If It Catches My Eye

The Media Management Center at Northwestern University released a report this month about the online news experiences of teens. Titled, If It Catches My Eye, there is a lot for librarians to consider in this document.

In the Implications and Recommendations section of the report the authors write:

What if news enterprises thought of the status quo – the current habits and preferences of teens – not as an unchangeable verdict on the news but as an opportunity and a challenge? What if they decided to:

  • Aggressively court teens where they are now and then work over time to fan whatever sparks of interest they may have in news into a more robust flame of interest in various kinds of news?
  • Make a special effort to encourage – and even increase the number of – teens who consider it part of their identity to follow and talk about the news?

I read that section and thought to myself, what if librarians changed “news” within that section and inserted the word libraries instead? It would then read:

What if libraries thought of the status quo – the current habits and preferences of teens – not as an unchangeable verdict on libraries but as an opportunity and a challenge? What if they decided to:

  • Aggressively court teens where they are now and then work over time to fan whatever sparks of interest they may have in libraries into a more robust flame of interest in various kinds of information?
  • Make a special effort to encourage – and even increase the number of – teens who consider it part of their identity to follow and talk about the library?

OK, there was one change that went from news to information instead of news to libraries, but the point remains the same. What’s that point? We can’t simply say, “Oh, teens aren’t interested in libraries, that’s just the way it is.” Instead we have to find out what does interest teens, discover where they go to get support for those interests, and then join them in those places.

In terms of joining teens where they are, If It Catches My Eye includes recommendations for connecting with teens that librarians can use. Along with recommending to go where the teens already are the report recommends:

  • Using humor and a sense of fun – the report mentions news stories about oddities as a way to accomplish this. In the library context why not focus on connecting teens to resources like the Guinness Book of World Records recently launched social networking site as a way to harness their sense of fun and sense of humor? This connection helps librarians to openly acknowledge what teens are interested in, and while acknowledging that it’s possible to give teens some tips on being safe while in online social networking environments.
  • Creating widgets for tools that teens already use – an earlier blog post discussed the idea of widgetizing homework for teens. The findings of this report support that idea and help demonstrate why it’s important for libraries to create information gathering widgets for the tools that teens use.
  • Enlisting support from parents and teachers – this is something librarians frequently work to accomplish. But, doesn’t the technology that is available help create success in this area? For example, doesn’t the need of parents and teachers to learn about the technology teens are using give librarians an opportunity to become central to that learning?
  • Providing features/functionalities that teens like and use – for example, teens love to share what they find on the web with friends, how can libraries find ways to help them to do that information exchange successfully and easily?

There’s much more in the report that connects to what librarians work to do with/for teens every day. Check it out and see what you can extract to use in your day-to-day work with the teens in your community.

YALSA Podcast #33 – Third Space

In this podcast Linda Braun talks with Carrie Bryniak and Sarah Cornish Debraski, co-chairs of the 2008 President’s Program, about the upcoming program titled Between Home & School: The Teen Third Space The program will be held during the 2008 Annual Conference in Anaheim, CA.


You can read more about third space:

To contribute a snapshot of your library or MySpace for use in the program slideshow send an email to aorr@pvld.org.

Meeting the Needs of Device-Happy Teens

Depending on the report, last year saw anywhere from half to three-quarters of teens owning MP3 players. And given that MP3 players remain at the top of teen wish lists, you’re going to see even more teens asking the question:

“How do I download MP3s on these computers?”

Increasingly, the software and security on your library’s computers is going to decide whether you’re poised to meet the information needs of teens. That means allowing teens to use your high-speed connection to download files onto the hard drive, as well as allowing devices to connect through USB or firewire ports. It also means having software installed that can interface with these devices. So in honor of the upcoming Teen Tech Week, here’s a brief guide to making your library’s computers MP3 capable:


Behind Windows Media Player, Winamp is the second-most used MP3 player in the world. This lightweight program plays a wide array of formats, gives users an easy way to listen to Shoutcast radio and video stations, and–most importantly–lets users upload files to most commercial MP3 players, iPod included. You can find more information about uploading files through Winamp by following this link. A free download is available for Windows computers only.


