Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Book Clubs with Heart

Collaboration. In theory, an easy concept. As a school librarian, I understand the importance of collaborating with my public librarians, and I try my best. But if you are anything like me, sometimes knowing what you should do and actually being able to execute it are two totally different things.

When it came time to think of a topic to write about for this collaboration-themed post, I immediately thought of the program that is run jointly by Mira Johnson, the HS librarian in my district and Penny Kelley, our YA librarian at the public library. I thought I’d interview them about the program, the work involved, and the benefits and challenges.

Tell me about the book club:

We run a book discussion program with students in grades 5 to 7 based on the Jane Addams Peace Association’s book awards. These are “given annually to the children’s books published the preceding year that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence.” After reading and talking about the books together, we took a trip into New York City to attend the awards ceremony. We listened to the authors and illustrators make speeches and then we got to talk to them ourselves. We hold meetings at both libraries and we’ve made presentations about our club to the Board of Education, the Friends of the Library, the PTA, and other grade levels in the district.  

Where did the idea to start a book club focused on a book award come from and how did you decide to work together?

Penny’s been involved with the Jane Addams Peace Association for many years, and she always thought the ceremony would be great to bring kids to. Also, the books are always so good, and full of so many things to talk about. When she mentioned it to me, I said, yes, let’s go for it.

Because our community is so small, we decided to collaborate for some programs, so we wouldn’t compete for the same kids’ very limited time. Also, sometimes a school can be a more captive audience. We took advantage of this when we brought the JAB club to the high school’s public speaking class for practice on their presentation. That was a magical collaboration.

What challenges did you face?

Sometimes there was confusion over which library we’re meeting at, or slightly different equipment/WiFi in a different space. I think the kids got used to our different teaching styles and accommodated well. I also think it’s a good bridge—they get to see school and public libraries working together and see how we’re both working toward the same big goals!

The biggest challenge was probably getting approval from the school to miss school on a Friday. Also coordinating the permission slips was a little tricky. Technically, it was officially a public library trip, but because it was a school day, the school still needed copies of the permission slips, etc.

What has the response from the kids been?

I think they really get a lot out of it. The first year, we also visited the UN, and, although that made for an exhausting trip (!), they really “got” the ideas of peace and social justice that the Jane Addams Peace Association is all about. They connected the books to the art that’s all over the UN and the things the guide was saying as well.

Have you noticed an impact with the students because of the collaboration?

We now have a “social justice” vocabulary, a small collection of shared books in our brains, and some really fun, moving experiences. It’s such a great experience to meet and hear from authors and illustrators that you’ve met through their work.

Melissa McBride is a school librarian in Southold, NY. She is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation and the YALSA Board of Directors. You can follow her on Twitter @SESLibraryLand.

Community Engagement, Workforce Development, and the Oboe

This post was originally published as a monthly reflection by Future Ready with the Library cohort member Hannah Buckland.

From last February through this February, I participated in the Native Community Development Institute (NCDI), an opportunity organized by the Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP). Three northern MN tribes each appointed seven-member teams, and MHP supported each team in planning a community-based project of our choice. The Leech Lake team–with representatives from K-12 education, telecom, HR, gaming, housing, planning, and the library–selected the huge task of building a workforce development center. Over the year, MHP guided our work through six in-person, two-day NCDI workshops where we learned about project management, leadership, partnerships, policy advocacy, and community engagement. When I first read the call for Future Ready applicants, I immediately connected these two projects.

