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Even if you don’t work in a school media center, I’m guessing your life still tends to run on an academic schedule when you work with teens. So welcome to the new school year! Here’s what I think might be interesting, useful, or intriguing to you and your patrons this month.
- If your teens are interested in what’s new in the going green movement, have them look more globally to see what’s going on. In coastal Ecuador, young people from farming families are heading up efforts to save, cultivate, and redistribute heirloom seeds to revitalize the environment and help farmers prosper. Part of an organization called FOCCAHL, 20-year-old Cesar Guale Vasquez travels throughout nearby areas collecting seeds from farmers and also hosts swapping events so that farmers can trade seeds with each other in order to have more vibrant and diverse crops. Now take that for inspiration and add to it your own library’s resources on climate change, farming, and nutrition and plan an interesting program that combines science with activism and see what your advisory board wants to do with it. Many libraries now are creating their own seed libraries, and whether they’re for wildflowers or corn, they can be a great way to bring communities together, get young people to work with older people, and freshen up your local environment while doing your small part to keep the world cleaner and greener.
Matthews, J. (2012). Ecuador’s seed savior. World Ark, May 2012: 10-15.
- At the beginning of the school year, many teens are interested in refining or experimenting with their personal style. There is generally no shortage of mainstream fashion and beauty advice in the magazines and books you have in your collection already, but there might be a population you’re missing, and they’re getting bigger and more vocal. While the natural hair trend has been growing for years, the recent O Magazine cover presenting Oprah Winfrey with her hair relaxer-free has sparked a lot of talk. The social news web is blowing up with discussions of hegemony (the prevalence of hair relaxers in the African American community has been linked to unrealistic standards of white beauty), harassment (nearly everyone with natural curls, regardless of race, has experienced strangers touching their hair without asking first), and self image (who decides what’s beautiful, and is it more important to do what you think is pretty on you or to make a political statement with your hair?). Take a look at the reports of the Oprah cover at Sociological Images and Jezebel (it’s worth taking a look at the comments, too, but they’re probably NSFW and can get heated), and then consider hosting a discussion club or making a display of books on beauty. If you’re not sure where to start, I suggest Naturally Curly, one of the premiere websites (with social components, news, and shopping) for natural hair of all textures.
- STEM, STEM, STEM. Everybody wants students to engage with science, technology, engineering and math. Federal money is pumped into it. Grants support it. But do teens and tweens care for it? In a study of middle school students, researchers analyzed both boys’ and girls’ wishful identification with scientists on television shows to see what factors influenced positive feelings (possibly indicating an interest in pursuing a science career or hobby). They found that boys were more likely to identify with male scientists and girls with female scientists, which is unsurprising. What was more interesting is that the genre of the television show affected the positive feelings. Scientist characters on dramas were more likely to elicit wishful identification than those on cartoons or educational programs. What can you do with this information? Plenty. For your next film screening, try a drama or documentary that presents scientists in a good light, like Cool It, And the Band Played On, or Einstein and Eddington. If you want to take a crack at those who think that being good at science or math makes you a loser, connect STEM with the things teens already love, like working out, YouTube, and the Web by taking a look at the 35 fittest people in tech, videos by Vi Hart, who turns mathematical concepts and history into snarky audiovisual narratives, or how-tos at Lifehacker.
Steinke, J., et al. (2011). Gender Differences in Adolescents’ Wishful Identification With Scientist Characters on Television. Science Communication, 34(2): 163-199.
- Whether you’re in library school or you’ve been working for years, you might find Hack Library School’s new starter kit series interesting, especially their post on services to children. Anyone want to volunteer to write the starter kit for youth services? On a related note, Teen Librarian Toolbox has a post on what to do about all that stuff they don’t teach you in library school (I’m taking notes).
- If you’ve been trying to find a way to collaborate with nearby schools, see if you can get an advisory group to have a meeting with local teachers (it might be a good idea to make sure that the teachers are not teachers of the teens in your group so as to encourage openness and honesty) and start a dialogue. The topic? Standardized tests. Students may feel like teachers are against them, while teachers probably feel as if it’s administrators who are forcing them to be uncreative. So how do you get all sides to understand each other when schools are still tied to federal standards? For background information, try the journal Rethinking Schools‘ spring 2012 issue, which featured a special section on standardized tests. After a good discussion, maybe everyone can take fun “standardized tests” on personality types, books, or any other fun topics. Then see if students, teachers, and you can work together and form some sort of coalition that bridges the gaps between inside- and outside-of-school education, engagement, and issues. Start a collaborative blog. Take turns hosting book clubs at different places that feel like home to the different stakeholders in your group. What might be an interesting year-long project is to get everyone in the group to develop their ultimate standardized test to replace the ones they’re taking or proctoring in school. What skills do teachers and students think are most important to have before leaving the K-12 system? What topics do people in the real world need to know? Is it better to test knowledge orally? With essays? With student-led, student-designed creative projects? With their perspectives and your skills with information seeking, along with your vast collections, you should be able to create a really interesting partnership. And if you need more inspiration, check out these roundups of education blogs by both students and teachers, both here and here.
What are your plans for this upcoming academic year? As always, your questions, comments and suggestions are welcomed and encouraged!
Do you know if you work in one of the nineteen states that allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections and caucuses if they will be 18 by election day? Might be something to consider if you’re thinking about getting teens more civically involved with 65 days left until the next Presidential election. Even if you’re not one of the nineteen, it’s still a great opportunity to engage teens. If they’re not old enough to vote themselves, they can always encourage their parents or caregivers to vote.
I do admit, the election is a bit on my mind now in ways that it might not be for others. The city in which I work, in fact the block my branch is on and well, frankly the library building itself is playing a role in the upcoming Democratic National Convention. My library building is hosting The Daily Show and a block away is where the current President of the United States will give his acceptance speech.
In both Charlotte, NC where the DNC is being held and Tampa, FL where the Republican National Convention was held, teens and youth organizations are taking so many opportunities to be involved and let their voices be heard in this political landscape. Youth Radio, for example, takes a closer look at Paul Ryan as a Generation X’er on the ticket. Even if your city is not hosting a convention this year, there’s a lot that can be done to encourage teens as advocates in the political arena. Here are a few examples of what we’ve done and that might work or have worked for you:
Encourage civic literacy through developing reading lists. While this might sound like a very traditional response from a library, it’s still important. In my experience we carefully developed several lists that included a variety of political beliefs and shared them with local youth serving organizations such as Generation Nation, to help promote the library and literacy.
Encourage civic engagement through content creation. This summer, Jimmeka Anderson, a co-worker of mine, and I, developed the Teen Fashion apprentice program. Teens attended workshops to build skills around designing and upcycling clothing, entered an outfit they made into a fashion show, and then apprenticed with our partner organization, The Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. How this relates to being civically engaged? Aside from fine tuning their job development skills, hearing their stories of the thought process that went behind designing their outfits to fit the theme, would have you convinced that yes, clothes are political too. They represent everything from the color of the landscape to inspiration from rappers and actors. The teens that won the apprenticeship have their clothes displayed at the library. Hopefully it will be an invitation and conversation for visitors to understand the many opportunities libraries have for teens.