For those of you using Macs, it’s not easy to avoid iTunes. This is Mac’s ubiquitous all-in-one multimedia player and iPod manager and it’s the first thing a Mac looks for when an iPod is inserted. Unfortunately, using iTunes on a public computer can have potentially disastrous consequences. If teens aren’t careful, the computer will try to “sync” with their iPod, deleting files and replacing them with whatever was previously imported into iTunes. You can disable this behavior in the “Sync” tab of your preferences. Teens can then go to the iPod preferences pane and select “manually manage music and videos” to add songs without wiping out their whole system (however, this option is not available for the iPod Shuffles).

Most other MP3 players will simply show up in Mac OS X as a removable drive within the operating system, allowing teens to drag and drop files as needed. Safer alternatives to iTunes exist (such as YamiPod) for transferring music to an iPod, but they have their own problems. You’ll need to assess the risks and rewards based on your own needs.


If you’re running Linux on your library’s computers (yes there may be one or two of you), fear not. amaroK is a terrific open-source solution that combines the flexibility of Winamp with the great user-interface of iTunes. It plays as many file types as your operating system is set-up to handle and works with a number of media devices (check the wiki page for more information).

Freeing your computers shouldn’t just go for MP3s players, but for generations of plug-n-play devices to come. If you’re not already, it’s time to let teens download pictures, videos, books, and more. And it’s time to let teens thrive as content creators by giving them the tools to upload from their cameras or portable audio recorders. Broadband penetration may be high among teens, but it’s not the whole story. By downloading free software and loosening a few restrictions, your library computers can be a destination for years to come.

(It’s worth mentioning that there are a few resources for teens to download free, legal MP3s. MP3.com is still alive and kicking, and c|net offers a music portion on the site http://music.download.com. There’s always the netlabels at archive.org, as well as promotional MP3s featured on blog aggregators like elbo.ws and The Hype Machine. If you want to be really cool, you’ll link to DatPiff, where teens can download the latest hip-hop mixtapes as they hit the street.)

Five weeks until Teen Tech Week!

TTW logo

The ALA midwinter meeting passed by like a whirlwind and now we are only five weeks away from celebrating Teen Tech Week! Many of us are collaborating with teens on the final planning stages for our Teen Tech Week programs, while some of us haven’t exactly started yet. Regardless of what position you are in, here are some points to remember when preparing for Tune in @ Your Library:

  • Don’t forget to register your library for Teen Tech Week before February 4th. Registration is free and only takes a minute. By registering, you are telling YALSA that you support technology initiatives for teens and that TTW is a valuable program.
  • Just started planning? Don’t fret! The Teen Tech Week wiki is loaded with quick and easy program ideas, in addition to the more involved but rewarding activities.
  • Get your teens involved with YALSA’s Promotional Song Contest. The contest challenges teens to create a song promoting the library and its technology resources. Entries are due by midnight on Saturday March 8th.
  • If you haven’t already, be sure to order your official Teen Tech Week posters, bookmarks, and giveaways from ALA Graphics. Orders placed by February 18th with standard shipping will arrive in time for Teen Tech Week.
  • Take advantage of the Teen Tech Guides, intended to briefly familiarize librarians with emerging technologies. The Making Music with Teens Guide explains how to setup a recording studio for teens at little to no cost and can aide you in supporting the promotional song contest.
  • Remember to point your teens to the official TTW web site during the week of celebration, March 2-8, 2008. On the web site, teens will be able to vote for next year’s theme and participate in an online survey about technology.
  • Look for the winter 2008 issue of YALS journal to cover technology articles such as Teen Tech Week partnerships.
  • Breathe, smile, and have fun! Remember that Teen Tech Week is supposed to fun and exciting, and it’s important you share some of that excitement with the teens.

