Banned Books Week Approaches

Recently I spoke on a panel discussing graphic novels and their representation of sex education and self-acceptance from an LGBT perspective. The conference, called Flame Con, has taken place for the last three years in Brooklyn, NY and focuses on pop culture with an LGBT lens. As part of the panel we discussed what exists on this topic for all ages including children and teens. In our conversation, we touched on why these titles are important and whether they live on the shelves of libraries. They mostly do, but in my preparation, I found myself on ALA’s Banned Books Week page and saw that many of the books that I know and love for their inclusivity were among the most challenged for 2016. In fact, the top five of the ten were challenged due to their inclusion of LGBT characters. Other reasons these books were challenged focused on sexual content, lewd language, and violence. To see the top ten list of 2016, which includes picture books, graphic novels, YA titles and more, click here.

According to ALA’s Banned Books Week page, “Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers — in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” This year Banned Books Week is taking place from September 24th – 30th toting the hashtag #wordshavepower. Let’s show our unity as we fight for our teen’s right to read what they need.

This week allows us as librarians and advocates to shine a spotlight on those books that others want to put in the dark. Censorship of these titles silences the voices of the authors and puts blinders on our readers. It effects our First Amendment rights as readers. As we all know, representation in young adult literature is paramount to the teens that we serve. Whether those books are windows or mirrors for the readers we must make sure our patrons can either see themselves in a book or learn about the lives of others through what they read. If we do not fight against these challenges our teen patrons will continue to find the books they need censored.

So how can ALA and YALSA help you? Take a look at our resource pages on Banned Books Week and the Office for Intellectual Freedom. There are tools located there that can help you report challenged titles, get support for these challenges, and build a rock-solid collection development policy. So you know what you may be facing here are definitions from ALA’s Challenge Support site:

  • A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.
  • Censorship is a change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes.
  • Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.

The Challenge Support site also goes on to explain you can contact the Office for Intellectual Freedom whenever you hear even the slightest rumbling around a book at your library. They even give you the contact information right on the page! We’ll share it here for even easier access: For assistance with challenges to library materials, services, or programs, please contact Kristin Pekoll at the Office for Intellectual Freedom, 800-545-2433, ext. 4221, or via email: kpekoll@ala.org. Granted it can be scary when something is challenged in your collection, but remember we are all in this together (that may or may not be a High School Musical reference – don’t censor me!).

In the meantime, when you are not dealing with a live challenge, celebrate those books that have been banned in the past. Make a display of the books or put a list of the books on a bulletin board. Ask your teens or colleagues what their favorite Banned Books are and show them off. We can be advocates for our teens and their literature in whatever way we choose – whenever we choose. As YALSA members and/or teen librarians we sometimes house the most controversial books in our collections so be brave, report challenges, and advocate for Banned Books.

For everyday Advocacy information, be sure to check out YALSA’s Advocacy Page and Toolkit!

Derek Ivie is the Youth Services Coordinator at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System in Bellport, NY. He has served on many booklist and award committees, and is currently serving as a Board Member at Large for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

Teen Podcast Tinker Sessions – TRW @ the Boston Public Library

During Teen Read Week we will launch the first of six Teen Podcast Tinker Sessions. During these workshops teens will get hands on experience using in-studio and portable recording devices, and audio editing software on computers in our Digital Media Lab. We will explore the methods of engaging storytelling, combining a more traditional definition of literacy with digital, media, and technology literacies. In an attempt to provide teens with experiential prompts, we are coordinating with four departments within the Boston Public Library to engage with historical letters, maps, architecture, and library staff members to unearth the stories associated with these pieces. The longer term plan of these initial Tinker Sessions is to generate interest and develop a core group of teens to create a program where regular podcast pieces are produced in Spring 2018 around topics of their choosing. The ultimate vision of this project is to cultivate an activity for teens to grow as individuals, strengthen their voice as a leaders and decision makers, and commit to a project where they can explore and shape their identity.

We are partnering with mentors from GrubStreet, a local non-profit that is a leading independent creative writing center, based in downtown Boston. This is a mutually beneficial partnership as GrubStreet seeks to expand its offerings to teen audiences and their expertise increases Teen Central’s capacity to provide teens with access to high-quality writing guidance through professional mentors in our informal learning environment.

