship programs available in the community, and invited members of these fields to talk to students about these career paths.

While we can only offer limited workshops to help recent grads with important skills like interviewing, resume writing, and professional appearance, we have partnered with a local organization that focuses on helping 16-24 year olds with their first job. We are also working on creating a targeted flyer that highlights the library’s print and electronic resources that help recent graduates make the transition. Recently I requested Soft Skills for Workplace Success from the Department of Labor, in hopes we might be able to create a successful program for this spring.

YngAdultcover art CD approved 3-2008Lastly we have worked with credit unions and banks to offer financial literacy programs. Buying Your First Car has been a huge success, while Credit 101 has also been beneficial in our community. These programs are offered for free. Some branches have also used the free resources available from the Department of Treasury to help teens learn about being smart with their money.

Working with our Adult Services team has been invaluable as we develop and promote these programs. We also work with local schools to support their programs while filling in topics they aren’t able to teach their students.

What I’ve learned is that there are several free resources in our community and through various federal government programs. Working together as a team has made these programs easy to organize. They promote library services, while also supporting our communities. Initially our goal was to help teens see that the library has more to offer students than just databases that help them complete their research assignments for school. Now the library is a valuable link to help teens transition into adulthood, giving them information to make informed citizens and be better members of the local community.

I encourage you to see what resources are available near you and create partnerships with other departments in your library, local schools, and other organizations in your community.

My favorite part about all these programs has been going to fairs telling young adults about all the services we offer and seeing them get excited about basic things like checking out DVDs, Music CDs, and Books to entertain themselves while also getting support to gain independence and their first job.

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8. So You Want to Start a TAB?

At the library I have had a hard time connecting with teens because Youth Services is downstairs, but the YA section is upstairs. My office is located downstairs, where I spend much of my time. To combat this, I have placed a whiteboard/paper pad easel in the area where their books are. This seemed to help. When I asked what they wanted from the library, they said “Water Balloon Fight”. That totally happened as a BYOB (Bring Your Own Balloons). Providing sponges was cheaper and easier to clean up.

Another way to better connect with the teens is by starting a TAB. With our first meeting a success, I think I have made an impact on the teens.

Following basic guidelines for starting a TAB, I was sure to include key phrases when presenting this option. “Meeting with snacks” worked like a charm. Teens are always hungry. I’ve had a few come to my office bragging about how much they can eat. One teen boy says he can eat a whole pizza. Challenge accepted! A total of six teens met for the first meeting. With the promise of pizza next month, I’m sure more will make their way over to the library.

My library is renovating the entire Youth Services area (not including the YA area on the upper level). The area will include a kitchen! The TAB is excited to learn that we will be able to make food when it opens in October. They were more than willing to provide food ideas to the agenda. Some suggested pizza (of course), sushi, and cheesecake (I’ll have to find a quick bake recipe for that one).

Additionally, I’ve requested that the teens be able to volunteer 10 hours per month as a TAB member. This should help with implementing prep for programming, especially in regards to the kitchen. In the agenda, I included a “new ideas” section. One of the new TAB members is interested in teaching Cantonese at our library!! Bonus for her since it counts as volunteer hours.

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9. When 3rd Place is Good. Empowering Students in the Library.

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.

 

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10. Learning from Teens: Thoughts for Teen Read Week

Teen Read Week is coming up October 12-18, and libraries are encouraged to use the theme “Turn Dreams into Reality” to share our knowledge, resources, services, and collections with teens in an effort to promote reading for fun. As professionals working with teens in the library, each of us curates our own personal collection—in folder and binders, dog-eared books and browser bookmarks, or just in our haphazardly cataloged heads—of resources that guide us in promoting reading. Yet as we inform our patrons about the epic books in our collection, the multiple formats in which they can check out our materials, and the research on the college success of avid readers, let’s not forget that some of our greatest resources are the very subjects of our resource-sharing: the teens themselves.

It’s an easy thing to forget since, as library professionals, we like to think of ourselves as the experts. In many things, we are. And in some, we aren’t. You know that book that won dozens of awards but you just can’t get any teens to pick up? How about the poorly-written piece of fluff that they can’t get enough of? In the end, we can only guess at what will go over well. Each person has his or her own individual taste, but more often than not, teens’ tastes will be more similar to one another’s than adults’ tastes will be to teens’.

Our goal during Teen Read Week is to promote reading for pleasure, and the only way to do that is to help connect teens with books they like. There may be a time and place for encouraging teens to read “healthier” books than the ones they want—that’s up for debate. But this week isn’t that time. If we want teens to learn that reading is fun, we need to think like teens. And while we can’t entirely re-wire our brains (and probably wouldn’t want to, having been through that angsty stage of life once already), many of us are lucky enough to spend enough time around teens that we have easy access to two simple techniques: observe and ask.

Most library staff are good at observing. Circulation stats are great for long-term trends. For the short-term, pay attention to reference questions and keep an eye on the “Just Returned” shelves. Displays and handouts can be useful, too. I once put up a “Take a Book, Leave a Book” display in which teens were encouraged to check out a book off the shelf and replace it with one of their favorite titles from the collection for someone else to discover. Or, leave some genre booklists near your YA stacks, and observe which go out the quickest.take a book 2

Asking is perhaps a less commonly used tool. Asking a teen what books she likes may seem less efficient than checking stats, but its impact is great in a different way. When we make a habit of asking teens their opinions, we show that their library is their own, and exists to meet their needs. We acknowledge that we, the “book experts,” respect and want to learn from their expertise. We begin a conversation that builds relationships, which lead to trust and a sense of community that allow us to better encourage the teens’ love of reading and the library. With further questioning, we can learn why a teen likes what she likes, and can use that knowledge to gain a deeper knowledge of teens’ reading preferences which will allow us to serve them better in a wider variety of situations. By encouraging them to talk about books, we help the teens learn to summarize and distill the core meaning or experience of a story. They practice explanatory and persuasive skills in telling us why the book was good.

