Transforming Teen Services Through CE

This post written by Carrie Sanders, Youth Services Coordinator, Maryland State Library.

At the beginning of the month, I journeyed to Louisville, KY for the annual YALSA Symposium. I heard vibrant authors and teen services librarians discussing current literature written to meet the needs and interests of today’s teens, and I learned about serving teens with disabilities, social action programming, and strong teen volunteer programs. At the end of these very full days, my brain took a breather on Sunday afternoon, and then it went into full gear on Monday-Tuesday, November 6-7, during the YALSA National Forum.

photo of participants in the YALSA ForumWhat was the purpose of this Forum? Under the theme “Transforming Teen Services Through Continuing Education”, YALSA and COSLA, through a grant funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), gathered representatives from 45 states, along with YALSA Advisory Committee members and other facilitators, to align library teen services with current societal and learning trends of this age group. We gave equal attention to the “what and the how” of Continuing Education (CE) for library staff: what should today’s content be in our teen programming? — and how should this CE be delivered to library staff so that our public library programming and services, nationally, meet the identified emotional, social, and learning needs of today’s teens? Big questions for us to tackle in a day and a half! We listened to a variety of experienced colleagues with experiences and research to share; we looked at national trends and research about the social/emotional needs of teens and their learning styles; we discussed what we are doing in our states; and we asked questions throughout the Forum that bubbled up from our learning. YALSA will take information gained at the meeting to continue developing a national agenda for supporting professional learning needs of library staff working with teens. And, the state representatives attending the Forum, will take back the findings and discussion from our time together and start implementing, through communications and trainings, some of the learnings from the event.

photo of Sandra Hughes Hassell presenting at the YALSA ForumSandra Hughes-Hassell, YALSA President and Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) opened the Forum noting key paradigm shifts that need to happen in teen services, in response to YALSA’s IMLS-funded report, “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action.” The shifts include:

  • Library services to teens need to be “Teen-centric” – not “library-centric.” Library staff need to put teens first; we need to reach ALL teens in our communities (not just the readers). Today, 48% of our total youth population are teens of color – our services need to reach the marginalized teens in our community. Our services should focus on the person or the process — not the “stuff” or the product.
  • Amplify Teen voice. Library staff should involve teens in the development and implementation of their programs, and they should be the ones to identify social issues in the community. Involving teens in this way is not “giving them a voice” because they already have one. Rather, including them in the planning of teen programs centers their voice.
  • Broaden literacies. Work skills have changed, but skills taught in school are not mirroring these changes. Library staff needs to go beyond book clubs and specific events by focusing on learning in teen programming. Learning should include multiple literacies and include aspects of connected learning: student choice; collaborative, social learning; self-directed learning; authentic audience; maximizing use of technology (producers, not just users). These learning experiences created by and for teens is purposeful and centered on relevant issues. It often includes service learning. Continue reading

Future Ready with the Library: An Exploratory Lab on Kodiak Island

A version of this content was originally posted on the YALSA Future Ready with the Library Cohort Community of Practice and written by Katie Baxter. The Future Ready with the Library project is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

youth interviewing each otherI popped over to the Community College recently to meet with Libby, the professor of Alutiiq Studies, who also co-chairs 4-H on Kodiak island. Since it was 10 cents Wednesday at the local Monk’s Rock coffee shop I was able to spring for delicious homemade pumpkin spice cookies to bring to the meeting. Libby was as thrilled as I was to have a little break for creative collegiality. I started our conversation by talking with Libby about Future Ready with the Library cohort member Laura Pitts’ Building Better Leaders program model.

I also wanted to talk with Libby about the Exploratory Lab I’m working on for the Kodiak Future Ready with the Library project. I have most of the activities, learning experiences, and materials in place for our project. However, I am missing one thing, an activity grounded in Alutiiq cultural values. I am familiar with the story telling traditions and themes of Alutiiq culture that draw upon the tribal value system, but, I am not as well versed in activities. While I could have explored the online Alutiiq Word of the Week database to find out about activities, this was a great opportunity for me to sit and learn with Libby.
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100 Books Before College

I’m sure most librarians have heard of 1000 Books Before Kindergarten. We’ve been running that program at the Middletown Township Public Library for two years now, and the children and their parents love it. I was joking with my colleague one day that there should be a 100 Books Before College for high school students. And I thought…well actually, why not? So I started to plan.

