Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Adapting Public Library Programs for Schools

In an environment where great emphasis is put on statistics like door count and program attendance, it is tempting for public library staff to view school counterparts either as competition, or conduits to promote our programs. A better approach to the numbers game is to collaborate together on programming, which can mean adapting public library programs for a school setting.

One example is the transformation of our annual Teen Read Week art contest into a passive program built around a collaborative display. This contest has been evolving year-by-year in an effort to find the elusive perfect formula, and remains a work in progress. Participation by a pair of local therapeutic private schools has traditionally been high, thanks to enthusiastic teachers. In an effort to encourage more in-library participation, this year it took the form of a month-long InkTober program. Pens and pads of sticky notes were placed around our teen space, while signs invited teens to contribute a drawing to the display each day. To include schools, I adapted the concept into a paper form that I sent out and then picked up at the end of the month. While there weren’t a huge number of entries, what we got made for a great display. Next year: large sheets of paper taped onto the tables and delivered to the schools, instead of the stickies.

inktober2Another example is our winter reading program for teens, during which students can earn points by visiting their school and public libraries, as well as reading. This came about after listening to a local high school librarian’s concerns over statistics. The reading log will follow the same basic concept as the bingo cards often used by libraries, but with only nine squares — like a tic-tac-toe board. Teens can earn a small prize for completing one three-square line, and a bigger prize for completing the whole board. Students will still be encouraged to read for pleasure, in fact I’ll be visiting at least one school for book talks (as well as promotion of the program). The talks will end with a reminder to visit both their school and public library to get help finding books they might enjoy. Signing off on the squares adds a little work for
library staff, but also adds a tally for their desk statistics and the real benefit: the opportunity for positive interaction with a young patron.
splc-committee-wordle-300x240Tips for Collaborating on Programs

  • Find the right partner; whether that’s a teacher, school librarian, or administrator.
  • Enhance rather than duplicate; if a school is already doing a similar program, ask how you can help.
  • Keep it simple; fit all the information people need to participate onto a single page.
  • Make it inclusive; consider the needs of schools that serve special populations.

 

Donna Block is Teen Services Librarian at Niles Public Library District, Illinois and a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

Anyone Can Do Science

Looking at the March 8 Astronomy Picture of the Day, Solar Eclipse Shoes in the Classroom, in preparation for this blog post brought back a vivid memory that I hadn’t thought about in years. Like the students in the photograph, I witnessed a partial solar eclipse in high school. We poked pinholes in sheets of paper to watch the sun’s projection change shape against a second sheet of paper without burning our eyes. Spots of sunlight filtering through the tree leaves shrunk to half circles, then banana slivers as the light took on a golden hue that was uncharacteristic for the middle of the day.

Any time I feel anxiety over science programming, it’s helpful to remember how easy it can be. It doesn’t need to involve something as amazing as an eclipse. It doesn’t even need to be “programming,” it could simply mean asking teens, “Hey look at this cool/weird/mysterious thing, any guesses what it is?” Over the past year, the teens that visit my library have been entertained by a chunk of evaporating dry ice, helium-filled balloons, Pop Rocks, and vegetable oil + water + food coloring + alka-seltzer tablets in a bottle.

Earth, as viewed from the Cassini spacecraft as it passed near Saturn. Neil deGgrasse Tyson displayed the image during his 2015 tour.

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, one of my science heroes, gives advice to children who want to know what they can do to help the earth. Explore things, he tells them, do fun things even when it might annoy your parents. His advice to adults is to get out of their way. Kids are naturally curious about the world, and adults have a responsibility to not suppress that curiosity. Bill Nye, another science hero, encourages people of all ages to ask questions about the world around them (with the disclaimer to be aware of social interactions while doing so).

Library staff generally take pride in answering patrons’ questions, and I think many of us feel anxiety over questions we don’t know how to answer. Instead of feeling anxious, we can encourage patrons’ natural curiosity by inviting them to make their own hypotheses, and introducing them to resources where they might find the answers.  Continue reading

February Is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Valentine’s Day is big business; between the candy and flower sales and Hamilton-themed cards, V-Day spending nationwide may top $13 billion. Libraries cater to their patrons with Valentines-themed programs including concerts, crafts and even anti-Valentine’s parties.