Social Technologies-direct benefits to school and work

In the January/Februrary 2008 issue of American Libraries, Meredith Farkas in What Friends Are For writes about social technologies such as Twitter and Facebook which can be used as professional development tools. Farkas’ concluding paragraph is, “The next time you see a colleague logged into Twitter or Facebook while at work, don’t assume he or she is playing on the job. Your co-worker may just be learning something that will benefit your library and its patrons.”

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Being on the island in Teen Second Life when I took this snapshot in the sandbox reminded me of the article. The teen with the virtual cup of coffee in front of the DNA structure he was creating said he was doing this to help him with his bio test for tomorrow in school. Of course. The next time a teen is on RuneScape or MySpace at the library, maybe they are using it to help with their school work. Maybe they would be interested in knowing how other teens use similar tools for professional development something directly tied to a homework assignment if they hadn’t thought if it that way before.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

What is on the Horizon

Last week, the 2008 Horizon Report was released. This is a collaboration with the New Media Consortium (NMC) and EDUCAUSE.

The report “seeks to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, or creative expression within learning-focused organizations.” The six technologies identified in this year’s report that are predicted to have an impact on teaching and learning include; grassroots video, collaboration webs, mobile broadband, data mashups, collective intelligence, and social operating systems. Challenges as well as examples of how each are being used in organizations similar to those that many of us probably work at, are included. Take a look, or just check out the examples if you don’t have time to read the entire report. Do you see other trends or challenges than the ones listed?

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

Virtual Literacy Festival

Next Saturday, from 10am-2pm PST, young adult authors Marc Aronson, Barry Lyga, and Carol Baldwin will be interacting as avatars with teens from all over the world on Teen Second Life. Exhibits put together with TeachingBooks.net will also be part of the festival. For more information on how to involve your teens, visit the Chicago Public Schools Dept. of Library and Information Services blog post.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

Teen Gaming Interest Group Meeting Notes

The YALSA Teen Gaming Interest Group meeting on Monday afternoon welcomed nearly 20 attendees to attendees to discuss teens and gaming in libraries. After a quick review of the mission of the group, announcements followed:

Beyond Gaming Tournaments (Teen Gaming Interest Group)
Sunday June 29th 2008 8:00am to 10am
Discover best practices beyond gaming tournaments in such programs as avatar creation, character worksheets, video game clubs, machinima contests, Cosplay and more. Elizabeth Saxton, Cleveland Public Library; Craig Davis, Youth Digital Arts Cyber School and Amy McNally, Ridgedale Library, Minnetonka, MN, with teens Karina Grimaldi and Brigit Boler, share their successes in delivering high quality engaging programs about and around tabletop and video games – that do NOT involve actual game play! The second half of the program consists of a breakout session to try program activities and exercises yourself.

Go have lunch, then return at 1:30 PM for ALSC presents: Gaming and the Elementary Age Child. It seems we have the makings of an ALA gaming track here!

Teen Tech Week runs March 2-8th, this year’s theme is Tune in @ Your Library. A Gaming Mini-Guide should be posted on the Teen Tech Committee page soon

The Teen Gaming Interest Group recently completed an article for YALS on Core Collections of video games for libraries, an annotated list of recommended titles. Look for it in the spring issue, out soon. A poster with titles was available at the YALSA booth. Content is online.

For more info about gaming in libraries, join the LibGaming group.

ALA TechSource announced Sunday that they have received a Verizon Foundation Grant for 2008-2009. Part of the project includes a website to foster online community hosted by an expert panel at http://gaming.ala.org, featuring links to incubator sites for gaming and research. The grant will produce a virtual institute in April 208. The focus is to develop gaming literacy.

Watch for a follow -up issue of Library Technology Report on Gaming in Libraries. Other projects include a National Gaming in Libraries Day (April 18) (with national tournament), GT System from the Ann Arbor District Library, a Big Game at ALA annual 2008 in Anaheim, and the 2nd annual ALA TechSource Gaming Learning and Libraries Symposium (Nov 2008) in the Chicago area.