So what is 100 Books Before College? It is a new low key reading program geared toward high school students. I have over 100 teen volunteers in my volunteer program, and many of them tell me they are too busy to read (not all of them, but many of them). This program is meant to encourage high school students to read for fun, despite their busy schedules of sports, homework, clubs, volunteering, and more. On my publicity for the program, I include the value in reading regularly: improve your cognitive skills, your reading comprehension, and maybe even your test scores!  Being an avid reader will help any student as they make their way beyond high school to college, vocational school, or a career.

The goal for the reading program: read 100 books before you graduate high school. I created a list of 100 suggested books to read, which has a mixture of classic and current fiction and nonfiction. Participants are encouraged to use the list as a guide, but they are not required to read these books. They can read any books that interest them!

I also asked the Princeton Review to donate prizes for those who complete the challenge. They have generously donated swag bags! So, students have 4 years to read 100 books, and at the end they get a Princeton Review swag bag and a book from the library. But the real prize? A sense of accomplishment and better reading skills!!

So how does it work? High schoolers can sign up online, and they simply log each book they read. They may write book reviews, but this is completely optional. I also have bi-monthly book raffles for participants. Anyone who is signed up for the program can enter for the chance to win a book or book set. This month’s prize is a set of Sherlock Holmes books! I used the program Wandoo Reader for the online program. We use Wandoo Reader for our summer reading program at the Middletown Library. As we already have this service, we might as well utilize it all year round!

I launched the 100 Books Before College program on September 1st, 2017. I started publicizing it in July 2017, and I sent it to all of my contacts at our local high schools. We already have 133 teens signed up! What I also love is, the majority of the teens signed up have never participated in the Teen Summer Reading Program. I notice each year that the bulk of TSR participants are middle schoolers. I’m thrilled to see high school students participate in a reading program at the library for the first time.

I am so excited about this program. I can’t wait for the first person to finish the 100 book challenge! So far the 133 teens have read a total of 778 books! I’ll continue to publicize and try to involve as many teens as I can. Will you take the Challenge?

Stephanie Chadwick is the Teen Librarian for The Middletown Township Public Library.

Summer Teen Internship @ Laurel Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

We were fortunate enough to receive one of the 2016 YALSA Symposium Awards to implement a Summer Teen Internship. Thanks to YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, we were able to successfully design and fund our program. We already have a very well established and recognized teen volunteer group, so this was a positive next step for us.

To be considered for an internship for the summer of 2017, teens were required to attend a mentoring program offered by a local community leader. Initially a fifteen-week program, the facilitator was able to design an eight-week program for the thirteen teens who signed up. Over the course of eight weeks, the teens learned many skills such as life skills, leadership skills, personal presentation, and public speaking. Guest speakers from the community were also brought in and the class concluded with each teen doing a videotaped presentation.

Upon completion of the mentor program, the teens could then apply for an internship position, where they would design and run their own program for the Youth Services Department. All applicants had to be a member of our Teen Ambassador Program and fill out an application and submit a short essay about the benefits that might be gained in a mentorship program by a mentee, mentor and community. After reviewing the applications and essays, we then scheduled interviews with the teens. The interviews covered their availability, their expectations, and how they saw their potential program running. After the interviews, we also got input from the facilitator of the mentor program and after which we selected five interns.

After their selection, we then held several meetings to finalize their programs, discuss budgets, time management and scheduling, and further expectations. Every intern was tasked with creating a supply list while working within their budget, creating a syllabus to cover their eight-week program, and working with us to create publicity material. One of the interns worked as a Youth Services Assistant while the other four held their own programs. One intern planned and carried out Story Times, another had a Comic Design Program, another did a Recycled Mini-House Program and one did a Basics of Photography and Videography Program for teens. All programs were very well attended and several had waiting lists. Every week the interns would evaluate their syllabuses and re-work anything that needed tweaking.

At the end of the eight weeks, we held a reception to recognize the interns and to showcase the work done by attendees of their programs. Families and members of the community gathered to see their displays and helped us to recognize the intern’s accomplishments. At the reception, the interns were given their certificates and received their stipends.

This was a very successful program for our library and our community and one we look forward to doing again. All the feedback we received was very positive, from the families and participants to the interns themselves and their families. The impact on the interns and our community was significant. In a community with one of the highest poverty rates in the state, we need programs like this to help propel our youth onto future success. By challenging them and giving them the skills they need to succeed and the confidence to step out, we are developing the future leaders that our community needs. If they are invested in our community as a teen, they will be invested as successful adults. It has been amazing to watch these teens really challenge themselves and step out of their comfort zones to successfully take on a task they never considered doing.

