30 Days of Social Justice: Working with the Harry Potter Alliance

Currently, there are many social issues that are happening not only in the United States, but across the globe. In this time, teens may look through school, or outside their school, for ways that they can help those in need during these trying times. One great way for teens to do this is to start a campaign, and one organization that has many fun, interesting campaigns is the Harry Potter Alliance.photo

The Harry Potter Alliance is a non-profit group that works on campaigns to bring social change and donations to those in need. Their motto is that “The Harry Potter Alliance turns fans into heroes,” and their campaigns allow their participants to live up to this idea. The vision of the group is to make a “creative and collaborative culture that solves the world’s problems.” 

There are many different chapters to join or start. There are chapters that are affiliated with schools, communities, libraries, etc. There are chapters all over the world, working together to help those in needs. Being a part of the HPA is a great way to get teens active in their community. Starting an library chapter is a great way for teens to work together to make social changes, and give back to their community. It is also a great way for teens to meet other teens in their community, and is a positive outside school activity.

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30 Days of Social Justice: Precision of Language

Whether you are hearing or deaf, American or international, verbal or nonverbal, language makes up humanity’s primary method of communication. Precision of language is an important part of that communication. As children, we learn the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. These are to help us simplify and direct our communications with other people. Answer these five W’s and every conversation will be clear and understandable. Yet, in adulthood, the complexities of communication–non-verbal cues, method of communication, vocabulary, personal bias, visual perception, et cetera–cause us to overlook the value of specific language in our interpersonal interactions. The value of language lies in its ability to communicate with accuracy any idea, thought, feeling, or expression that you want to share with another human. As librarians, we ought to be very concerned with how much value is in our communication with customers.

Librarianship is a customer service based industry. We have a responsibility to our customers to provide them with an interaction that has value, regardless of what information or service a customer has requested. That value can be delivered any number of ways, be it through correct information, a pleasant conversation, or an introduction to new, relevant services. But all of those added values can only be achieved with precision of language.

Our responsibility to bring value to customer service interactions is incredibly important as it relates to social justice. Libraries are free of censorship and open to anyone who may come in the door. Regardless of your own background, we as professionals need to be prepared for interactions with people whose backgrounds and realities may be different than our own. We must be prepared to empathize with the lived experiences of our customers by affording them the basic dignities of personhood. To be blunt, we have to do better at accepting differences and mastering the vocabulary to interact with customers of other races/ethnicities and members of the LGBTIQ+ and disabled communities.

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The American Library Association (ALA) defines outreach as providing library services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented populations; populations such as new and non-readers, LBGT teens, teens of color, poor and homeless teens, and teens who are incarcerated. As these populations are often marginalized and underserved, it is crucial for libraries to recognize these populations and provide services and programs to them where they are.

The YALSA Futures Report calls out the importance of outreach to underserved populations and ways in which library staff can think about ways to work with targeted communities of teens (e.g. those who are incarcerated, homeless, in foster care, or in classrooms and other inschool locations) and where they are, rather than waiting for teens to find a way to get to the physical library space.

This month I spoke with Jesse Vieau, Teen Services Librarian at the Madison Public Library, Central Library

What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens?

Making Justice focuses on the community as a resource. You can see a range of projects and resources we cover on the TeenBubbler.org website. Making Justice is a community-based learning program for at-risk and court-involved teens that includes weekly workshops and an artist-in-residence opportunity. Offered in collaboration with a diverse spectrum of artists, educators and activists, Making Justice fosters community engagement and self-expression via graphic and 3D art, photography, spoken word, performance, video and life skills projects. While teen participants are often focused on creating a final product, Making Justice workshop leaders are more concerned with relationship building, basic skill development and connection to the community. The hands-on pop-up workshops introduce participants to a variety of creative outlets by collaborating with local people who want to share their talents and physical resources. Our continuous efforts to connect with potential partners is what keeps the experiences current and dynamic, allowing the library to facilitate a wide range of hands-on workshops in all nine libraries and at partner locations around the city.


