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<<August 2015>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Teen Services, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Serving Latino Teens: Podcast with Ady Huertas

YALSA’s Cultural Competencies Task Force interviews Ady Huertas, Manager of the Pauline Foster Teen Center at San Diego Central Library. Ady has worked with teens for over a decade: from providing instruments and lessons for a library rock band, to providing free summer lunches, to organizing a thriving teen council, Ady continually strives to provide resources and services for teens. She currently leads and contributes to several projects serving Latino teens, such as the REFORMA Children in Crisis Task Force, and the California State Library/Southern California Library Cooperative STeP (Skills for Teen Parents) Project. This podcast gives an overview of how best to reach out and serve Latino teens and provides advice to librarians new to serving Latino young adults and their families.


REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking: http://www.reforma.org/.

REFORMA Children in Crisis Project: http://refugeechildren.wix.com/refugee-children.

Webinar about the STeP Project: https://infopeople.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=485.

University of California, EAOP: http://www.eaop.org/.

National Council of La Raza: http://www.nclr.org/.

National Council of La Raza | STEM: http://www.nclr.org/index.php/issues_and_programs/education/k12_education/stem/.

Summer Fun Cafe: http://www.sandi.net/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=19400&ViewID=047E6BE3-6D87-4130-8424-D8E4E9ED6C2A&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=49011&PageID=1.

Follow us on Twitter:
Ady Huertas: @adyhuertas
Monnee Tong: @librarianmo

Intro and Closing Music: Summer’s Coming from Dexter Britain’s Creative Commons Volume 2. https://soundcloud.com/dexterbritain/sets/creative-commons-vol2

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2. Back to Afterschool: Why Informal Learning Afterschool

Do you have a maker space?

Do you provide STEM-based programs?

Do you work with community partners?

Do you have afterschool programs and services?

If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, I have another question for you, "why?"

nina matthews photography why imageThe reason I ask is that a lot of times I hear library staff working for and with teens talk about the great programs they sponsor and develop with teens - robot making and coding and creative writing - but I don't hear much about the why. And, it's that why that is most important. I know it might not seem like it, but it is. Why? Because it's the why that helps make sure that the programs are going to help teens grow up to be successful academically and in their personal lives. Because it's the why that is what funders and elected officials and community members are going to want to know in order to decide if your program is worth funding or supporting in another way.

Consider these two ways of talking about what you make available for and with teens during afterschool time:

Here's what's on the calendar this month for and with teens in Anytown - building apps for your smartphone, printing action figures with 3D printers, and stop-motion video.


At the Anytown library we strive to give teens opportunities to gain critical 21st century skills like design and critical thinking, leadership, collaboration, and decision-making. The way we do this is to sponsor programs where they get to design their own apps for their smartphones. In this workshop they do everything from planning the look and feel of the app, deciding who the audience is, and coding the app for different devices. We also give them the chance to design 3D action figures and print them out with our 3D printer. But, before they actually do that they learn the steps in the design process and have to go through several iterations of ideas and test out their plans with their peers. We also, work with teens on stop-motion video and in those projects they work in teams to design and develop their idea, test out their video with other teens, and write reviews of each others works.

See the difference?

Of course the first example is quick and easy and the second is definitely not a succinct elevator pitch. But, the second will actually show the impacts your afterschool programs strive to achieve. And it's those impacts that stakeholders and decision-makers are going to be most interested in.

So, as you are planning and implementing your afterschool program of service this year - and even beyond that - for each project before you even get down to the nitty gritty of what the program will entail in terms of timing and staffing and supplies, etc. Ask yourself, "what are we trying to achieve for and with teens" through this program of service?" And, "How are we going to know if we have achieved (or are achieving) the why?"

Then, as you continue planning ask yourself regularly, "Is this going to help us meet the why of this afterschool program?" If not, then you'll want to re-think. If so, then you get to keep going. And, then when the program is over, and even during it, you can continue to ask yourself, "Are we reaching the why?" And, "How can we tell we are reaching the why?" If you are reaching the why, that's great. If not, it's time to revise and re-think.

And, don't forget that every time you talk about your teen services include the why of what you do. You'll discover you change the conversation and it's likely that those you talk with will actually start to think differently about what you do and how you help to improve the lives of teens in your community.

Learn more about developing outcomes - which is really what the why is all about - by checking out:

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3. Teens, Help Yourself

Recently this image has gone viral. It’s a photo from Sacramento Public Library that seems to have been first posted online in January. Many of my colleagues have been inspired to post a similar sign in their branches. This sign demonstrates a practical solution for providing assistance to teens who, for whatever reason, are reluctant to ask staff for help.

Many teens I find roaming in the library often do not want to engage with staff. I do things like wear fandom buttons on my lanyard, which has helped to start conversations, but when most staff offer to help  a teen find a book or show them how to use an e-source, they politely decline.

So how do you serve someone who doesn’t ask for help? The sign above is one solution. It gives teens the information they might need while also giving them privacy and autonomy. They have the freedom to choose whether they search for the information privately, or look with friends.

Knowing that we often have teens that come into our branches and do not interact with staff, we set up a pseudo scavenger hunt as part of our summer teen program. We asked teens to find codes hidden in the library stacks so they could familiarize themselves with various places of our branches where they might find books of interest. We also created an e-sources scavenger hunt asking them to find the name of services we provide that we feel would benefit and be of interest to teens in our community. Lastly we created a badge that asked them to visit one of our branches and learn about the artwork found in the building.

Alex Byrne, a librarian I work with, found another way to engage with teens who may be reluctant to approach staff, or who prefer self-directed programs. Inspired by a project I’d done which involved putting a Posterboard up with a question like “What is the best book of 2014”, or “What is your favorite TV show”, he created a space where artists can create drawings that are left in the teen area, and used to decorate the space. Because he hasn’t seen any of the artists that draw the pictures, he calls it the invisible art collective, but it's been a great way to help make the teens visible even when they aren't physically present.

One of the artwork pieces submitted to the collective (by Z.B.):


These examples are just a start, and there is more we can be doing to empower teens in the library.  How do you embrace your role as facilitator of library services while also encouraging teens to be proactive and independent? How do you make peace with and try to engage teens who are reluctant to interact with staff?

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4. YALSA Seeking Content Experts for Teen Programming HQ

YALSA is seeking teen programming Content Experts for its upcoming web resource, Teen Programming HQ. The mission of the new site is to provide a one-stop-shop for finding and sharing information about programs of all kinds designed for and with teens. The site will promote best practices in programming by featuring user-submitted programs that align with YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines and Futures Report. The site will also enable dissemination of timely information about emerging and new practices for teen programming; raise awareness about appropriate YALSA tools to facilitate innovation in teen programming; and provide a means for members and others interested in teen programs to connect with one another to support and share their efforts to continuously improve their teen programs. The site is in beta testing now and will fully launch October 1st.

The Content Experts will work with the site’s Member Manager to vet all incoming program submissions and determine which meet the necessary criteria for being featured on the site. As part of this effort, Content Experts will be expected to give timely, constructive feedback to individuals regarding their program submissions. Please note that the Content Experts will not be submitting the content; rather, they will be reviewing content that is submitted by others.

List of Qualifications for Content Experts:

  • Thorough knowledge of best practices in teen programming, especially as outlined in YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines and report, “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: a Call to Action”
  • Strong background in engaging teens and community partners to plan, implement and evaluate innovative and impactful programs for and with teens that meet their developmental, educational and recreational interests
  • Ability to devote a minimum of 1-2 hours per week for 12 continuous months to the HQ
  • Excellent written communications skills and good netiquette
  • Successful experience in coaching, mentoring and/or teaching other adults
  • Ability to work well in a team environment
  • Ability to work well in a virtual setting, including using tools such as Google Drive, Google Calendar, Skype, etc. to coordinate work and communicate with others
  • Membership in YALSA and a passion for YALSA’s mission
  • High ethical standards and no real or perceived conflict of interest with YALSA or its portfolio of print and web publications
  • Dynamic and self-motivated

Up to seven Content Experts will be selected by Sept. 21, 2015. The term of the appointment is one year beginning Oct. 1, 2015, with an option to renew for a second year, based on performance. Candidates must complete the online application form by no later than Sept. 15. Please note that this is not a salaried staff position, but a member volunteer opportunity. Please direct questions to YALSA's Communications Specialist, Anna Lam at alam@ala.org


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5. Back-to-School Week: The After School Rush Is Not a Surprise

At many public library locations, the after school rush means an influx of teens that happens with clockwork precision and presents unique opportunities as well as challenges.