Other Big News! The Games and Gaming MIG at ALA passed on Tuesday.

Beth recommended that someone else champion a Selected Lists of Video Games for Teens, by requesting
YALSA Board action.

Part of the discussion involved a question about research needs in regard to gaming.
What is the theft/loss rate of circulating video game collections?
Are teens allowed to check out videos/video games?

Is there a relationship between policies and theft rate: circulation policies, like circ period and fine rate

Q. Money: how do I spend in? Wii or PS2?
A. Get both! ASk your local teens for advice.

Q. How do I get a Wii?
A. Contact Nintendo, go early to game stores, try Nowinstock.net, check eBay. Don’t forget to purchase extra controllers and the proper controllers (for retro gaming)

Q. What games should I buy for programs?
A.Guitar Hero

Wii Sports
Wii Play
Rayman Raving Rabbids #2
Mario & Sonic Olympics
Naruto II: Ultimate Ninja
DragonBall Z

Q. How do I store my console/prevent theft?
A. Gaming configurations include a locked cabinet or behind the desk

Q. How much will this cost?
A. Starting Budget: $1000 – for 1 system, 3-5 games, & extra controllers

Q. Do people still play D&D?

A. Yes! D&D fosters imagination, teaches storytelling, and develops creativity! And Wizards of the Coast, a Teen Tech Week sponsor, has a free kit D&D available to libraries! They are out of kits, but you can DOWNLOAD all the kit materials.

Q. Does anyone do Yu-gi-oh tournaments – no problems with card theft
A. Yes! Other recommended Card & Tabletop Games

Hex Hex
Taboo & Gestures (get noisy)
Apples to Apples (Junior edition)
Set Game
Scene It? Junior
Carcassone Hunters & Gatherers

Settlers of Kataan
500 different games around the kit/pieces

Two great board game resources:
Board Games with Scott

Gaming Interest Group list on the YALSA community page (log in with ALA membership # and password):

Q. Help! They won’t come to the library, even to play games!
A. Take the games to them! High school lunch, local game stores/card shops, advertise on Meetup.com

Q. Are there age issues with video games?
A. It’s a two program opportunity! One for kids, one for teens. Start with age 12 (gr 6) – don’t forget that a game rated T for teen are for age 13.

Q. What are the behavior issues associated with gaming programs?
A. Theft and fighting for a turn are not usually an issue. In fact, teens in gaming programs are the best behaved kids in the library, and often self-police to keep their gaming privileges.

Q. Is there a basic list of resources about gaming that I can use to make a case for for gaming at my library?

A. Yes! For your perusal:
Wilson, Heather. Gaming for Librarians. Voice of Youth Advocates. Feb 2005.

Neiburger, Eli and Erin Helmrich. Video Games As a Service.” Voice of Youth Advocates. Feb 2005.

Gallaway, Beth & Alissa Lauzon. “I Can’t Dance Without Arrows: DDR at the Library.” YALS. Summer 2006.

Gallaway, Beth. Get Your Game On: What Makes A Good Game, Anyway?

Beck, John & Mitchell Wade. The Kids are Alright. Harvard Business School, 2007.

Nicholson, Scott. (2007). The Role of Gaming in Libraries: Taking the Pulse. White paper.

Q. How do you deal with time limits on your Internet computers?
A. Start a program! IE Runescape Club

Q. Other Gaming Ideas?
A. Bronx Library System – poker tournament – tutorials and 5 card stud and 7 card Texas hold’em play with real chips, no money.

Reader’s Advisory – if you like this game, you might like this book
Family Gaming Night with board games – library provides some, patrons bring their own in
Open Gaming once a week, programs twice a month
Newbie Game Day
Teen Choice Free Play (they bring their own games)
Teen Second Life

Global Kids

Q. Do kids bring in their own laptops for gaming programs?
A. Sometimes! And it can add to the program, IE, all playing StepMania.