Future Ready has us viewing community engagement from the perspective of librarians; however, for a sliver of time each week, I’m not a librarian but rather a person living in Bemidji, Minnesota. During this time, personally, community engagement happens through music, specifically through playing the oboe in a community concert band. When I first began playing at age ten, a band director told me that to form a proper embouchure, I should whisper the word “home” and close my mouth around the reed just as I reached the M sound, lips curling softly over teeth. I spent years teaching myself oboe, sitting on my bedroom floor with method books (ILL-ed through my public library before I knew what ILL was), awkwardly and repeatedly whispering “home” until muscle memory finally took hold. After high school band ended, I joined my first community band and have found one everywhere I’ve lived since. Without music, I’m not sure how I would create my sense of community, of home. Continue reading

ALA Annual Visit: Nature and Outdoor Fun

Chicago is a beautiful place in the summertime. After a long, cold (although in this year’s case not so snowy) winter the city comes alive. The cultural, cuisine, and sports attractions are all wonderful ways to pass a summer day, but it would be a shame to visit this city without also taking advantage of what nature has to offer.

Of course, the largest natural feature of the Chicagoland area is the Lake Michigan shoreline. On a warm day hitting the beach is a great option. North Avenue Beach, right on Lake Shore Drive, is a popular destination. With amenities like jetski, bike, and kayak rentals, volleyball courts, lockers, as well as concessions, there is something for everyone. The beach’s most iconic feature is the beach house, a blue and white building, built to look like an ocean liner.

North Avenue Beach

Also on Lake Shore Drive, but a little closer to downtown is Oak Street Beach. With great views of the city skyline and all the amenities of concession and rental, it does tend to be a little more crowded on hot days and there is only street parking. Farther south is Montrose Beach, another wonderful place to while away a summer day. A unique feature of this beach is a bird sanctuary. Over 300 species have been sighted there with early morning being the best time for bird watching. But, anytime of day the meadow and dunes is a peaceful contrast to the manicured park and busy city that surrounds.

For those who wish for a less sandy outdoor experience the Lincoln Park Conservatory is not to be missed. There are multiple display rooms within a Victorian style glass conservatory as well as beautiful surrounding gardens. Part of this large complex, that is attached to the Lincoln Park Zoo, is a hidden lily pond. Called the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, there is a stone walkway with prairie-style architectural structures, a pavilion, council ring, lots of shady trees, it’s a sanctuary in the midst of a bustling city.

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

The Chicago River is a natural feature nestled right in the middle of a cityscape that also offers opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Take a boat architecture tour led by Chicago Architecture Foundation docents. For those who desire more adventure, book a tour (the Ghosts and Gangsters of Hustlertown is one example) with Wateriders, or simply rent a kayak and paddle at your own pace.

However you choose to spend your time in Chicago, remember that even in the midst of the crowd and concrete of the city there are still opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and find some refuge in the more natural world.

Bridget Farrell is a middle school librarian in a northern suburb of Chicago.

Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Collaborating on a Mini-Con

SPLC WordleThe annual Comic-Con in San Diego is a juggernaut that everyone looks forward to. Photos of celebrity sightings, interview snippets, and panel videos dominate the web during the event. And Comic-Con isn’t about just comics anymore of course – it’s about books, movies, graphic novels and all things pop culture in general. So what about those of us nowhere near San Diego? You DIY your own!

Hosting your own Comic-Con provides a great event for patrons of all ages to express themselves, meet with other pop culture fans, and learn about new characters and fandoms. Mini conventions are also a great way for public libraries and school libraries to…you guessed it…collaborate! Co-hosting an event of this size can allow for multiple spaces for more activities and panels, and provides opportunities for guests to meet people they don’t already interact with on a regular basis. So what steps should you take first?

Assemble Your Team
Hosting a mini-con is a big undertaking. Collaborating on one means you’ll have more people on your team of leaders and planners. Make sure to involve representatives from all entities involved. Consider a panel of tweens and teens also – they’re often more in-tune with current trends. Host a contest among local schools for your poster artwork.

Create a Schedule
First, think about all the cool stuff that conventions feature like discussion panels, mixers, contests, artist alleys, etc. How can you recreate them? Depending on the size of your event, start brainstorming early enough so you have time to contact possible artists, panel members, and other participants. You’ll also need to book any spaces that are being used. And make sure to promote well in advance so people can clear their schedule and create their costume!