Rarely seen in public is anything calling attention to dating’s darker side, though February is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. According to a 2013 CDC survey, 1 in 10 teens reported being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past 12 months; additionally 1 in 10 reported being kissed, touched, or physically forced into sexual intercourse against their will by someone they were dating.

During meetings and training, like the recent in-service at my library, staff may discuss how to handle many different difficult situations. Abusive romantic relationships should be a part of the discussion. What warning signs can library staff look out for?

Here are a few types of dating violence from loveisrespect.org:

  • Physical: scratching, punching, throwing things, pushing and pulling
  • Emotional/Verbal: put-downs, yelling, blaming, threatening
  • Sexual: unwanted touching, pressuring, sexual insults
  • Financial: preventing from going to work, on-the-job harassment, giving presents with strings attached
  • Digital: pressure to send explicit messages, stealing passwords
  • Stalking: showing up unannounced, sending unwanted messages

Here are a few behaviors that victims of dating violence may exhibit:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Tobacco, drug and alcohol use
  • Antisocial behaviors
  • Thoughts about suicide

Teen staff can foster supportive library spaces, and make patrons aware that abuse is not tolerated. We can offer programs and materials on the differences between healthy and unhealthy dating relationships. If we witness abuse, we can report it to the police. If we encounter someone who may need help, we can refer them to local family services, as well as national hotlines such as RAINN.

For more information about Teen Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Rape check out the book list on The Hub.

 

Takeaways from Portland: YALSA15

imageI practically lived on coffee and doughnuts this past weekend at the YALSA Symposium in Portland. Not that I’m complaining; if you’re going to drink lots of coffee, Portland is the place to do it. I began my symposium experience with the Friday afternoon preconference Hip Hop Dance and Scratch: Facilitating Connected Learning in Libraries with the hope of gaining some programming ideas. I walked out three hours later with a newfound comfort-level using the program and, yes, concrete ideas for how to use it at my library. Having three hours allotted for experimenting, asking questions, and watching what other people created helped immensely.

At Teen Services without Borders, a panel of school and public librarians and an independent bookseller that discussed challenges and successful partnerships that cross library, departmental, and district lines. Boundaries can feel like brick walls when they prevent teens from accessing the library, and the panel members ultimately decided they needed to serve teens and not the rules, viewing themselves as part of the same community, not competitors. Tips they shared include: Give up your ego. Put kids first. Promote each other’s programs and services. Ask for help and keep trying until you find the right person. Finally, take a hard look at the rules – can any be broken?

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Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Collaborative Book Talks

As a public librarian, I’ve found that book talks for state-wide award list titles are a great opportunity to collaborate with school librarians, teachers, and staff at the beginning of each school year. Teaming up to promote the lists aligns with ALSC’s core competencies by collaborating with other agencies serving children (6.4) and the programming guidelines established from YALSA’s Future of Library Services report by engaging teens via outreach to schools (3.2) and developing rich, mutually beneficial partnerships between public libraries and schools (5.0).

Many states sponsor young readers’ choice awards that provide many benefits to young readers, such as the opportunity to discover and read books that they will enjoy. The lists typically include a diverse selection of genres and voices. Deciding on titles to vote for presents opportunities for open discussion among students, library staff, and teachers.

Students in Illinois are served from kindergarten through twelfth grade by four different awards, all sponsored by the Illinois School Library Media Association. As a teen librarian, I read and book talk the nominees for the Rebecca Caudill Book Award at two different middle schools. This list includes 20 titles, so sharing the book talking load with other librarians saves my time and voice. At one school we split the list 50/50 (top half/bottom half), while at the other we just agree to read as many as we can.

Book talking together helps us to learn book talking techniques from each other. I openly admit to memorizing the best, most interesting bits from other peoples’ book talks to use whenever I am book talking on my own. The diversity of the Caudill list means there are always a few titles that I love, and a few that just don’t appeal to me. I can’t fake enthusiasm for a book, but another person’s enthusiasm – whether it comes from listening to their book talk or talking with them between talks about what they like about the book – is often contagious. At the very least, I can truthfully tell students that I know another great reader who loved the book.

Finally, collaborative book talking is a fantastic opportunity to introduce students to staff from both school and public libraries, while supporting and promoting each other’s library collections. If a title is checked out at one library, then we can invite students seek it at the other.