Q. Are there games for developmentally disabled/delayed?
A. Not that we are aware of, at this time…

Q. How do you handle signups for game programs?

Black crow darts has a great chart
Jeff Wyner, Escondido Public Library, has designed an excel spread sheet with formulas for
Eli Neiburger from Ann Arbor District Library will be unveiling their tournament management software in April 2008.

Q. What is the ESRB?
A. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board! Among other things, they rate video games on a set of 40+ criteria, for ‘age-appropriateness.’
Visit http://www.esrb.org for more info.

Q. Suggestions for ways to clear up teens library cards?
A. Waivers, amnesty day, booksale fundraiser for fine scholarships, pay for fines via Teen Second Life

I Love My Librarian Campaign

The time is now to advocate for libraries! To celebrate this Valentine’s Day, have your teens, parents, children and library supporters flood federal elected officials’ district offices with Valentines that express love for your library and its staff and ask for support for important legislation.
The ALA Youth Divisions – AASL, ALSC and YALSA – are sending out a call to action to library workers to have teens, children, parents and library supporters in their community send “I Love My Teen Services Librarian” or “I Love My School Librarian” Valentine cards to their U.S. Senators and Representatives, and to ask their elected officials to co-sponsor the SKILLS Act &/or support LSTA funding for libraries. Currrently only about eight Congresspersons have signed on to co-sponsor the SKILLs Act. A major grassroots effort is needed in order for this critical piece of library legislation to get passed. Please consider participating in this campaign. For more information go to YALSA’s wiki.

Thanks for all that you do to ensure your community has access to wonderful library services and resources, and thanks to the youth divisions’ Legislation Committees for creating this campaign!
-Beth Yoke

Try To Be In Their Circle of Choice

The title of this blog post is a quote from the Managing Editor of Time.com, Josh Tyrangiel, about using Twitter as a reporting tool. As I read this quote in yesterday’s New York Times I thought to myself, that’s exactly what librarians need to focus on when it comes to teens (or actually when it comes to customers of any age), being one option in their “circle of choice.”

Using the library should be one of the choices a teen might make when looking for materials, space to hang out, programs, technology, web tools, etc. Key in the phrase “circle of choice” is that the library doesn’t strive to be the only option a teen has or will make. The library actually accepts, recognizes, and promotes a variety of choices for teens. Instead of fighting the fact that teens might want to use Facebook, or Google, or Wikipedia for information and interaction, the library can work to help teens understand that the library fits right in the mix with those other tools as a choice to make when in need of information or recreational space and materials.

It is important to think about how the library gets into the circle of choice of a teen. Of course, part of that comes from the recognition mentioned above. But, something else Tyrangiel said also helps to highlight what it takes to get into the circle. He said, “If you tell people how to consume their content, they will ignore you.” Not only should the library not try to be the only choice a teen has for informational and recreational needs, the library also has to provide a variety of content and format options to a teen so that she can pick the right solution for a particular need. The library works to provide interaction opportunities in the physical library space as well as on blogs, wikis, via Facebook or del.icio.us, and so on.

In providing these options and getting into this circle of choice, a library needs to take the plunge. Getting into the circle will never happen if the modus operandi is to wait and see what format/setting ends up being the one teens want the most. Instead, libraries need to give teens the chance to use the tools of the moment in the moment. That’s what Time is doing (primarily for adults of course) by providing readers access to content via their web site, Twitter, the print publication, etc.

Sure, the technology might change, the tools of choice might change, a different generation might want something entirely different. However, if libraries get into a teen’s circle of choice by plunging and not waiting, providing options for content and format, and recognizing and promoting that they are one possibility within a circle of possibilities, once in that circle it will be easier and easier to move forward. This forward movement will happen both in more and more ability to easily update access and content options and in getting support from the community of teens, adults, and colleagues.

What would happen if libraries serving teens used Time as a model? Would that help libraries to be in a teen’s circle of choice? Try it and see what happens.