Get Social
You’ve got a Facebook account, Twitter account, Instagram, and more. Use them to promote, promote, promote! On the day of the event don’t be afraid to Periscope or Facebook Live stream your event. Just be sure to let everyone know they’re on camera. And because you’ll attract new patrons, keep a sign-in sheet around for people to register their email address and social media handle so you can keep them in the loop on future library events.

Beyond Library Collaboration
Collaboration between school and public libraries is key, but don’t forget to involve the many other resources in your community. Wouldn’t it be cool if your mini-con had a panel at a local comic book store, or an art gallery hosted an art show as part of your event? What about a “Romance in YA” panel at the public library hosted by book club students from a local high school? Contact any bookstores in your area, and ask other local businesses to donate or sponsor prizes. Groups like Rotary or your Chamber of Commerce may be able to recruit adult volunteers.

Have you hosted a mini-con at your library? Do you have suggestions for more ways to collaborate? Let us know in the comments below!

Shanna Miles is a school librarian and author in Atlanta, Georgia and a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation. You can follow her on Twitter at @srmilesauthor.com. 

Teen Tech Week Maker Cart

The White Oak Library Disctrict wanted to buy our own Maker Cart, but our funding was cut due to the Illinois state budget crisis. We were lucky enough to receive the Teen Tech Week Grant from YALSA and Best Buy; we would not have been able to afford the Maker Cart without the YALSA grant. We used the money to build Maker Carts for our Crest Hill, Lockport and Romeoville Branches.

Our Maker Cart contains an Ozobot, a Makey Makey Standard Kit, a Da Vinci Catapult Hydraulics DIY Wood Kit, Lie Detector Kit and Fold n’ Fly Paper Airplane Kit. We also purchased a Neutab tablet that we are loading with science apps that the teens can learn from.

We wanted to focus this grant on serving homeschooled teens, and teens from low-income areas – teens that might not have access to STEM-based resources. Our Crest Hill and Lockport branches have growing home school populations we have been trying to reach. We give them access to technology they would not be able to afford and help them become more prepared for college. Our Romeoville branch is surrounded by five schools where over 60% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunches. We run a lunch program during the summer to make sure our children and teens are getting meals.

Our goal was to get teens to recognize the library as a place of learning and fun, without out-of-pocket costs. The item that I am personally most excited about is the Ozobot, which teaches coding through drawing. The teens will create their own tracks for the Ozobot to follow; it will be a challenge to see how far they can make the Ozobot go.

We demoed the Maker Cart at our first annual STEMFEST on March 4th at our Romeoville Branch – a whole day centered around STEM. We had a variety of science presenters come and talk about science.

We will be having a Teen Tech Week Edition of Teen Advisory Group where will be showing the carts off and asking for their input on what apps we should add to the tablet and what type of future kits they would like to work on as a group.  We also plan on doing a few science kits with the teens who attend TAG. We hope these carts will make science more than just something they learn at school, but also something they enjoy.

Cindy Shutts is the teen librarian at the Romeoville Branch at White Oak Library District. She loves spending time with her cocker spaniel Harry Winston and is currently reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Teens, Autonomy and TTW

Think back to when you were a teenager- no matter how long ago that was.  You probably remember fights with your parents over curfews and independence.  You wanted autonomy.  This still holds true today. One thing we routinely hear from our Teen Advisory Board is that they want to be involved, they want leadership opportunities and responsibilities.  They want to be involved in planning and implementing programs for younger children and they want to help with summer reading events for small children.  This inspired us in planning for Teen Tech Week.

