Developing collections that meet the specific needs of the teens in a local community is not an easy undertaking. It requires knowing who the teens are in your community – those teens that use the library already and those that are not library users, yet. It requires building relationships with the teens in the community to truly understand their needs and interests. It requires building relationships with others – librarians, educators, stakeholders, community members, and more. And, it requires ongoing work with and for teens and the community. This is not a one and done process.
This two-part piece looks at ways to manage large afterschool crowds in a library. To read about ways to build relationships and empathy, manage noise levels and energy, and work effectively with staff from other departments, see Part 1. This post discusses behavior and discipline.
To keep things fair, orderly, and predictable in a busy library, consistency is key. At Addison Public Library, Elizabeth Lynch has found great success using a system called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). She says, “The core of PBIS is…that kids really don’t know what appropriate behavior is, especially in a public setting. So the focus is to educate them on what expectations are and think about the systems we’re creating and whether that’s giving them the support they need in the space, or whether we’re making it impossible or difficult for them.”
PBIS is not only a philosophy, but also involves a set of clearly-defined rules, consequences, and instructions for staff. These are discussed in the sections below. Having clear and explicit rules helps teens learn what appropriate behavior is, and creates consistency in staff responses to troublemaking. It also reduces friction among staff, since everyone is operating under the same rules about what is appropriate and how to respond to infractions.
I initially got involved in ALA because of the Emerging Leader program. I was forwarded an email by an administrator talking about the program the year it started, and I applied and didn’t get in. The year after that I applied and was sponsored by YALSA, but had to withdraw at the last minute because of health issues. In 2009 I was again sponsored by YALSA and finally made it! During the three years before, however, I was becoming more and more involved in ALA, and particularly in YALSA. My desire to just get into the EL program inspired me to push myself to join committees and attend conferences. Since “graduating” I’ve been on several more committees and have chaired a few, most recently taking on chairing the YALSA Mentoring Taskforce this year. I was elected to two terms as an ALA Council member-at-large and I’ve served as a YALSA Board Fellow and At-large Board Director. I have taken on more of a leadership role in my state organization, and I am not afraid to branch out and get involved in other ALA divisions and round tables which has helped me to grow and develop new skills and meet people I wouldn’t normally meet. The Emerging Leader program really opened up a whole new aspect of being a librarian to me and helped me get involved on many different levels. It was a really great experience and one that I am glad I had the chance to experience.
The latest YALSA Snack Break is ready and waiting for you to take a look.
Along with including some great insights and ideas on how to support teen success, the video highlights YALSA’s September webinar. This webinar will be facilitated by a stellar group of people, Erica Compton (Program Manager, ID STEM Action Network), Audrey Hopkins (Teen Services Librarian at Rita & Truett Smith Public Library, Plano TX), and Shanna Miles (Library Media Specialist, South Atlanta (GA) High School) who are ready to talk about the topic and answer your questions. Continue reading
With school back in session, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and recruit new blood for our Teen Advisory Boards (TAB). If you already have a good group as it is, it’s still a great idea to recruit new members as their perspective would be incredibly valuable as every teen brings new and interesting ideas. Although some of us may be reluctant to have a large TAB, the sky is the limit when it comes to the size of TAB because the more passionate teens we get, the more spectacular results we will get!
As we recruit new members, it’s super important to get the incoming freshmen on TAB. Freshmen literally have a full four years before they graduate, which means they are more inclined to stick with TAB as they have a bit more flexibility and availability compared to upper classman who are swamped with AP classes, extracurricular activities, and applying for college. By taking an interest in lower classman, not only will they find a sense of purpose, they will feel like they a part of something that won’t require tryouts or anything intimidating. However, before we start recruiting like crazy, it’s a good idea to review our applications, guidelines, and procedures just so we can outline what we expect from TAB members.
For some libraries, back to school is more like back to the zoo.
If your public library is in walking distance of a middle or high school, chances are you have what’s known as an “afterschool crowd”–a term uttered as often with alarm as it is with affection. While large groups of teens coming to the library is a gift and incredible opportunity, it can often leave library staff feeling out of control and create friction between Young Adult Services staff and staff from other departments, particularly those who value peace and quiet.
While I was working on my Master’s of Library and Information Science, I had the pleasure of working for Elizabeth Lynch, the Teen Services Coordinator at Addison Public Library in Illinois. Every day, 60 to 120 kids troop across the street from Indian Trail Middle School to the library in a wave that calls to mind the Invasion of Normandy. The kids are hungry, chatty, sometimes cranky, and full of pent-up energy. Many come from low-income families and their parents work. The library is a safe place for them to stay until they can be picked up.
How do we provide these teens with education, fun, safety, and positive socialization—and keep them from damaging eardrums, property, or our relationships with other patrons and staff? I’ve drawn on my own experiences and advice from Lynch to offer some ideas.
In this post, we will discuss ways to build relationships and empathy, manage noise levels and energy, and work effectively with staff from other departments in your library. In Part 2, we will discuss behavior and discipline.
