Search Results for: homeless teens

Serving Homeless Teens: other ways to help – part 3

This is the third in a three-part series on serving homeless youth in libraries. Please leave questions, ideas, and comments for us to continue the discussion of this very important topic.

Serving homeless teens is challenging because the line between librarian and social worker is so thin. We naturally want to help, but our skill set does not (usually) include full knowledge of the social services of our region. Therefore, we can only do what we know, what our supervisors allow, and what doesn’t offend the teen.

Homelessness does not discriminate against social class or region, so I was not too surprised what I recognized signs of poverty and homelessness in a small group of teen “regulars”. Poor hygiene, traveling with large bags filled with personal items, staying in a group with their parents, and visiting the library all day (only leaving the library when the nearby family shelter opened its doors every evening) were all red flags. Continue reading

Serving Homeless Teens: What You Need to Know Part 2 of 3

This is the’ second in a three part series on serving homeless youth in libraries. We invite questions, ideas, and comments for the discussion to continue on this very important topic.

I’m new to Teen Library Services, having started at ImaginOn, a unique children-and-youth-only library within the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system, only six months ago, but with my background in Girl and Boy Scouting I’m not new to service projects.’  When a coworker suggested that we develop a program addressing child homelessness in our city (Charlotte, NC) to tie in with a photography exhibit in the building, I jumped at the opportunity to create a service project for the teens.

ImaginOn has been hosting a photography exhibit titled “Through Their Eyes.”’  The photographs in the exhibit were taken by homeless children during a summer day camp put on by the local non-profit A Child’s Place.’  This past summer participating children were given digital photography classes provided by David Johnson of Silent Images, and these are the photographs now on display at ImaginOn.’  The photographs serve as a great conversation starter with the teens about child homelessness and how it can affect every aspect of a child’s life. Continue reading

Serving Homeless Teens: What You Need to Know Part 1 of 3

r-HOMELESS-YOUTH-large570This is the first in a three part series on serving homeless youth in libraries. We invite questions, ideas, and comments for the discussion to continue on this very important topic.

When this month’s VOYA issue arrived, I was excited to find the article on teen homelessness: When the Library Is the Only Place That You Have to Go: Homeless Teens and Libraries by Rebecca Hill. And it doesn’t disappoint. (Check out digital VOYA on the right sidebar to read the full text of the article). Hill indicates that 1.35 million homeless children, a staggering number, live in the U.S. today. She goes on to outline how several libraries address the homeless patron issue and mentions both applicable national programs and local collaborations that have collaborated with libraries to tackle issues surrounding teen homelessnessness.

How do you serve homeless youth at your library? Continue reading

Week of Making: Bringing makerspaces to teens

CC: SJPL Pop-Up Mobile Maker's Space by San Jose Library

CC Image courtesy of San José Library on Flickr

Just over a month ago I became the first STEAM Librarian at the San José Public Library, located in the heart of Silicon Valley. While my title is new, STEAM programming is far from new to my urban library system. Surrounded by so many technology resources and partners, we are lucky to have passionate library staff leading STEAMstacks programs and participating in worldwide events like Hour of Code.

Before my position was even created our Innovations Manager brainstormed ways to extend STEAM programming to the city’s underserved neighborhoods. Part of the envisioned future stated in The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action is for library staff to “leave the physical school library or public library space regularly and provide services to targeted communities of teens (e.g. those who are incarcerated, homeless, in foster care, or in classrooms and other in school locations) where they are, rather than waiting for teens to find a way to get to the physical library space.” The Maker[Space]Ship, a mobile makerspace, is designed to do just that.

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The Calm Before the Storm: How Teens and Libraries Can Fight Mental Illness

If you haven’t had a chance to read YALSA’s 2016-2018 Organization Plan, I highly recommend that you do because it rocks! Not only is this the plan that most of us have been waiting for, it is a sign that our work as teen library staff has shifted to focus on the needs of our teens and how YALSA can support us1:

Mission: Our mission is to support library staff in alleviating the challenges teens face, and in putting all teens ‒ especially those with the greatest needs ‒ on the path to successful and fulfilling lives.

Vision: Our vision is that all teens have access to quality library programs and services ‒ no matter where they occur ‒ that link them to resources, connected learning opportunities, coaching, and mentoring that are tailored to the unique circumstances of the community and that create new opportunities for all teens’ personal growth, academic success, and career development.

With this plan, we now have the opportunity to tackle difficult issues that our teens are experiencing such as mental illness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “that 1 in 5 children, ages 13-18, have or will have serious mental illness where symptoms arise at the age of 14 and will eventually manifest by the time they are 24 years old.2” In other words, if we have 20 teens who regularly attend our programs, that means 4 of them are predisposed or have a serious mental illness. Furthermore, 90% of death by suicide occurred among teens with mental illness. With the current efforts that are being made to de-stigmatize mental illness and portray it as a disease that can be managed, libraries can raise awareness and join this much-needed conversation.