Our library has wanted to hold a workshop on smartphone photography for adults and seniors.  However, the planning  of this workshop had stalled until the opportunity for Teen Tech Week came about.  What better way to give teens leadership and responsibility than by inviting them to help us plan and implement this workshop.  Teens often have technology experience and skills far beyond those of adults, so it is only natural to incorporate them into the design of this workshop.  Teens are invited to help us brainstorm a workshop to help adults learn to take quality photos with their smartphones and how to share the photos electronically.  We hope to discuss basic photography skills such as focus, zoom and basic composition as well as popular apps for editing and sharing photos.  In conjunction with this activity, teens are invited to participate in a photo contest.

Continuing the theme of utilizing teens’ skills and experience as well as their desire for leadership and independence, we are going to invite them for a discussion on what it means to be a responsible digital citizen.  Library staff will lead and guide a discussion on protecting your personal data online, and controlling your digital footprint.  We also hope to incorporate “fake news” and current events into this discussion.  Teens will then have the opportunity to create library displays, an educational bulletin board or other informational materials to share this knowledge with the community.  Again, this allows teens to creatively share their knowledge with a wider audience.  Along with this program, we will ask teens and tweens to create anti-cyberbullying posters for the library.  This will allow teens to inform younger children about how to protect themselves online, and how to stand up to cyberbullying.

Lastly, it was our goal in planning Teen Tech Week that we encourage young women in technology and other STEM studies.  We have partnered with a local college’s Women’s Engineering Club.  The club will provide hands on activities such as Makey Makey and Lego Robotics in addition to the library’s Ozobots, 3Doodlers and circuit stickers. Giving teens hands on experiences with fun technology is important.  But we also wanted to provide role models, particularly to girls.

Our plans for Teen Tech Week look to meet our teens’ needs by providing them with opportunities to share their knowledge, build their leadership skills, and foster a library environment for teens that promotes respect.   This year’s Teen Tech Week slogan, “Be the Source of Change” implores libraries to be sources of positive change, starting with our teens.  What better way to do that by giving them autonomy.

Melanie Miller is the Director of the Alfred Box of Books Library located in Alfred, NY, a recipient of YALSA’s Teen Tech Week 2017 Grant.

Start Writing for YALSA

 

One of the things I love most about YALSA is that it brings together librarians of all different backgrounds and experiences with a common goal to serve teens better. But in such a large and diverse organization, how can we access each other’s ideas, experiences, and insights? One great way to to write for YALSA.

By writing for YALSA – a blog post, a journal article, or even a book – you do a great service to your fellow librarians. As chair of the Publications Advisory Board, I have read a lot of writing in YALSA publications and I am impressed by how much I learn and how it expands my professional and personal view. Having a wide range of writers sharing their experiences helps YALSA readers to continue to refresh their views and innovate in their communities. That’s why we need you to write for YALSA.

It might seem like a mysterious process, but the Publications Advisory Board is here to help demystify it all. Members of the board will be writing blog posts over the coming months to walk you through the how and why of writing for YALSA. We’ll start here with a few tips for getting started.

Think big or small

With so many publication options, YALSA members have the option of going big – like writing an entire book – or small – submitting one or more blog posts. You can write one piece and be done or you can establish yourself as a more regular contributor.

Get in touch with the Publications Advisory Board

Contact me, another Publication Advisory Board board member, or Anna Lam at ALA with the type of writing you are interested in doing and we can connect you with the right people.

Don’t be intimidated

You don’t have to know someone or be a library scholar to get into writing for YALSA. You just have to take the first steps to making your interest known. We are waiting to hear from you.

Encourage others

If writing for YALSA is not for you, spread the word to your friends and colleagues who might be interested. You know interesting people. We want to know them and their expertise too!

Check back on the YALSA blog in the coming months for more posts from our board members on how to publish your writing with YALSA or read through our 50 Tips for Writing and Publishing with YALSA. We hope to hear from you soon.

Amanda Bressler is the Supervisor of Youth Services for the Newton Free Library (MA) and has written for YALSA blog and YALS.

TTW Grant Winner: VR @ the Library

For this year’s Teen Tech Week, the Willmar Public Library will be implementing a virtual reality (VR) program for teens.  Through YALSA’s Teen Tech Week Grant, the library was able to purchase an HTC Vive, green screens, and several Steam apps for teens to test out.

