Innovations in Teen Services – Making a difference with Teens using Outcomes

As mk notes in her CoveritLive post about yesterday’s awesome Innovations in Teen Services panel, I was scheduled to speak on the panel but was grounded at the airport for an unplanned six additional hours. While that’s a whole blog post in itself, and probably not even the worst flight horror story of the conference, I’d like to share a bit here what I did plan to present. Special thanks to my colleague, Catherine Haydon, ALA Emerging Leader, who stepped in at a moment’s notice and shared information regarding using outcomes with teens.

While defining outcomes for your teen programs and services, isn’t necessarily something new, we’re probably seeing a lot more on our radars in terms of the importance of telling our story as libraries, particularly because of limited resources that we’re competing for in our communities. Being able to share that we’re making a difference in the lives of teens, is one way that we can show as a library we’re bringing value to the community. At my library in Charlotte, NC we have a teen intern program where teens learn to create with digital media and teach others how to do this as well.

Libraries that utilize teen volunteers or build teens as leaders in a similar capacity, might see some of the similarities with developing outcomes for their programs. Every quarter, we open the application process for Studio i teen interns. Each teen is interviewed. Some of the questions center around the technology skills they are bringing, if any, to the position as well as social skills of working together, problem solving, and thinking creatively. Throughout their internship, we focus on building those technology skills using software such as Garageband, Pinnacle, and Stop Motion Pro. They will create various projects using the software as well as an assessment at the close of their three month internship to measure what they learned. For helping build the skills of problem solving or working together, we record instances during their two hour shift throughout the term of when these situations happened. As staff, we’re consistently working with them through these occurrences, giving them feedback and suggestions as well as noting their approach and anything they might consider improving on.

We’ve developed what is called a Logic Model for the Studio i teen intern program which shows us how to plan our program and reach our outcomes. It involves gathering data to show why there is a need for such a program in our community in the first place (One reason is that since the economic crisis has left a disproportionate effect on teens seeking jobs, having access to real world on the job experience through an intern program is valuable). We established goals for the program (gaining technology skills in order to develop experience to use in school or in a job), activities (what it is they’re doing during their shift), inputs (staff time, equipment and supplies, etc.), outputs (number of interns, number of hours worked, etc.) and outcomes.

While we’ve only done this for one three month term and it’s not meant to be a scientific study, we’re able to articulate our story about the Studio i teen intern program much stronger than we ever were before. One teen, Whitney, who completed the first term, used her skills she gained from learning Garageband to teach a basics workshop to younger kids. The kids and families enjoyed it and Whitney was able to use her experience she gained in the intern program to share her skills in this way. Another teen thanked me for the skills he learned in the program and said that he was applying them to his web design business. We’re making a difference because we’re seeing changes in behavior, skills, and knowledge from when teens entered the internship to completing the program.

One resource on developing outcomes for youth is Dynamic Youth Services through Outcome-Based Planning and Evaluation by Eliza Dresang, et al. The Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets is a commonly used set of tools to articulate the skills important for teens to grow into caring adults. An upcoming webinar with Urban Libraries Council will talk about how telling our stories can show how the library brings value to our community, and ALA TechSource and Webjunction recently cosponsored a webinar this month whose archive can be found here regarding using stories for leadership, advocacy, and community.

There’s a lot more to outcomes than this brief post, but this is it in a nutshell. It might sound like a bit of a process, but once the scaffolding is developed, to see that all your hard work is truly changing lives, you’ll never want to look back.

If your library has established outcomes for a teen based program, feel free to share as a comment to this post.

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.
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