As a librarian, you probably see the impacts of programming every day. You know your work is important based on interactions with your teens. And they probably make it clear – through their words or behavior – when a particular program has hit or missed the mark.

But what if you had more than anecdotal evidence? What if you had data to tell you what works, what doesn’t, and why?

In December, ALA’s Public Programs Office released a first-of-its-kind research study to quantify the characteristics, audiences, outcomes and impacts of library programming. The National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment (NILPPA) describes the current state of library programming and proposes an ambitious, eight-year research plan for further study. NILPPA also poses a number of questions, including: What counts as “success” in library programming? What impact does programming have on participants and communities? What skills must programming librarians hone to maximize impact and reach underserved communities?

But let’s back up for a moment. What is the Public Programs Office (PPO)? Located one story up from YALSA in ALA’s Chicago headquarters, PPO promotes cultural and community programming as an essential part of library service. Operating on grant funding, our 10-person staff offers professional development activities, programming resources, and grant opportunities to help libraries fill their role as community cultural centers — places of cultural and civic engagement where people of all backgrounds gather for reflection, discovery, participation and growth.

Library programming has changed since PPO was founded more than 20 years ago. Back then, support for library programs for adults was limited and fragile, and the title “programming librarian” was most likely to refer to someone in tech services. Today, there is a robust community of librarians whose job descriptions include the creation of programs for all ages.

The fast-changing nature of the library field is one motivation for the NILPPA study. We want libraries to have the knowledge and tools they need to successfully reach their communities through programming. We want to help libraries develop best practices to advance the field; enable them to “make the case” for funding and resources; and most importantly, foster support for lifelong learners of diverse backgrounds.

After the NILPPA report was published, we asked readers to weigh in with their own experiences on the NILPPA website, listservs and social media. We collected more than 170 comments – feedback that will help us decide where resources are needed most as we move into future phases of this project.

One question we asked – “What are your library’s greatest strengths and weaknesses in regard to programming?” – elicited several responses about teen programming. Below is a sampling:

“At [library name], our programming strengths are programs for children.  We can almost always get an audience and they are up for anything.  We still struggle to find audiences for tween and teen programs.”

“Our weakness is providing programming for the millennials. We have a lot of things for youth, but once they graduate we have nothing for them…”

“Strength - programs for younger children and families; Weakness - programs for middle school/teens…”

“Strengths: children's programming including story time and summer reading. There is great awareness of what is happening in the library regarding this age group.  Weaknesses: YA and Adult programming.  Our YA programming does not exist and we get limited participation in our adult programming attempts.  Our library is in an affluent area and there are many distractions for teens and adults outside the library.”

“Strength: all baby, kid, tween and teen programming. We bring it and they come. After school clubs for school-age kiddos is particularly hot these days. As is our monthly lunch-time book club hosted at the high school.”

“Strength: Lots of good programming for kids & teens (i.e. Children's Book Club, Teen Writing Club, SDC Storytime, etc.).  Weakness: Non adult programming (due to lack of interest).”

“Youth and Teen Services manage their programming themselves and balance staff time with program needs well.  Our Teen Librarian constantly looks for programs that will bring Teens into the Library.  We are looking to increase tech services available to them.  YS librarians reach out to schools, summer camps, and youth program organizers to increase our outreach to underserved youth.  Our membership of the [program name] brings every kindergarten class in [School District 1], [School District 2] and [School District 3] into the Library at least once a year for special programming.”

While at some libraries, teen programs appear to be thriving, others seem to struggle with this young adult demographic. Do these comments resonate with you? How is your situation similar or different? What is making your teen programming successful? Please share your reactions in the comments below. You can read the full report and comment at http://NILPPA.org.

YALSA’s Future of Teen Library Service report and the new Teen Programming Guidelines are so valuable to the Public Programs Office’s work in this area. We are eager to hear from you about how you are working with these resources as well.

You can also stay up-to-date on PPO programs and initiatives at our website, www.ProgrammingLibrarian.org, or sign up for a PPO listserv

teens in front of a graffitti muralThe first item in YALSA's Teen Programming Guidelines states, "Create programming that reflects the needs and identities of all teens in the community." And the overview of this guideline goes on to say:

In order to ensure that library programming meets the needs of all members of the community and does not duplicate services provided elsewhere, library staff should have a thorough understanding of the communities they serve. Library staff must continually analyze their communities so that they have current knowledge about who the teens in their community are. They must also develop relationships with community organizations already working with youth. Library staff play a crucial role in connecting teens to the community agencies and individuals that can best meet their needs.

The part of the overview that I think sometimes is difficult for library staff working with teens is the "continually analyze their communities so that they have current knowledge...." Read More →

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

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

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We were ecstatic when we found out that we would be receiving funding for Teen Tech Week.   We were able to plan a variety of programs that focused on programming, photography/video, and robotics.   Our goals were to:

  1. Reach teens that have little or no technology skills
  2. Grow the skill level of teens that already have a strong technology skills
  3. Have teen(s) assist with programming.

A local teen happened to be a tech wizard and helped plan and teach a few of the programs!  He was able to connect with the teen participants and many of the younger teens were in awe of his knowledge.  He was a great asset to the program and a huge reason the programs were so successful!

We were able to purchase a GoPro (along with accessories), Cubelets, and littleBits.  Along with classes, we held drop in sessions for teens to play creatively with the tools on their own.   We also encourage the teens to use the GoPro during the other programs to create videos of their projects and learning experiences.