VR @ the Library will be a two-part program.  On the first day, members of the library’s Teen Advisory Board (TAB) will teach their peers about VR and show them how to use several Steam VR apps.  The teens will then get to choose which VR app they would like to try and each of them will get to take a turn in using the equipment.  For the second, four-hour program, twelve registered teens will get twenty minutes each to test out the app(s) of their choice.

Through this program, the library hopes to give teens the opportunity to experience, learn and create with the Steam VR apps Job Simulator, Tilt Brush, Sound Stage, The VR Museum of Fine Art, and Google Earth VR.  TAB members selected these apps for their universal appeal and  potential to provide quality educational experiences: Job Simulator allows teens to try out four different jobs that were available before the fictional robot apocalypse, giving them a taste of what life could be like in their future careers, albeit with a humorous twist; Tilt Brush allows teens to create their own virtual world with the touch of a brush, allowing them to express themselves creatively; Sound Stage lets teens become their own DJ, making and manipulating music to create their own sound; The VR Museum of Fine Art allows teens to browse through a museum of real life art and learn about the history of each piece; and Google Earth VR lets teens travel to and explore places around the world that they may not otherwise have the chance to visit.

To prepare for the program, TAB members will install and test out the VR equipment and software to get a better idea of what the VR apps can do, what age range each app is suitable for, and estimate how much time it will take for a person to complete an activity in each of the apps.  The teens will use this experience to help set up the equipment on the day of the program and to help their peers use the apps if they are not sure what to do.

The library hopes that this program will provide a fun and safe environment for teens to explore VR technology together, while still having a quality educational experience.  The library also hopes that this VR experience will make teens feel more comfortable with using new technology and inspire them to try out other new technologies as well.

The impact and success of this program will be measured through the number of participants as well as by the teens’ evaluations after both programs and at the monthly TAB meeting. 

By the end of the program, the library expects that teens will:

  • have developed a basic understanding of VR
  • be comfortable with using VR equipment and at least one VR app
  • be able to teach their peers to use VR equipment and at least one VR app
  • feel that they have learned skills that can be applied to other areas of technology and life
  • express an interest in learning to use a new technology
  • feel comfortable approaching and learning a new technology

Evaluations will be assessed by the TAB, teen services librarian and head librarian.  The library would like to use the evaluations to plan subsequent VR programming at the library that reflects the interests and needs of the teens who attended this program.

The teens have been talking about implementing VR programming since early last year and are so excited to get started during Teen Tech Week.  Thank you again to YALSA for making this programming possible.

Emily Sovell is the Teen/Young Adult Services Librarian at Willmar Public Library.  The Willmar Public Library is the largest of a 32-library consortium, which is part of the Pioneerland Library System.  Willmar is located 90 miles west of Minneapolis/St. Paul, in West Central Minnesota.

ALA Annual Visit: Mag Mile

There was a time when shopping wasn’t important to me. Arguably, these were simpler times. Certainly, these were more financially sound times. Then I found the most glorious pair of runners and the most wonderful, knitted necktie and something of a monster was created.

Yes, it all occurred in Chicago, walking down the magnificent mile. This blogger is quite certain that you can find your favorite stores with ease (see: your smartphone) so I’m going to take a moment to focus on some locations that might be a bit lesser known to you. If you haven’t heard of the following, you should give them a shot to be sure!

First, obviously I should tell you where I found that necktie and those shoes. After all, the last time Annual was in Chicago it was Khaled Hosseini who was heard (admittedly, only to me) exclaiming, “hey, nice tie!” upon my approach in his autograph line. Topshop is just the place to get quirky clothing at reasonable prices.