Identify the best opportunities for conversing with teens about books in your job. For me, one opportunity is when walking from the Youth reference desk to the Teen Lounge to help a patron locate a title. Readers’ Advisory interactions are naturally a time to learn about someone’s reading tastes, especially if you ask why the patron enjoyed a certain title rather than coming up with readalikes based on your own criteria. Making a comment like “That’s a great book” or “That’s a very popular book” can sometimes spark a conversation. (Remember, you don’t always have to like the book. Saying something is popular or that you’ve talked to other teens who liked it is a great way to say something positive while getting around expressing your own opinion.)

If you are a collection developer, asking knowledgeable teens for their input on the collection encourages them to feel that they can make a difference in the library. When a teen asks me for manga suggestions, after helping him out I might say, “I am actually the person who decides which manga we buy for the library. Are there any we don’t have that you think we should?” I might ask the same question to someone I see reading manga in the Teen Lounge, if she seems willing and I get a good opening (I wouldn’t want to interrupt someone’s reading, of course). Most libraries have a suggestion process, but patrons might not know about it or might not take the initiative to use it, whereas they’d be happy to take a minute or two to respond to a direct question.

Keep in mind that some teens won’t want to talk, and if they don’t, don’t push it. The goal is to help them interact positively with books and the library, and if talking to library staff is not positive for the patron, then you are subverting your own goal.

We can learn a lot from professional literature, degree programs, conferences, and fellow library staff, but you can only learn about the unique characteristics of your own community by engaging with its members, and you can only learn what it is like to be a teen by talking to teens. Teens are often looking for opportunities to be seen as adults rather than children, and will appreciate your interest in their opinions. Meanwhile, you will be building a program that is truly centered on those you serve.

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11. Using Technology to Help At-Risk Teens

Public libraries are, as ALA President Courtney Young said in a July 2014 Comcast Newsmaker interview, “digital learning centers.”  We are able to provide access to computers, wireless capabilities, and also a space to learn. Access to technology becomes even more important to our “at-risk” teens; the library becomes a safe spot to use these resources. The question becomes how do we help them use this technology and learn from it? Earlier this month, the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) published a report titled “Using Technology to Support At-Risk Students’ Learning.” This brief defines “at-risk” students as high schoolers with personal and academic factors that would could cause them to fail classes or drop out of school all together. They give three variables for success, real-life examples to why these variables work, and then recommend policies to help achieve these variables. While the article was geared towards schools, these variables are important to keep in mind as we work with the teens in our libraries.

When learning new digital skills, youth must be engaged in interactive projects, must do more discovery and creation than the standard “drill and kill,” and must have a blend of both teacher and technology (6). These variables are part of the larger, digital learning ecosystem which places the learner at the center. This ecosystem relies on the constant bi-directional dialogue as the learner engages with learning outcomes, technology, and the context of the situation (which includes the activity, the goals of the activity, and the community the learning is taking place in). As we use technology and support our teens, we should be in constant reflection mode, altering our future programs to best fit the needs of our teens. Feedback we receive can help us discover what we are doing well and what needs to still be worked on. How we shape our digital literacy programs are up to us; we know our community of teens better than anyone else in the library. If we highlight and support their interests, they are most likely to be engaged with the program and more likely to return the library and use our resources.

These variables overlap and are more powerful when used together. The authors cite that interactive learning allows “students to see and explore concepts from different angles using a variety of representations” (7). As the teen engage, they are likely to discuss their findings with the people around them, which in turn strengthens both the learning and the existing community. As we work with our teens, we should push for creation versus just going through the steps, because this form of interactive learning this strengthens retention of skills and again, creates conversation. As we implement this programming, we can also be resources and a support team for our teens. It is important to stress that we don’t have to be the experts, and there might be times where we are all learning together. The moments of collective learning enhances our community and creates shared memories the teens won’t forget. Looking at the big picture, by keeping these variables in mind, we can empower our teens through access to technology they might not have regular access to.

To me, these variables seem obvious and are important to keep in mind as we think about creating programming that target digital literacy skills. This might also be because of the assistantship I am a part of at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Our nine month grant from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity focuses on eliminating the digital divide across the Urbana-Champaign community. I am working with two after-school programs and am developing curriculum to support digital literacy. As we think about this article and our own libraries, this can be our framing question: How can we support teens’ digital literacy with the resources our library has? These variables also push us to provide more than just access to our teens. While access is important, this article reminds us that thoughtful programming can engage our teens, help them become a stronger part of our library community, and grow as an informed global citizen. We can help them create content they can share with the world and empower them to use technology as a tool to better themselves. Over the following months, I’ll be creating digital literacy programs and will be keeping these variables from the SCOPE article in mind. I cannot wait to share my discoveries with you and hope some of what I learn and create can be used with the teens you serve.

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12. Help YALSA Advance Teen Services

Those in the YALSA community would probably have no trouble agreeing with the statement that teen services in libraries could benefit from broader support from the library community and beyond.  In an effort to help advance library services for and with teens, YALSA and its Future of Teens & Libraries Taskforce have submitted a grant proposal via a competitive challenge organized by the Knight Foundation.  If funded, the project would help libraries improve their overall teen program by providing them with free tools and resources to incorporate connected learning into their existing services.  In order for this to have a chance at getting funded, the proposal needs to get a significant number of ‘applauds’ and comments from visitors to the site.  We encourage you to ‘applaud’ the proposal and/or leave a comment, but also to take a moment to share this link out with your library networks, advocates and colleagues and ask them to leave a comment or give us some applause as well.  The post is open to comments and applause until Oct. 21st, so timing is limited!  Thank you for all that you do to help teens succeed in school and prepare for college and careers.  The great work that you do makes a difference in so many lives, and together we can have an even bigger impact!

