I'm a snarky youth services librarian. I like listening, being useful, and snacking.

My ALA Midwinter 2016 Experience

I just attended my first ALA conference and it was awesome.

I have heard many things about what to expect. Wear comfortable shoes, they said. Bring business cards, they said. Most of the meetings will be closed door, they said. Some of the things they said were right (seriously…who wants to walk around for 8 hours in cute new shoes that pinch the sides of your feet!..), but nothing prepared me for the magic that is Midwinter.

Like most Midwinter neophytes, I didn’t know what to expect, so I arrived bright and bushy tailed to the hotel at 7:30am sharp. I could not check into my room, so I left my bags with the hotel staff, and ubered my way over to the Boston Convention and Conference Center. (For those of you who cabbed your way around Boston, I would highly suggest you invest in the free Uber app. Most of my rides around the city did not cost me more than $6, some as little as $3.)

I arrived at the Conference Center to find that the exhibits were still being put together, and that I was late to all of the lectures that started at 8am. In hindsight, I could have just sat in, but I didn’t know if I needed a ticket. Is it okay to walk in late? Would I embarrass myself in front of my peers? Would I be asked to leave? Instead of tackling these hard questions straight on I decided on the very safe, unintrusive, and foodie-pleasing decision to register, find a coffee shop, and read the Midwinter guide over a hot cup of Joe and a cheese danish.

The guide was very helpful. It was delightfully color coordinated, included start and end times of lectures, events, and meetings, and provided a legend that had information on whether events were ticketed, closed, or open to registrants. I highlighted everything that looked of interest to me – which was half the book, so I marked it up to a fairly unrecognizable degree. And then I discovered there is an app.

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Instagram of the Week – December 7

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

Last week marked the end of Nanowrimo. In case you haven’t heard of Nanowrimo it is a writing challenge with a name comprised of the condensed words: National November Writing Month. This annual call to write has swelled to include more than 53,000 writers from 6 of 7 continents. This challenge attracts big named published authors like Rainbow Rowell and Carrie Ryan. Fangirl by Rowell is a Nanowrimo book. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan…that’s a Nanowrimo book too. Nanowrimo churns out a fair number of YA literature every year and attracts more and more young adults as participants each year. Since 2005, Nanowrimo has been hosting YWP – Young Writer’s Program – for students in grades K – 12. When users turn 18, they are directed to the main site, where the word requirements jump from 30,000 for the month to 50,000.

As we all know (and to the lament of Nanwrimo writers across the United States), with the end of November comes Thanksgiving and Black Friday. So in the midst of basting turkeys, Walmart brawls, football games and #ThanksgivingClapback dinner conversations, Nanowrimo writers continued to write – and guess what? Many of them actually finished, and then they did something even more awesome — they posted their experiences on Instagram! Nanowrimo writers posted quotes that inspired them, strategies for rising to the challenge, pictures of laptops, and furry writing buddies. There were lots and lots of pictures with coffee! Coffee with swirls, coffee in cute bookish mugs, coffee next to laptops, and then next to laptops and furry writing buddies… There were lots of pictures of food! My goodness, are Nanowrimo writers foodies or what!?

If you missed this year, get inspired for next year, or catch the motivation to start your own writing club. You could give your youth a monthly word challenge! Make it something fun with just a pinch of challenge! Empower your teens. Let them tell their stories, and maybe let them explore ways they can publish their work. Page 3 of the Future of Libraries for and with Teens report states:

“Now is the time for public and school libraries to determine how they can contribute to solving and alleviating the issues and problems that negatively impact teens. Cultural competence preparation for future and current school and public library and information professionals is one place where these issues can and should logically be addressed since many of the statistics cited above stem from structural issues such as institutional racism, classism, and sexism. However, research suggests that some LIS students feel ill-prepared to deliver this kind of culturally competent library service upon graduation. Cultural competence has to do with recognizing the significance of culture in one’s own life and in the lives of others; and to come to know and respect diverse cultural backgrounds and characteristics through interaction with individuals from diverse linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic groups; and to fully integrate the culture of diverse groups into services, work, and institutions in order to enhance the lives of both those being served by the library profession and those engaged in service.”

By empowering your teens to tell their own stories, to start something and see it through to the end. Teaching teens to navigate the process of editing and publishing their own written work fills the cultural competency void, but it also seeks to narrow the #WeNeedDiverseBooks gap. Nanowrimo writers posted memes about the healing power of writing in fighting suicidal ideation and depression. They posted happy face selfies – the seal of empowerment for having met their literary goals for the month against school/work demands, against #ThanksgivingClapback, and family/home obligations. Page 3 of the Future of Libraries for and with Teens report also states:

Accordingly, preparing young adults for the workforce is a major concern in the United States. In the last three decades, the skills required for young adults to succeed in the workforce have changed drastically, but the skills emphasized in schools have not kept up with these changes.34 This has led to a widespread concern that young adults lack the necessary skills for job success and are entering the workforce unprepared. Several recent studies, including Workforce Preparation in the Context of Youth Development Organization35 and Literacy Skills and Self-Views of Ability among First Year College Students,36 have documented this skills gap. Now is the time for school and public libraries to reimagine themselves as 21st-century learning spaces.