Describe a day in the life of providing outreach

Today started like every Thursday — I met the guest artist/presenter at Central Library to go over supplies and room setup, and the workshop outline that will be run with two teen classrooms today. The Shelter Home classroom takes their van to Central Library each week for a 90-minute hands-on workshop in the Media Lab or the Bubbler Room. An hour after they leave we are already setup and starting the second workshop five blocks away inside the Juvenile Detention Center classroom. I walk to and from the detention center with the artist and our university intern/s, and we get to break down what just happened, vocalize observations and suggest alternative ideas all while pushing a cart of laptops or a flatbed stacked with several large painting canvases around the Wisconsin state capitol building. After arriving back to Central Library in the afternoon today, I then met two artists who needed to prep the silk screens for tomorrow’s tee-shirt design workshop in the Bubbler Room with an at-risk high school classroom under the local school district’s innovative ed department. After ensuring they had all of the supplies they needed for tomorrow’s workshop I was walking to another meeting when, luckily, I ran into our favorite rap artist and part-time library security monitor who needed to make sure I had the set of MacBooks with LOGIC installed on them packed up and ready to go so he was all set when he gets picked up by the beat producer tomorrow morning for their “Rap Sessh” workshop on-site at a different at-risk high school classroom. After adding that to my small list of things I still need to do before I leave today, I went into a 2 hour meeting with one of my mentors who was in town and was able to fit me into her crazy schedule in order to get updated on all things Teen Bubbler, exchange several new ideas, and discuss further edits to the Making Justice project permissions form to ensure it covers the playing of teen audio content on the new youth radio station on the city’s West side. We hugged, I ran through the 5-story building to check off my to-do list, and I walked out into the warm December night just as my wife and three kids pulled up to the curb across the street. And then there was a lot of email tonight after everyone went to bed.

What resources would you recommend for someone new to outreach to look for ideas for inspiration as well as best practices?

Connect with people in your service area. Go to meetings already happening in the community and request meetings with anyone who serves youth. Create your own database by asking people questions about what they do, what resources they have and what they are passionate about. Make note of common goals. Networking has been key for me to understand how to connect Madison teenagers to resources outside of the library’s walls.

What are some of your favorite things you have heard from teens while providing outreach services?

“You mean I don’t have to illegally download LOGIC anymore?” (after hearing of several options to use the library’s copies for free)

“Its so nice to take a break from learning.” (after just having created her first ever stop-motion video)

“I’m actually happy I’m in jail right now.” (while in the middle of a black-light chalk workshop at the juvenile detention center)

“Hey guys, we’re going to Bubbler today!” (using Bubbler in the form of a verb)

Great Graphic Novels for Teens: It’s (Almost) a Wrap!

img_20161124_2305191As we near the winter holidays, and with Midwinter right around the corner shortly thereafter, the eleven members of the 2017 Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee –led by the effervescent Traci Glass – are in the homestretch and hard at work in our efforts to complete our reading of all nominated titles.

The official nominating period for the 2017 list has come and gone, lasting from February to November of this year, and has yielded a diverse collection of manga and graphic novels intended for teens aged 12 to 18. In all, 22 nonfiction and 122 fiction titles, having been nominated either by our fellow committee members or by members of the public, are now up for consideration for the list, which is due to be released early next year. Counted among those that are up for consideration are reimagined classics, time travel dramas, college slice of life stories, identity stories, and traditional and nontraditional superheroes alike. Some will teach, some will elicit laughs, and others yet will move you deeply; the very best will do a little bit of each.

img_20161126_0106221For some committee members, the list of titles still needing to be read is short and all that essentially remains is the final solicitation of opinions from the teens in our libraries on the 144 titles that made the initial cut. For others, you’ll find us methodically working our way through the piles of novels surrounding us at home or at work, and those occasionally still arriving from the publishers, with hopes to be done by early-to-mid December. Although Midwinter doesn’t occur until the end of January, the committee plans to virtually meet to informally discuss some of the most recent nominations before we sit down together one last time face to face.

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Being a YALSA Board Fellow

During my final year of my PhD program in the School of Information at Florida State University, I decided to take a risk and apply for the YALSA Board Fellows program. Having been out of libraries as a practitioner for a few years, I felt nervous about applying to a program that seemed out of my league. But the risk turned out to be worth it as I began to meet people from a range of backgrounds within YALSA who inspired me to become a better LIS researcher and librarian.

At first, my fellowship seemed daunting. Not only did I add another project on top of my dissertation, but I also immersed myself in a position that required quite a bit of outspokenness and willingness to contribute my own ideas, critiques, and concerns to a well-spoken and passionate group of individuals who made up the Board. This is not an easy task for those who (like me) tend to write instead of speak and find public speaking to be an overwhelming experience. As an introvert, I find it easier to not share my opinions (at least aloud) and to sometimes allow the thoughts and opinions of others to drown out my own. However, by taking on this fellowship, I grew as both as public speaker and critical thinker. I’m still quiet and shy, but I’ve found the smaller discussions and breakout groups that we took part in as a board a less intimidating step towards public speaking.