Teen services staff may smile when 45 teens (who have been cooped up for eight hours in school listening to adults talk at them….) burst into the library. But, if librarians and library workers start acting like security guards and security guards start acting like bouncers… bad things can happen. The after school atmosphere can become rule-driven and the focus may shift to customer control instead of customer service. And while certainly there are situations that warrant “control” and “rules” – staff should primarily be concerned with making the after school library experience of teens a positive one.  Anyone needing help with managing teen behavior can check out multiple resources from YALSA found on the wiki.

The after school rush is not a surprise. Ideally, there are positive patterns and routines established with library staff: these positive routines mean that during the after school rush staff does not disappear for off-desk time, break or dinner and teen activities take place. Staff is welcoming and not sending the vibe that they are bracing for an onslaught.

Learn the rush.
A library, like a retail location, experiences discernible traffic patterns of customer visits. Teen services staff should be observant and become aware of the teen traffic patterns after school at the library. First, is there an after school rush? Are there days of the week when teen traffic is heaviest? If there is an after school rush, when does it begin and when does it die down? Do teens tend to get picked-up when parents get out of work? Or leave to get home for dinner? Or linger until the library closes?

Scheduling programming/activities during the after school rush can seem daunting. Be vigilant about the excuse: “(I/we/you) can’t do a teen activity after school because there are too many teens in the library.” The after school rush may be the best time to begin offering activities—because teens are already there.  Talk to them to find out why they're there and what activities may interest them or support their needs.

Know what time school dismissal occurs and talk to your manager about how this is not the time to schedule off desk time and dinner breaks. Staffing and after school activities for teens should be scheduled to meet the needs of customers (teens) not the convenience of the staff. Think of it in retail terms: shops schedule more staff during peak shopping hours to provide adequate customer service – (and because they want to make sales) - libraries can’t afford to be any different.

Use the rush.
If you are a teen services librarian or library worker at a public library, chances are at one time or another you’ve envied high school librarians their “captive audience” of teen students. Real or imagined, library staff working with teens at public libraries may perceive that high school librarians have easier access to teens interested in participating in library programming and activities.

The phenomenon of the after school rush may be the closest public library staff  get to the fabled “captive audience” of teens. Bearing in mind that teens that visit the public library are not mandated to engage in any activity they do not want to engage in…. but, by the sheer number of teens visiting the library during the after school rush, chances improve for teens to participate in (and even organize and implement) teen activities in the library. The after school rush presents unique opportunities for teens to take ownership of space and activities intended for themselves and their peers.

Exploit this influx of teens to help you build not only good teen program attendance numbers for your monthly statistical report – but to build teen leaders in your library. This is prime time to make connections with teens.  Here are some examples that shouldn't be too daunting for beginners:

  • Getting teens busy planning and helping with activities, right there on the spot (even if the activities are not on the calendar).
  • Suggesting ways for teens to take ownership of their library space and foster teen participation (e.g. decorating the teens' space – even if it only consists of book shelves).
  • Asking teens to choose which activity should take place tomorrow and to return and help with it.

Don’t compete, compliment.

In addition to knowing dismissal time, teen services librarians and staff need to know the extracurricular / sports schedule. If Wednesday nights mean football… don’t schedule a program at the library.

And speaking of sports, if your library has a budget for publicity, why not consider purchasing an advertisement in the local high school’s printed Football Program? Even if teens don’t read it, parents (stuck) on the bleachers will, and an advertisement about how the library offers teens volunteer service hours – or free homework help will not go unnoticed by parents.

Seek to make the library available as a venue for school sanctioned extracurricular activities. If the high school debate team or model U.N. needs a place to meet, be quick to offer the library as a community venue for this type of activity. This is a great way to meet teens that may not otherwise be library users and may be interested in volunteering/leading.

What if the library is a ghost town after school?
If there isn’t an after school rush, that does not mean the library is off the hook when it comes to serving teens – it means two possibilities are true: teens need to be invited to the library and/or the library needs to take the library to teens. Sometimes the mountain has to be moved. Don't know where the teens are?  They could be engaged with other youth serving organizations in the community, and you can easily find those via this Map My Community tool. The solution may be finding a venue in the community to provide not simply information “outreach” about library locations and services – but the direct delivery of library service to teens in an off-site location.

Explore the idea of a pop-up library – not just in the traditional access-to-books sense but teen library programming/activities that happen in local teen-centric retail outlets or in parking lots of football games or high school cafeterias. Connections between teens and the library can be fostered in novel and unexpected locations.

The library must play an important role in the after school life of teens in the service community.  A recent survey shows that the majority of teens are leaving high school feeling unprepared for college and careers.  This is a great opportunity for libraries to increase their impact and address a critical need of teens.  After school is about: meeting the needs of teens – not the needs of the library location; opportunities to schedule activities for teens at times that are convenient for them – not for the library; ensuring that the library is a place in the community that helps support out-of-school learning, participation and leadership opportunities for teens.

The after school rush is coming – it’s not a surprise. Learn it. Use it. Best of luck.

P.S. Check out YALSA's after school resources on the wiki for help and inspiration!

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6. Back To School: Afterschool DIY

DIY1Library staff see a diverse crowd of students after classes end each school day. There are over-worked students looking for a place to unwind or cram in homework before after-school activities and jobs. There are also wandering bands of restless teens who don't seem to have anything in particular to do but make all the noises that weren't allowed during the day. We don't want to contribute to students' stress by piling on more work, but do want to provide them with a productive outlet for all that pent up energy.

Free-form DIY projects can provide an experience that many teens need. Happily, an afterschool craft program can also be pulled off with no advance preparation, simply by putting out a bucket of craft supplies and a pile of leftover paper with no instructions but to do with them whatever they want. With some prep-work (such as buying a few basic supplies for the DIY school supply program pictured in this blog post) a simple theme can take shape.

DIY3Whether you choose the no-prep or just-a-little-prep route, these very loosely-structured programs provide teens a break from classwork and assignments, an opportunity to express their creativity & think flexibly, and also build social & communication skills. It's key is to let the teens decide how they want to use the supplies you provide. No lesson is necessary; instead they are allowed to learn by making.

The furniture arrangement and placement of materials in your space can have a positive effect on how the teens interact with each other. Is there a large table (or small tables that can be moved together) where you can dump all the supplies? Can you arrange the chairs so that the teens sit together? Hopefully necessary interactions (passing the scissors, divvying the duct tape) will blossom into larger conversations. Coming together as an informal group can be especially beneficial for new students, students who haven't found a comfortable niche, and students going through a period of social upheaval.

DIY2The colorful pictures you take during these programs are also great marketing tools. Share them online through your website and social media. Include them in monthly reports. They highlight the teens doing things, and demonstrate how the library serves as a cultural public space.

There are a lot places to look online for crafty ideas should you need them: pinterestinstructablescraftsy, and snapguide are just a few. You can also consult the teens themselves: ask them what skills they'd like to learn if they had the time, what materials they'd like to test out if they had access, and what themes might interest them. Create a straw poll online or in your space (or both), or simply ask the teens in person.

More DIY teen programming resources can be found under Services on the Professional Tools section of the YALSA website.

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7. Teen Design Lab Day Three — Tech Playground & Teen Feedback

Wednesday was a bit of a slow day. Lucky for us, we had something free form planned for the teens to explore.

We called it a Tech Playground. Our potential project ideas were:

  • Facebook pot for the Peoria Heights Public Library
  • Google Maps with pins of their favorite places in Peoria Heights
  • Experiment with graphic design using Canva, Gimp, or Imgur

Canva overview image from Reel Bold Media

What won out was Canva. I had only briefly worked with this website and I was the one who had recommended it after hearing about it at a social media conference. To sign up, all you need is an email address or can log in with Facebook or a Google account.