Gail Bruce is the Youth Services Librarian at the Laurel Public Library in Laurel, DE.

Making the Public Library More Accessible to Students

In the course of my career, I have worked in almost every type of library (from Academic to Special), but I have spent the bulk of that time as a Public Librarian. One challenge that hasn’t changed in those 30+ years is providing students with access to materials.

At my first public library job in the early ‘90s, I worked closely with the librarians in the school district. They would fax over (because, yes, this was before email) assignment alerts for the various schools and I would pull materials for the students who would inevitably be coming in later to work on their assignments. The librarians of our community, public and school, worked as a team and the students benefited. It was helpful to me as well, because I could make sure there was a reserve cart pulled for specific projects before an over-zealous parent came in and checked out every single item in the library.

Fast forward 30 years, and some elements of this dynamic have remained while others have fundamentally changed. We have the internet; multiple school districts; reference collections are a thing of the past; 1:1 in some districts; cell phones; databases, staff reductions, elimination of school libraries, etc. All of these factors have changed the relationship between many schools and public libraries.

Students and teachers come to the public library in search of data and materials for assignments. In an effort to make sure that all students and teachers have access to materials in my library, we have created three new classes of library cards: limited library cards, digital library cards, and school library cards.

Our main library is located next door to one of our districts’ high school. We get many teens walking over after school to study.  We observed that some of these students couldn’t access databases (from home) or check out materials because they don’t have library cards, and since they walked to the library, didn’t have a parent or caregiver available to check out materials.

In an effort to make these materials and services available to all of our teen students, we created limited library cards and digital library cards. Limited library cards are for teens 14-17, who want/need to check out materials but don’t have library cards. Since our card policy requires a parent or guardian to register minor children for a library card, we have encountered teens who want to check out materials, but don’t have cards.  The limited card allows the teens to check out up to 3 items, and give them access to our digital databases. Without a library card, these teens would not be able to check out materials. It allows onsite and remote access to all of the library’s databases, but does not include access to materials charging.

The third type of card we created, a school library card, is designed for educators. They are helpful to teachers who want to stock their classrooms with supplemental materials, and who have traditionally taken on the responsibility for these items by checking them out on their personal library cards.  Unfortunately for the teachers, when materials are lost or overdue on a personal card, they are responsible for fines and replacement.  Issuing school cards allows teachers access to the materials, but shifts financial responsibility to the school.

If your school library and public library don’t have cooperative borrowing in place, you might want to consider similar ways to provide access to students.

Alexa Newman is a Youth Services Librarian at the Algonquin Area Public Library in Illinois, where she focuses on community programming. Besides her regularly scheduled duties, Alexa created and runs the library’s annual drama camp, storytelling festival, and teaching garden. In her spare time she loves to read, dabble in the arts, and putter in as many gardens as possible. Alexa is currently serving on the School-Age Programs and Service Committee and on the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Joint Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation.

Bringing the BFYA Teen Feedback Session to Kansas City

For any YALSA member, the Teen Feedback Session of Best Fiction for Young Adults is a highlight of attending ALA’s Annual Conference or Midwinter Meeting. It isn’t just getting the feedback on what titles teens liked from this year’s publishing cycle…but seeing teens up at the mic, sharing their thoughts with marketers, editors, agents and library staff. It’s empowering and reminds us why we do what we do. After experiencing the Midwinter 2017 BFYA Teen Feedback Session, we began to think about how we could get our teens to the conference at Annual.

Chicago and Denver are the closest ALA’s conference ever comes to Kansas City (although KC is a large city, we don’t have the conference facilities to host ALA)  That means our teens will never have the chance to experience and reap the benefits of  the BFYA Teen Feedback Session. They will never have the awesome power of addressing the committee and a room of library staff and publishers. And on a late spring day in Kansas City…we decided to change that.

