I am the Teen Services Librarian for Henrico County Public Library, Tuckahoe Branch, in Richmond, Virginia. I blog regularly for our library's teen page at http://hcplteenscene.org.

Instagram of the Week — June 13

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

Across our library system, we have been finishing up our Summer Reading Club visits, coordinating book lists, training teen volunteers, and sprucing up library branches to get ready for our busiest season. Not only are we gearing up to help teens read all summer long, but we’re focusing on learning beyond books too. This year teens can try a variety of classes ranging from origami and improv comedy to coding, comic book storytelling, money management, and more. I’ve warned teens that while we may not offer tests or grades for participating in our classes and camps, they might win cool prizes like baseball tickets, a Raspberry Pi, or a GoPro camera. Best of all, teens can engage with community groups and local experts to discover new things on their own terms.

Please see the ‘grams below for ideas and inspiration for fun Summer Reading Kick-offs! And for more information, please see the following resources:

YALSA 2016 Top Ten Summer Learning Programs

Adopting a Summer Learning Approach for Increased Impact: a YALSA Position Paper

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Instagram of the Week — May 23

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

While we may remember card catalogs and index cards, what about microfiche records of library cards? How about punch cards and the ever evolving bookmobile? It’s easy to forget how transformative technology has been to our work. When the days are long and the to-do lists are never ending, check out the Instagram hashtags #vintagelibrary and #librarytbt (library throwback Thursday) for a good dose of “back in the day was so much harder.” You might also find some ideas worth bringing back. Library billboards, anyone?

Despite the rapid changes of the past few decades, what hasn’t changed is the library’s solid foundation as an institution of choice. As the Future of Library Services for and with Teens explains, we have the choice to discontinue roles that are no longer a priority for students or the community. Youth not only have the choice to read what they want, but can participate in what they want at the library in-person or online. It’s definitely exciting!

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Instagram of the Week — May 9

The current Libraries & Learning issue of Young Adult Library Services (YALS) emphasizes how learning is at the core of our work in school and public libraries, and how we can support teens’ learning. While libraries have historically focused on learning by providing print and digital resources, many are also considering ways to incorporate the process of learning into library programs, outreach partnerships, and staff development. As YALSA President Candice Mack states in this issue’s editorial feature, “think of how dramatically the conversation changes when instead of saying, “I bought a 3D printer for our library,” we say, “the teens in our community need help preparing for 21st century careers, so the library is providing hands-on workshops so teens can use the latest digital tools to create something that supports their schoolwork or hobby.”

This week’s Instagram illustrates how libraries and other community agencies are supporting teens’ learning through financial education workshops, college test prep, sewing, music instruction, public speaking, and more. The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report indicates that the role of library staff is to support teens as facilitators of self-directed inquiry.  The library needs to shift from a place to find content to a place of learning and engagement. In order to step into these new roles, library administrators need to provide planning and resources to support continual staff development, so that staff can meet the learning needs of their communities. Finally, don’t be afraid of failure! Library staff are encouraged to use failure as a means of ongoing improvement, in order to better serve our teens.

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Instagram of the Week — April 11

Throughout the month of April, libraries are clearing away the clutter, running creative teen programs, and getting ready to celebrate National Library Week (April 10-16). Every April Fool’s Day, the puns and jokes bring to mind a supervisor of mine. She would prank call us in the evenings to ask if we had any red books, for instance, and she always had patrons dropping by for books and laughs. For her fiftieth birthday, we returned the favor by packing her office with balloons so tightly, it was impossible to move. Not only did we love working for her, she encouraged a culture of creativity and truly connected the library to the community. Research shows that laughter has not only been linked to higher creativity in problem solving, but also benefits health and relationships.

As The Future of Library Services for and with Teens explains, library staff need to connect with teens as individuals, be willing to talk with teens about their interests and passions, and take risks in order to find out what works and does not work with and for teens. Hosting creative programs provide teens a way to connect to the library and gives them opportunities for making and hanging out. Being silly on the job reminds us that working with teens is not only demanding and rewarding, but also FUN!