From there, you can make almost any sort of design. Flyers, Facebook covers, Etsy banners, posters, business cards — the sky is the limit. With the design, there are both free templates and templates that can be purchased at low cost ($1 or so). You can upload your own photos, use copyright free images, or purchase images from Canva (again around $1 or so). It’s relatively easy to maneuver around the site, and lots of tutorials to watch if you get confused. Here’s a thing we made!

We made a thing!

The teens seemed very into it and said it was one of their favorite things they did that day. It was a great project to just let them run wild and to create something they wanted to use. We also confirmed that Facebook is just not a social media this group of teens use (paralleling recent studies done that say teens are moving away from using Facebook).

After Canva, which was hard to tear the teens away, we had a volunteer from the Peoria Heights Historical Society come in. The teens seemed engaged with the volunteer and asked some good questions. The day ended with conversations on potential design projects they will officially start tomorrow and a conversation with the director of the library. He had looked at their feedback on the Hack Your Library project. The conversation was pretty good, but of course, came back to similar problems — teen involvement and investment. The teens gave good suggestions, such as scouting a couple of teens and allowing them to have a very active role in program planning. If they can bring a couple of friends, then the program has a chance of taking off. I’m curious to know in the future if the director keeps this in mind. I think getting teen feedback is so crucial. We can guess all we want, but at the end of the day, what the teens say and think does matter.

Looking forward to day four and getting more into the design process!

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8. Teen Design Lab Day Four -- Time to Design!

Another good day at the Teen Design Lab. We had a pretty free form day, complete with some inspiration, project time, and stickers.

What we did:

  • Watched some library related humor videos (such as Check It Out made by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library — what a great job they did incorporating Taylor Swift into EVERYTHING). These videos served as inspiration and a potential design project. We wanted to give teens the option of making a video parody to promote the library.
  • Then it was design time. This is the neat part of the camp. We just let the teens be, serving really only as sounding boards and offering words of encouragement. We provide laptops, paper, pens, and other design supplies (such as clay, building blocks, felt, etc) so they can create a prototype of some sort. It was neat to see the teens find their element — some needed to make something with their hands while others made detailed dream plans and steps to success charts. The design process also the teens to showcase their talents and strengths, which is awesome. At the same time, we are aligning with library and community priorities — giving suggestions on how to make the teens feel welcome or participate in their community and or library.
  • The day ended with a sticker workshop. Again, this pulls from Makerspace and Fab Lab ideas and equipment (check out the Maker & DIY Programs YALSA Wiki page for more information about this sort of programming). It was an easy setup — laptops running Silhouette software, Silhouette vinyl cutters, and vinyl for the stickers. It’s another workshop where the teens really have free reign over what they want to do. Our only suggestion was using a silhouette image for the cleanest cut. The teens really took off on this project, most printing multiple sets of vinyl. They picked up on it pretty quickly (and a few had done this before). It was a nice way to end the workshop.

The teens will be back tomorrow, continuing to work on their designs and then give a brief presentation to their peers and community members we’ve invited to come so the teens’ opinions can be heard!

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Are you struggling trying to find ways to engage teens at your library? Look no further! As part of our ongoing research relating to teen library services, we talked with teens across the country and have answers for you in “10 Questions to Ask about Your Teen Services.” (For details about the research, see our recent YALS article: Denise Agosto, Rachel Magee, Andrea Forte, and Michael Dickard, 2015, "The Teens Speak Out: What Teens in a Tech High School Really Think about Libraries...and What You can do to Improve their Perceptions." Young Adult Library Services 13 (3): 7-12.)

10 Questions to Ask about Your Teen Services

  1. Can teens find quiet spaces for reading and studying in your library and vibrant spaces for hanging out, socializing, and creative activities?

It’s important to remember that teens use libraries for all sorts of activities - social interaction, quiet reading, collaborative school work, and hanging out with friends. Your library space needs to support all of these diverse activities. When asked why they use libraries, some of the teens we’ve worked with talked about schoolwork. For example, Kacie* (age 18), told us that she hadn’t visited her public library in years. Then she stopped in one day and realized that it was a great place to do her homework. She realized that: "'Hey! The library is quiet. There's everything I need [for studying].'… It was like: 'Hey! The library's kind of awesome!'" On the other hand, other teens told us about using libraries as spaces to connect with their friends or to engage in creative pursuits. As Jamie (age 18) explained: "People usually just go to the library to play music or just chill out, eat lunch, or read a game magazine. I have used it for that. They have cool magazines there." Your library should provide clearly marked spaces to support each of these different activities.

  1. Do you avoid charging fines and other penalties that can keep teens away from the library?

Our work with teens has taught us that worries about possible fines and fees even as small as thirty cents can keep teens from using their public and school libraries. As Jenny (age 16) told us: "I used to [use the public library]. What ended up happening was a thirty dollar fine for a video that I didn't even check out, so I never ended up going back and finding out how to solve the problem.” Patrick (age 18) explained that: "Personally, I know that I'm really bad at remembering due dates, or I'll just be really lazy one day and be like, 'I don't want to return this book right now.' So to save myself money and know I don't have to worry about that, I don't bother using real libraries."

What's more important: attracting teens to libraries, or collecting fines? We think you’ll agree that encouraging teens to use libraries is far more important. It’s time we work toward finding creative non-monetary alternatives to fines and fees. Possible solutions include providing volunteering options for working off fines and scheduling periodic amnesty days instead of insisting that teens pay up.

  1. Do teens help you decide what you stock in the library?

Some teens told us that the materials their libraries stock are irrelevant or uninteresting to them. For instance, Amani (age 16) said that libraries "don't necessarily have the books you might be looking for," so she prefers going to bookstores or looking for reading materials online. Public and school libraries should set up a communication channels to encourage teens to ask for the materials they would most like to use—not just books, but magazines, music, gaming equipment, and any other types of materials you consider purchasing.

  1. Are you fighting against the stereotype of libraries as just book providers?

Many teens we talked to expressed the idea that "library" equals "books"and nothing else. This limited perception meant they would mainly think to use a library when looking for a paper book, not for socializing, for entertainment opportunities, for homework help, or to take advantage of the many other services that libraries offer. As Hannah (age 15) stated, she goes "to a school that doesn't use books as much [for class assignments], so that's another reason why I've never used [the library]." As librarians and other library staff know, libraries offer much, much more than just books, but this message doesn’t seem to be getting through to teens. As a field we must work to fight against the outdated image of libraries just as book providers and help teens learn the full range of services that today’s libraries offer.

  1. Are you going to where the teens are (outside of the library) to market your services?

Most library research takes place in libraries and uses library users as study participants. Our research took place in high schools with random groups of students who did not self-identify as library users. Sadly, the teens in our studies were largely unfamiliar with their libraries and were mostly infrequent public and school library users. Jamie (age 18) even suggested that "today's youth have quit libraries," in part because "usually everything is done online." This finding highlights the importance of moving library marketing outside the physical library boundaries. After all, why focus your marketing efforts on teens who are already using libraries? Moving outside the library to other places where teens go, such as shopping malls, churches, community centers, sports fields, and online to social media and any other popular online teen hangouts makes for much more effective marketing by spreading the message of how great your library is to teens who don’t already know it.

  1. Are you working to ensure that all library staff exhibit positive, welcoming attitudes toward teens?

We learned that some teens perceive libraries as having unpleasant, unwelcoming staff members—people who don’t seem to like teens all that much. For example, Meghan (age 17) noted that the previously pleasant atmosphere of her school library was ruined by a new "librarian that was like, 'No food! No drinks! No talking!' [After she was hired] people were no longer interested in going there." Once the library gets the reputation of being unwelcoming to teens, it can spread quickly throughout the teen community and keep teens away.

  1. Are your policies framed in positive language?

We also learned that negative language in library policies can send the message that the library views teens as potential troublemakers. A sign that says, “No cell phone use in the library!” sends an angry, distrustful message. A sign that says, “Please take all phone calls to the lobby to avoid disrupting others who are working” means the same thing but sends a message of trust and mutual respect. Library staff members’ actions when enforcing policies can also have a major effect on teens’ perceptions of the library. Kacie (age 18) described returning to the library after having a positive experience with library staff waiving a fine: "Yeah, the one time I had sixty cents [in fines]. One book was late, but they forgave that. That was very nice. That's why I keep going. I've been at least five times in the last two months." Framing library policies in positive language can go a long way toward promoting the image of the library as welcoming to teens.