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13. Instagram of the Week – October 13

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform. This week we’re all about those book displays! Are your displays getting patrons in the fall spirit, providing inspiration for costumes and pumpkin carvings, or taking the opportunity to spotlight horror novels? What’s the coolest non-holiday display you’ve put together? Share with us in the comments section. We liked these ones a latte.

In honor of Teen Read Week which kicked off yesterday, October 12 and runs through October 18, we’re highlighting a few ‘grams of programs in the works and a few ideas from last year.

Have you come across a related Instagram post this week, or has your library posted something similar? Have a topic you’d like to see in the next installment of Instagram of the Week? Share it in the comments section of this post.

[<a href="http://storify.com/mdarling/instagram-of-the-week-october" target="_blank">View the story "Instagram of the Week - October 13" on Storify</a>]

 

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14. America After 3 PM: How Do Libraries Fit In?

From Open Clip Art

From Open Clip Art

The Afterschool Alliance just published a study regarding after school programs in the United States. This is the third study of its kind, following in the results from the 2004 and 2009 studies. The group wants to document where and how children spend their time between 3 and 6 PM. The previous studies, along with this one, show that there is a demand for after school programs.  However, more programming is needed to help reach the approximately 11.3 million children who are unsupervised after school.

The study is full of facts and figures. Such as: 18 percent (10.2 million) children participate in some after school program. This is an increase by nearly 2 million children when the study was conducted five years ago. We can only hope that number will continue to rise. Parents enroll their students in after school programs because it allows them to feel that their children are safe and also in an nurturing and creative environment. Parents that were polled were satisfied with their after school programs when the organization provided a snack, opportunity for physical activity, an environment to complete homework, and also a space for enrichment activities, such as STEM programs.

Income and ethnicity also played a role in the study; students from low-income families make up 45 percent of the students enrolled in after school programs and the most demand for after school programs is highest among African American families. This study confirmed that yes, we as a country are beginning to provide the after school programs our communities need, but a gap still exists.

So what does this mean for libraries and us as librarians? This is an opportunity to us to help out our community and potentially reach the population of people who feel underserved by after school programs. Of those 11.3 million children who are unsupervised, the majority are teens in middle and high school. For libraries, it can mean two things. The first is that we can either create some sort of informal (or formal) after school program or space for our teens to come to. If we foster an environment of learning and fun, we can help create a space the teens will flock to (at least, that’s what we hope). Our other option is reach out to after school programs in the area. We should ask ourselves, Where could the library fit in to their programming? Perhaps we could visit the program, or even just give them information about the library and events you offer. Regardless, establish some connection that says, “Hey, we’re the library and we are here for you.” If we can make our presence known, through establishing a place in our library or through outreach, we have the potential to make connections, ones that will last a long time. The study cited that students were more likely to continue the program into the summer. Hey, we do summer programming and wouldn’t it be great to get more kids involved? After school programs are our “in.” And in the process, we have the potential to do a lot of good.

So let’s get the conversation going. Are your libraries an after-school spot? What has worked for you? What has not? Since the study does not explicitly cite libraries as a spot for after-school program or programming, I’m curious to know what our librarians are already doing from that 3-6 PM time zone.

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15. Children’s Rights in the Digital Age or, How UNICEF is Like Your Library

When I was eight, I won our school’s “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” throw down. I scoured the neighborhood for hours, wheedling coins and Snickers bars out of polite neighbors and adding them to my little orange box. By the end of the night, the hoard of pennies and nickels had broken the box at the seams, and I presented it to my teacher wrapped in a sustaining nest of duct tape.

The reward for all of this was a trip to UNICEF headquarters. Somewhere in my parent’s house there sits a billfold stuffed full of pictures of the wall art, the cafeteria, the library– all of the things that as a child I found interesting. At eight, I understood that UNICEF were the good guys, that they fought AIDS and built wells, and that they were kind of like the non-mouse version of the Rescue Aid Society.

But beyond saving Penny from Madame Medusa, UNICEF strives to help children and mothers in all aspects of their lives, including the digital.

As part of their ongoing efforts to support children the world over, UNICEF recently came out with a study entitled “A Global Agenda for Children’s Rights in the Digital Age.” At 76 pages and written like your psych major friend’s thesis, it’s not exactly a page turner, but at its core lie some very important ideas:

  • More and more children are using internet and communication technologies (ICTs) in their daily lives and for more and more of them the use of this technology is something normal– taken for granted.
  • Developing countries are seeing a slow but undeniable increase in the use of ICTs.
  • Children face dangers and complications whenever they step online– and those dangers are ill understood by the adults responsible for teaching them to stay safe.

UNICEF wants to help these children and their caretakers understand how to use ICTs safely and productively, and help use them to their fullest potential.There’s just one or two problems:

 

  1. Most knowledge has been obtained in the global north, and it’s relevance to the global south is largely untested.
  2. Although many valuable initiatives are underway worldwide, the lack of comparable baseline data and policy and programme evaluation makes it hard to learn from the experiences of others or to share best practices (4)

The report goes on to detail recommendations for how to gather information, problems with existing data, and what information has never been gathered at all. It points out that much of our research into how children used the web was conducted during the “web 1.0” days, before social media and the Sharing Revolution began. For an organization like UNICEF, the report argues, moving forward without baseline data and research leaves them without a leg to stand on: in order to help children navigate the internet, they first have to know how they’re using it.