Content creation can also mean digital. In this case, a video. My library partnered with several youth serving organizations in the community to share teen voices on camera about what the organization they affiliate with; whether the library or other group, means to them. This project is still in progress and wasn’t quite ready for the convention, but video is always a great medium in which teens can have their own voices heard not to mention develop editing and other technological skills to perfect telling their story.
In looking at the bigger picture of getting teens involved civically beyond your own library is having them participate in YALSA’s District Days. There’s been great information on the blog here about how to get involved, how to get the library involved, and what better way than to get teens involved but ask them to be an advocate for the library.
Stay tuned. . .and feel free to share how you are engaging your teens in relation to the upcoming election.
I’m a Friend of YALSA—are you? Each year YALSA funds $16,000 in stipends, scholarships and awards, which are funded by donations to Friends of YALSA. So far this year we’ve raised $8,665 and our goal for August is to raise $2,000. If we meet or exceed our goal of raising $2,000 by Aug. 31, a donor has agreed to contribute another $1,000, increasing our monthly total to $3,000!
Every donation helps! It only takes a moment to make a tax deductible donation of any size at www.ala.org/yalsa/givetoyalsa/give, or you mail a contribution, using the printable mail-in form from the web site. Complete the form and mail it with your donation to: YALSA, 50 East Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611.
Your tax-deductible contribution is an investment in the future: one that pays real dividends by helping to create opportunities for librarians and library workers serving youth across the country.
To learn more about Friends of YALSA or our grants and awards, please visit our web site. Thank you for all that you do in your community to support teens and libraries!
Jack Martin, YALSA President
With the Hunger Games DVD release this Saturday, your teens may have Panem fever all over again. This guest post offers just one way to celebrate the games before Catching Fire hits theaters.
On July 18, 2012, Stamford teens became tributes as they participated in a library summer event celebrating all things Hunger Games. We offered four teen summer programs this year (the others were a chocolate program, mendhi and ballroom dancing) and all were popular, but the Hunger Games event seemed to generate some special buzz among our teen volunteers and to attract some teens who aren’t regular program attendees. In the run up to the event, a number of the volunteers asked what the party would entail. When I gave them a summary of the planned events (and told them jokingly that no one was going to be killed), they said it sounded like fun, and a number of them registered to attend. An anxious Mom called the day before the program asking if it was too late for her daughter to participate. When she was told that we were happy to have her daughter join in, the mom was grateful and relieved, saying how much her daughter loved The Hunger Games and how much she was hoping to be able to come.
Of the 40 who registered, 28 showed up at the program (not a bad percentage in our experience), to be greeted as they entered the library’s auditorium by music from the Hunger Games movie, a librarian dressed in a Hunger Games tee shirt, a wild hair ornament and Capitol-style makeup (me), and other librarians and volunteers wearing badges identifying them as “Capitol Citizens”.
The teens were gathered and told they would undergoing a Reaping, not to determine who would be a tribute (they were all tributes), but to assign them to a district. Papers were available in a bowl, two strips with each district number. Extras were available so that additional teens could be accommodated. With 28 teens present, we ended up with 14 districts, two more than the 12 in the books. Pairing the teens in this random way meant that they couldn’t work with their friends, and when some of them protested, they were reminded, in the spirit of the Hunger Games, that tributes do not get to choose. As they received their district assignment, each teen was given a nametag, labeling them with the district number and the letter A or B. This became their identity for the Games.
The first activity was a ten-question trivia quiz. As the papers were distributed, the teens were told that we needed to test their knowledge of the history of the Games before they would be allowed to compete. The questions were multiple choice, so that teens who were less familiar with the books and movie would be able to guess, and would not be embarrassed by blank answers. It turned out that the questions were quite easy for the
serious fans; in fact ten of them got all ten questions correct. But there were some, less familiar with the series, who only got a couple of correct answers.
After the quiz, the tributes were assembled and told that their next task would be to style themselves for their parade in the Capitol. While they did this, volunteers graded the quizzes. The two tributes from each district had to coordinate their look and the tributes were reminded that it was important to impress the “Capitol Citizens.” Assisted by the volunteers and librarians, the teens had a lot of fun decorating themselves with the items provided; lipstick samples, garish eye shadows, face paints, glittery stickers, plastic leis
and inexpensive hair ornaments. Photos of citizen of the Capitol from the movie were on hand to give the teens ideas if needed. Even some of the boys got into the act, draping themselves in leis and swiping bars of col
I’ve had STEM on the brain a lot lately. (For those of you who haven’t yet become familiar with this acronym, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.) The library in which I work has fully embraced STEM programming, providing informal hands on science classes for students in Kindergarten through High School. I’m also privileged to be working on the YALSA STEM Task Force. At our library, we’ve done lots of traditional science experiments, held building clubs, and offered teens the chance to learn new technology. But in all this, I find myself asking, “Where’s the math?” I came up with an unexpected answer.
The single place I use math the most, other than basic household bills, is when I craft. That’s right – arts & crafts: here there be math. I am a self taught knitter, crocheter, quilter, sewer and more. I’ve even taught both adults and teens to knit and crochet in classes at my library. So I not only had to figure out a way this stuff made sense to me, but also how to translate it to others. From the simple math of measurements when sewing a garment, to more complex geometry with designing quilt patterns, I constantly am using the math I learned when in school.
I’ll be picking up my crochet hooks again in a few months for the sake of library programs. That also means that I just might be figuring out crazy crafter word problems. An example: I have a pattern that requires X length of yarn that is N in thickness. I actually have yarn that is M thickness and Y length per ball. How many balls of the yarn I have will I need to make the same item in the same size as my pattern? There’s so much going on here between using algebra to figure out unknowns & ratios of length to weight to determine if a yarn corresponds to a pattern.
So how does this all fit together with STEM & the library? Well, most of us do crafts at some time or another. While they may not all be as intricate as my example above, we still have to use measurements (how much stuff do we need), proportions (how much will each person use), and budgeting (how much will this event cost per person) before we implement the activity. My suggestion is that we talk to our participants about the math that goes on behind the scenes. I don’t think we’d gain anything by creating a formal math lesson out of a craft class. However, I do think we can make teens more aware of how math works in every part of their world if we mention in passing that, “It took longer than I expected to get this week’s craft ready. I had to cut 48 paper squares exactly 4 ½ inches square because I needed each final square to be 4 inches after accounting for the necessary ¼ inch to fold on each side,” or “I had to order supplies for this activity before I had a final count of people attending. Since I have a budget of $2 per participant, we won’t be able to use the extra supplies today, but will save them for another activity.” Let our patrons know that math doesn’t just live in their classrooms (or in the 510s!) but is all around them. The more math becomes an integrated part of everyday activities, the more we do to support the formal learning of our patrons.