  1. Are you matching your services to your teen community’s unique needs?

We all know that community needs and interests should drive collection development and programming, but it’s a rule that bears repeating. For example, there has been strong push in the library literature to think of public and school libraries as technology providers, but in economically-advantaged or technology-saturated communities, teens are likely to have reduced needs for technology access. As Maisha (age 15), a student in a technology magnet school, told us: "I really don't need to go to the library because I have everything at home," including several digital devices and full access to a range of online tools and resources at home and at school. In these types of communities, the more effective approach to teen library services might be to focus on providing community engagement opportunities, civic participation outlets, social activities, recreation, information literacy education, etc., instead of focusing on information resource provision and on technology access. For more disadvantaged communities, however, public and school libraries might better serve teens by focusing resources and energy on providing technology access, infrastructure, and education, and by providing information resources teens can't get elsewhere.

  1. Do you provide opportunities for teens to demonstrate their knowledge and accomplishments, such as avenues for displaying teen fiction, teen photography, teen computer game designs, teen music compositions and performances, etc.?

Libraries are perfect places for celebrating and encouraging teens' creativity and their creations. Teens in our studies described deep levels of engagement with creative endeavors like writing, photography, and music. Taahira (age 14) explained that, "I just take pictures, because I want to be a photographer when I grow up." She went on to detail her photography and to describe her efforts to find good outlets for sharing her work others. Isaac (age 16) explained that he plays "drums, guitar, and bass…. We started a [music] club, too." Libraries have the opportunity to provide community spaces where teens can share their creativity and knowledge with other teens and with their community at large, both in the physical library and online via the library’s website or social media accounts.

  1. Do you work hard to bring the teens in your community together at your library, either face-to-face or online?

The teens in our studies told us that the social support aspects of libraries are key to engaging their interest, especially for those with limited transportation options or limited access to places where they can safely or easily hang out and socialize. Public and school libraries interested in increasing teen participation should look toward providing services that facilitate social interaction and focus on promoting libraries as social organizations. Victoria (age 16) described a successful program at her local public library: "They have these things every Tuesday, these teen programs that they have. And all these teens from different places come and meet, and they play all these games, and eat, and just hang out. We actually started going on Tuesdays, because it was really fun." That’s what teen librarianship should be about at its core: bringing teens together and providing them with a wide variety of opportunities for positive social, intellectual, and personal development.

Were you able to answer yes to all 10 questions? We hope so!

Please tell us if you found this information useful by completing a short, three-question survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GRN5PMQ. For more information about our research with teens, visit our homepage: Drexel University’s Youth Online Research Group.

Thank you!


By Michelle Purcell, Rachel Magee, Denise Agosto, and Andrea Forte


*Note: All teens’ names are pseudonyms. Quotes come from our interviews and focus groups with high school students, conducted between 2013 and 2015 in U.S. public high schools.

10 Questions to Ask about Your Teen Services” is based on research conducted by Drexel University’s Youth Online Research Group, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [IMLS], Award #LG-06-11-0261-11, and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. 2011121873.


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10. Pop-Up Programming

Programming is a big job for library staff. To come up with program ideas we hold Teen Advisory Board meetings, talk with educators and community members, and find out what our teens are interested in or want to learn about. We nurse a program idea through planning meetings, we order supplies, choose a date, and promote our baby program on every channel at our disposal. Finally the big day arrives, it’s program time and…not one teenager shows up. Now you’re standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by supplies, and alone with your formerly fabulous program idea. But is it really that your idea wasn’t good? Did no one want to come, or is it actually that teen schedules are beyond crazy and it’s impossible for any library staff member to take every possible conflict (including the unpredictable weather) into consideration when planning a program. My money is on the latter.

If your library is like mine then you have some days when it’s so quiet that you expect an honest to goodness tumbleweed to blow through the department, but then the very next day is so over the top busy that you feel like you’ve run a marathon by the time you get home. Granted, most days are somewhere in between, but wouldn’t it be nice if your fabulous programs could coincide with those marathon busy days? This is where pop-up programming can become your new best friend. Instead of picking a date and hoping teens will show up at a predetermined time, do everything except schedule your program. That’s right, plan, order supplies, and then…wait. Wait until the day when there are so many teens in your department that they’re practically climbing the walls. Wait until you hear, “I’m so bored,” over and over in one afternoon. Then, bust out that fabulous program at the most opportune moment.

The easiest programs, in my experience, to do in a pop-up format are crafting and technology. There are craft projects out there that require little set up and almost no instruction, seriously, have you tried perler beads? My teens are obsessed. The same can be said of technology programs, if you have a stash of iPads at your disposal then apps like Quiver, a free 3D coloring app, and Videoshop, an inexpensive and easy to use video editor compatible with most social media platforms for easy sharing, are great for quick, fun programs. It can also be fun to invest in a wireless printer (my library has a Fujifilm Instax Share Smartphone Printer). These little printers give teens the option to print their smart phone pictures, which you know they never do, wirelessly with a free app. The images can be edited before printing and they come out looking like tiny polaroids, just begging to be decorated with markers, glitter, washi tape, etc.

Pop Up programming has its challenges, but with a little creativity, flexibility, and enthusiasm you can make sure that your programs are well attended and no teenager is standing around whining about how bored they are. I suggest still having traditional, scheduled programming, but always with a few pop up programs ready to go just in case.  Have you tried pop up programming before? How did it work for you? What kinds of activities have you tried?

For more information and ideas:

YALSA Stem Programming

Teen Programming Guidelines

Determining Teen Needs Through Community Assessment


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11. 3-2-1 IMPACT! Inclusive and Impactful Teen Services

Which young people in your community could be most positively impacted by services that your institution currently provides or could provide?

Are there foster youth, homeless teens, teen parents, teens from military families, incarcerated youth, disabled teens, LGBTQ teens, immigrant teens, teen English Language Learners, or teens from various cultural, ethnic, racial or socioeconomic backgrounds in your communities who could really use the library’s help to succeed?

What would that assistance or those services look like?

My YALSA presidential initiative, “3-2-1 IMPACT! Inclusive and Impactful Teen Library Services,”
focuses on building the capacity of libraries to plan, deliver and evaluate programs and services for and with underserved teen populations. It is a call to action to all of our members to take a close look at our communities, identify service gaps and address needs by using or contributing to YALSA resources like the Future of Library Services for and with Teens report, Teen Programming Guidelines, our new Teen Programming HQ and more.

Visit YALSA's wiki to find and share information about serving diverse teens and building cultural competence. For a list of selected resources relating to building inclusive services for and with teens, check out this flyer (.pdf).

Other activities that we hope to work on this year include collecting stories from members who are reaching out to underserved teen populations and sharing best practices and/or advocacy messages, creating spaces or pathways for members who are focusing on the same teen population to connect with one another, providing continuing education to help members reach out to specific populations and also gain leadership and cultural competence skills/knowledge, and compile existing and/or create new resources to help members serve various underserved teen populations.

As YALSA President, I’m excited about harnessing the passion, energy and activism among all of our members to help create positive, inclusive, impactful change for and with the teens that we serve in our communities. I’m looking forward to working with all of you and to the amazing work that we are all going to do together this year.

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12. Back to School Week: Collaboration is a Thing You Do NOT a Learning Outcome!

For years and years and years (I've worked in libraries for a long-time) I've talked about and heard about the importance of school and public library collaboration. And, over the years, I've talked about and heard about how hard it is to be successful in this area. It actually seems to me that the challenges and barriers that I've been talking about and hearing about for a couple of decades haven't really changed. And, they certainly haven't gone away.

image by George Couros on the best ways for leaders to use technologyThe fact that conversations remain the same over a long period of time, got me thinking - Maybe we are going about this the wrong way. Maybe, instead of the focus being on what we regularly call school and public library collaboration (the thing we do), what we really need to focus on is what is required in order to have positive lasting outcomes/impacts for students and teachers (what we want to achieve). This was brought home to me this week when I read the post Building Relationships Through the Use of Technology by George Couros. The ideas embedded in the image he included in that post (shown on the left) really resonated with me.