Since we are always pressed for time, here are some time-saving techniques:

  1.   Arrange the books so that the students can see the covers, and let them choose what titles get talked.
  2.   Have a 30-second “elevator pitch” prepared for each book, so that you can cram any that aren’t picked into the last few minutes of your talk.
  3.   Ask the class whether they’ve read popular books on the list like Hunger Games or Cinder. If they have, then skip those and segue into a similar title: “If you liked that one, then you may like this one…”

Donna Block is a teen librarian at Niles (Ill.) Public Library District and a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

Posted originally: http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2015/09/gimme-a-c-for-collaboration-collaborative-book-talks/

Back To School: Afterschool DIY

DIY1Library staff see a diverse crowd of students after classes end each school day. There are over-worked students looking for a place to unwind or cram in homework before after-school activities and jobs. There are also wandering bands of restless teens who don’t seem to have anything in particular to do but make all the noises that weren’t allowed during the day. We don’t want to contribute to students’ stress by piling on more work, but do want to provide them with a productive outlet for all that pent up energy.

Free-form DIY projects can provide an experience that many teens need. Happily, a self-directed (a.k.a passive) afterschool craft program can also be pulled off with no advance preparation, simply by putting out a bucket of craft supplies and a pile of leftover paper with no instructions but to do with them whatever they want.   This frees up library staff to work with other teens who need/want your attention.  With some prep-work (such as buying a few basic supplies for the DIY school supply program pictured in this blog post) a simple theme can take shape. Continue reading

Back to School: Library Card = School Supply

smartestcardLibraries and schools across the country collaborate to promote library card sign-ups at the beginning of each school year. Annual efforts include blog posts, official proclamations, and lists of schools supplies sent out to parents. Last year, Philadelpha City Schools and Free Library merged databases to give nearly 100,000 students library cards. In April of this year, President Obama announced the ConnectED Library Challenge with the lofty goal of putting a public library card into the hand of every school student. As of August 5, nearly 50 communities had adopted the initiative.

Accomplishing this will be no easy task. When you live in an area (as I do) where one school district serves multiple library districts and vice versa, knowing where to go to get a public library card can be confusing. Unincorporated areas, which often aren’t served by any public library, compound this. At least one nearby library has mitigated that issue by signing contracts with local schools that allow students who live in the unincorporated areas to receive a card for use during the school year.

One neighboring community, Skokie, has adopted the ConnectED Library Challenge. The Village of Skokie is a northwest suburb of Chicago, and is home to a little over 64,000 people. The village straddles two different townships, and so public high school students attend one of two different districts. One township, Niles, is also home to a portion of the Village of Niles, which makes up a significant portion of the Niles Public Library District. Confused yet? Students from four different library districts all attend Niles Township High School District 219.

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App of the Week: Last Voyage

lastvoyageTitle: Last Voyage
Cost: $1.99; currently on sale for $0.99
Platform: iOS 7.0 or later

Last Voyage, by Semidome Inc., is an abstract puzzle game inspired by science fiction movies. It features hypnotic, minimalist graphics that often consist of simple geometric shapes; but also more cinematic scenes that pay homage to icons like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Black, white, and red are the dominant colors throughout, with occasional surprise appearances by blue and green. The pulsing, 40-minute original soundtrack adds immensely to the experience.

astral Told in five chapters that can be played individually, or moved through in order, it has been compared to other cinematic games such as Monument Valley and Lost Sounds. While Last Voyage doesn’t present a traditional narrative, the idea that you are embarking on a mind-bending journey through the depths of space is strong and ever-present. Each player is free to imagine their own reason for the journey, and their own interpretation for each chapter.

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30 Days of Teen Programming: Empowering Teens Through Theater

I can take no credit in the creation of my library’s longest-running teen-led program (teen programming guideline 3), and only a little for it’s continued existence since I took it over in 2007. Project Playbill is an intense, 5-week summer theater program. Teens meet together at the library three days a week to write, produce and perform an original short play. Besides the inherent value in their participation, we also entice them with volunteer service credit.

In 2008, My then-supervisor told me that I could cancel Playbill if more teens didn’t participate, because it sucks up a tremendous amount of time. In fact, because Playbill depends on teen leadership and labor to run, the fewer teens who show up, the more work I end up doing. That’s one of the reasons why no teen is ever turned away: you can’t host a teen-led program without teen participation. For the first couple of years I ran it, attendance hovered around five teens. I seriously considered putting Playbill out of its misery.

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