Do you already have library programming that would support math education? Can you create some? Please share in the comments.
Here are a few sites I found that might be helpful:
Quiltbug Fabric Calculator
Measure Yourself for Fitting Clothing
Posted on behalf of Julia Driscoll, Member of the YALSA STEM Task Force
For some of us, it’s an uphill battle advocating for the teens in our libraries. Budgets are never quite large enough, there’s never enough time to do everything, so if any group gets the short end of the stick, it’s our teens. We all know how important it is to have teen programming and teen spaces and an excellent teen collection, but it can be difficult getting the higher-ups to see it our way. You might find, as I have, that you need to justify your teen programs beyond getting teens in the door.
No one really questions the benefits of Storytime for the kids. It’s fairly obvious how it fits in with the library’s mission. A teen Halloween party, on the other hand, might be subject to more scrutiny. Recently, I found out that the Halloween party I’d been planning for our teens didn’t pass muster in its current state. It wasn’t enough to try something to increase our program attendance. Our circ starts are awesome, but we have an unfortunate floor plan for our teens, so they don’t really have a place of their own to hang out. They get their books and go, which has made it a lot harder in creating relationships and encouraging them to come to programs. There was no way I was giving up on this party. Instead of a Halloween party, it’s now a Favorite Character party, where you must come dressed as your favorite book character (and act the part, if you’re really good). The activities we’ll have will tie in to our collection, like YA horror trivia, and we’ll be more book-focused than Halloween-focused.
The key to justifying a program or a service for teens is two-parted. First, tie it to your library’s mission. Say that your mission statement includes words like informational and enriching your community. There you go. Teens are part of the community and the Favorite Character party will enrich their lives by widening their exposure to the YA collection and allowing them to use their creativity to enhance what they’ve read to a tangible form while testing their knowledge and sparking their interest to seek more information about the horror genre.
Second, beyond the direct result of such a program, look for other possible objectives. For example, providing a program for teens not only accomplishes the objectives of the program, but also gives teens a feeling of being welcome in the library. Teens who feel welcome in the library may be more interested in volunteer opportunities at the library. Teens who volunteer can take over tasks, such as shelving or shelf reading, from staff members, who are then free to complete other tasks. This in turn can lead to improved customer service because staff members will be able to spend more time with patrons and will be less stressed about helping someone with a particularly difficult or time-consuming problem because they will know that they have the time to devote to the problem.
It would be great if we could have teen programs just because they’re fun and it’s what our teens want, but a lot of us are under constraints that are out of our hands. Being prepared to justify your programs might mean that you’ll need to broaden your focus to find the positive outcomes.
Sometimes it can be frustrating to hear great, innovative ideas that don’t sound like they’d ever be possible with your budget. Or maybe you’re tired of hearing about great “new” tools you’ve been using since you were in grad school. Maybe you even read some of the posts in this series and thought, Yawn. Been there, done that. What’s innovative to another librarian might not be for you–it might be scary, or passe, or just not right for your library.
So why not try something that’s new for you?
When we talk about innovation, I think too often we feel a lot of pressure to be truly on the cutting edge, whether it’s using the absolute newest technology or finding the next Printz winner. And let’s be honest: that can be exhausting. I don’t mean to discourage taking risks–please do!–but I also want us to give ourselves permission to applaud the little innovations in our daily lives.
Is your library embracing bookstore shelving? Way to go! Are you diving in to co-teaching a class? Fantastic! Encouraging a spontaneous dance party in the stacks? That is great, and also please invite me next time.
In the comments, what’s one new thing you’re trying?
I have to tell you, I’m nervous about the state of YA collection development. Why? Because I worry that teen collections may transition from collections for teens who read YA to collections for adults who love reading YA. Don’t get me wrong, I am a reader of YA and I know that that reading can be just as good, if not better, than adult book reading. But, yet, I don’t think my library’s YA collection should be filled with the YA that I want to read if teens don’t also want to read it. And that’s why I worry. There is so much talk of late about adults reading YA and why that’s OK that I begin to wonder, who are we building YA collections for? The adults who love YA or the teens who are simply looking for a good book to read?
My take is that we always build for the teens. If adults want to read YA titles that aren’t popular with teens in the community, then those titles should go in the adult collection and be a part of the adult collection purchasing budget. Those serving teens often have to struggle with budgets as it is. So, if they are buying books for adults that read teen AND teens that read teen how are they going to have enough money to do both? They won’t. The teen collection is the teen collection. That’s the priority. That’s who teen library staff serve. That’s the bottom line.
Yet, I continue to worry. I think about the books a library buys that circulate and have great statistics and so more of that type of book is purchased and put on the shelves. Yet, if the library really delved into those statistics they may find that it’s not teens checking out the books, it’s adults. But, circulation can drive collection development so the books continue to land on the shelves. That just isn’t right.
I worry that a teen walks into a library filled with titles that are being read and titles that are published for teens, but, yet, the titles aren’t of interest to the teen or his friends. Or, for that matter to a large part of the community’s teen population. So, what does that teen think and do? He doesn’t think of the library as a place that serves his reading needs. And, he doesn’t use the library to find materials for leisure or informational reading.
Or, what about the teens who hang out in the library and notice that the stacks are always inhabited by adults looking for their new favorite teen novel? What message does that send? If you were a teen would you really want to be hanging out in a teen section filled with adults looking at and talking about the books that are supposed to be for you? Come on be honest. Would you?
I have to say, “be careful.” Sure, it’s OK that you and other adults you know read YA but don’t make that the focus of your teen collection. If you know adults in your community are really into a dystopian series but that the teens just don’t show an interest, then don’t buy that series. Inform the adult collection development staff of the adult interest. Save your money, and your shelf space (virtual or physical) for the books teens want and need. That’s really what you are there for. Right?
Are my worries completely unfounded? Let me know what you think in the comments.
One of the things I get to do is teach a course for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science on Web Development and Information Architecture. And, one of the things we talk more and more about in that class is developing a library web presences for a mobile environment. This summer the class is even reading a book titled Mobile First.
The thing is, designing for mobile isn’t just something to think about for library websites. It’s something to think about when planning programs, services, and collections that tend to be face-to-face but could really have an on-the-road or on-a-device aspect. For example:
Research and Reference
- About 15 years ago I used to joke with friends that we should setup library satellites in Starbucks. We were seeing even then a lot of people tmaking Starbucks, and similar places, their office outposts. In the late 90s having a library satellite in a place like Starbucks was a sort of crazy idea. In 2012, that’s no longer the case. While it can be difficult to get out of the library to be where teens are, the technology tools for roaming around your community are available so that you can be in a local mall or pizza place or baseball game with a tablet and a wireless connection and provide services to teens (and anyone else for that matter). What if you were to start to brainstorm with teens, colleagues, and administrators how you could provide service in the community outside of the library using mobile devices? What would it take to get started? How can you work towards getting there?
