App of the Week: Leafsnap

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Name: Leafsnap
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free

Leafsnap has languished for years on my phone. The app represents the sort of big audacious online project that we as librarians need to know about. Merging geographic location with image recognition, it combines reports from the field to produce an interactive electronic guide.

For the end user, Leafsnap is designed to make a “best guess” about the species of a plant, based on an image of a leaf you upload or input through the camera. I hadn’t been able to use it before last week. It’s limitation? Spearheaded by the Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, Leafsnap is crowd-sourced, and a caveat warns that the database best reflects the northeasten U.S. for the time being (though there is a U.K. version, too). When I heard someone speculating about the name of a specific tree while I was in Massachusetts, I was happy to put the tool to work.
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Photobooth Program

Planning programs that will appeal to 12-14 year olds is really, really hard for me.  This is the age where kids start to get busy, where they start having to balance school and extracurriculars with other things: like library time.  If I’m being totally honest, this is where I start losing them.

So this summer, my amazing staff came up with an incredible program that all of my teens loved–especially that middle school demographic: an in-library photo booth.  If your tweens and teens are anything like mine, they’re glued to their smartphones with Instagram and Snapchat constantly open.  This program just gave them an opportunity to have some fun with their photos. We asked them to tag their pictures with the hashtag we usually use for our library stuff, and then let them loose on these fun props:

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It could not have been more fun! It was so simple–we made the props from paper and lollipop sticks, which you can get at any craft store. We didn’t have time to make a booth, so we just put up a crepe paper background. We printed out clip art, used scrapbook paper, and there were even some superhero masks that everyone loved. It was a hit beyond anything we could have imagined, and we’ll definitely be doing this one again (we laminated the props for easy reuse).  The kids loved not only the fact that it was fun, but also the freedom that they had to personalize it and own their pictures the way they wanted to. I’ve been having a lot of success in programs for tweens that aren’t overscheduled, that allow them to enjoy some of the freedom that’s starting to come with their age.

Have you tried anything similar at your library?

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Our cross-poster from ALSC today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

The Summer Life of a School Librarian

While many of my public library colleagues are in the midst of their busiest season, I’ve only stepped in my library once since the school year ended (and even then I promptly stepped back out, since the library has no air conditioning). Summers “off” are one of the biggest perks to working in a school, but as any teacher will tell you it’s not all piña coladas and sunscreen. For many of us, summers are the only time we can do vital professional development, including summer courses; for others, summer is a time to pick up another job to make ends meet.

So what does summer look like for this school librarian?  Continue reading

YALSAblog Tweets of the Week: July 25, 2014

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between July 25 and July 31 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.
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App of the Week: Loop

Title:  Loop
Cost:  $0.99
Platform:  iOS

As a teen, most of my notebooks were full of stick-figure flip animations performing stunts on the page edges.   Loop is the digital equivalent of those over-doodled notebooks, allowing users to create hand-drawn, animated loops that can be exported as GIFs.

The app’s interface gives much of its screen space to a whiteboard-like drawing area with a grid of tools permanently situated at the lower edge.

Loop pic 1
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Academic musings in summer

By: Carolyn Chen

As we move into the middle of summer and the stirring thoughts of the upcoming school year, libraries become ever more important as resources for students to take advantage of. In this blog, I want to specifically address two aspects of student life, namely summer work and college prep, that local libraries can assist in. Although most schools do not start until August, almost all students generally have some form of summer work, parts of which include book readings that they must finish beforehand. Usually, summer reading books are fairly popular books or classics, and thus can be found at local libraries. Although some teachers require that students buy a copy of their summer reading texts so that the students can annotate or highlight within the pages, many do not. As a student who generally borrows her summer reading books, I think that librarians can help out in the book-finding process. For example, it may be useful for the library to get a list of summer reading books beforehand from nearby school districts, and then put all of those books that the library has in a certain area. That way, librarians will not have to be constantly finding books for teens that cannot find them right away, and rather can direct them to the summer reading books area. Furthermore, teens can come into the library and find their books much more efficiently. In terms of college prep, I know that some teens do not have the resources to buy all the different prep books for different standardized tests (SAT, ACT etc.). Sometimes, this discourages them from attempting to study much for these tests at all. It would be very useful for these teens if libraries can have more than one copy of SAT or ACT study books, as summer is generally the time when upcoming juniors or upcoming seniors have any time to really study or review at all for standardized testing. Just having the chance to borrow and look over the practice tests on one test prep book is definitely better than seeing the test for the first time when taking it, and these books also include some valuable test-taking strategies as well. These two ideas are just something librarians can keep in mind and students can take advantage of. I hope I can address more resources that libraries can provide over the summer into the beginning of the school year in the next installment!

The Great American Museum Advocate 2014

By: Camille Batiste

A young girl was once told, “Defy the impossible. The word itself says I’m Possible.” This quote would mold and shape her into an inspiring and innovative teen she is today. Simone Batiste (16) a Bay Area native spent the majority of her younger years in the great scientific halls of Chabot Space and Science Center and her local libraries. Since the age of five she has been amazed and intrigued by all of the information she has learned. Inspired by the proverb, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” she spent her spare afternoons reading books and learning new things. In the summer of 2013 she had the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong advocating for Chabot’s International Sky Program. Recently, Simone was one of two teens in the nation selected to become the Great American Museum Advocate 2014. Simone and her family were sent to Washington DC to advocate on behalf of all museums, parks, libraries, and public organizations on the West Coast for robust funding from the government. “It was an honor to travel to D.C. and an experience of a life time that I will never forget. I’d like to thank my local libraries and museums for inspiring me when I needed it most and always supporting my education,” said the young advocate in a recent interview. With hard work, deep dedication, and the support of others Simone was able to accomplish more than expected.

As you can see local libraries, museums and other organizations influence the minds of young children that shape and mold them into something inspirational.

YALSAblog Tweets of the Week – July 18, 2014

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between July 18 and July 24 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.
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App of the Week: OKDOTHIS

OKDOTHIS LogoApp: OKDOTHIS
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS

The new photography app OKDOTHIS aims to be a different sort of image app. By its own terms it is “a Community that encourages growth and inspires us all to DO more” rather than a simple app. To emphasize that idea of community, the first step after you create an account in the app is to add friends. You can choose to find these friends through your device’s contacts, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram or you can instead search for people or accept some of the suggestions provided by the app.

Finding People ScreenshotOnce you have completed that step (or opted out of it), you are thrown right into the app. You will see a screen that says “Try this DO,” which offers a task posted by another user to inspire a specific type of photo. For example, as you can see below, the first suggested activity that I saw was to take a picture of my shoes. At this point, you can either scroll through photos taken by other users or click on the “Do This” button to take your own picture. When completing suggested tasks, you also have the option to use a photo that is already in your device’s image library.
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