In March of 2014, Albany Public Library was awarded a YALSA Teen Tech Week grant, supporting a music production program we were excited to try.  We called it Build-A-Song, and the idea was to help teens create an original song from scratch, in just five days.  Thanks to the YALSA grant, and with additional assistance from our local Guitar Center, we put together a mobile recording setup that included a Mac Mini with GarageBand and ProTools Express, PreSonus USB Audio Interface, two microphones with a stand and vocal pop filter, studio monitor speakers, headphones, and a MIDI keyboard. We already owned several guitars that we used for free music instruction programs, as well as several percussion instruments; with these and the software instruments available, we had all the ingredients for a full band.  To actually build the song, we dedicated one day to each of the following: drums and bass, guitars and keyboards, electronic effects, vocals, and finally mixing and mastering.  We also put out lyric prompts and a submission jar, and invited teens to write anything from a word to a couplet or even full song.  These would provide material and inspiration when it came time to record vocals.  We decided to record in the middle of our busy youth services room, valuing participation over pristine recording conditions.

Buildasong buildjar

We started the first day by showing teens the basics of the recording software.  We decided to use GarageBand because of its easier learning curve and since we have several iPads for teen use that have it installed.  Teens chose a tempo, and then collectively selected a pre-recorded beat to work from -- this was the only component of the final song not composed or played by teens.  Next, they used the MIDI keyboard to trigger various drum and percussion sounds and create their own beats.  The bassline came next, which was created by lowering the pitch of an electric guitar two octaves .  Though they were encouraged to do so, none of the teens wanted to try playing the guitar themselves, so one of the youth services librarians became their hands and played notes and ultimately a full bass riff dictated by teens.

girls singingThe next day found some teens willing to try playing guitar, despite having no previous experience doing so.  They especially enjoyed changing the effects and hearing themselves sound like rock stars, and were remarkably adept at finding notes and rhythms that complimented the parts of the song already recorded.  This remained true when we moved to the keyboard, which a large number of teens and children played.  Something surprising was that although it could be made to sound like any other instrument, most preferred more natural piano and organ sounds.  Another wonderful surprise was that teens began playing together, with one on keyboard and one on guitar.  It was moving and amazing to see two people who had only just met playing instruments they had never played before, improvising along with a song they were creating out of nothing and sounding GOOD.  A wonderful spirit of collaborative play arose, with others in the room joining in on maracas and xylophones, and one teen breaking out a clarinet she had brought from home - and rocking it!

The following day, we turned up the weird.  We used a Makey Makey to hook up fruits, vegetables and more to the computer, turning a banana and a hole punch into musical instruments.  Here, the sound effect choices were more inspired.  Teens turned a strawberry into a snare drum, a hammer into a trumpet, even connected the Makey Makey to themselves and high-fived each other to add cymbal crashes.  It was very cool to see the expressions of wonder as teens used and witnessed this wizardry in action!

boy singingThe next day we recorded vocals, and the song started taking shape.  To start, we took out the lyric prompts from the submission jar for people to read and record.  We also supplied more blank forms and plenty of pens and paper.  But the biggest draw was simply putting out a mic on a stand with headphones.  We had lots of freestyle
rs, several who read others’ lyrics or wrote their own, and one girl who sat down and wrote a complete original song!  Several teens chose to sing together in pairs or groups, and a few times small crowds arose with people clapping and singing together.  Hooks and choruses were spontaneously created and developed, which became key parts of the song.  The joy and excitement was contagious as burgeoning music producers got to see their parts come together in a real live song.

The final day was intended for mixing and mastering, but we ended up having so many teens wanting to add vocal and instrumental parts that we had little time for post-production.  Some mixing did get done, but most was completed later by a staff member.  Once the song was finalized, a slideshow was created which was then posted on the library’s YouTube page.

girl using softwareBuild-A-Song was a very successful program for us, and a good fit for our patrons and mission.  We have several other music and video production programs as well as hands-on creative programming for kids, teens, and adults.  We are about to launch our Albany Made Creative Lab, which will expand our ‘maker’ programming by adding 3D printing, vinyl cutting, and a range of multimedia tools including the Build-A-Song recording setup.  The Build-A-Song program was so popular that we have now run it twice, tweaking and improving it along the way.  Key lessons learned were to be flexible and let teens lead, incentivize participation, and edit continually rather than save it all for last.  The second time, we also invited teens to photograph and film the process, and with staff help they created a stop-motion music video for Build-A-Song 2.  Expanding the experience this way created wider interest and increased the ways for teens to participate.  It has also inspired continued creativity: we finished the second video a month ago, and still have kids and teens talking about it and asking to create music and videos.  It is wonderful being able to say yes to this!  After the initial purchase, running this program costs us nothing but our time - and pays endless dividends in teen learning, enjoyment, and sense of accomplishment.