- A few weeks ago the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report on the just-in-time information seeking behaviors of adults using mobile devices. (Adults in this case are anyone 18 or over.) The report states, “Users’ ability to access data immediately through apps and web browsers and through contact with their social networks is creating a new culture of real-time information seekers and problem solvers.” What does this mean for how librarians serve teens who are similarly seeking information quickly via their devices? Do we make sure to have chat going on Facebook to make it easy to ask a question of a librarian? Do we make sure we have apps and mobile web presences that make information seeking fast and painless? The answer to both is “yes.” While the report focuses on those 18 and older, it does note that younger (The 18 to 29 age range) mobile users are more likely to perform just-in-time information seeking than older users. That being the case, doesn’t it make sense that teens are a younger audience doing the same and that you need to serve them so that they succeed in that information seeking?
- Another Pew Internet and American Life Project report that came out a few weeks ago was on teens and online video. One finding is that, “37% of internet users ages 12-17 participate in video chats with others using applications such as Skype, Googletalk or iChat.” What a great way for you to connect with teens for mobile programs. Teens can be on a device at home, in school, at the house of a friend, or even in the local pizza place. You could have video conversations with teens from anywhere – the library, the school, home, the local Starbucks or pizza place. You and teens don’t have to feel tethered to a location for face-to-face programs. Get out of the library and into the community and stream a video book discussion group or TAB meeting from anywhere.
- One of the topics I talk a lot about is social reading within the app environment. (I’ll be discussing just that at YALS
App of the Week: iTranslate Voice
Platform: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4S, iPod touch 3rd/4th generation, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.
I regularly hear the teens in my library grumble about their struggles in foreign language classes and having taken my share of Spanish classes, I can certainly relate. It’s hard to remember a word’s spelling let along the pronunciation when you can only see it written. So when I recently stumbled upon this wonderful app, I knew I could not keep it to myself. iTranslate is definitely not the only language translation app on the market, but I am willing to bet that it very well may be the best.
This app is not only visually appealing with its clean display, but it is also easy to use requiring minimal instruction. The iTranslate app delivers a user- friendly experience with its built- in familiar siri-type voice recognition. Simply speak into the microphone identified with the country flag you choose and listen as you get instant results that are read back in whatever language you prefer. If you prefer to type rather than to speak into the microphone, you may do that as well. This feature may also come in handy if you should need to edit text that the computer misinterpreted.
iTranslate has over 30 different languages to choose from and memorization is a snap with the share, copy, and speak options. The app does require Wi-Fi or 4G to connect, but let’s face it, that is easy enough to come by these days. When I told the teens about this app, they were happy to hear it was under a dollar and would serve as a great study companion for test and projects.
My library is in a community heavy on teen foot-traffic and light on teen activities (outside of the library), so during the summer it is common to see the room filled to the brim with teens escaping the heat, annoyed at the friends they have spent every hour of every day with, looking for something–anything–to do. How can we help them find that “anything” that actually keeps them entertained, and excited to return to do it again? Planning summer programs for a Teen Center is an imperfect art, but if you see it is such – an art – then you won’t feel as bad when things don’t come out perfectly, and conversely you will be astonished when the boring turns exciting. Here are a few passive and active programming ideas that I urge you to try in your own library. With a little money, and as little or as much librarian involvement as you can afford, these programs have the ability to interest the regulars and pull in the new patrons.
Art Gallery: If you have empty wall space, you have an art gallery. Post flyers calling for artists to submit their work, photography, drawings, paintings, computer graphics, etc. Using painters tape (which is safe for the walls and the art), hang the art. Make sure to include their name (and school? Age? Inspirational quote?) so they get credit. If funds and time permit, host an artist reception on the day you hang new art. Anyone whose art is hanging on the wall for that week/month (or however long of a rotation you decide upon) are guests of honor, but of course all library patrons can attend the “opening”.
Board Game Tournaments: We have all hosted gaming tournaments, and even though the gaming systems are always being used, it is safe to assume that even the teens are bored with Mario Kart and RockBand. Therefore, grab the Monopoly game from your attic and plan a board game tournament. As teens sign up for the tournament have them choose their playing piece, so there are no disagreements on the day of the tournament. This is sure to keep the teens buys for a couple of hours, and the only cost to you should be a cool prize for the winner and runner-ups, such as a “Tax Refund” (waived overdue fines), monocle, or a 100 Grand candy bar (do they even make those anymore??).
Contact your local MLS program: These students are smack-dab in the middle of their higher education experience and are probably dying for some practical experience. Ask them to come in and co-host a program you currently lead, or lead the teens in a simple craft project or volunteer activity (greeting cards for senior citizens, toys for shelter animals). This way the teens can meet a new person, and you can have time to do all the billion things you put aside between June and August.
“I’m Bored” Boxes: Grab a few empty shoeboxes and fill them with any craft item you can find (make sure you include glue or tape) and let the kids get creative. Scrapbook paper, glue, ribbon, buttons, safety pins, duct tape, etc. You would be amazed at what they can make out of seemingly nonsensical stuff.
Volunteers: Have scrap paper that needs cutting? Children’s crafts that need preparing? Keyboards and mice and shelving that need dusting? Call in the volunteers! Teens who I never would have thought wanted to donate anything but crumbs and noise to the Teen Center approached me last summer to volunteer. I set them right to work, and a couple of them even came back a couple times over the school year. You never know what boredom can push a person to do.
Skout Flirt Screen
Social Media has been a positive force for youth. It lets them express themselves, helps them overcome social isolation and it gives them the ability to influence the world without the freedom granted by adulthood. There is a darker side to social media as well. The most evident in recent years has been cyber bullying, but it’s not the only issue.
There have been three recent rape allegations connected the service Skout. In response, the company has decided to suspend the teen branch of their service. Teens who are avid users of the service are moving against the shutdown. The teens believe that the shutdown won’t help anything. Teens will simply lie about their age and use the adult service, and they correctly assert that their creeps on Facebook too.
Facebook is choosing to take a different path. They acknowledge the fact that minors will use their site regardless. In fact, 38% of minors using Facebook are under the required age of registration, 13. So Facebook is working to create a version for their site for minors. It is a version that gives them unique privacy setting and controls. You can find more on that, and why people feel Facebook isn’t doing it out of pure altruism here.
Many of those creeps use the same method that they did on Skout on Facebook and other sites. Child Predators who target teens and children using Social Media frequently lie about their age in their profiles, and they use pictures of themselves or others as teens as profile pictures. They don’t just say their teens in a chat room, they build profiles around a teenage identity. They earn the trust of teens. They set up a meeting, and then they commit their crime.