We’re in the middle of District Days, which means our elected officials are taking a break from Washington to visit constituents in their home districts. Many of us who work in public and school libraries are also in the transition space between epic summer reading and prepping our fall program and class schedule. Maybe we’re even trying to squeeze in a little summer for ourselves. This puts us in a tricky position to find ways to #act4teens.
What about a self-directed postcard station? Teens can write a short note to their elected officials and the library will deliver or mail them to the district’s elected officials. This program not only amplifies the youth voice, it also creates a nice opportunity to highlight what libraries do for teens inside the building. Members of the Teen Advisory Group at Lewis & Clark Library built a display and designed the postcard. I photocopied the design onto cardstock and supplied pens and a collection box. I’ll mail the first batch this week, along with a letter and copies of What Public Libraries Do for Teens and the Why Teens Need Libraries brochure.
Please consider participating in District Days and contacting your Senators and Representatives. Strong library services for teens are crucial in every community. Be an advocate!
Heather Dickerson is chair of the YALSA Legislation Committee and Teen Services Librarian at Lewis & Clark Library in Helena, Montana.
Our school reading specialist and I decided to revisit our middle school student book club. We took a year off from it for several reasons, not the least of which was lack of interest by students and us. It had been run like a traditional book club, everyone reads the same book and meets twice a month after school to discuss the book. Our problem was that our after school clubs meet for an hour and a half, and that time was too long to just discuss a book and choose the next one. We tried having everyone read a book by the same author to give more choice. We found a similar, disinterested reaction. Our students were happy to talk about the book for about half an hour, but wanted the rest of the time for social chat. We tried coming up with some related crafts to fill the time. Everyone painted one of the standard ceiling tiles with a reading theme or based on a book. This was a hit and made for a colorful library ceiling, but that only covered two meetings. We tried to make the book club available 24/7 through an Edmodo group to develop stronger relationships with our students, and get everyone to share what they were reading.The students found it to be just an extension of what some of their classes were already doing – it was too much like school. Our attendance dropped off, resulting in no book club for the last school year. We needed to regroup and rethink what a book club looks like for middle school students.
In the meantime, the library has had some spontaneous, pop-up or “lunch bunch” book clubs. Groups of four to six students create their own book club by reading the same book and meeting during lunch to read and discuss it. These clubs may read only one book and disband or choose to read several throughout the school year. Lunch bunches are not formal and are student led. Usually, student visitors will notice a lunch bunch eating and meeting in the library and then form their own with their friends. We just monitor to make sure the noise level is appropriate and suggest books when the club is stuck for ideas. It is very hands off for adult participation. A way to inspire students to create their own lunch bunch is to create a display of books that have multiple copies for a lunch bunch club. We hope our lunch bunches will meet again this year.
I started my journey in libraries determined to be a teen services librarian. I knew those jobs, especially full-time, were few and far between but I was able to land a position as a part-time teen services librarian for Santa Clara County Library District. There, the amazing team of teen services librarians showed me all of the resources available to me, primarily from YALSA. I was blown away with the breadth of tools for different types of programming, collection development and so much more that was available online, right at my fingertips. I took this invaluable resource with me and as I entered a full-time teen services librarian for San Mateo County Libraries and continued to use them for the next 4 years. I kept my membership to YALSA current as it was my primary resource for keeping up to date with innovative programming, learning the changing need for teens, as well as opportunities for grant funding.
When I attended my first ALA Conference, I immediately sought out the YALSA booth as they are easily my go-to, library family. I learned about the YALSA-sponsored programs, networking opportunities and was introduced to more teen services librarians. When I applied to the 2014 ALA Emerging Leaders program and was accepted, YALSA was right there for me as my financial sponsor, which helped me tremendously as attending conferences can be costly. The Emerging Leaders program impacted my professional career by introducing me to exceptional library professionals from all over the state and internationally, and I was also able to learn about the various leadership opportunities within the ALA organization and committees, something I was not familiar with prior to attending. After Emerging Leaders ended, I was asked to be on the 2015 Printz Award committee, an honor that a teen services librarian only dreams of. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I would never forget and introduced me to another set of inspiring librarians working in teen services.
My name is Nell German, and I have been a high school media specialist for three years, one in Illinois, and two in Georgia. I have had the blessing to work in two public libraries and a law school library, so I have sort of covered the gambit.
We have a unique opportunity during the month of August, to really advocate for our libraries, at all levels. How, you may ask? By taking advantage of the Congressional break and inviting our legislators into our libraries.
Illinois has not had a state budget for two years. School districts are having to cut certified media specialist in most, if not all of their schools. I interviewed for a position where I would have been a district media specialist for a district with one high school (1600 students), two middle schools, and six elementary schools. The two middles schools would have had an aide, and the elementary schools relied on parent volunteers. There was no budget for additional collection development.
In Georgia, the public libraries are severely underfunded. Despite the herculean efforts of the staff, many public libraries are not able to add even the most popular new titles to their collections.
We all know how crucial our school and public libraries are, let’s get our legislators into our libraries and let them know the struggles we are all dealing with. YALSA and the legislative committee have some great resources available to you. The one to start with is the brief webinar of how to approach your legislator and how to open these very necessary conversations.