What if as the new school year starts you didn't talk about or focus on the act of collaborating with your school or public library, but instead talked about and worked towards answering the question, What should the outcome of public library school library collaboration be for students, teachers, parents, and school staff? What would be different and would you be more successful by the end of the school year? Taking the Couros post image as a model would you go from "Good Answers" like:

  • Making sure that library staff know about assignments
  • Being able to teach school staff (teachers and administrators) about library resources
  • Making sure to purchase materials that support teacher/student needs
  • Being able to add website links that support teacher/student needs
  • Having the chance to work on lessons with teachers

To Better Answers like:

  • Build relationships for long-lasting success within the public/school library community
  • Change cultures
  • Learn from each other - students, teachers, parents, administrators and other school and public library staff
  • Develop outcomes and stories that can be used in advocacy efforts
  • Drive change
  • Lead
  • Support learning of students no matter what.

Of course, as with many things in life, this is often easier said than done. But, it's doable, I'm certain. For example, this year instead of going into classrooms or talking with your counterpart colleagues about the resources you have for students and teachers, what if you had conversations that focused on what teachers, students, administrators, staff are:

  • Working on
  • What are they successful in/at
  • What they are finding difficult to accomplish
  • What would they like to be able to do more easily
  • What would they like to change

Would that lead to stronger relationships with everyone and as a result a better chance to bring about positive outcomes? As you think about the outcomes and the conversations you can have with your library counterpart and school personnel and parents and students remember, the outcomes are what the students, teachers, staff, and parents gain. While through these gains library staff might find that their resources and expertise and time are used successfully - the focus of the outcomes you work towards in this area should be about the people you serve, not about you and your library. The outcome is in what changes in the academic and formal and informal learning lives of those you work with.  For more information and resources about outcomes, visit YALSA's wiki.

I don't think the idea of collaboration is a bad thing. But, I do think that we spend a lot of time talking about the thing - collaboration - and not what the impact of the work needs to be for students and teachers and families. Change the conversation, listen to those you want to serve before you tell them what you can do for them, build relationships, focus on the goal for the user, and see what happens.

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13. Working with Animals: A Unique Volunteer Opportunity for Teens

All of us know the following scenario very well: A teen walks in needing ten hours of community service by the end of the month and they want to volunteer. As much as I want to say “yes,” reality sets in and I can’t always accommodate those requests. Teens should be proactive when it comes to community service, but what if they have no idea who to contact? Well, this is where our super library powers come in and, with a little research, and a few phone calls, we can definitely refer our teen patrons to organizations that need their help.

The best way to point our teens to local organizations is to create a list of local nonprofits for ready reference. When I started researching organizations in my community, I was blown away with the number of organizations that need help other than the library! In fact, there is such a variety of organizations in my community that teens should not have any problems finding a suitable volunteer position. One excellent example is for teens to volunteer at their local humane society and animal shelter.

According to Animal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) “approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.1” There are many, many animals that need homes and, if they are unable to be placed in a loving home, they face the threat of being euthanized. For teens, this is the type of issue that will not only ignite a passion in them, but, as a volunteer for the humane society or shelter, they will put that passion to good use. The goals for these programs are to give teens the tools and knowledge to not only help communicate with the public about homeless pets, but promote the humane societies’ or shelters’ mission and objectives. When I was a teen, I thought that if I worked at an animal shelter, I would be cleaning kennels the entire time, which is why I ended up volunteering with the library. I was so wrong and, as much as I loved volunteering in the library, I really wished I worked at the local humane society.

After researching a variety of teen volunteer programs in various shelters and humane societies, I learned that teens are involved in a variety of tasks that include outreach, animal care, event organizing, hosting fundraisers, leading tours of the shelter, and, if their parents agree, volunteering to be a foster family. When I looked in my own city, the Pasadena Humane Society offers teens the opportunity to become “Junior Ambassadors” where their duties include: giving presentations about animal welfare at day camps, providing tours to shelter guests, attending a seminar about the inner workings of the shelter, and attending behavior trainings that will allow them to walk shelter dogs). Other shelters have similar programs and, believe it or not, some shelters have programs for younger children as well AND other educational opportunities to teach families about pet adoption and other topics.

What makes this opportunity unique is that teens can benefit greatly from the animals because caring, and working with these animals helps teens cultivate empathy, compassion, and respect for these creatures. As a momma of three rescued cats, animals have this uncanny ability to give unconditional love and loyalty, which is amazing. In fact, animal therapy has proven to help young people with emotional, physical, and intellectual problems to not only help them express themselves, but help them process their current situation; therefore, by advocating and working with animals, teens from all backgrounds will gain an amazing set of interpersonal skills. Furthermore, this particular opportunity will also teach teens about responsibility and ethics that will help teens develop their own sense of morality; by becoming a spokesperson for homeless pets, they become an active voice in their community. It’s crazy enough to think about all the possibilities that come of volunteer work, but, as a volunteer for homeless pets, it can bring out the most amazing traits in teens. For example, Amber Nelson, a teen from Florida, started her own nonprofit to rescue homeless pets and has managed to home quite a few animals already. What was compelling about why she created her own organization is that when she rescued a badly-burned pit bull (who was scheduled to be euthanized) she saw how grateful and loving the pit bull was for being saved 2. Teens are very capable of doing the right thing and that is why I am so happy that great nonprofit organizations are willing to give them a chance.

Although we want to encourage teens to volunteer at the library, we can also help them use their passion for public service by helping them reach into other pockets of our community to help as well. In fact, we can actually take it a step further by inviting the local humane society, or shelter, to the library to talk about the various volunteer opportunities. We have these community partnerships for a reason so let’s bring everyone together to help out teens develop into well-rounded members of our community.


  1. http://www.aspca.org/about-us/faq/pet-statistics
  1. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/wellington/fl-cn-hero-0405-20150402-story.html


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14. Instagram of the Week - August 17th

A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

While the most popular of public library summer programs, Summer Reading/Learning is only one of many activities that benefits and serves teen communities. Tapping into the various motivations within your own teen community are crucial to creating and implementing a well-received passive or active teen program. Are there other creative and publicly available spaces in your community, or does your library provide the only opportunity for free creative exploration? Does your library serve teens who seek to advance themselves academically during the summer months? Is there an independent maker space in your town or city, or is the library the sole source of maker activities? Do the teens in your community attend magnet schools or schools with advanced tech programs? Do those schools offer opportunities for summer tech projects, or does the library have a unique opportunity to provide the space and tools for coding, movie-making, and more? Exploring what teens already have free access to (and use!) and identifying what service and material/supply vacuums exist in your wider community will teen services librarians create and implement effective programming.

What research do you do before implementing a new program or innovating an existing program? Do you research other offerings in your town/city to prevent overlap or identify potential collaborative opportunities? How does the summer closure of schools affect programming opportunities in your pulic library? Please discuss in the comments below!

For more information, please see the Summer Reading/Learning section of the YALSA wiki, as well as the YALSA Teen Programming Guidelines.


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15. Instagram of the Week - April 6

A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

In the past few days, not only have we had to flip our calendars, but the seasons have transitioned and spring has sprung! Are you in the process of switching over your book displays and bulletin boards? This week we're sharing some fun display ideas from libraries and librarians on Instagram. Focusing on "April showers" is popular as well as gardening, spring creatures, and spring cleaning. April displays also provide an opportunity to highlight monthly themes such as National Poetry Month, National Humor Month, and Autism Awareness Month.

In addition to providing inspiration for new displays, spring can be a great time to spice up social media accounts with a new series or game. As our teens are heading outside for spring sports and activities, social media can be a great way to keep them engaged with the library when they're on the go. To encourage patrons to interact with the library on Instagram, some libraries post fun trivia questions using emojis, pieces of text or illustrations, or clues that highlight a specific area or collection of the library. Creating a unique hashtag for the community to share images of their reading and showing a side of librarianship not usually witnessed at the service desk (such as mugs used by staff or their favorite snacks), will help patrons learn more about staff members without being present in the library. There are also a number of popular hashtags that are widely used by libraries and patrons alike that are specific to days of the week such as #bookfacefriday in which the face on a book cover is photographed over one's own or #tbt to share an image for Throwback Thursday. Hover over the images below to see the hashtags libraries have created for weekly series posts.