Located immediately across from Water Tower Place in the 800 block of Michigan Avenue, Topshop provides a floor for women and a floor for men (appropriately called Topman as if it were a different store altogether. It isn’t.). There’s almost always a sale and students get an extra 10-20% off depending on the day! With the flagship store in London, you’re sure to find trendy items that you must have because, let’s face it, the British are VERY posh. Speaking of Water Tower Place, if you haven’t been, you should cross the street and take in the stores there too, most notably The Art of Dr. Seuss. It’s amazing!

Incidentally, if you start at these locations (take a bus, even), then you can hit everything else on your way back to McCormick Place. The Disney Store is tons of fun, of course, and, I feel you must stop in the Burberry store if only to say you’ve been. It’s incredible! OK so apparently I have a soft spot for British attire.

I would also like to mention the Nordstrom’s mall in the 500 block of Michigan. Not for Nordstrom’s, per se. Though it is a fine store, to be sure. But how often do you get to visit a Swatch store?! It’s a small location but Swatches are amazing and my collection seems to grow every time I make a visit, “just to look and see what’s new” (pictured is my fancy new Mika Swatch, for example). This mall also has a Kiehl’s store eager to provide all sorts of dermatological samples. They hooked me; their face wash is fantastic.

Mika watch

Yes, I blame the Windy City for many of my addictions. It’s where I met Chuck Palahniuk and fell in love with reading. And it’s obviously the place to shop. Just, one of these addictions may be more career-oriented than the other. I don’t know, #librarianwardrobe, anyone?

 

Joel Shoemaker was on the 2017 Stonewall Book Awards Committee for Youth and serves on the 2018 Stonewall Book Awards Committee for Adults. He is the Library Director for Oakwood Public Library District (Ill.) and has been a magician for more than twenty-five years.

5 Reasons to Write for YALSA

 

While writing this post, I admit to thinking about my own reasons for wanting my thoughts and ideas to grace a blog that wholeheartedly support the learning and professional development of library staff who work with teen populations. My personal reasons for wanting to blog include the desire to connect with readers, to have them nod as they read and consider that my thoughts have merit. I believe that all of us have ideas and thoughts that have value, maybe even more so to our readers than ourselves. I have decided to list five reasons to write for YALSA in the order that appeals most to me. Here are 5 reasons to consider writing for YALSA:

  1. Giving back – We are fortunate to work in a profession that supports our learning needs and gives us ample opportunity to have a voice. Now is our opportunity to give something back to an organization that has done and continues to do so much for us, by contributing to the collective with our own words.
  2. We have unique expertise – What projects have you worked on that you would like to share with the library community? Maybe you are starting a new trend, maybe you are a master of digital literacy or summer learning or creating an engaging space that teens want to utilize. If so, please share your experiences with the library community. They are waiting to hear from you.
  3. Sharing information is what we do – On a daily basis you provide information to others based on their interests and needs. This is no different. Think of the YALSA community as an oversized patron wanting to know what ways we can better engage and serve the teen audience. Undoubtedly, you have knowledge on how this is done in your community. Why not share it?
  4. You gain YALSA support and connections – By writing for an inclusive organization, you gain access to resources YALSA provides and contacts within the organization. You also receive the backing and assistance of the Publications Advisory Board, whenever you may need it.
  5. Get your name out there – Writing for YALSA is a great way to get your name out there as a leader in the field of teen services. More colleagues and library staff will be asking for your opinion. Blogging is also a gateway to staying active in the library community and proposing session or poster ideas for conferences or assisting on a webinar panel.

Ultimately, you can contribute unique expertise, have the opportunity to give back, the chance to share much needed information with others in your field, all while you are making connections, gaining support and even getting your name out there. So I have to ask, why wouldn’t you write for YALSA?

 

Erin Durrett is a Digital Learning Specialist at the Flint Public Library, where she focuses on teaching kids and teens digital literacy skills, such as gaming, 3D design, and coding. She loves gadgetry, building and making, and expresses her enthusiasm on these topics to anyone who will listen.