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YALSA Professional Learning Series: The Future of Library Services for and with Teens –Working with At-Risk Teens

gameboard

Welcome to the second in YALSA’s new monthly professional learning series. Each month we’ll highlight a topic and give readers the chance to learn about it as well as discuss it with others. Here’s how it works:

  • On the first of each month the YALSA Blog will post an overview of the topic of the month. That overview will include links to resources to read, watch, listen to, etc.
  • If you are interested in participating in the learning during the month, comment on the initial blog post to say something like, “yes, I’m in.”
  • Each week the facilitator of the topic – that’s me this month – will check-in with participants with a post that poses questions and helps to focus conversation on the topic.
  • Participants can converse with others about the topic by commenting on those posts.

We hope this is a low-stress way to learn something new or expand your knowledge on a topic. There is no pressure, just a desire to learn and discuss your learning.

Onto this month’s theme – Working with teens who may be at risk

In 2013 YALSA published the Future of Library Services For and With Teens: A Call to Action. That report, based on a year of research, prodded library staff working with teens to think differently about the teens they serve (and don’t serve) and think more broadly about who they are, where they are and what their needs may be.  Like the Future’s Report itself, this isn’t something that just happens, it takes time, conversations with your colleagues, really looking at your community and also thinking outside the box. 

The resources below should help you to begin thinking differently about your services for and with teens. It’s up to you what you read and/or watch. Pick and choose from the selections as a way to get started and to focus on what you think is most useful. You may make your way through them all, you may not. I’ve included some ideas of what to consider while you read or view so as to help provide context and focus.

Definition of “at risk youth” There are a lot of definitions of “at risk” youth and they can be loaded as well as sounding negative toward youth.  A broad definition can be that at risk teens can be at risk for not completing high school, may struggle socio economically, homeless, involved in drugs and/or alcohol, in foster care, court involved and each of these can put them at further risk and trauma.

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Completing the Puzzle Between Teens with ASD and Public Libraries

From Pinterest

According to Occupational Therapist, Bill Wong: “For autistic individuals to succeed in this world, they need to find their strengths and the people that will help them get to their hopes and dreams. In order to do so, ability to make and keep friends is a must. Amongst those friends, there must be mentors to show them the way. A supportive environment where they can learn from their mistakes is what we as a society needs to create for them.”1.

As teen library workers, we have an incredible wealth of resources at our fingertips to  assist teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Along with these resources, we have colleagues, community partners, and experts who are passionate and willing to help us with create services and programs for teens with ASD. The sky is the limit when it comes to creating an inclusive environment, but, sometimes, starting from the ground up can be daunting. However, no matter what how long it takes to implement and plan these services and programs, the end result will create an honest dialogue between the library and our entire teen population to foster an environment of camaraderie, acceptance, and empathy.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

According to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS):

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur in people with ASD. Some children and adults with ASD are fully able to perform all activities of daily living while others require substantial support to perform basic activities.”2

On March 27, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new study that identified 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 3 Since 2000, the rates have increased by 119%, which means that ASD is one of the most common development disorders in the United States. Although Autism has been around for more than 100 years, it wasn’t until the early 1980s that Autism was classified as an actual neurological disorder and not a mood disorder (i.e., Schizophrenia). Since ASD  is in fact treatable, children are being diagnosed at an early age so they can get the necessary therapies they need to manage thir symptoms. Although the resources are available for an early diagnosis, some parents may have a difficult time finding out how to get their child help due a variety of reasons. Due to these obstacles, children and teens could potentially fall to the wayside in their development and this is where libraries can help children and teens with ASD.

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Working with Animals: A Unique Volunteer Opportunity for Teens

All of us know the following scenario very well: A teen walks in needing ten hours of community service by the end of the month and they want to volunteer. As much as I want to say “yes,” reality sets in and I can’t always accommodate those requests. Teens should be proactive when it comes to community service, but what if they have no idea who to contact? Well, this is where our super library powers come in and, with a little research, and a few phone calls, we can definitely refer our teen patrons to organizations that need their help.

The best way to point our teens to local organizations is to create a list of local nonprofits for ready reference. When I started researching organizations in my community, I was blown away with the number of organizations that need help other than the library! In fact, there is such a variety of organizations in my community that teens should not have any problems finding a suitable volunteer position. One excellent example is for teens to volunteer at their local humane society and animal shelter.