It’s an idea that applies to libraries and librarians as well: to help, we first have to understand. Without understanding, our actions, no matter how well-intentioned, will see their impact hobbled. You’ve seen the results of assumptions in your daily interactions: a parent who wants the library computers to be monitored; a teacher who bans laptops and iPads from their classroom; a librarian who thinks the computer table is a waste of space. All of them are acting based on what they assume kids are doing online, whether that’s checking in online and checking out IRL, tempting shady PSA-worthy predators, or cyber bullying their peers.* And in some cases they’re absolutely right; kids are kids, and they do ill-conceived things online sometimes. That’s what they have adults for– to help them make good decisions, and give them the tools to face down their bad ones.

One of the harder things can be getting teens to actually tell you what they’re doing online. It requires more than a survey, or a one time sit down; it requires trust and an established relationship, and there’s the rub. Whether teacher, parent, or librarian, to ask teens a question and expect a serious answer, you first have to know the teens and get them to understand you as a person who will listen. The Future of Libraries report puts it beautifully:

“To support their learning—personal, work-related, and academic—library staff must connect with teens as individuals. As one participant noted: “Many teens don’t have relationships with non-supervisory adults. . . . Teens need more adults who are not ‘in charge’ of them” (participant, YALSA Summit). This theme was echoed by other participants, who used words like allies, mentors, coaches, and partnerships to describe the relationships that library staff must develop with teens in order to provide effective and substantive programs and services” (10)

Forming these kinds of relationships with our teens is paramount if we want to help them in their needs as patrons. As librarians, we’re uniquely positioned to have this conversation. We monitor and guide, but can’t ground them. We help with homework, but can’t give them a grade. Our interactions with our kids can offer them not only a safe place to be, but a person to talk to without fear or reprisal or judgement, and an advocate who can communicate their needs to the library or school administration.

Of course, receiving an answer to the question of “how do you use the internet” is only the tip of the iceberg. The internet has made us a globally connectable community, but we are still creatures of flesh and soil and our geographical and social differences mean we use the internet in different ways, and can face different dangers while on it. Answers need context; you have to understand teens’  backgrounds, their goals, what their home life is like, who their friends are. You have to be aware of the geographic area you live in, the socioeconomic makeup of the community, the diversity of the population, and a hundred other factors that come into play.

Basically: understanding people is hard, and understanding them well enough to be able to effectively guide them is even harder. But understanding is the first and most necessary step to educating; you must grok before you can lead.

How are you having this discussion with your teens and patrons? Do you think it’s a conversation worth having at all?

 

 

*Because we all know adults never spend too much time on their iPhones, check Instagram during meetings, or post nasty things on online forums.

 

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16. Gamification of Summer Reading

Home Screen of Teen Summer Challenge

Games often provide an opportunity to have fun, learn new things, simulate real life, and explore things only dreamed of before. Whether playing a board game, role playing game, or a video game, players are challenged to overcome obstacles and use strategy to solve problems and meet goals. In classrooms teachers are using game elements more and more to encourage practice, assess mastery, or explore new concepts with students, while keeping lessons interactive and engaging.

Much like the proverbial carrot and stick, rewards are a strong motivator, plain and simple. If you ask a group of teens to tell you one thing they can check out with their library card, most will stare blankly at you; if you offer up a piece of candy for an answer, everyone in the class will beg to be the one you choose to respond.

Gaming has this motivation built right in, though instead of rewarding players with treats, they get points, fun things to add to their inventories or badges to show off. This brings in another big motivator – competition. Although competition doesn’t appeal as widely as rewards, it is powerful to many. Who doesn’t like to feel like they are special, smart or more successful than their neighbor or friends? The combination of rewards and competition is a strong, almost universal, force for motivation.

Every summer, vast numbers of libraries across the world host some sort of summer reading program to encourage kids and teens to read. They give charts and logs for the participants to keep track of their reading. For the younger kids, this breaks a big challenge into smaller, easier-to-accomplish chunks, making personal success more consistently achievable. Unfortunately, that kind of gratification doesn’t seem to be as appealing to the teen population – participation from that audience is far lower than most libraries would like. So what would be a better motivator?

In 2012, Pierce County Library (PCL) was inspired to take our summer reading program out of the box and into the 21st century, by taking it online. The librarians were not happy with the participation levels of teens and wanted to do something about it. Ann Arbor Public Library and New York Public had seen success in having an online program, and PCL was determined to find a way to engage teens. An online game seemed like a natural answer.

More influence and inspiration came from Search Institute’s research on Sparks and Thriving (http://www.search-institute.org/research/sparks-thriving). Sparks refers to the intrinsic interests, talents, and passions that young people have that motivate them to learn, grow, and contribute. PCL wanted to introduce teens to as many new experiences as possible, encourage teens to further explore interests, and to celebrate the talent and passion demonstrated through the successes of projects during the summer.

The team was certainly ambitious that first year – determined to come up with something imaginative, engaging and different from what everyone else was doing. Using the framework of gaming as a motivator, the Teen Summer Challenge was born. A team of youth services librarians, led by two teen librarians, created content and a game platform that increased participation in summer reading from about 200 participants county-wide to about 650, with practically no marketing. The goal was to have a soft release to test the waters with the community – instead there was a pretty significant splash. With that achieved, each of the next two years led to further development and fine-tuning to meet the target audience and make it the best it could be for participants.

Probably the most common question is regarding what software was used, and can it be shared or purchased. The answer isn’t that easy – this program was not something that was built by a vendor or corporation, nor comes out of a box. The primary development was done completely in-house by a staff member who was very comfortable with WordPress. The guidelines and content creation for the challenge were written by librarians on staff. Using Buddypress along with several different add-ons, the basic framework was created. As the project grew and improved, grant funding and hired programmers helped to make the desired customizations.