While we have offered programs that allowed teens to tell their story through graphic design, film editing, and computer programming, the practice of performing digital storytelling through podcasts is an avenue and undertaking we have yet to accomplish due to a lack of appropriate equipment, staffing, expertise, and funding to do so. Through the help of YALSA’s Teen Read Week Grant, our hope is teens will be able to critically approach the process of media production, see themselves as media creators, and be empowered to tell the stories that are most relevant to their lives. Through community interviews, collaboration with other teens, and mentor facilitation, teens will be able to provide multiple perspectives and deep understanding of a topic or issue. Boston’s teen community is brimming with strong voices. We are excited and grateful to participate in the TRW grant. Ultimately, this opportunity helps the library and the city to preserve these stories while providing teens with a louder and more impactful platform to have their voices heard.

Catherine Halpin is the Youth Technology Coordinator at Boston Public Library, Teen Central. Ally Dowds is the Youth Technology Librarian at Boston Public Library, Teen Central.

LITTLE FISH, BIG STORIES: A TEEN READ WEEK PROGRAM

When I read Ramsey Beyer’s graphic memoir Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year, I knew that I wanted to incorporate it into the teen programming at the Homer Township Public Library. Little Fish documents Beyer’s first year of college through illustrations, diary entries, comic panels, and lists. Because of its easy-to-digest graphic style, it is accessible to both low and high level readers, and it explores common themes in the lives of teenagers: finding an identity as a young adult, forging new friendships, battling insecurities, and adjusting to life’s changes.

The memoir stayed on my mind until the right fit came along through a Teen Read Week grant provided by YALSA and Dollar General Literacy Foundation. As a grant recipient, I created a program entitled Little Fish, Big Stories that centers on creativity, storytelling, and zine making that parallel’s the theme of this year’s Teen Read Week, Unleash Your Story.

As they register, teens will be given a copy of Little Fish to read and keep. At the event, they will conduct an interview with Beyer via Skype to learn about her creative process and why it was beneficial to share her experience as a teenager through a graphic memoir. I am thrilled that these teens will have direct access to a published author who will reveal the ways that writing her story and reading the stories of others have made a positive impact on her life.

The program will then focus on creating pages for a collaborative zine highlighting the participants’ own voices. They will browse zines (self-published works of writing and art) to see the range of stories being shared through this medium, then discuss ideas for writing topics as a group. Teens will choose a subject, then create their own pages to be included in the zine. Copies of the finished zine will be given to all participants and distributed to other teens within the library. Teens will go home with materials to encourage them to continue writing and sharing, including a journal and a handful of zines.

Little Fish, Big Stories will encourage teens to seek out non-fiction writing that engages them, and it will demonstrate that zine making is an accessible, cost-effective means of sharing their experiences. And yet all teens in our community will benefit from this awarded grant, as some of the funds will go to purchasing high-interest memoirs and biographies, along with expanding the library’s teen zine collection.

Teens will leave the event feeling the power in amplifying their voice. They will see that publishing a zine — or even a book — is an achievable goal and that they will find support for this goal at their library. They will learn how to create and publish their own zine, and they will gain a sense of accomplishment and pride found in channeling their emotions into a work of creativity. Their communication skills will be enriched, and they will find joy in working with their peers to tell their story and create a tangible work of art.

I can’t wait to watch the teens in my community unleash their stories. It’s going to be wild.

Heather Colby is the Teen Services Coordinator and Information Services Librarian at the Homer Township Public Library in Homer Glen, IL.

YALSA Draft Competencies for Review & Comment

Colleagues-

A taskforce of YALSA members and staff have been at work updating YALSA’s “Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth” (last updated in 2010), with particular emphasis on aligning the document with the principles in the following YALSA documents: the 2014 Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action report, the 2016 Organizational Plan  and Implementation Plan, and the 2017 Research Agenda.

I am happy to announce the taskforce has completed a draft set of competencies for member review and comment. The goal of the competencies document is to create a framework that:

  • Applies to library staff working in a variety of settings and positions;
  • Focuses on teen services for/with ages 12-18;
  • Is based on current research; and
  • Reflects emerging trends and issues in the Library and Information Science and Youth Development fields.