Have an awesome spring display idea? Created your own hashtags for your library? Developed social media games for your patrons? We want to hear about it! Share with us in the comments section below.


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16. 30 Days of Teen Programming: Develop Your Evaluation Skills

In the Fall 2014 YALSA journal (vol 13, number 1), I published an article about creating outcome measurement tools collaboratively with staff and participants for a teen program (Measuring Outcomes for Teen Technology Program, p. 25). The program I discussed is the Teen Tech Squad, tech workshops for teens led by teens at Hennepin County Library.

When I began working with the teen librarians to identify outcomes and measurement tools, an important step was relying on the expertise of the teen librarians. I did not assume that I knew what teens were doing in the workshops or what skills they were gaining. I relied on the expertise of the teen librarians to identify these things. I worked with them to make sure that they understood what outcomes are and we collaboratively created the outcomes and survey questions. We also took the time to get teens opinions on the questions we asked so we knew our questions would be understandable and effective. I empowered staff to take the lead on implementing the evaluation and continue to offer my assistance as they discover what is working and what isn’t.

This approach to evaluation is called “developmental evaluation,” a concept developed by program evaluation consultant Michael Quinn Patton. Developmental evaluation differs from traditional evaluation in many ways. For example, one way is the role of the evaluator. Traditional evaluation positions the evaluator as an outsider from the program they are evaluating while developmental evaluation positions evaluation as a job duty of the program deliverers. Developmental evaluation is most suited to programs that are innovative and adaptable; that is, not static.

Why this is important is that I see a need for libraries to have an in-house evaluation expert. It may seem easier (although more expensive) to hire an outside firm to evaluate. What library staff miss out when they do this is learning how to evaluate on their own. Knowing how to evaluate means that you can work evaluation into the biggest and smallest projects at your library. It can help you design projects intentionally, evaluate them, and decide what should continue, what should change and what can come to an end.

YALSA’s tenth teen programming guideline directs library staff to, “Engage in youth-driven, evidence-based evaluation and outcome measurement.” Now that we have measurement tools in place and used teen feedback to develop the tools, our teen workers are charged with using them and evaluating their results to improve workshops. Our library staff also use measurement tools to evaluate our teen workers’ experiences and improve the project.

I’m very lucky to be sharing my experience in developing the teen tech evaluation tools at this year’s Libraries Leaders Summit at the 2015 Computers in Libraries conference in Washington, D.C.  (April 27-29). If you’ll be there, I’d love to talk to you about evaluations. If you can’t make it, there are many resources you and your colleagues can access to learn more about creating evaluations. The Research and Institute for Public Libraries summer conference is focusing on outcomes and how to measure library impact. There are also a few books I’ve listed below. Finally, reach out to nearby universities to find out if they offer trainings for measuring outcomes -- I caught the evaluation bug after attending a one-day training at the nearby University of St. Thomas. It’s great to be able to talk to expert evaluators about your library’s work and get their feedback. Remember YALSA’s seventh teen programming guideline, “Participate in targeted and ongoing training to build skills and knowledge relating to programming.” You may intuitively know what works and doesn’t work about your teen programs. It’s also important to evaluate in a more formal manner to get new insights.


Dynamic Youth Services through Outcome-Based Planning and Evaluation, by E Dresang, M. Gross, L Edmonds, Holt. ALA Editions, 2006.

Evaluating Teen Services and Programs, by S. Flowers. ALA Editions, 2012.

Getting Started with Evaluation, by P. Hernon, R. Dugan and J. Matthews. ALA Editions, 2014.

Johannah Genett is the resource services division manager for Hennepin County Library. She can be reached at jrgenett@hclib.org.


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17. 30 Days of Teen Programming: Consulting YALSA's Teen Space Guidelines

The Teen Programming Guidelines discuss the physical spaces of hosting teen programs in their eighth guideline.  When YALSA released its Teen Space Guidelines in May 2012, I dove into the wealth of information that the guidelines provided.  My school was in a transition period where we gained an additional media center space that needed to be completely renovated.  Our original media center also needed some updating, so the Teen Space Guidelines was the perfect tool for me to use in approaching our spaces.

The first teen space guideline states, "Solicit teen feedback and input in the design and creation of the teen space." Librarians and media specialists should always take into consideration the community they serve.  I needed feedback on what our students wanted to see in our original space.  A simple Survey Monkey survey was all it took to gain valuable insight into layout, furniture, needs, and wants for our high school students.  With their advice, we were able to rearrange furnishings and incorporate a few new pieces to freshen up our original media center.  Students also suggested that we move our manga section closer to the circulation desk.  Manga books are cataloged in the 740s in the nonfiction collection.  In our media center, this happened to put them in a far corner of our space and hard to see from the circulation desk.  Not only are these super popular books that are checked out frequently, but they became hot commodities that were frequently stolen.  (We do not have a book security system.)  After moving these books closer to the circulation desk, students have easier access to them, and we do not lose near as many to theft.  This also allowed us to promote the books more easily, which is also one of the guidelines in Teen Space Guidelines.  Teen feedback can never be underestimated.

In renovating our newly acquired media space, the main goal was to create a comprehensive digital lab that allowed us to add tools to "link" education with technology in a more efficient manner.  Thus our school's LiNK was created.  "Provide furniture and technology that is practical yet adaptive" is another guideline for teen spaces.  In creating the LiNK, I knew we needed mobile furniture that would allow students and teachers to work as individuals, small groups, and entire classes.  Teen Space Guidelines also states that teen spaces should "be technology rich and include both stationary and portable technology."  We are able to do that by having 21 Windows desktop computers available, as well as 35 Chromebooks, and 30 iPads.  Students have many technology options for researching and creating. Here is what we were able to accomplish as we took into consideration the Teen Space Guidelines:

Panorama of LiNK from entrance

Panorama of LiNK from entrance - couch pieces are sectional and movable

Panorama of LiNK from back

Panorama of LiNK from back

Desktop computer area; student artwork on walls

Desktop computer area; student artwork on walls

Collaborative table near dry erase boards

Collaborative table near dry erase boards that we made with plexiglass and paint

Teacher using interactive flat panel for demonstration to class

Teacher using interactive flat panel for demonstration to class

Teacher asisting group in another collaborative area.  Students LOVE the sofas with tablet arms.

Teacher assisting group in another collaborative area.
Students LOVE the sofas with tablet arms, and they are on wheels to easily move around.

The Teen Space Guidelines are essential to librarians as they consider their library's physical space. Teens need spaces that allow them to grow intellectually and socially, and these guidelines will ensure that our libraries are able to meet their needs.


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18. Instagram of the Week: April 20th

A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

What have you made with your library?

This year's National Library Week campaign focuses on the library as a place of creativity, creation and community engagement. All week, librarians and library users are posting what is #librarymade on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Unsurprisingly, many libraries are using this year's theme as an opportunity to encourage the creation, not just reading, of poetry during National Poetry Month. Teen services are a natural treasure trove of unlimited #librarymade action. Whether you have a 3D printer and circuits projects, book clubs, button-making workshops...anything!, your teen services are absolutely #librarymade.

How have you taken advantage of National Library Week? Are you incorporating the #librarymade theme into your National Poetry Month activities? In what ways could the vision of #librarymade change, improve or revitalize long-running teen services programs? Please share in the comments below!


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A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

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 1 and 7 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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20. Level Up Your Leadership Skills: When You Don't Know What You're Doing

A friend of mine just accepted a promotion. When I asked her why she accepted it and what she was looking forward to, she said, “I’m really looking forward to working for my new boss; I really respect him and he’s indicated he trusts me. But what he doesn’t know is that lots of time I don’t know what I’m doing.”

She said this jokingly, but it struck a chord with me as I’ve been in a new role in my library since January. On my first day, another colleague advised, “Fake it ‘till you make it!” Each day, I never really know exactly what to do or how to respond to dilemmas - but I have a plan, some strategies, some good instinct and I ask good questions. So far it’s working.

People have three psychological needs: autonomy -- a perception that we have some choices that are ours to make; relatedness - a connection to something or someone - beyond ourselves; and competence -- a feeling of effectiveness and success. We need these in our personal lives, and also in our workplaces.