According to Animal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) “approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.1” There are many, many animals that need homes and, if they are unable to be placed in a loving home, they face the threat of being euthanized. For teens, this is the type of issue that will not only ignite a passion in them, but, as a volunteer for the humane society or shelter, they will put that passion to good use. The goals for these programs are to give teens the tools and knowledge to not only help communicate with the public about homeless pets, but promote the humane societies’ or shelters’ mission and objectives. When I was a teen, I thought that if I worked at an animal shelter, I would be cleaning kennels the entire time, which is why I ended up volunteering with the library. I was so wrong and, as much as I loved volunteering in the library, I really wished I worked at the local humane society.

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#act4teens: The Inclusive Library: More than a Diverse Collection: Part 2

In this second blog post on creating inclusive libraries, we examine the need to identify and remove barriers, and have an expanded definition of ‘the library as a safe space’.

Identifying and Removing Barriers

Paramount to our goal of creating inclusive libraries is removing barriers that prevent diverse youth from feeling welcome. In her research, Kafi Kumasi (2012) found that many youth of color feel like outsiders in library spaces, describing the school library as the sole “property” of the librarian. Kumasi argues that “these feelings of disconnect and exclusion should be attended to by school librarians, if they want to make all of their students feel welcome.”

Physical barriers can be easy to spot and can include, for example, detectors and late fees. Consider the unwelcoming message that detectors—particularly those with a ‘push’ gate—can send about libraries, especially for teens who may regularly be followed in department stores. We must recognize that these kinds of microaggressions are daily experiences for many youth, especially male youth of color, and must be mindful not to replicate them in our libraries. We must also realize that late fees represent a financial burden for some teens and their families causing teens to forego visiting the library, and ask ourselves, what other strategies might we use? Finally, our libraries must be physically and intellectually accessible for teens with disabilities (and, of course, stocked with literature that reflects their lived experiences). Project ENABLE provides free training to help librarians create more inclusive libraries that address the needs of youth with disabilities.

Other barriers are more difficult to unpack, but include library policies or procedures that inhibit teens from visiting or participating. For public libraries, this could manifest as an address requirement for receiving a library card. Teens experiencing homelessness would be unable to fulfill this requirement and thus be denied access to essential public library resources including computer time and material checkouts. For school libraries, perhaps a strict atmosphere of ‘shhh-ing’ is excluding teens from joining in library activities. Janice Hale (2001) reminds us, for example, that African American youth “participate in a culture that is highly dynamic. They thrive in settings that use multimedia and multimodal teaching strategies. And they favor instruction that is variable, energetic, vigorous, and captivating.” Do our libraries support this?

Barriers can also exist in programming. Are we scheduling programs at times that allow teen participation? Are we taking into consideration the public transportation schedules? Are we offering programs at locations in the community, rather than expecting teens to always come to the library? Are we coordinating our teen programs with our programs for children so that teens who are responsible for taking care of siblings can attend? Breaking Barriers: Libraries and Socially Excluded Communities explores ideas related to this topic specific to public libraries.

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#act4teens: The Inclusive Library: More than a Diverse Collection: Part 1

The growing conversation surrounding the need for diversity in teen literature is wonderful—it is essential, it is long overdue, but it is only a starting point. Wait, what? Yes, a starting point. If we are not using those diverse collections in our library promotions, programming, and reader’s advisory with all students, we are diluting their influence. Furthermore, if diverse collections are housed in libraries that are not inclusive and welcoming to all youth, then we are negating the power of those collections.

“Diversity is not ‘praiseworthy’: it is reality.” Malinda Lo’s recent statement  can serve to remind librarians that focusing on diversity is not an extra facet of our job. It is central to what we do. Consider these facts:

  • In the 2014-2015 school year, youth of color were projected to make up the majority of students attending American public schools (not just urban public schools, but ALL public schools)
  • Approximately 9.1% of students attending America’s schools are English Language Learners
  • Approximately 10% of the general youth population in the United States identifies as LGBTQ+
  • One in 45 youth experience homelessness in America each year [references for all of these statistics can be found here]

YALSA’s The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action details even further the significant shift in the demographics of teens. To paraphrase Ernest Morrell (2015), our multicultural America is in our libraries no matter where we are.

Library collections obviously need to reflect the diversity of our nation. But that is just the beginning. Public and school libraries must be inclusive. Inclusive libraries are staffed by librarians who are culturally competent, use their diverse collections with all teens, identify and remove barriers, and have an expanded definition of ‘the library as a safe space’. In this two-part blog post, we will briefly examine these components. Our goal is broaden the conversation about the needs of diverse youth beyond diverse literature, and to highlight the need for librarians to engage in discussions about equity and inclusivity.

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