As Teen Services Coordinator for a large public library system, outreach has always been a significant part of my job. Most of this outreach takes place in our middle and high schools (there are roughly 132 in our service area). We partner with local schools for all sorts of events: booktalking, info lit workshops, early lit seminars for teen parents, back to school nights, and career days. When times were good, we had the staffing to accommodate nearly all requests from schools.
But times are not good. Our staff numbers are down; we’re cutting back in all aspects of service, and outreach is not immune. So the question becomes, where do we make the cuts? Which services survive? How can we get the most return on our investment? And, how do we measure the success of our current programs?
I think it’s important to consider several benchmarks of success when partnering with schools. We often look to the number of new library users we sign up, or the rise in circs on the items we booktalk. While those are valuable statistics, I think there is also value in the qualitative. Creating and maintaining good working relationships with school staff; reminding busy teens with a friendly face that the public library is an option; taking advantage of a built-in focus group to ask teens who don’t use the library how we can serve them best. What are we getting out of these programs that ultimately make us better librarians?
I don’t know what the right answers are. For my library, it seemed most vital to continue working with 9th graders as they begin high school. But, that meant that our middle school outreach was cut. We continue to take special requests on as they come in: when schedules allow, we accept; most we must decline.
And while I don’t know what the right answers are for each library system, I do know this: in a time when every dime is accounted for and each service evaluated by the numbers it can generate, we need to be aware of what we are losing from the programs we cut.
Yesterday I, along with my fellow task force members, presented our final proposal to the YALSA board. Over the last year, the YALSA-TV Task force has been charged with finding a way to host a video site with books as the star.
Here’s what we proposed: that a sister site to this very blog be created with a focus on books. We’d highlight awards and selection lists, and create booklists based on librarians’ suggestions. But even more exciting to me is that we would gather book videos from other places such as YouTube and Teacher Tube, and get book trailers directly from publishers. Other book-related videos too: everything from award ceremonies to your local Battle of the Books competition. Imagine, a definitive source for finding all you need about books — and it’s sponsored by YALSA!
So, the Board approved the proposal, with some minor changes. And here’s something you all can help with: we need a name. A really great name that encapsulates everything I’ve said here. Someplace librarians and teens would want to visit, contribute to, and refer to their friends.
For years, my library’s relationship with street lit has been tentative. Supporting & providing street lit isn’t necessarily the issue: the issue is, does it belong in the teen or adult section? Or both? Along with this question comes a slew of potential implications.
My personal take on it is that in an ideal world, street lit would be available in both collections. But we all know that, especially with so many budgets being slashed, this is not an ideal world. When I proposed to my library’s Teen Selection Committee that we purchase street lit for the teen section (currently being housed in adult), the consensus from the teen librarians was that if it’s in adult, they’ll still be able to find it, and plenty of adults ask for those titles too. I got the sense from most of them that while they fully supported the books in the library, they felt uncomfortable with the idea that they’d be the ones left to justify their existence in their teen sections to unhappy patrons. What we decided from there was to continue to supplement the street lit collection with our funds but assign them to the adult collection, along with creating a booklist to lead teens there. (more…)
As chair of the YALSA-TV Task Force I’m often asked, what exactly is YALSA-TV? A great question, and one that our task force is trying to answer. It’s our charge to present to the YALSA Board a fully-outlined proposal to create and facilitate a web-based, book-focused, video site for teens. Like YouTube, but all about books (for now, anyway!).
Right now, the idea is like Play-doh: we sculpt it into one form, then change it into another. Many factors will be determined by cost, ease of use, and appeal to teens. We are really excited about this venture and hope that you will be, too. (more…)
Going to conferences inspire me. Hearing about the fantastic things other libraries are doing, then getting together with my colleagues to exchange these tidbits over dinner is one of my favorite parts about the conference experience.
“How awesome is this?”
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that?”
While I’m always flooded with new ideas, it seems like every year there’s a stand-out message or theme that sticks with me…one that inspires me enough to become my mission. Last year it was gaming (flash forward one year later: we offer video game programs in most of our 34 branches and will—fingers crossed—be implementing our circulating collection this fall).
This year, it’s a little loftier, a little harder to measure. The word that kept resonating with me this conference was innovation. Burned brightest into my brain: innovation happens in times of crisis. I know that many libraries right now are experiencing crisis due to budget woes, and we are no exception: while we’re more fortunate than some, we are feeling the familiar belt-tightening that I’m sure many of you are.
So, this is my thing. Innovation. It’s time to get creative, find ways to get things done in unorthodox ways. Open my mind to outlandish suggestions and abandon those tired practices that just aren’t working. I’m thinking this will keep me busy for a while.
What’s your thing?