One of the hardest things I’ve seen library staff (including myself) struggle with is when our own personal levels of competence are not where we want them to be--it’s true for everyone, but feels especially relevant in libraries, where we highly value our expertise and knowledge--and get to demonstrate it almost every day if we work directly with the public.

When we’re in a new role at our library--a promotion, a change in responsibilities or location--especially one in which we’re not regularly called on to demonstrate our excellent information-seeking and finding skills, this change from “I know how to answer your question” to “I don’t know what to do next” can feel especially unsettling.

I’ve been in a new role since January -- and it’s a stretch. For the first time in my library career, my work is not directly connected to youth services or to staff delivering services to children, youth and families. I’m leading staff working in areas critical to the library’s success, but know very little about those areas.

Despite feeling like I’m not always competent, I like my new role because of the talented staff I’m working with -- who ARE subject matter experts in their areas and who need a leader, not another expert in their area of work. These staff, too, made the leap from the comfort of direct service to patrons, to areas that were very new to them.

Some of the most intensive learning we can do as individuals is through stretch assignments -- projects or assignments or tasks that sometimes feel physically painful to us as we’re going through them -- we might not automatically know what to do, we may need to try something that doesn’t work, reach out to others for support, or delegate the work completely.

As I’ve worked with individual staff members on stretch assignments or development opportunities, many will say, “I have no idea what I’m doing” or “I don’t think I can do this work.” I have felt like that many times, myself -- and feel it regularly in my new work.

These new roles of project manager, supervisor, community organizer, advocate, and facilitator are ones we must step into. It may mean moving out of our comfort zone and taking on new new roles in our organization. Stretch assignments test our feelings of competence, but they are necessary to further and advance service to teen patrons in our libraries.

It’s amazing to me that we’re often so impatient with our own learning, but so supportive of teens as they learn new skills -- supporting them in leading a planning meeting, encouraging them to share their crazy idea with the group, and leading the group in reflective conversations when there is conflict. Stretch into a new role or assignment - and be patient with our own learning and development.

Some ideas for YALSA resources to support your next opportunity to stretch:

Apply to be the next member manager of the Hub

Read YALSA’s Future of Library Services for and with Teens: a Call to Action report again - this time for an eye on areas where your current role might evolve.

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21. YALSA Seeks Member Manager for Upcoming Teen Programming HQ

YALSA is seeking a Member Manager for its upcoming web resource, Teen Programming HQ, The mission of the new site is to provide a one-stop-shop for finding and sharing information about library programs of all kinds for and with teens. The site will promote best practices in programming by featuring user-submitted programs that align with YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines and Futures Report. The site will also enable dissemination of timely information about emerging and new practices for teen programming; raise awareness about appropriate YALSA tools to facilitate innovation in teen programming; and provide a means for members and the library community to connect with one another to support and display their efforts to continuously improve their teen programs. The site is expected to have a soft launch in July and a full launch in September. Please note that web developers have been contracted with to build the site. The Member Manager is not expected to have any web site design or development responsibilities.

The Member Manager will work with YALSA's Communications Specialist to ensure the site is relevant, interactive, engaging and meeting member needs for information about innovation in teen programming, as well as participates in the maintenance of the site and work within the guidelines for the site as set by the YALSA Board of Directors. The Member Manager assists with the recruitment of experts and the collection of content for the site; generates ideas for direction and content; helps obtain, analyze and use member and library community feedback about the site; assists with marketing; and assists with ensuring programming related activities, news and resources from YALSA are integrated in the site, and vice versa.

List of Qualifications for the Member Manager:

  1. Strong project management and organizational skills
  2. Ability to delegate work and to manage a variety of contributors and volunteers
  3. Dynamic, self-motivated individual
  4. Excellent verbal and written communications skills
  5. Experience in web site maintenance
  6. Ability to set and meet deadlines
  7. Knowledge of best practices in teen programming, as outlined in YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines and Futures Report
  8. Ability to work well in a team environment
  9. Ability to work well in a mostly virtual setting, including using tools such as Google Drive, Google Calendar, Skype, etc. to coordinate work and communicate with others
  10. Membership in YALSA and a passion for YALSA’s mission
  11. High ethical standards and no real or perceived conflict of interest with YALSA or its portfolio of print and web publications

General Member Manager Responsibilities:

Oversight & Coordination

  • For the inaugural year of the site, work with the Communications Specialist to create and implement systems and processes to ensure efficient oversight, promotion and integration of the site and database. Make adjustments as needed
  • For the inaugural year of the site, work with the expert panel to formalize the vetting process and create and utilize guidelines, standard messaging, etc. to create consistency with the vetting process. Make adjustments as needed
  • Work with the Communications Specialist to recruit and vet experts to vet the program proposals, and submit recommendations to the President
  • Communicate with the Communications Specialist on a regular basis in order to assign tasks, discuss marketing strategies, discuss site management, etc.
  • Work with the blog managers and YALS and JRLYA editors as appropriate to coordinate dissemination of information to members and the library community.
  • Maintain communication with YALSA member groups whose work relates to teen programming
  • Follow all established policies and guidelines, enforce them as necessary and periodically conduct a review of them to ensure currency
  • Direct questions about sponsorships, advertising, etc. to YALSA’s Executive Director
  • Write reports prior to the Annual Conference and Midwinter Meeting for submission to the YALSA Board

Seek Out & Manage Content & Contributors

  • Provide oversight to the panel of experts to make sure the quality of program submissions is acceptable complies with YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines and Futures Report
  • With the Communications Specialist recruit contributors on a regular basis
  • Effectively motivate, support and manage a group of volunteers
  • Manage a strategy to deal with comments and spam daily in order to guarantee that the site content is appropriate


  • Seek out opportunities to recruit contributors and inform the library community about the site
  • Answer questions and inquiries about the site in a timely fashion
  • Work with the YALSA Website Advisory Board and the Communications Specialist to create cross-promotion of all YALSA's web presences
  • Utilize social media to increase awareness of the site and its content

Technical Maintenance

  • Work with YALSA’s Communications Specialist as appropriate to update and manage software
  • Monitor new technologies and their potential to impact the site, and make recommendations to the Communications Specialist, as appropriate

YALSA Communications Specialist Responsibilities:

  • Communicates regularly with Member Manager to provide support and facilitate work
  • Works with the site developer and the ALA IT Dept. as needed on technical issues
  • Handles all financial transactions for the site
  • Promotes the site through appropriate venues
  • Coordinates efforts and facilitates communication among all YALSA publications, including the blogs and journals
  • Manages the site software, including liaising with the developer and ALA’s IT Dept. to troubleshoot technical issues
  • Ensure site guidelines and policies are complied with
  • Oversee the recruitment process for Member Managers, as needed

The Member Manager will be selected by the YALSA Executive Committee by August 1, 2015. The term of the appointment is one year beginning in August 2015, with an option to renew for a second year, based on performance. The Member Manager will receive an honorarium of $500 per year plus $500 towards travel to each Annual Conference and Midwinter Meeting while serving as Member Manager. Candidates must send a cover letter and resume, which includes project management, teen programming, marketing and website maintenance experiences to alam@ala.org. All resumes, etc. must be submitted via email. The deadline for submission is July 1, 2015. Please note that this is not a salaried staff position, but a member volunteer opportunity. Please direct questions to Anna Lam at alam@ala.org

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22. When Tragedy Strikes

On June 17, 2015, in Charleston, Virginia, Cynthia Hurd, a veteran Librarian for the Charleston County Library, was killed when a 21-year old man massacred worshipers at the Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, Virginia. This is a great tragedy that doesn’t just affect everyone who works in public libraries, but also the community she served. After reflecting on the senselessness of this massacre, I started thinking about the teens in Charleston. Not only did these teens lose an advocate, but they lost a mentor and a friend. As librarians, we forge amazing bonds with our teen patrons so, when tragedy strikes, how do we comfort those who are grieving? Although we cannot take on the role of grief counselors, we can provide grieving teens with a safe environment and resources that can help calm and comfort them through these dark days.