This has happened many times. It has happed across the county. It happened on Long Island where I live in January. It is not that difficult to imagine happening, but it is difficult to dream up an effective solution overnight. The solutions being proposed right now include restricting teen access, creating an automated system the scours the net for child porn and prostitution, and new laws governing access/possible capabilities of social media. The effectiveness of this shotgun will likely save some, but the implementation must be closely watched. There is a fine line between protecting teens and silencing them.
The bottom line is banning teens from Social Media won’t help. Predators, rapists and molesters have and will always exist. Facebook may even help bring them to justice, or it could at very least provide people an avenue for closure. What does help? Have the conversations daily, and whenever possible. They may get sick of hearing it from you, but that is okay. We can’t eliminate pedophelia, as much as we want to. But maybe we can empower teens to protect themselves.
Title: Graffiti Me!
Platform: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1 or later.
The teens in my library are always looking for fun new ways to take pictures of themselves to share with friends on Facebook. They usually know about any new photography app that comes out right away, but this time I shared this one with them! Graffiti Me! is an innovative photography app that allows you to upload a photo or access the camera function to take a new photo and turn it into graffiti. Once you have your photo uploaded, you may stretch the photo with two fingers to place the photo exactly how you would like it to show. You may zoom in and out at this time, as well. Next, the app will display a bar filled with color swatches that will pop up at the bottom of the screen, where you can customize the background effect of your photo. The effects include a wide range of choices from paint splatter, American flag, checkerboard, and many more. After you have the background set, you can use the “effects” slide bar to minimize or maximize the degree of the effect.
A spray can is always present at the bottom of the screen with a choice of 14 different colors, complete with an eraser to correct any unwanted mistakes. The spray can helps to achieve a realistic street style result. Just like everything else, you can adjust the brush width to create even the smallest of details. An icon labeled “ABC” is the text module that allows the addition of graffiti-like text to be added. You can type anything you desire and select from a variety of different fonts. Once you have typed your words you can add them to your picture wherever you like with just a quick swipe of your finger. The app is easy to use and the possibilities are endless. I appreciate the quick share button, where you can share the photo via email, twitter, or Facebook.
The app works best with faces that are large and full-screen, rather than a group of people. This app is a great addition to a teen’s iPod or iPhone.
Restaurants, Parks, Beaches and retail used to employ teen in bulk.
I took my first job at the age of 14. It wasn’t by choice. I had gotten into enough trouble during the school year that my dad decided it was a good idea to keep me busy. I worked as a student aid for the New York City Board of Education. My dad ran summer school every year, for as long as I remember. Every morning we would wake up before the sun rose, and we would drive in. We would grab breakfast, and we would talk mostly about the previous day.
That first job is special to me. Not just for the obvious reasons above, but because I still vividly remember my failures, struggles and successes. I remember my mentors who showed me what it meant to lead. I also remember the bad bosses who accomplished everything through verbal abuse. Do you remember the first person who talked down to you at work? I learned some of the most important lessons of my life at that job, and at the other summer jobs I held as a teen. My summer jobs provided me with the opportunity to make mistakes at work while the stakes were still low.
Last summer, less than thirty percent of teens had the opportunity to work. Most of the teens who worked got their jobs due to the intervention of their parents. Like me, those teens have a much easier time getting work. Those worst affected, as usual, are the teens that come from low income families. There are several reasons why this is the case, but I believe the most significant as the lack of transportation.
Jobs, in general, are bound to locations. As adults, we have the ability to relocate or hopefully commute. As jobs become scarce in one space, we can pick up and move to another space. In the book, “The new Geography of Jobs” by the economist Enrico Moretti, the author outlines where jobs are and where they will likely be in the future of America. It is useful for getting teens to think about the future in terms of location as well a career.
I am concerned though that their experiences will shape them like my experiences shaped me. But while I had the opportunity to grow, they will instead be shaped by the endless search for work. Our economic reality is bleak enough to intimidate those graduating from college. It won’t help us or the teens we serve if they lose faith something is out there for them before they even get to college.
My solution has been to take an active part in their job search.
It seems that almost every library-related news article I read talks about the de-funding of libraries or how amazing it is the Library X is doing so much with so little. The 2011 State of America’s Libraries report from ALA and Library Journal’s 2012 Library Budget Survey confirm that budgets are still trending down. It can feel impossible to be innovative when you are barely able to cover costs for summer reading programs.
I don’t know about you, but occasionally I must force myself out of a pity party that generally starts with the thought, “If I had more money/time/help, I could do so much for my patrons.” In order to combat this leeching, downward spiral, here are some ideas to beat the blues and come up with your next innovative idea.
Take a walk, look at an art book, visit a library branch other than your own, connect with an old friend from library school, do anything that makes you feel reenergized about your work.
Write it Down
Make a list of all the things you would do if you had money/time/help, then decide what is really relevant for your community. This often helps me put things I want into perspective. Sure, I would love to have a huge Hunger Games program resulting in a canned food drive for food shelters in the area, but that really wouldn’t work at all for my transient, military-dependent teens. However, sometime writing it down helps me transform my too-big idea into one that is just right.
Change your View
Take stock of your teen space and see if it is still working for the people you serve. Are the stacks crowded? Is the art stale? Do you ever see an actual teen lounge on that beanbag chair? A little rearranging might be all that is needed to jumpstart your creativity.
As we learned in 30 Days of Innovation #7, true innovation often happens after a failure. Perhaps a little tweaking is all that is in order to make that past failure into a raging success.
Though it can be overwhelming to feel like you must constantly be innovative, I encourage you to find a balance that works for you and your patrons. I challenge you to shift your focus from what you don’t have to what you can create with what you do have.
As a part of redesigning the teen space at my library we were looking for a way to partition off some space without building an actual wall. We thought about moving bookshelves, we daydreamed about sound proof glass, but nothing seemed feasible. Until my director came up with an idea: what about movable partitions that you can hang things on? Where would they go? Wherever we wanted. We could reserve the right to change our minds whenever we liked. What would we hang on them? Colored paper? Teen programming information? We settled on sketchbooks, figuring that would make it easy for content to change.
At first patrons weren’t sure what to do with them, but after I got some of my regular teens to start drawing on them, they began to catch on. Later, I added a sign that says:
“Teens! Want to draw?
1. Grab a sketchbook
2. Draw a picture
3. Hang it back up
Need some art supplies? Borrow some at the Circulation Desk.
<3, your librarian, Erin”
After that the art really started to take off. Mostly manga style, often just in plain pencil, but sometimes in bright colors, the teens have been making these blank pages their own. Now almost every day I come in to find new art.
The Art Wall, as we’ve come to call it, is part passive program, part art installation, part wall, and always eye-catching. Seeing art from their peers and being invited to contribute their own really draws teens in and helps them to feel a sense of ownership of their space.
You don’t need a whole wall to incorporate teen art into your space. Start small by displaying some pieces from teens you know. Create a gallery on a window, or as part of a book display or teen info bulletin board. Leave a communal sketchbook on a table, prop one up on an easel, or find a creative way to hang one where teens will see it. None of your regulars like to draw? No problem. Invite them to display a poem, or make a collage. Having teen participate in the decor of their space is the important bit–the particulars are up to you.