To hear both Build-A-Songs and watch their videos, please visit Albany Public Library’s YouTube page:

Further reading

Here’s an interview with one of our teen participants for the Educator Innovator blog:

And here is an interview we conducted for the YALSA Teen Tech Week website:


Tor Loney is a Youth Services Librarian at Albany Public Library, concentrating on teen engagement.  He is especially interested in creative arts and emerging technologies, and is involved in filmmaking, music production, guitar instruction, and electronics programming for kids and teens.  He previously worked as an Information Literacy Librarian and Instructor at the University at Albany, where he received his Masters' of Science in Information Science.

Back in January YALSA released its report, "The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: a Call to Action."  The report provides recommendations for ways libraries can evolve in order to better meet the needs of 21st century teens.  YALSA would like to hear from the library community and beyond how this report has impacted you and your institution so far.  What changes have you made in regards to serving teens or new things have you tried?  What have been your successes and challenges up to now?  What ideas did the report spark as you read it?  Please take a moment to fill out a brief online form to tell us about what's been going on with you and your institution since the report came out.   Some of the information we gather will be featured in upcoming issues of YALS.

Also, don't forget that you can access free resources to help you and your organization learn more about some of the key issues in the report, like connected learning, cultural competence, and more via YALSA's web site.  We'll be adding even more resources there over the next few weeks, so check back often.

YALSA offers a variety of grants and awards to its members who hold positions as librarians who serve young adults. Grant categories range from funding research projects in relation to teens and libraries, travel stipends to ALA conferences, to providing new reading materials to libraries in need. Most applications must be submitted online by December 1 of each year.

A few of the current grant opportunities are highlighted below:

Frances Henne/YALSA/VOYA Research Grant: This grant of $1,000 is to provide seed money to YALSA members for small-scale research projects that address an area related to teens and libraries. Grantees are expected to disseminate results by publishing them in YALSA's journal, Young Adult Library Services.

Great Books Giveaway Competition: Each year the YALSA office receives over 1,500 newly

published children's, young adult and adult books, videos, CDs and audiocassettes for review. YALSA and the cooperating publishers are offering these review materials as a contribution to 3 organizations in need. The estimated value of this collection is more than $25,000.

The MAE Award for a Young Adult Reading or Literature Program: The MAE Award is designed to honor a member of YALSA who has developed an outstanding reading or literature program for young adults. The award provides a grant of $1,000, $500 of which is for the library and $500 of which goes to the li-brarian. The award is made possible through the Margaret Alexander Edwards Trust.

To learn more about other grant and award opportunities available, please visit the Awards & Grants for Members page on the YALSA website.

Those in the YALSA community would probably have no trouble agreeing with the statement that teen services in libraries could benefit from broader support from the library community and beyond.'  In an effort to help advance library services for and with teens, YALSA and its Future of Teens & Libraries Taskforce have submitted a grant proposal via a competitive challenge organized by the Knight Foundation.'  If funded, the project would help libraries improve their overall teen program by providing them with free tools and resources to incorporate connected learning into their existing services. ' In order for this to have a chance at getting funded, the proposal needs to get a significant number of ‘applauds' and comments from visitors to the site.'  We encourage you to 'applaud' the proposal and/or leave a comment, but also to take a moment to share this link out with your library networks, advocates and colleagues and ask them to leave a comment or give us some applause as well.'  The post is open to comments and applause until Oct. 21st, so timing is limited!'  Thank you for all that you do to help teens succeed in school and prepare for college and careers.'  The great work that you do makes a difference in so many lives, and together we can have an even bigger impact!

YALSA's Awards Nominating and Governance Nominating Committees have assembled the slate for 2015.

Any individual interested in being added to the slate as a petition candidate can do so by submitting a completed Petition for YALSA Ballot form via the YALSA website found here. The closing date to submit a petition is November 2, 2014.

Please note that you must first log into your ALA account in order to access the form.

Elections open March 24, 2015 and close May 1, 2015.

The slate is as follows:

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3D Systems, in collaboration with YALSA, is committed to expanding young people's access to 21st century tools like 3D design, 3D scanning and 3D printing.'  The MakerLab Club is a brand new community of thousands of U.S. libraries and museums committed to advancing 3D digital literacy via dedicated equipment, staff training and increased public access.

3D Systems will provide new 3D printers to qualified libraries and museums across the country.'  Recipients will be selected via an application process and are expected to join the MakerLab Club as well as provide access to 3D printing and design programs and services for their communities.'  Libraries can apply via an online application now until November 17th, 2014. Printers will be allocated on a competitive basis.