The draft competencies include a set of dispositions and ten core knowledge content areas which collectively define what library staff need to know and be able to do to provide quality teen library programs and services.  Recognizing that professional practice develops over time with experience, training, and higher education, the draft competencies are grouped by level in each core knowledge content area. Each level is a prerequisite to the next, with knowledge and skill in one level required before moving to the next.

YALSA would like feedback from the library community and beyond to help strengthen this draft document.  A draft of the updated version (pdf) is available for your review.  To provide your comments, use this online form. The review period will run from Sept. 18, 2017 to Oct. 18, 2017.  The taskforce will use your feedback to refine and finalize the document. The taskforce will also be adding an introductory statement for the document and for each of the ten competency areas.

We are looking forward to your feedback and comments on this very important document.

Best,
Sandra Hughes-Hassell, YALSA President

smhughes@email.unc.edu
@Bridge2Lit

Putting Teens First in Library Services: An Interview with Cheryl Eberly

In this installment of the video series, Putting Teens First in Library Services, Shannon Peterson and Linda Braun talk with Cheryl Eberly Teen Librarian and Volunteer Coordinator at the Santa Ana Public Library. Cheryl discusses the ways in which she integrates youth voice, outcomes, community partnerships, and informal learning into her work with teens.

Learn more about Cheryl’s work on the National Arts and Humanities Program Awards website. You can purchase Putting Teens First in Library Services: A Roadmap from the ALA Store.

“Unleash Your Story” by Serving the Individual

Each year I approach Teen Read Week with the same thought in mind: every location will do the same thing to save me time, cost, and energy. (Side note, I am the teen librarian for the Defiance County Public Library System. We serve three locations.) It was just this past year when I realized that in order to better serve the teen population, I need to look at each individual library and the teens that each library serves. I need to establish strong relationships, discover their passions, listen to their requests, and introduce them to new challenges.

Defiance County teens are truly individuals with a variety of interests, ambitions, and backgrounds. The teenagers who frequent the library and attend events are non-readers, gamers, avid YouTube watchers, and socializers who use the library as a meeting place. Each teen has their own story to share. While the teens at Defiance discuss Steven Universe and cart around their Magic: the Gathering decks, the teens in Sherwood want to socialize and perform whole group activities, and the teens in Hicksville will do anything that involves video games, anime, or scavenger hunts.  

Understanding that many of the teens are non-readers, non-writers, and need a break from schoolwork, it was essential to incorporate the concept of connected learning. How can these teens “unleash their story” without having to write it down on paper? Problem solved, thanks to my co-worker who is an avid gamer and holds a stop-motion animation degree.

At Johnson Memorial Library, the teens will create a machinima, an animated film using Minecraft. At Sherwood Branch Library, the teens will film a pixilation, a stop-motion animation using people.  At Defiance Public Library, the teens will play tabletop RPGs while filming their gameplay.

In addition, there will be one event that all locations will host: the Teen Read-In. The Teen Read-In is designed as an open house, and the intention is to bring in new faces to each of the library locations. We will be showcasing our libraries’ resources, our spaces, and our love. We want local teens to know that they can come to the library to read, relax, find information, and meet new people who share the same interests.  

We are also blessed to host a Skype visit with debut author Chelsea Bobulski (The Wood), at Sherwood Branch Library and Johnson Memorial Library. At Defiance Public Library, we will Skype with Romina Russell, author of the Zodiac series. Those who attend the Skype visits will receive a copy of the authors’ respective book.

I am extremely honored, and yes, a bit nervous, to have received a Teen Read Week grant. I just hope that these events will truly show that our library system desires to treat our teens as individuals and further encourage their ideas and passions.

Pamela Rellstab is the Teen Librarian of the Defiance Public Library System in Defiance, Ohio.

Committee Appointment Updates!

As President-Elect for YALSA, I am responsible for committee appointments. I wanted to post an update as to where we are in this year’s process. Appointment invitations are in the process of being sent out for short-term committees and juries. If you have received an invitation to serve on a jury or short-term committee be mindful of the date by which you need to reply!

The Award Committees and Selection List Teams volunteer form is open for just over two more week on October 1st. For information about these committees, check out the blog post of Awards Committees and Selection List Teams for more information.