Ann Arbor and New York Public Library’s programs used a different model, created primarily in Drupal, and now more libraries are joining the bandwagon and using a variety of other tools with success. The tool isn’t the important piece, use whatever you have (including paper logs), but it is to give teens a challenge and motivation, and then celebrate with them and give them bragging rights with their friends when they accomplish goals. Whatever form your game takes, be it scavenger hunts or small quests that are part of a bigger challenge, or something completely different, make sure it involves those motivating elements of rewards, achievements and some element of competition. Offer a wide range of options or interests to inspire a wide range of teens. You might be surprised at your participation and how even a little friendly competition will inspire teamwork, community and encouragement.

If you’d like to learn more, check out these links:

First year of PCL’s Teen Summer Challenge
Current year of Teen Summer Challenge 
New PCL Adult Program launched this year
Ann Arbor Library
New York Public Library
National Digital Summer Reading 

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17. Little Space, Big Potential: Teen Services in a Rural Library

Belgrade Community Library Teen Zone

Belgrade Community Library Teen Zone

In 2005, my community constructed a much needed 5,500 square foot library addition. The floor plan included space for materials, a community room, and storage, but it lacked something very important–an area for teens. Young adults browsed the collection, checked out items, then zipped right out the front door. As we turned our attention to youth programming, we realized the room was not helping our efforts. We wanted to encourage teens to linger, to come to the library because it was a safe, comfortable place. It was time for a Teen Zone.

With very little money and very little floor space, the library created a comfortable area that is frequently used by local middle and high school students to read, socialize, study, play computer games and craft. Here is how we did it:

      • Paint - Even with limited space, you can create a defined area using paint. Belgrade teens voted on a color for the Teen Zone, and the shade “legendary blue” (aquamarine) won by a landslide. We complimented the vibrant color with a gray accent wall and black chalk board paint. By letting the teens pick the primary color, the library created a striking, teen-friendly look. If you are worried about ending up with florescent green, I recommend picking three or four shades everyone can live with before opening up the vote.
      • Shelf placement – Originally, the teen shelves were placed back to back in one long row parallel to a wall of windows. Simply reorienting the shelves freed up a ton of room, allowed more natural light, and eliminated a hidden nook. Moving shelves is tedious, but you can make sure everything fits by tracing plans with masking tape on the floor before actually shifting.
      • Furniture – Comfy chairs can become the most expensive part of the project if you are not careful.  We searched the clearance list for durable, mobile furniture, and came up with modern looking wedges that match the feel of our space. The furniture is simple to clean, stack, and move around.  Mobility has been the most important feature. Because the space is small, we occasionally host activities like Wii and DIY tech projects in a different space. The wedges come with us.
Shelf labels

Shelf labels made with public domain comic books.

  • Art – Windows cover an entire wall in our teen area so hanging space is limited. We decided to focus on recrafting our directional signs to add more color and visual interest. Using public domain comic books, I created colorful, visually appealing shelf labels. They are easy to read and are fun to look at. For more temporary displays, we installed a cork board. We also invested in a metal Teen Zone sign to pull the whole area together.
  • And an unanticipated feature…floor coverings – Several months after creating the space, we purchased interlocking foam tiles in compatible colors and arranged them in a checker board pattern on the floor. Like many other libraries, we are exploring DIY and maker programs, and with hands-on discovery comes a bit of a mess. The tiles protect the carpet and minimize anxieties regarding spilled paint and sticky substances. They are also durable because they are made to go under exercise equipment.

For more ideas on how to create an effective teen space, take a look at YALSA’s Teen Space Guidelines. You don’t need a large budget to make many of the suggestions a reality.

Do you live in a rural area and have a teen zone? Did you create a teen space on a shoestring budget? Tell us about your space in the comments!

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18. Adventures in Korea

As I was sitting in the Philadelphia airport, waiting to fly home from Midwinter 2014, I checked my email to find something rather startling: an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a symposium on library services for children and teens sponsored by the National Library for Children and Young Adults (NLCY) in South Korea. According to the email, my book Young Adults Deserve the Best: YALSA’s Competencies in Action had been translated into Korean and distributed to libraries in Korea, and they wanted me to come to the symposium and share my “experience and expertise in youth library services”—all expenses paid! 10447068_10152495783799670_9027395117503616108_n (2)

The 8th International Symposium on Library Services for Children and Young Adults was held on June 19-20, in Byeonsan, South Korea. I left San Francisco on Monday morning, June 16, and arrived at Incheon Airport, near Seoul, on Tuesday afternoon, June 17, after a 12-hour flight and a 16-hour time difference. At Incheon, I was greeted by my hosts and we met up with two of the other international speakers, Carolynn Rankin from England and Wiebke Dalhoff from Germany, whose flights were arriving at about the same time. Later that day, we met the other international guests: Kate McDowell, from the University of Illinois iSchool; Sazali Pakpong and Huey Bin Heng, from Singapore; and Inci Önal, from Turkey. IMG_6498

For the first two days, we stayed in Seoul, where we visited the National Library of Korea as well as the National Library for Children and Young Adults. These libraries indicate that South Korea is deeply invested both in preserving the country’s cultural heritage and in using the most modern techniques possible to do so. Their digital library was quite impressive. The NLCY contained a wonderful display of artifacts from Korean children’s authors.2014-06-18 14.12.54

In addition to the tours, I had the opportunity to meet two print journalists, who interviewed me for the Segye Times and the Seoul Economic Daily. I was amused to find that Korean journalists had the same concerns American journalists: they wanted me to talk about whether smartphones were causing teens to read less! While in Seoul, we also had the opportunity to have some tourist experiences, including visiting the Gyeonbokgung Palace and Insadong, a market street. Plus we had some wonderful Korean food! Then we moved to Byeonsan, a three-hour drive south, to the seaside resort complex where the actual symposium was held. Each year, the Symposium is held in a different part of the country, to encourage local participation. The Symposium’s theme was “Reading Towards a Broader World.” In addition to the international speakers, all of whom presented in English, several Korean librarians presented sessions. Simultaneous translation was provided in both English and Korean. Topics included:

  • A program to train grandmothers to read to children
  • An historical overview of picture books
  • A program for providing books to “alienated” teens
  • An early literacy program in England
  • A program to provide literacy and literature apps on iPads for children in an underserved neighborhood
  • An online community of children and young adults in Singapore
  • Cooperative programs for reading development in Germany

2014-07-10 09.46.57 About 250 librarians attended the Symposium. For my keynote speech, I talked about YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth, but I focused on the first competency area, Leadership and Professionalism. In particular, I described the ways in which young adult librarians need to understand the needs of their managers in order to effect real change. Those of you who follow this blog will recognize that I took a similar approach last year in the series of posts I wrote on What Your Manager Wishes You Knew. In addition to the keynote, I was asked to prepare a session speech on one of the areas covered by the symposium’s theme. I chose the topic “Engaging Young Adults in Reading” and took the opportunity to highlight some successful reading programs for teens. For this presentation, I drew heavily from my YALSA colleagues. Among others, I shared the details of:

I was pleased to be able to share these examples of engaging teens in reading, especially since most of the other speakers focused more on topics related to children. Going to Korea was a wonderful experience. 2014-06-20 12.00.57The NLCY were outstanding hosts and meeting the other international presenters broadened my library network. It was fascinating to talk with library folk from around the world and discover the similarities and differences in our experiences. The Korean librarians were eager to learn from the best that the rest of the world has to offer. In 2015, the NLCY will host the 9th Annual Symposium. The call for papers will go out in late 2014 or early 2015, and I would encourage YALSA members to consider submitting proposals. IFLA usually posts the call for papers, and I will link to the information on the YALSA blog as well.

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19. Reflections on the Future of Library Services for & with Teens Session at the ALA Annual Conference

The YALSA Future of Teens and Libraries taskforce led an interactive panel discussion at the ALA Annual Conference where we reflected on The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action report. The session was hosted and moderated by Adrienne Strock, taskforce Chair. Taskforce panelists included Sandra Hughes-Hassell, report co-author; Jack Martin, K-Fai Steele, and Margaret Sullivan. Special guest Traci Slater-Rigaud, Director of the National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Awards kicked off the session by encouraging libraries to get involved in the awards and noted the similarities in our work, particularly the focus on youth development.

As a way to collectively reflect on the report’s significance, the panel highlighted specific content from the report in the areas of demographic shifts, technology, and connected learning. The panel began by examining the demographic shifts presented in the report as well as observable shifts in our library communities. We discussed the importance of engaging non-dominant youth in library settings and debated the library’s role in learning and closing the growing achievement gap. We then considered the importance of technology as a tool, the way in which technology is changing how society interacts and learns, HOMAGO (hanging out, messing around, and geeking out) as a model for engagement, and the need for librarians to continue to keep up with technology as it relates to teen interests and needs. Lastly, we talked about the importance of connected learning, describing what it looks like, noting why it is so powerful and important in library spaces, and reflecting on how partnerships can leverage the strengths of connected learning for more powerful and meaningful growth opportunities for teens.

The main themes from the report that emerged in our conversation included the call for a paradigm shift in services to teens, the growing need for partnerships, and the importance of librarians embracing a facilitator, non-expert role in their work with teens. One specific aspect of the paradigm shift brought up by an attendee was shifting customer and staff expectations about noise. Panelists and audience participants shared excellent feedback that encouraged cultural shifts though catchy signage and designated noise times, educating staff and customers on new expectations while shifting their mindset about noise in the library, and getting staff and customers excited about the activities being introduced to teens by demoing them for staff and customers with opportunities for adults to partake in the fun and engaging learning opportunities.

Slides can be found on the taskforce’s ALA Connect page, and those unable to attend can still get involved!

  • If you haven’t already, check out the report!
  • Reflect, share, and talk to each other using #act4teens via Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, and your favorite social networks.
  • Dive into the actionable sections of the report. Start by following the recommendations (p. 25). Then dig into the questions and guide to local assessment and planning (p. 31) section.

Lastly, the taskforce would love to know what you think! Reflect by commenting on this post. Tell us what excites and frightens you about the report. Share what areas of the report you find the easiest and most challenging to implement locally. Let us know what tools and resources you would like YALSA to provide.

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20. Back to School: The Future of Library Service for and with Teens

Welcome to August and the first in a series of YALSAblog posts all about getting ready for the new school year.

forum logoI don’t think there is a better way to get started thinking about going back to school then to check-in with YALSAblog readers about how you are implementing the ideas in the Future of Library Service for and with Teens: A Call to Action report published by YALSA in January of this year.

Thinking about the fall and the programs and services we’ll work on with and for teens during the school year is a great time to learn about what others are doing that connect to the ideas in YALSA’s report. At the YALSAblog we’d love to hear what you have made happen that connect to what’s outlined in the report. For example:

  • Have you added or expanded or started connected learning opportunities for teens in your library? If you have questions about what connected learning is all about and what you might do with teens in that area check out the YALSAblog’s previous posts on that topic or pages 8-10 in the report.
  • In what ways are you giving teens opportunities to connect with mentors and coaches in order to help them learn about the topics in which they are most interested? See pages 21-23 in the report for more on this topic.
  • Are you finding new or expanded ways to integrate services that help teens to gain a variety of literacy skills from print literacy to media literacy to digital literacy? See pages 6-8 in the report for more on this topic.
  • Have you found a new way to think about the way you staff your teen services in order to better support the current and future needs of teens? See page 24 in the report for more on this topic.
  • Are there new ways you are thinking about the way that you provide space to teens? See pages 23-24 in the report for more on this topic.
  • Have you expanded or re-thought your ideas about collaborations and partnerships in order to move into the future of service for and with teens? See pages 13-14 and 23 in the report for more on this topic.