We are creative people, we do a lot of creative things in our work, and we are subject to the kinds of fear and burnout that can come with being creative. How do you fight burnout? Take inspiration wherever you can get it.
I find a lot of inspiration in other people acknowledging the struggles and triumphs of creativity. One person who inspires me is Ze Frank, who I believe I once referred to as the father of modern video blogging. He had a successful Internet show, The Show with Ze Frank in 2006 and he is now, with the help of Kickstarter, returning to the Internet to start up a new show.
Ze says if you have an idea, you should just do it. Don’t worry about the skills or resources you might lack, just go for it. Because if you wait too long to get your idea out into the world, it becomes brain crack, an obsession with the perfect version of the idea that just gets more and more impossible to achieve. So fight brain crack, take the leap, put your ideas in motion, and don’t be afraid to fail.
His latest video, an Invocation for Beginnings is about just that.
Disclaimer: There is a bit of swearing in this video. (As there is often a bit of swearing in the creative process). I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily NSFW, but I also wouldn’t watch this on a public desk with the volume all the way up.
Blog: YALSA - Young Adult Library Services Association
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Can we finally put the argument to rest? E-readers are not killing reading, nor are they killing books. As research shows, people who own e-readers not only read more than people who don’t, but they read both e-books and print books. Not to mention, there are plenty of populations, from prison inmates to seniors, who will need print books for a long time coming. Neither one is going away.
That’s not to say that they’re the same, though. Far from it. In my experience, e-readers attract different types of readers than print books, and they’re also engaging more people who were previously non-readers. Anybody who thinks that’s not great, well… There are also scads of e-reading apps available for phones, tablets, and computers, so e-content is available to more than just people with Nooks and Kindles. People use e-readers for a variety of reasons, from pleasure reading to research, so it’s good to consider how many bases you can cover. The Pew Research Center released a report on reading, readers, and e-readers recently, and ALA of course responded. While Pew’s data is encouraging (among other statistics released, the study found that people who use e-readers read more books per year than people who only read in print), ALA pointed out that the stats of who reads at all, and who reads in what format, are also related to education and income level. So what can you do about it?
First, take a look at your e-book collection and see what types of materials are most widely represented. In my anecdotal experience, I’ve found that bestselling memoirs and adult fiction are easy to find in e-book format, as well as genre fiction like westerns and romance. Pew’s study also indicated that people are drawn to print and e-books for different reasons, based on the types of materials they can find. This is your chance to offer innovative e-materials, as well as to fill some gaps that your print collection just can’t do. If your library offers Kindles or other devices for checkout, and not just the e-materials, see if you can designate one of them as the YA e-reader, and fill it up with some teen-friendly stuff that will attract readers and non-readers alike. If you don’t have library-owned devices, you can always offer these suggestions on a flyer for your patrons who own personal devices.
Download literary and other magazines that are published for online audiences, in PDF format. For me, this is why I bought my Kindle in the first place–my grad school reading heavily leans toward the downloaded journal articles, and I didn’t want to clutter my hard drive or break my eyeballs reading it all on my computer. You might try things like Sucker Literary Magazine, a new magazine of YA fiction available on PDF and Kindle form, the Fairy Tale Review, which publishes fiction and poetry based on or inspired by fairy tales (their first issue is free and in PDF form, and the rest can be bought on an issue-by-issue basis), or Anthology, a collection of writing from a longstanding literary magazine by and for teens, Cicada
Load your e-reader with some free or inexpensive word and logic games. Both Nook and Kindle have a variety available. For a cost, both major retailers, as well as educational software companies, offer specialized dictionaries and other apps for academic subjects, too.
Have a strong immigrant, refugee, or bilingual population in your library? E-readers offer you the chance to bulk up your collection in other languages for a lower price than many print books. Amazon’s Kindle store has a huge selection of Spanish-language e-books (though it will transfer you to its Spanish version of the website, so make sure you can read it
When this month’s theme was announced I got to thinking of some of the innovations that have entered into my world since I was a child. I should state here that I am defining innovation according to its “invention” and “evolution” roots. I wanted to think about what new systems/ideas/products have been brought into librarianship that have made me wonder how we could have ever done without.
Like poor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, what have I grown accustomed to? So, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and here are a few of my favorite innovations without which I am sure my job and my life would be far more challenging and far less enjoyable.
(Mind you, this is in no particular order.)
1. Wireless printing: I am writing this post from the comfort of my living room sofa. If I want to proofread a hard copy of this, I am able to tell my computer to print and the document will print out in my office. Even better, my printer can be anywhere in my office and is not tethered to wires around my computer. It’s rather freeing really. Somehow the whole concept of this wireless freedom, which has shown itself in many office environs thanks to networking, did not become fully real to me until I was untethered both at work and home.
2. Online card catalogs: Sometimes I think I am a closet catalouger. I can often get sidetracked by a small catalouging project by the discovery that certain subject headings are inconsistent. At a time when many of us are shifting the way we view our shelving, we have to give some credit to the flexibility online cataloguing provides. It is now VERY easy to make global systematic changes to records. Granted, I’ve rarely found a catalog that was really end-user friendly (and some are disastrous on several fronts), so there’s still much innovating to be done in this arena, we cannot take for granted the benefit these systems have given us, especially in terms of personalizing our library collections.
3. Stylus pens: Yes, I know to grow accustomed to the stylus, I must also grow used to the device, but for me, the iPad tripled in usability once I could use my own handwriting and hand-drawing on the device. The stylus allowed me to do just that, and also gave my forefinger a much wanted break. I have a favorite stylus, but will take other stand bys in a pinch. With the stylus, I am now able to take notes on a favorite note-taking app during a meeting and then send these notes back to myself (and others) via email, Evernote, iCloud or what have you.
4. Google docs: Since my graduate school days, I’ve been using Google docs, but it wasn’t until this year that I learned to love it. When collaborating with others who are not in the same place as you, Google docs can really save the day. And save time. And save us all from confusing moments of misinformation. Perhaps I give Google docs too much credit, but any tool that allows users to contribute in real time and maintains records of changes…that seems like a good thing. I imagine other programs have similar sharing capabilities, but currently Google docs is the one for me.
For those of you who don’t already know, the Collaborative Summer Library Program‘s teen theme for 2012 is “Own the Night”, which calls to mind all manner of creepy, fun programs. Also, a lot of the books on this year’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list lend themselves to these creepy, fun ideas. Here are two “Own the Night” themed programs for the 2012 BFYA pick, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake.