Please let us know how your library is celebrating National Library Week in the comments section below!

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A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

During my first week as the new teen librarian, I observed a pair of Muslim men studying in the back corner of our adult nonfiction stacks. After a while, they took a short break to carefully roll out their rugs and pray. Nearby, a group of teens were working on a class presentation. They watched the two men curiously for a few seconds, then went back to their work without comment. I felt fortunate to be a part of this moment– to witness tolerance in action in this small gesture.

Last month’s book displays and library programs in celebration of African-American History Month demonstrate our long standing efforts to promote cultural awareness in our communities, and highlight our country’s path from slavery toward a more open and equitable society. As our youth population becomes more diverse, we have more opportunities to offer collections and services that best reflect our communities.

Dr. Carla Hayden’s nomination as Librarian of Congress, Simon & Schuster’s announcement of a new line of children’s and YA books featuring Muslim characters, and plans to offer more diversity-specific book sales flyers to schools are welcome changes. Meanwhile, The Future of Library Services for and with Teens highlights the dramatic shift in the demographics of our youth and the challenges they face. More than 16 million, or 1 in 5, live in poverty. African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely to drop out of school, and jobless rates for African-American and Hispanic youth are rising. The report indicates that our collections and services need to shift toward being centered on relationships, provide more access to educational and career resources, and continue to be mindful of the significance of our patrons’ racial, cultural, and social backgrounds in meeting our teens’ needs.

The current issue of Young Adult Library Services (YALS) Resource Roundup by Crystle Martin highlights several tools to assist with reaching diverse populations outside of the library.

For more information about diversity and equity of services, please see the ALA’s Diversity webpage, YALSAblog’s archived posts, and the following resources from YALSA: the Diversity Map, Cultural Competence and Serving Diverse Teens wikis, and the Teen Demographics Infographic.


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A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

Following up on his final State of the Union address, President Obama announced the “Computer Science for All Initiative.” In his weekly address on January 30th, Mr. Obama said that computer science is a “basic skill right along with the three R’s” that is vital for the 21st century economy. Details of the initiative include $4 billion in state funding and $100 million directly for local districts to provide training and support for increased access to computer science courses, particularly for girls and minorities. Libraries are already embracing the youth coding movement, but we have more work to do.

From programming with Ozobots and MaKey MaKey sets to hosting video game design competitions, school and public libraries are engaging teens in exciting ways to promote computer science skills. While it may seem daunting to offer coding classes for youth in your library, rethinking our role as co-learner and creating strategic partnerships will ensure successful learning outcomes. The Future of Library Services for and with Teens emphasizes that we are not expected to be experts nor keepers of information, but must learn to be comfortable working alongside teens to learn together. Meanwhile, libraries are partnering with their local CoderDojo, FIRST Robotics leagues, and makerspaces to connect STEM-based learning opportunities within their communities. Promoting outreach with women and minority-based groups such as Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code will support efforts to get more girls hooked into STEM and encourage young women to choose technical careers. As The Future of Library Services for and with Teens explains, when libraries embrace our role as both formal and informal learning environments, teens are able to develop 21st century skills, content knowledge, and expertise, engage in peer-supported learning, and connect with a broader community based on common interests. However, more needs to be done to widen our efforts.

In Linda Braun’s recent YALSAblog post, she says that annual events like CSEdWeek and the Hour of Code are great opportunities to celebrate coding in the community, but they need to be a part of something bigger. She asks “what if libraries and other formal and informal learning organizations focused on Hour of Code as a way to expand and enhance STEM learning and 21st Century Skill development and used the event as a way to celebrate that learning? Or, what if learning organizations participated in Hour of Code as a piece of a broader program focused on skill development and/or college and career readiness?”

How will your library answer the call?

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