Writing is a critical skill quickly being eroded in the age of text, tweets, and emoticons. Nanowrimo is a way for young adults to express themselves in a connected learning environment where they are able to say what they want to say in their own voice. Which brings us to our next point that can be found on page 8 of the Future of Library Services for and with Teens report:

At the heart of connected learning is the idea that young people learn best when that learning is connected to their passions, desires, and interests. This focus correlates strongly with the learning ecosystem and learning needs of the teen of 2020 that Rainie described in his summit presentation. As noted in the CLRN report: The connected learning model posits that by focusing educational attention on the links between different spheres of learning—peer culture, interests and academic subjects—we can better support interest-driven and meaningful learning in ways that take advantage of the democratizing potential of digital networks and online resources.

Having said that, enjoy this homage to the final week of Nanowrimo, and if your library participated in youth writer’s circles and posted on Instagram, maybe you’ll see yourself and hopefully you’ll be inspired to participate next year.

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Instagram of the Week – October 5

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

On page 8 of YALSA’s The Future of Library Services for and with Teens it says, “… in many communities, opportunities for teens to connect to libraries is primarily limited to school-related work and activities. They use school and public libraries for homework and school-related research, but prospects for engagement beyond that are often lacking. This lack of engagement results in fewer opportunities for teens to connect to resources that support their personal independent growth—resources that allow them to explore their passions, connect with others who share their interests, and turn their learning into ‘academic achievement, career possibilities, or civic engagement.’”

After a week-long celebration of the freedom to read, it is sobering to think that in many libraries around the country library services for teens is reduced to school-related research, and the freedom to explore interests and have FUN is seen as a burden on staff and library resources. This is often a very real reality for vulnerable teens in communities were access to the internet, technology, and creative space is very limited. WE must keep in mind that we are advocates for teens, and that although school-realted research is important, so is FUN!!! We must continue to be champions for young adults and facilitate spaces that are engaging, inspiring, and serve as incubators for connected learning. How are you facilitating fun in your library? Here are a few of the best examples on Instagram of libraries having pure unadulterated FUN this week! Enjoy!

Instagram of the Week – September 6

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

Incorporating 21st century technology practices and presence in your library is a critical way to engage young adults and be at the forefront of introducing programs to enhance experiential and connected learning. Most librarians have at least heard of makerspaces, if they haven’t already incorporated them into their library programming. Staying on the cutting edge, having adequate space, and staying relevant are very real challenges that librarians and library workers face in facilitating makerspaces for young adults.

Makerspaces can include a wide variety of activities and ways to breed a variety of mediums. Makerspaces allow students to blend their interests while gaining critical skills that could translate into the workforce. Is your makerspace incorporating best practices as outlined in The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action? Are you considering the demographics of you community in an effort to engage the diverse populations of your community? Are you thinking outside the box and incorporating techniques and tools you haven’t tried? Check out these makerspaces from this week, and the next time you host a makey makey event, be sure to post it to your library’s Instagram or other social media page to advertise to your teens!

Instagram of the Week – August 3

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

Summer is the season of fun! As July came to a close, many libraries continued to rock out this summer with awesome programming, displays, and good humor. How are you beating the heat and maxing out on fun this summer? Take a peek at these libraries and how they are enjoying their summer under the hashtag #libraryfun.

Instagram of the Week – July 6

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.
This week our nation celebrated her 239 year of Independence. Social media was full of flags, with Instagram as no exception. Whether it was debates over flags, patriotism, or celebrations of pride, there was no shortage of flags – particularly book flags! Check out the best Red white and blue and rainbow flags that filled timelines and tongues with beauty as well as book titles to add to your TBR list! Check out these awesome bookflags, and note the awesome YA titles!

Instagram of the Week – June 1

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

Book Expo of America kicked off on Tuesday May 26 and concluded on May 29.  This year’s expo was a “who’s who” of the publishing and library industries, and everyone from Al Roker to James Patterson was in attendance.The annual showcase proved eventful, and Instagram was full of amazing pictures capturing the excitement. If you didn’t get a chance to go to the expo – here’s what you missed! If you’d like to attend next year’s expo, it will be held in Chicago at the McCormick Place on Wednesday May 11 through May 16, 2016.

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