Anna Dressed in Blood is the story of Cas Lowood, a boy who hunts and kills ghosts. He meets the ghost of Anna, a girl who was brutally murdered in 1958 and who kills anyone who sets foot in her home. Oddly enough, the two spare each other, but why? This book is great for the ghosts and scary stories portions of the “Own the Night” theme. One program idea for this book would be to invite your local paranormal society to the library to discuss ghost hunting tips, tricks, and safety. I have worked with my local paranormal society, and they were great! They even brought in equpipment to demonstrate and asked the teens to debunk “ghost photos”. It was a blast, and since Cas is a ghost hunter, it ties in perfectly with the book.
Another good program for this book would be to have a local story teller come in and share local ghost stories and urban legends. You could also share these stories yourself or compile handouts of local ghost stories and legends and have the teens share them with each other. Sit in a circle, dim the lights, hand out a flashlight to anyone that is telling a story. Have them hold it under their faces to give them a gruesome look. Then, serve everyone fake smores by spreading chocolate icing and marshmallow fluff onto graham crackers. (I wish I could take credit for this, but the idea actually came from Jennifer Hopwood who presented at the Florida Library Youth Program’s Summer Workshop.) Now, you have the perfect campfire tales program in the library, combining two “Own the Night” themes: camping and scary stories. This program also ties in with Anna Dressed in Blood because Cas gathers all of his information about the ghosts that he hunts through the urban legends that his classmates share.
Hope you have some spooky fun! Tune in next month for Mad Science with Victor Frankenstein in This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel.
Etsy, as you might know, is a flourishing online marketplace for independent artists, designers, and antiquers to sell and trade their wares. There are thousands of items in a ton of categories, from zines to custom-made wedding gowns to homemade soap and vintage lunchboxes. It’s not all great–they don’t have a parody site, Regretsy (NSFW), for nothing–but there are some gems. Here are some items available on Etsy that might spruce up your teen section, serve as a great prize for a reading contest, or just suit your own librarian style. And what’s better? Start a conversation with your craftiest patrons about what they’d do with an Etsy storefront, or use your library Pinterest account to pin all of your favorite (or most laughable) Etsy products.
Librarians Dewey It Better badge:
There’s a little bit of pin-up girl in all of us. This patch by user BadgesbyQuake will let you shout that out to anyone who sees your…tote bag?
Okay, so this isn’t really for the library, but it’s such an adorable idea I couldn’t resist! This is an excellent theme idea by user lilmoptop for a fellow librarian’s baby shower or wedding–or, frankly, any occasion, because who isn’t always building their personal library?
Vintage Children’s Book Mobile:
If you’re looking to spruce up your children’s or teens’ section with something other than the latest READ poster, this mobile by user theshophouse, made up of intricately folded pages from a vintage book, seems like just the thing.
Art Doll Miniatures:
Gah! These handmade dolls by user UneekDollDesigns of famous historical figures and book characters are to die for! If you can spring for a few, you can set them out for themed months or put your own craft hat on and throw them in a diorama you make. With so many options, from Madeleine l’Engle to Walt Whitman, you’ll probably want to buy quite a few more than your wallet will let you.
More author goodness! With these handmade magnets by user TurtleDoves, plus maybe some magnetic paint if your director will let you redecorate your section, you can start a “fridge.” Next step: magnetic poetry slams.
Shakespeare and Company print:
Inspire your teens to drink coffee, wear black, and write poetry with this print of Paris’ famed bookstore by user robert
Though teen services are usually defined as serving patrons in the 12-18 age range, in practice, teen librarians serve a broader range of patrons than merely 12-18 year olds—from 10 year olds with mature tastes and reading abilities, to college students uninterested in transitioning to adult fiction, to grandparents pulled to teen books by the young adults in their lives and the quality of the materials.
In serving this broad age range with teen materials, I find that I need to have different cultural glasses at the ready during readers’ advisory. After all, the patron whose adolescent experience is being molded right now, page by page, is different from the patron who fondly recollects reading a particular book the summer when she first fell in love.
Here is some information we teen librarians can use during readers’ advisory to guide adults to new teen titles similar to those they loved in their adolescence.
Graduated 2000—Born 1982—Today 30 years old
- A “45″ is a gun, not a record with a large hole in the center.
- The year they were born, AIDS was found to have killed 164 people; finding a cure for the new disease was designated a “top priority” for government-sponsored research.
- They have never referred to Russia and China as “the Reds.”
- There has always been a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.
- They feel more danger from having sex and being in school, than from possible nuclear war.
- They have always bought telephones, rather than rent them from AT&T.
- There have always been ATM machines.
- The year they were born, the New York Times announced that the “boom in video games,” a fad, had come to an end.
- They have never used a bottle of “White Out.”
- “Spam” and “cookies” are not necessarily foods.
Popular YA books in 2000†: Little separates the books on the children’s bestseller list from the books on the youth bestseller lists. All of the books on both of the lists fall into either the sci-fi or fantasy genres, and the Harry Potter phenomenon is at full steam. When romance is a part of these titles, it is not a primary selling point.
Suggestions for YA books today: For fantastic world-creation and mild or secondary romantic content, I would recommend Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series, Michael Grant’s Gone series, the books of Scott Westerfeld, and “The Scorpio Races” by Maggie Stiefvater.
Graduated 2005—Born 1987—Today 25 years old
- Heart-lung transplants have always been possible.
- Pixar has always existed.
- Aretha Franklin has always been in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- “Baby M” may be a classmate, and contracts with surrogate mothers have always been legal.
- Snowboarding has always been a popular winter pastime.
- They learned to count with Lotus 1-2-3.
- Car stereos have always rivaled home component systems.
- Voice mail has always been available.
- They may have fallen asleep playing with their Gameboys in the crib.
- They have always been challenged to distinguish between news and entertainment on cable TV.
Popular YA books
I admit that this is more of a call for you all to innovate than it is me giving you ideas. I’ve been thinking lately about how today’s popstars, especially Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Jessie J, are all about having distinct, out-of-this-world style and attitude to go along with their music. Instead of the concept albums of the 1960s and 1970s, today’s pop culture likes its concept artists. Gwen Stefani mixed ska and angst with Jean Harlow, Katy Perry fetishizes and infantilizes herself, and the UK’s Marina & the Diamonds is unabashedly seeking popstar superstardom, and her aesthetic is all about how she’s “obsessed/with the mess/that’s America.” You can argue whether or not these artists are good or bad, whether they’re obvious or esoteric, whether they’re legitimate or faking it–I know I do–but you can’t deny that they are memorable and fascinating.
So what does that have to do with youth services? Lots, I’m sure. Thinking about popstars and performance/concept art can lend itself to all kinds of interesting book displays and programs. You may even end up inspiring a new generation of quirky songstresses and 21st century Bowies.
- First, check your catalog for CDs by any musician you would consider a “performance artist” or “concept artist.” You can also check at the end of this post for some suggestions. Next, create a display where you connect these albums to biographies that may be in your adult nonfiction section, novels about teen musicians, and other nonfiction titles relating to the artist’s aesthetic, from vintage fashion to abstract art. If you don’t feel you know enough about this topic, this is a great opportunity to bring in your teen advisory board or an awesome library student intern.