If you are interested in Advocacy or Governance keep an eye out for the volunteer call for the District Days Committee and the Board Development Committee, which will be open after October 1st.

If you have questions contact me at cmartin@hri.uci.edu

-Crystle Martin, President-Elect

 

What I Learned From My First Summer Learning Program

My goal for this summer was to create a teen summer learning program at the library, because we didn’t have a dedicated teen services librarian before.

My first lesson was easy: I tried too much. I’m still trying to connect with the teens so there were usually multiple events a week in July.

I am a department of one, with the children’s department happy to assist when they are also not busy. Next year, I need to take a look at the broader theme of the summer, plan a few special events, and a few more low-key events that I can manage on my own. There were some truly large events that I have to re-examine for next year, and some smaller ones that I’ll consider not doing again. By the end of July, I had run myself ragged, and I still had most of a month of programming left to do.

But looking back at what I did accomplish, there is a lot that worked for my teens and my area. Taking some ideas from “Adopting a Summer Learning Approach” by Beth Yoke, I had created a space in my library where teens could learn in a safe, fun environment over the summer.

I spent six months crafting my STEAMPower Camp, a week-long program whose purpose was to encourage young women in middle school to try different STEM activities. We had women in STEM fields come in, physically or virtually, every day to talk about different STEM career paths, and plenty of experiments to keep them busy.

The girls, who already knew each other from school, were quick to join in teamwork to surpass my challenges. There were girls who had a little more trouble than others working in teams, but I could set one of my older teen volunteers with them to smooth things over. They learned to work in teams, and to experiment and see how many different fields of science they could go into.

However, it took a lot out of me. And the most important thing I learned was to plan for breaks in the summer. Just a day when I didn’t have a program or something to plan, and that I could take a breath and do the other parts of a one-person department like read review journals and order books, or catalog them.

Regular life has to go on during the summer, and no matter how excited I was for it, there was the regular part of librarianship that had to go on while I was doing bigger and better programs. Next summer, I’ll have a cataloging assistant, which will certainly help, and I’ll know better than to plan 20 programs in one month.

How’d your summer programs go?

 

Youth Activism Through Community Engagement—Presidential Task Force

 

After the horrors of Charlottesville unfolded, we saw powerful and moving responses via social media, petitions, and public demonstrations. Recently, YALSA President Sandra Hughes-Hassell wrote a blog post about what library staff can do to help. The 2017-2018 YALSA Presidential Year theme of Youth Activism through Community Engagement is an appropriate call to action for library staff to support teens in developing the necessary skills and confidence to engage in their communities.

Advocacy and civic engagement are not activities solely for adults but have been taken up by youth across the world. Age is not a barrier for participation but an opportunity for teens to learn more about what they believe and how they can make an impact. More and more teens are organizing for social change and demonstrating a compassion for those in need. As library staff, we can encourage this excitement by sharing resources, offering a brave and welcoming space, providing opportunities for leadership, promoting thoughtful and #ownvoices reading, and facilitating teen engagement in their communities.

Wethe Presidential Advisory Task Forcehave collected a sampling of resources to help further support youth activism in your library, in addition to including resources that can help foster conversations with teens about Charlottesville,  race, institutionalized racism, and systemic oppression.

 

Teen Activism

Youth Activism Project

Teen Vogue: 20 Small Acts of Resistance to Make Your Voice Heard Over the Next 4 Years

10 Trans and Gender-Nonconforming Youth Activists of Color Making a Huge Difference

The Forefront of Resistance

Medium: A Nervous Wreck’s Disabled Guide to Stepping Up

Life Hacker: 30 Young Adult Books for Activists in Training

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OUTREACH SERVICES FOR TEEN LIBRARY STAFF: WHAT SOME STAFF ARE DOING OUTSIDE THE WALLS OF LIBRARIES

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 interviewed Jody Gray, Director, ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services.

1. What is your name and title?
Jody Gray, Director, ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services

2. How does the Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services define outreach?
As we are an office of the American Library Association, we use the same definition for outreach; providing library services and programs outside the walls of the library. Our office has the term “outreach” in the title, but we are not the only part of ALA that has an interest in outreach. Instead, our office looks at outreach efforts as they apply to social justice and access.

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