It is truly amazing to see how all of the teens were able to quickly grasp most of the concepts.  They were able to understand everything from how numbers flow through Cubelets to drawing shapes and creating games with python!  They were able to manipulate the code we produced as a class to put a personal twist on the projects.  The most popular programs were the GoPro class and the Python 101 classes.

Due to the number of participants and the number of tools we needed to create small groups to work together on their projects. It was a great opportunity for the teens to work as a team.   Having them work in teams encouraged discussion and a new level of creativity!

We were surprised that most of the teens that participated in Teen Tech Week were not from our core group of library teens. A few of them have increased their library usage and are becoming familiar faces.   An almost equal amount of girls and boys attended the programs.

The library is planning on providing additional technology based off the teens’ suggestions and interests.  It is important to us that we find a way to have the Cubelets, littleBits, and GoPro available for teen use within the library.  We are currently reviewing different options on how to do so.

Alexandra Tyle-Annen is the Adult/Teen Services Manager for the Homer Township Public Library in Homer Glen, IL.

The March 2015 issue of Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults features two papers relating to YALSA’s The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action report.

In “The Impact of Assigned Reading on Reading Pleasure in Young Adults,” Stacy Creel, Assistant Professor in the School of Library & Information Science at the University of Southern Mississippi, discusses a survey of the reading habits and preferences of 833 U.S. teens aged 12 to 18. Her research showed that students who self-selected reading materials for school-assigned reading projects enjoyed the reading more than those who read assigned titles, and that girls tended to enjoy reading for school more than boys. This research adds to a growing body of research supporting the importance of allowing students to choose their reading materials to develop a life-long love of reading.

In “Connected Learning, Librarians, and Connecting Youth Interest,” Crystle Martin, a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Digital Media and Learning Hub of the University of California at Irvine, presents an in-depth look at the educational benefits of connected learning. Connected learning harnesses the connective power of social media and teens’ excitement about their personal interests and hobbies to facilitate deep, teen-driven exploration and experimentation. It also combines peer learning and creative production, such as blog or digital artwork creation. Dr. Martin describes the connected learning framework in detail and explains how YA librarians can take advantage of its potential learning benefits.

Together these two papers show the importance of making teens’ interests core to library services. This means turning the traditional view of librarians-as-experts on its head to make teens the experts of their own interests and information needs. It means encouraging teens to make collection development and programming decisions, and viewing social media and other youth-driven information environments as prime places for providing library services. Above all, these papers argue for youth-centered, youth-driven library services as the future of YA librarianship.

Denise Agosto, Editor

Title: Adobe Slate
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS 8 or later

adobe slate logoAdobe Slate is the latest in Adobe's collection of free apps for iPads. (Adobe Voice was reviewed here in May of 2014.) With Slate it's possible to create professional looking visual documents - stories, how-tos, research projects, and more. Creative Commons photos are available within the app or users can make use of photos that taken themselves. The 10 minute screencast below provides an overview of what Adobe Slate is all about and how it works.

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

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

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

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

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Girlvolution_Web LogoLast spring, a couple of coworkers and I did some outreach at an event called Girlvolution. It was a completely youth-led conference, with sessions on social justice issues ranging from foster care reform to sexual identity. The teens leading each session mixed statistical and factual information with their own perspectives and experiences.

It was the best conference I had ever been to. I was blown away by how poised, informed, and prepared the youth were. But I wondered: how did they do their research? Had they been visiting our libraries every year without us even knowing it?

Our Youth and Family Learning Manager looked into it and found out that this was exactly the case. Although Powerful Voices (the organization that hosts Girlvolution)  had a "Library Day" as part of their program each year, the library had not been providing direct support.

PV

What an awesome organization.

So this year, we collaborated. My coworkers and I met with their staff to hear more about their organization's mission and goals, and to learn how we could help. We arranged for me to visit Powerful Voices on a Thursday afternoon a couple of weeks ago to talk to the youth and their adult allies (mentors) about research. It was a great conversation about everything from whether all the world's information is available on Google (heck no) to evaluating resources.

PV survey results

Results of a survey asking participants to rate the effectiveness of Library Research Day.

That Saturday, the girls and their allies all came to the library. We settled down in the computer lab and got SERIOUS about research. I showed them how to find books in our catalog, and how to decode Dewey. We dug into databases to find the most up-to-date information and the best statistics. We ended the day with pizza, which is never a bad idea.

Powerful Voices ends their sessions with a gratitude circle. That Saturday, many youth and adults mentioned finding out about all the great resources the library has to offer, and how helpful librarians can be. I was grateful for all I learned from them, and to be part of the support network for such talented and engaged young women.

Are you preparing for Summer Reading?

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

Where has the time gone? Is it really almost time for summer reading again? Didn't we just finish last years summer reading? Well let's get our super powers charge up and talk about how we are preparing for teen summer reading.

This year's theme is UnMask! How fun is this going to be?! The 'grams below are just a taste of what we can do to prepare. From awesome displays to getting in to full superhero character to creating great PR materials. Teens are going to love this theme this summer and by using your imagination you can draw in there attention! Maybe have a wall that is a depiction of Gotham City, or use old boxes and make Superman's telephone booth. Dress like your favorite character or keep it simple and wear a superhero tie or fun headband. No matter how small or big you go, you are bound to hit it out of the park this year!

Comment below and let us know some of what you plan to do this summer!