- Sponsor a night of music video deconstruction–only you’ll have to call it something better if you want anyone to come. If you have a teen advisory board, they should be the ones to facilitate the evening. Queue up the most interesting videos by the most out-there musicians, print out copies of song lyrics, and invite the teens to play producers, critics, and artists. When I taught music videos to a group of high schoolers, I took a variety of approaches: 1) play the song first, ask what they imagine the video to look like and the song to mean, and then show the video; 2) play the video with no sound, ask for feedback, and then play again with sound and looking at the lyrics; 3) read the lyrics, talk about the meaning of the lyrics and the potential video, and then watch and listen. All of these offer the chance to get creative juices flowing, conversation happening, and criticism going. If your teens are up for it, ask them to pair each song/video with their own words or images about what it means to them, or get them to lead a discussion on why they think the artists make such choices. End the night with an open mic.
- You probably know of some individual patrons or of teen groups already meeting in the library who are interested in music, art, and writing. Put them together! What’s interesting about these artists is that they seem to have a whole team of people, as well as a library of influences and inspirations, behind them. So get your teens to do the same! Using your fiction and nonfiction collection and their imaginations, get them to create one or many performance artist concepts–someone who dresses only in hoop skirts, who dyes her hair purple, and sings about calculus? A male-female duo who cross-dresses and makes sure only to sing songs written in sonnet form? Possibilities are endless, and this can easily be a theoretical activity that anyone can participate (just leave materials on a table in your teen room, and decorate a bulletin board or wall to put up people’s ideas) or a large-scale, longer project that culminates in an end-of-summer concert.
- Less vocal (terrible pun, sorry
Collaboration. Everyone probably wants to do it in order to provide excellent services to teens. You might have the chance to collaborate regularly with teachers, parents, teens, colleagues, bookstore owners, authors, police and fire personnel, and others who work in community agencies and departments. These are people it’s probably fairly easy to connect with and whom you may have fairly easy access to. But, are they the right people to work with in order to be innovative in services?
I’d like to suggest that they may not be. In order to be innovative the collaborations we pursue and get involved in have go be as innovative as the programs and services we want to sponsor. It becomes comfortable to collaborate with people you know and have a history with. But that means it also becomes easy to miss opportunities for doing something new, reaching teens you might not regularly interact with, and gaining new insights and ideas.
What stops someone from pursuing collaboration opportunities with someone new? A few things.
- A fear of making a “cold call” and talking to someone new. If you have a project in the works and realize there is someone in the community that would be a perfect collaborator, but have never worked with that person, it could be difficult to get in touch and say “let’s work together.” If that’s the case then do a little research. Is there someone you know who has a relationship already with that person? If so, have him or her make the first connection for you. Make sure that this intermediary knows a bit about the project you are working on and how you think this new potential collaborator can be involved. That means you need to be very clear yourself about the role of this new collaborator. Know how his or her expertise can fit in to what you are planning and highlight that to your “connector” and to your potential collaborator when you have your own conversation with him or her. If you don’t have someone who can connect you, don’t let that stop you. Still get in touch with the person and sell your idea and their value to it.
A lack of history which can mean a lack of trust. One of the key things that makes a collaboration work is trust amongst those involved. Without that trust you can’t be sure everyone is working towards the same goal and that the work will be done in the way that’s required. If you are thinking about collaborating with someone new give yourself time to get to know that person. Work on a smallish project to start so you can get to know each other. Don’t make rash judgements. Give the process of getting to know one other and gaining trust a little time. That way you can build a history which can lead to bigger and better collaborations.
A limited knowledge of the community. Maybe you are new to your library community. Or maybe you haven’t had the opportunity to meet a lot of people from outside the library and education world where you work. Well then, make sure you do just that. Go to meetings and events sponsored by other agencies, organizations, and businesses. Get to know others and let them get to know you. Talk up what you do for and with teens and why you do what you do. Scope people out, get business cards, and keep notes about the work others do so you can make the right collaborative connections at the right time.
Expanding your collaborative world can take time and energy. It might require that you think outside your comfort zone and outside your traditional collaborative box. However, If you are innovative in your collaboration you will open up opportunities that you might never have known were possible and those opportunities will lead to innovations t
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American Libraries recently posted an article about programming for homeschooled kids and their families. There are a lot of great ideas there that you should take a look at, but very few of the ideas are focused on teens. Like any library media specialist knows, teens need to have their reading, research, and library skills in check before college, and those being homeschooled are no different.
In addition to inviting those teens to your regular programming and events, consider doing things for them during the lull of the day, when everyone else is in school. Not all parents who homeschool are necessarily schooled in how to use library databases, scholarly journals, and online media for research projects, so perhaps a small group might appreciate a workshop similar to the ones high school students get from their librarians. You could even designate a special hour a week for drop-in lessons.
On a similar note, homeschools don’t employ full-time college counselors, but you probably have a circulating and non-circulating collection of test prep books, college guides, and more. Another unique daytime program you can offer, then, is a college workshop. Invite some current college students, whose schedules also allow them to have some free hours during the day, to answer questions about local schools and essay topics, and see if any of your regular homework tutors can volunteer to come in and help with the process.
Many homeschooled kids participate in things like Cub Scouts, community theatre, and sports so that they’re not cut off from the greater community. But what about that good ol’ teen stuff that your parents aren’t supposed to facilitate for you? You know…angst, sex, peer pressure, body changes. Consider hosting a daytime talk group, possibly broken into male- and female-only groups, where peer mentoring and bonding can happen outside of the home and away from the parents. This is also a great way to look into partnering with community organizations dedicated to youth development or prevention, or to bring in a volunteer or intern, such as a graduate student in counseling. To broaden horizons even more, make it a drop-in after-school talk, where teens from any school situation can hang out. Write a theme on a whiteboard outside the door, alongside some guidelines for safe spaces, and let them guide the conversation the way they would at lunchtime on the bleachers.
Many homeschooling parents form support or social groups. Look online for groups in your area, and then reach out to them to let them know about the resources you already have. Since they’re apt to take their kids on field trips, remind them about the museum passes you offer. Put them on a mailing list and let them know about new materials in the library relevant to curriculum and enrichment. Send them a schedule of all the events for teens, but highlight those that are designed specifically for homeschoolers. Or reach out and ask the parents and the teens what they’d like to see in their library.
Host an alternative futures event! If local high schools are only doing traditional college fairs, work with representatives from the Peace Corps, Americorps, and other post-graduation, gap year programs. While any teen would enjoy programming such as this, it’s especially relevant to more and more homeschooled teens, who often decide against college or the military post “graduation” in favor of more self-paced, experiential learning like they’re used to. This would be a great way to spark conversation between your homeschooled patrons and their traditional school counterparts–what do they think are the best plans for an 18-year-old? What could they never see themselves doing?
Do you have a strong contingent of homeschooled teens in your community? Do you even know?