As part of the fellowship, I conducted a year long project, focusing on a specific project that could be of benefit to the YALSA Board. Figuring out my project took more time and thoughtful reflection than I expected. Having little experience with board work in general, I couldn’t quite see how I could contribute meaningful content to an already functioning and relevant board. Eventually, I settled on a topic: resources the Board could use to build stronger relationships with funders. Through my project work, I dug deeper into how a board functions and the many aspects necessary to nurture the work of a board. This is one of the many reasons that I appreciate my time on the YALSA board. Without this project, I wouldn’t have an awareness of board work and the difficult elements that contribute to a successful board. I hope that as I grow in my career I can continue to offer my services to YALSA either through committee or board work. Knowing that I am offering my skills to a board that has the needs of its members, organization, and profession foremost in its view is exciting and meaningful.

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30 Days of Working for and with Teens for Social Justice

December 1st kicks off 30 Days of Working for and with Teens for Social Justice, a collaboration between YALSAblog and the Hub. On the odd days of December, you’ll find social justice posts here on YALSAblog. On even days, make sure you check the Hub for more information and resources.

Let’s start the month by thinking critically. Think about your library’s population: Is it diverse? If you answered no, why don’t you think the population is diverse? Keep in mind that diversity is not always something you can see, like skin color, a hijab, or a wheelchair.

Beth Yoke, the executive director of YALSA, shared a great resource to help everyone think about their library population and what they can do to promote social justice for their patrons. This month, in the spirit of 30 Days of Working for and with Teens for Social Justice, you’re encouraged to visit Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice.

Read over the site, and try to accomplish the challenge posed:

“Commit to taking 3 actions in the next month, and share these with a trusted friend, colleague, or family member in order to increase your accountability to follow through on your commitment.  Can you take at least one action in the next two weeks in the Ally or Accomplice category?”

Email information about the actions you take and how it impacts your library’s teens to yalsablogmanager [at] gmail.com. We’ll share the submissions in a wrap-up post at the end of the month.

Committee Appointment Update

I want to thank all of our members who submitted committee and jury volunteer applications. We are lucky to have so many members who want to participate in YALSA!

I am pleased to announce that the following committees and juries have been appointed:

If you submitted an application, you should have received an email from me inviting you to be on a committee or an email letting you know that we were unable to find a spot for you this cycle.

If you received one of the latter emails, I know it can be frustrating, but please don’t be discouraged and please try again. There were just not enough slots for the number of applications we received.  For example, we received 75 applications for the Morris Award and I could only appoint nine members to the committee.  Similarly, we received 70 applications for the 28 jury positions.

Be on the lookout for a call for volunteers for a number of additional committees that will come out in early December.  The best way to find out about those is via the monthly YALSA E-News that’s delivered to you via email or by subscribing to the YALSA Blog.

You may also want to check out this free, 16 minute webinar about how to get involved in YALSA, which includes a variety of opportunities besides committee service: http://connectpro87048468.adobeconnect.com/p6g7z24qmrf/.

Thank you again for your interest and please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any questions or would like to explore other options for getting involved in YALSA.

Best, Sandra


#TeensFirst the Focus of YALSA’s Early Winter Webinars

What do YALSA’s December and January webinars have in common? They each focus on how a #teensfirst approach to teen services is important . Both the December webinar on user-centered teen spaces, and the January session on supporting teen social justice and equity conversations, look at how to provide library services by paying attention to teen specific interests and needs.

On December 15 YALSA hosts, What Do You Want to Do Here? Designing Teen Library Spaces that Work, San Antonio, TX, teen librarian Jennifer Velázquez and Lee VanOrsdel, Dean of University Libraries at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan will discuss how their new spaces support the activities that teens and students want to participate in in library environments. Each has taken an innovative approach to creating user-centered spaces. You can learn more about the spaces Jennifer and Lee have developed in American Libraries and Jennifer’s space in the fall 2016 issue of YALS. (Login required)

The December Snack Break, produced by teens at the Hartford (CT) Public Library, provides examples of what teens like to do in library spaces.

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YALSAblog News of the Month – November 2016

Welcome to the YALSAblog News of the Month. In this post we highlight a few news items from the past month that we think are of interest to staff working with teens in libraries, schools, and youth development organizations.