I bet lots of YALSAblog readers are doing great things that demonstrate the ideas in the YALSA “futures report.” And, I bet that there are library staff working with teens that wonder, “how do I get started implementing the ideas in the report?” There is no better time to start talking about the successes and challenges of bringing the future of library service to teens in your libraries than as you plan for the 2014/15 school year in your library. Let’s hear what you’ve been able to try out as a result of reading the report and/or what you are struggling with in terms of the report in the comments.

The discussion of the future starts now!

And, by the way, there are some great ways for you to keep up with what’s going on in the world of libraries and education as it relates to the future of services for and with teens. Try these Twitter hashtags to get started:

  • #act4teens – the tag started by YALSA for all ideas related to how libraries and others are supporting the needs of teens.
  • #connectedlearning – all about what connected learning is and how we can improve the lives of youth through connected learning experiences.

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21. Back to School: Making New Connections

With the end of summer reading and learning programs on the horizon, thoughts turn to the quickly approaching school year (perhaps with a well-earned vacation in between…).  For front-line public librarians, it’s a new year full of opportunities to make connections with area school library staff.  Perhaps you’ve tried this type of outreach in the past with minimal success; maybe there’s been a staffing change at a school where you’ve had a continuous presence but now you’re not sure how things will go.  If you’re lucky enough to have excellent relationships that will pick up right where you left off…well, leave us your advice in the comments!

This is not a time to be retreating, this is a time to sell your incredible and unique services and support for both students and teachers.  Stepping outside your comfort zone and making a tough cold call, email, or in-person visit can yield amazing results.  Here are some ideas on how you could get started:

  • Create a one-sheet that clearly and succinctly lays out what your services are (instruction/database presentations, book talks, lunchtime outreach, etc.).  Include this in a promotional packet with library swag and business cards, and then deliver to school libraries before school starts.
  • Browse online staff directories of area schools to identify teachers who might be most likely to take you up on services: traditionally this would be language arts and social studies teachers, but with the STEM/STEAM movement it’s time to expand our message to science and technology teachers.
  • Try a lunch time outreach pilot project in conjunction with school library staff.  Book clubs or a presence in the cafeteria with library information and swag bring attention to you and your public library, and also helps create relationships with students and school staff.
  • Check in with career and college preparation offices in your high schools to let them know about your resources and services for this population.  You could find out about hosting a booth at college and career fairs.

These ideas all sound great at the outset– but then what?  Patience and perseverance!  Follow up is going to be incredibly important– we don’t want to pester but we want to be sure that our message is heard.  Being aware of any school’s given reality is also important; perhaps they are going through an intense testing year or drastically changing their curriculum.  Both of these situations have impacted my own school outreach in the past, but hooray, it’s a brand new year!  It’s also great to reassure school library workers that we aren’t looking to take over their jobs or their libraries, we want to add value and create relationships that will help students succeed and give teachers additional support.

Further entries in this blog series will be sure to get your gears turning; back to school could become your favorite time of the year!

#backtoschool #libraryoutreach #librarypartnerships

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22. Back to School: The Skill of Listening

listen written on a brick wallFor many, back to school time is a time for learning new things. One thing I’m trying to learn more about and be better at is listening to what people in the community need and want from the library instead of simply going out and telling people what the library has to offer. For example, at a back to school professional development event library staff might be asked to present information on what they have to offer to teachers and students. Typically that might mean going in and saying, “Hi, we have these databases, they are great, use them.” Then we leave and hope that that helped inform teachers about how they can use the library’s resources.

But, really what we should be doing is first asking teachers and staff in schools what they are doing, what do they wish was available in the community, what do they and their students need? We who work with teens in libraries listen to what they tell us and then craft a response that is focused exactly on what we heard when we listened. It’s not focusing on, this is what I think you need, it’s focused on this is what you told me you need and I can directly help that need in this way.

This isn’t just something we need to be doing with teachers at back to school time. It’s also important to talk to community partners and listen to what they are telling you they are doing for and with teens. From that listening you can then find ways to connect what you have to offer – expertise, materials, connections to others in the community. Whatever it is, if you listen you’ll better be able to connect to an actual need, instead of a perceived one.

And, of course, this also relates to the work we do directly with teens. We need to truly listen to what they have to say about their lives and what they need. Instead of telling them what we can do for them or thinking that they need a particular program or service, it’s up to use to ask and listen.

I think one of the hard parts of this is that listening requires not just asking the questions but also analyzing what we hear without simply using preconceived ideas and notions in that analysis. To truly listen it’s important to take what people tell you – adults or teens, parents or teachers, friends or colleagues – and think that you might (and probably are) hear something totally unexpected. Then you need to take what you hear and use it to create something new and innovative or to retweak something that you’ve been doing a particular way for a short or long period of time.

This fall as teens are going back to school and being asked to listen in their classrooms, do the same thing yourself. Listen to what people in your community are telling you about what they need from the library. Then work to give them what they actually need, and not what you wish or hope or think they need. It will improve your service and help to make the library an integral part of the community that teens, and others, can’t live without.

To learn more about what’s going on in education and learning and responding to community needs try these Twitter hashtags:

#act4teens is a YALSA created hashtag that focuses on how to advocate and support teens in the community.

#commoncore is a great hashtag for hearing what people are saying about the common core and how it is being integrated into teaching and learning.

Also, don’t forget to follow hashtags for your local newspapers, schools, etc. as they are sure to give you lots of information about what’s going on and give you ideas for what you want to ask in order to hear what people need.