Membership in the MakerLab Club is available to libraries committed to creating or expanding makerlabs and/or making activities and to providing community access to 3D printers and digital design.

Libraries can receive up to four Cube 3D printers, as well as regular access to workshop curricula and content via webinars. Libraries will also receive exclusive equipment discounts and opportunities to win free hardware and software. In addition to resources and training library staff can join and participate in communities of practice in order to exchange ideas and best practices.

Learn more about making in libraries via the resources on YALSA's wiki, including a free webinar and downloadable toolkit.'  And be sure to mark your calendar for March 8 - 14, 2015 when we celebrate Teen Tech Week with the theme "Libraries are for Making ____________."

For more information about the printers, please contact Neal Orringer at

Want to find out what the GLBT Round Table is up to and the latest LGBTQA news in general? Sign up for the new GLBTRT News! It's easy: go to' , scroll down, and sign up. You'll get in-depth news stories, learn more about how the GLBT Round Table works, and gain access to great book reviews! You can even contact the GLBT Round Table News Committee and submit news of your own.
Speaking of great LGBTQA resources, why not also check out the newly updated Professional Tools page' to access a whole slew of bibliographies and other resources for librarians. Brought to you by the GLBT Round Table Resources Committee.

My term as YALSA Board Fellow began on the last day of ALA conference 2014 when I, among others, was officially welcomed on the board. It was a hot and humid day in Las Vegas, yet a happy one filled with conference goers walking briskly to their desired programs/meetings, going back to their hotel with stacks of books, or preparing to head back home.

Since then, I've met with my board assigned mentor to brainstorm project ideas and get feedback on board ethics, as well as actively participated in board duties that include:

  • Meeting with the committee chairs to which I am a board liaison to discuss their roles and provide initial support towards managing their committees
  • Participating in discussion around the member recruitment standing committee
  • Attending a couple of board related conference calls and meetings
  • Sending personalized welcome greetings to new YALSA members
  • Brainstorming and beginning my diversity related YALSA project

No doubt it all seems like quite a bit of work in just two months. But my experience has already been so great and fulfilling wrapped with lots of support from Executive Director, Beth and the board members.

In addition to grasping new skills and strengthening others, considering YALSA new report Future of Library Services for and with Teens, I've been able to contribute my knowledge and time to YALSA's great mission to "expand and strengthen library services for teens, aged 12-18." I am glad to be a part of this team that make a difference in the lives of teens everywhere via impactful decisions that give YA services professionals the tools and resources to help teens access college information, access to technology, written resources, recreational activities, safe library environments, among other things.

I am so grateful to have been selected as the Board Fellow this year and plan to continue to use my time to advocate for teens through YALSA.

The new application period is underway and closes on December 1st. Here's a link to the application, and I'm very happy to answer any questions you may have about YALSA or the Board Fellow program. Feel free to email me at and follow @YALSA and me @nicolalmcdonald on Twitter for the latest YALSA updates.

I hope you'll consider applying for this great opportunity!

I work as an independent school librarian in Brooklyn, NY. Our school serves grades PK-12 with two separate libraries. We have a PK-4 space and a space for grades 5-12. Our Non-Fiction is integrated with stickers signifying approximate age range. We have three separate fiction sections which are Middle Grade, Young Adult and Adult.

As a school librarian, Teen Read Week is often blended into the background but that doesn't mean it is not celebrated. ' In October, we are just getting into the groove of being back at school, the book clubs have just begun gaining momentum and the bulletin boards are in their full display glory.

I often like to keep things on my desk because it sparks student interest. I have lot of tsotchkes that the kids often look at or ask to play around with. In that same vein I often keep signs, displays and bookmarks on my desk. I buy a lot of supplies from the ALA store and make sure to have those out at least a week before. I also buy extra things to give out to my book clubs.

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Warren, Ohio is deep in the rust belt. What was once a bustling factory town is now deeply impoverished, where every child qualifies for free breakfast and lunch at school each day. For these teens, just one manga replacement charge can render an account unusable. Once a card reaches five dollars in fines, it cannot be used to check anything out, and accounts are placed into collection once the $25 fine threshold is reached.

The Youth Services Manager and I felt this was unfairly punishing our teen population, especially since we don't offer any way to work off their fines, either through reading or volunteering. All juvenile cards are the responsibility of the parents who signed up for them, and as any member of the family can use the card, oftentimes fines are accrued for items that teen didn't check out. Personally, it breaks my heart each time a teen wants to check out books but can't.

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