The first resource we can always rely on are books. There are many, many books that can help teens cope with their pain and suffering. In fact, after researching resources to help grieving teens, I found that libraries all over the country have amazing book lists that contain numerous titles cover all kinds of loss. If you haven’t had the chance to read Can Reading Make Your Happier1 by Cerwiden Dovey, it talks about the power of bibliotherapy and how books can not only stimulate our brains, but help delay the damage that debilitating diseases such as Dementia can cause. Furthermore, what makes books so powerful is that readers become so enveloped with the story that it literally has the power to change their perspective and decision-making processes. With grief, teens have a very different way of processing their feelings, which is why they act out; therefore, let’s empower our teens by giving them something to help them cope with their feelings. Lastly, as librarians, it is our job to provide teens with information and materials to help them learn, but let’s also show our teens we are also human beings who care and give them something a lot more valuable, which is our time and ears.

Again, we are not clinically-trained to help teens manage their sadness, pain, and/or anger, but we can take the time to listen to our teens. When teens confide in us, they are literally bearing their souls, which is difficult because they are already incredibly vulnerable. In other words, they are placing a huge amount of trust in us when they reveal their problems. By letting our teens vent, they are inadvertently seeking advice that can help them process their problems. Depending on the severity of these problems, we can usually provide a few words or sentences that will help them solve their issues. Obviously, if it’s something completely out of our control, we can provide them with resources that they can investigate, but there is a line we cannot cross. Most of the time, teens just need someone to listen without providing any judgment so let’s take the time to help them find the right tools whether it be a book, magazine, website, phone number, or age old wisdom. Along with connecting teens to resources, we can use our next greatest asset, which is programming.

Programming has immense power to heal. Whether it’s about bringing out our gaming systems or providing assorted crafts, teens can channel their energy into these projects. If tragedy does indeed strike, we can easily provide our teens with a safe space, such as a meeting room, and allow them to just mellow out and process the events that have occurred. Also, if we have strong connections with our local schools, we can contact school counselors to stop by the library to provide counseling or, if we have connections within our community, we can contact counselors who would be willing to donate their time to help our community heal. With this particular incident, I really think it might be worth creating a plan for when awful things happen in the community just in case.

Public libraries have a huge presence in the lives of teens and, just like Ferguson Public Library, we have the power to provide a safe haven for our community. As much as we want to protect our teens from the evil in this world, we can’t. However, we do have the ability to help them get through these moments and I have absolute faith that the Charleston County Public Library will continue to honor the memory of their fallen colleague by providing their community with the tools and resources to thrive and survive anything that life may throw at them.

To learn more about Cynthia Hurd, please click on the following link: http://www.ccpl.org/content.asp?id=147022&action=detail&catID=5367&parentID=5368


1 http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/can-reading-make-you-happier

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23. Instagram of the Week - June 22

A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is a video worth? Instagram may be best known as a platform for sharing images that have been enhanced with just the right filters and photo editing tools, but it also comes in handy for sharing video content. The app may limit video to only fifteen seconds, but users can either shoot video live through Instagram or export content created through another app to Instagram of sharing. From book reviews and clips of programs in progress to behind the scenes looks and how to use library resources, the videos that can be shared with users are endless. Do you take so many photos at programs that you can't decide which ones to post without overloading your followers? Apps like SlideLab, Replay, and Flipagram allow you to select and organize your photographs to create a slideshow, add music, share the final product on Instagram, and not feel the pressure to pick only a few favorite pictures. Looking for something different to spice up your feed? With the Dubsmash app you can take video of yourself lip-synching well known bits from movies, tv shows, commercials, or songs for a post that's hilarious and shows a different side of the library staff. Turn up your volume and take a look at a sample of library Instagram videos that we've included below. Have you posted videos on your library's Instagram? Tell us about it in the comments section below!


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24. Teen Design Lab Reflections, Day One

Hi everyone! So I wrote a post on Friday about an upcoming camp I was helping to plan. During the afternoons this week, we are leading a Teen Design Lab camp. Our general objectives for the camp are:

  • Help youth learn about the community through exploration
  • Engage youth in contributing to community problem-solving
  • Learn about digital media and technology

I’ll be leading a week long reflection series about how the camp goes with the teens each day and how what we are doing fits in while YALSA’s programming guide. I’ll try to have the reflection post every evening, although this first post is the morning after (since the first day is full of craziness, debriefing, and figuring out where to get dinner).

Day One 

What we did:

  • Spent some time on designing a roadmap for the week (see photo). Ann had written this roadmap for the week in terms of the themes of the projects we would be working on and then what skills and outcomes we were hoping for. This roadmap was partially empty and in the picture, you can see we asked questions and got answers from the teens to fill in the roadmap.
  • Community tour. We had the teens go out into the Peoria Heights downtown area and observe what they liked about the area (and what teens might like about this area), what they thought was problematic or what they didn’t like about the area, and then what questions they had or what surprised them about something they saw. We also sent them out with iPad Minis to take photographs with. We encouraged them to talk to store owners and ask questions. The facilitators wandered around the downtown area as well, but we really let the teens do their own thing. We will use this feedback for future design projects this week.
  • Spoke with the township administrator, Roger, (we had met him previously and he gave us input in how he hoped the camp would run). He talked about his beliefs in doing community engagement and some of the neat projects the Richwoods Township had done recently.

IMG_1146What went well:

  • The teens were great. They were engaged and actually interested in the camp and the design projects we are going to be working on. They enjoyed how we didn’t teach at them, but instead involved them in the conversation. They also asked a lot of questions, which allowed us to see where we were doing well in explanation and when we weren’t communicating well.
  • While we had less teens than expected, the group wasn’t phased. They rolled well with our flexible and always changing schedule.

What we want to improve on:

  • We did a quick evaluation at the end of the day to see what the teens thought went well and what didn’t go so well. This is a great way to remind the teens they do have a voice in this program. [Note: it also is YALSA’s #10 in their programming guide]. We found out on Monday that one teen wished we did more stuff, more project time, and less chatting. We have a schedule that is flexible enough to truly listen to this request and altered our agenda for today (Tuesday) accordingly.

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25. Teen Design Lab Day Two — Maps, notebooks, and hack your library!

Back for day two reflection! We added one more teen to the group, bringing our total up to five. Today was a heavy work day, although we were taking into consideration the request from the teen for more projects.

The afternoon began with working on something for the internet. We gave the teens three options: make a Facebook post for the Peoria Heights Public Library page (since our camp takes place at this library), make a blurb that could go up on the Richwoods Township website (since Roger came from the township to talk to us yesterday), or create a Google Map with pins at places they had visited on the community tour on Monday. More on that in what went well and what could be improved. 

Then, the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab made an appearance (and they are team members in this larger grant helping to pay me and my co-teachers to develop and run this camp). They brought along a friend, aka a portable laser. Holly, one of the Fab Lab instructors, led the five teens though designing a notebook cover to be lasered on a small Moleskine notebook. It was a great workshop and the teens had to find a quote they liked. We can definitely think of this workshop as a way to develop interest-based, developmentally appropriate programs that support connected learning. The teens had full say in what their notebooks looked like and this design process exposed them not only to design tools, but file management, USB procedures (like eject USB before physically removing it), and exposure to technology they might not have seen or used before.

With the notebooks begin lasered, the teens then did Hack Your Library. Essentially, they each had a clipboard, pencil, and a bunch of post-it notes. They were to carefully and thoughtfully go through the library, writing down on the post-it notes what they liked about the library, what they didn’t like, and things that surprised them (very similar to what they did the day before in downtown Peoria Heights). The afternoon ended with the teens presenting their findings to the group. The director of the library who we’ve been working closely with couldn’t sneak away to hear the presentation but was looking at the feedback on our way out after camp was over.

What went well

  • The teens really seemed to enjoy the notebook design workshop. It was great to see each other being lasered because they really showed off each teen’s unique personality. I think it’s a great strength to be able to have programming and activities that allow teens to be themselves in that sort of creative process. I feel I learned even more about them from those simple notebook covers.
  • Hack the Library activity ended up with so many interesting notes. Very few teens noticed the same things, which again helps to show how each teen is unique and brings a new perspective to the table.

What could be improved on

  • They seemed a little lackluster about creating website/Facebook/Google map content. I’m not sure if it was how we explain the activities or if that is something they just weren’t interested in. This gets me thinking about how can we encourage them to be creators of material on the internet in a way that’s engaging and fun to them.

Resources to check out

Photos coming soon! Check back tomorrow night for day three reflections!


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