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23. Back to School: CIPA Policy Brief

This summer, ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy and Office for Intellectual Freedom released a policy brief marking a decade of school and public libraries limiting patrons’ access to online information due to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

Titled Fencing Out Knowledge: Impacts of the Children’s Internet Protection Act 10 Years Later, the report advocates an action plan to reduce the nationwide, negative impacts of CIPA. I found it well worth a read, and you will too if you wish to understand the progressive possibilities surrounding CIPA at your library and at libraries across America.

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Since 2003, those schools and public libraries that accept federal funding to purchase internet access have been required by CIPA to use filtering software on all of their internet-enabled computers. This filtering software must block access to images classified as “obscene,” “child pornography,” or “harmful to minors.” Any adult wishing to access material blocked under the auspices of “harmful to minors” is backed in his/her quest for content by the First Amendment and CIPA, which requires that the material be unblocked by the school or library. The first two categories (“obscene” and “child pornography” images) are not similarly protected under the First Amendment, so schools and libraries are not required to unblock those materials.

In theory, CIPA is fairly unobjectionable: none of us want to provide materials harmful to minors, child pornography, or obscenity. In practice, however, schools and libraries have applied CIPA in a draconian fashion: over-filtering for fear of patrons finding objectionable materials and for fear of losing federal funding. Going above and beyond CIPA’s filtering guidelines has resulted in egregious bans on social media, gaming, and emerging sites; nursing exams and other health information being blocked; embarrassment and confusion for patrons; and a negative public perception of technology at the library.  Furthermore, as Fencing Out Knowledge states, over-filtering does a disservice to our 21st century learners, is contrary to ALA’s Bill of Rights, and disproportionately affects the economically disadvantaged.

Fortunately, the report includes four recommendations for ALA to take action on this CIPA-originating issue of over-filtering. The recommendations are:

  1. Increase awareness of the spectrum of filtering choices.
  2. Develop a toolkit for school leaders.
  3. Establish a digital repository of internet filtering studies.
  4. Conduct research to explore the educational use of social media platforms and assess the impact of filtering in schools.

While ALA tackles those items at a national level, in your own community you can advocate for young adults’ broad access to the internet by becoming familiar with CIPA’s requirements; educating yourself on the harms of over-filtering; and advocating for digital policies that best fit your school or library mission and your teenagers’ 21st century needs. Don’t wait for ALA to finish their action items! Start the new school year by coming to the table now. Read the report as soon as possible, and become a consistent, professional voice at your school or library’s Technology Committee.

Click here to read Fencing Out Knowledge: Impacts of the Children’s Internet Protection Act 10 Years Later.

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24. Back to School: Building the Resume

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.

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25. Preparing students for Life After High School.

Free Events for Life After High SchoolFor me, my focus on helping teens transition from high school to adulthood began during the recession. I was working the help desk and there was a customer who was trying to complete the FAFSA on a paid website. I redirected them to FAFSA.ed.gov, but a few days later there was another customer who was doing a similar thing, only they had paid $80 for someone to fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

It may be the beginning of the school year, but one of my focuses this year is partnering with other organizations to ensure that accurate information gets to students and recent grads about college and alternatives to college.

We’ve divided our focus in two parts. In the fall we focus on promoting the services the library offers to prospective college students, while hosting SAT/ACT Practice Tests, and Finding $ for College Nights at the library.

I’ve found that most parents and students aren’t even aware that the public library often has study guides, scholarship listings, and college ranking guides that they can use to help decide where they want to go to school. We worked with Sylvan, Princeton Review, and Kaplan who host the Practice Tests and other information sessions. Library staff handout a targeted flyer to students who show up for the events that promotes our collections and e-sources related to college.

For our Findfafsa[1]ing $ for College programs we started with resources from the Department of Education. They offer a Financial Aid Toolkit and training for anyone who works with students and wants to share accurate information about paying for college. We created a library program that highlights FAFSA and scholarships, and explains the various ways to pay for a college education. We partner with local community colleges, who send a Financial Aid Advisor to answer parents specific questions. It has been very successful.

Last year we made a decision that as a public library we wanted to also emphasize that there are other valuable career choices if college isn’t the right fit for you. This past spring we worked with Labor & Industries to highlight apprenticeship programs available in the community, and invited members of these fields to talk to students about these career paths.

While we can only offer limited workshops to help recent grads with important skills like interviewing, resume writing, and professional appearance, we have partnered with a local organization that focuses on helping 16-24 year olds with their first job. We are also working on creating a targeted flyer that highlights the library’s print and electronic resources that help recent graduates make the transition. Recently I requested Soft Skills for Workplace Success from the Department of Labor, in hopes we might be able to create a successful program for this spring.

YngAdultcover art CD approved 3-2008Lastly we have worked with credit unions and banks to offer financial literacy programs. Buying Your First Car has been a huge success, while Credit 101 has also been beneficial in our community. These programs are offered for free. Some branches have also used the free resources available from the Department of Treasury to help teens learn about being smart with their money.

Working with our Adult Services team has been invaluable as we develop and promote these programs. We also work with local schools to support their programs while filling in topics they aren’t able to teach their students.

What I’ve learned is that there are several free resources in our community and through various federal government programs. Working together as a team has made these programs easy to organize. They promote library services, while also supporting our communities. Initially our goal was to help teens see that the library has more to offer students than just databases that help them complete their research assignments for school. Now the library is a valuable link to help teens transition into adulthood, giving them information to make informed citizens and be better members of the local community.

I encourage you to see what resources are available near you and create partnerships with other departments in your library, local schools, and other organizations in your community.

My favorite part about all these programs has been going to fairs telling young adults about all the services we offer and seeing them get excited about basic things like checking out DVDs, Music CDs, and Books to entertain themselves while also getting support to gain independence and their first job.

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