Three YALSA members from two library systems – Amanda Barnhart from Kansas City Public Library (MO), and Peggy Hendershot and Kate McNair from Johnson County Library (KS) – came together to talk about the BFYA Teen Feedback Session. Our grand idea was to figure out a way to take teens to Chicago and get them on the mic…but soon learned that there are ample teens in Chicago waiting their turn and we wouldn’t steal their moment to speak up. We still wanted to empower our teens and give them the opportunity to speak out and be heard, so we went back to the drawing table and came up with an idea that would impact more teens than we could have fit into a van on a roadtrip to Chicago…

Talk Book To Me was born. In line with YALSA’s Futures Report goal of designing programs with teens’ passions and interests at the heart that are strongly connected to academic and career achievement, we identified four goals for the program. 1) Give teens the tools to analyze a book and express their thoughts in the form of a review. 2) Amplify their voices to BFYA committee members, editors, agents and library staff. 3) Unlock opportunities for teens to build a portfolio of accomplishments.

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Are You Ready for Teen Read Week?

Teen Read Week starts next week, but don’t panic! If you need some inspiration for programs, visit the 2017 TRW Pinterest board. There is even more information available at http://teenreadweek.ning.com/. If you haven’t downloaded the Teen Read Week Manual, it is still available.

Let everyone know what you are doing for Teen Read Week on social media by using @yalsa and #TRW17

Stay calm, and have a great 2017 Teen Read Week!

One Week, One Story @ Jaffrey Public Library

Thanks to a Teen Read Week Activity grant by YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, Jaffrey Public Library is collaborating with independent comic book store Escape Hatch to foster local teens’ writing and artistic talents for One Week, One Story as our primary Teen Read Week initiative. The purpose is to take the mystery out of the creative process and empower teens to cultivate their artistic skills with autonomy and confidence, providing the tools for them to continue to do so well beyond the end of the program. One Week, One Story involves participants attending a workshop to create their own comics for publication in a bound anthology.

The library will host graphic novelist Marek Bennett to teach a time-challenge comic workshop on October 9, which is also a school holiday. Marek has had a lot of success teaching time-challenge workshops, such as On your mark, get set, draw! during last year’s summer program, and can speak from experience about how time constraints can free artists from perfectionism. His nonfiction graphic novel The Civil War Diary of Freeman Colby is also on this year’s YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens list, so he is able to speak to the entire publication process from creation to marketing one’s work post-publication. After a 3-hour workshop (and pizza) with Marek to learn the basic process of creating a comic book, teens may opt to attend social write-ins in the evenings to polish their works and collaborate for feedback. A final reception at the end of the week gives teens the opportunity to share their work with the wider community and celebrate having completed their comics.

In preparation for the initiative, the library has purchased graphics tablets and editing software so that participants may learn to use the tools typically used by graphic novelists today. The library will also bolster its collection of graphic novels and books about creating graphic novels to provide further references for participants. Throughout Teen Read Week, participants may reserve a graphics tablet to digitize their stories. The library will host a workshop that covers the basics of how to use the hardware and software, or participants may set up a one-on-one tutorial with a librarian.

At the end of One Week, One Story, teens who choose to do so may submit their completed comics for publication. Escape Hatch recently launched an independent publishing venture and will publish the teens’ work in a bound anthology. All participants, regardless of whether they chose to submit their work, will receive a copy of the anthology. Escape Hatch will hold a book release party to launch the teens’ work and will make copies available to purchase.

By providing teens with the information and tools to create, as well putting the tangible results of their efforts in teens’ hands, we aim to strengthen literacy skills and inspire a genuine excitement in authorship. Furthermore, we hope that seeing their friends’ work published inspires teens who do not participate. We will harness the momentum generated by Teen Read Week to implement further programming and independent creative efforts using the tools and resources purchased for the program.

Julie Perrin is the director of the Jaffrey Public Library in Jaffrey, NH.  Andrea Connolly is the Youth Services Librarian.  Their library is a recipient of a Teen Read Week Activity grant from YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

Gimme a C (For Collaboration!): Coding, Collaboration & Community

Earlier this year, the Westerville Public Library was awarded a LSTA Summer Library Program Grant through the State Library of Ohio that allowed us to purchase robots (Kibo, Dash & Dot, and Sphero SPRK+) to extend our already popular in-house technology programs. But we also wanted to reach children who might never make it to the public library. During June and July of 2017, we collaborated with the Westerville City Schools Summer Intervention program to visit 3rd and 4th graders–many of whom had never been to a public library– to introduce students to basic coding with our new robot partners.

Experience

The intrinsic appeal of learning with robots instantly captured students’ attention. We met one of the main goals–increasing interest in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math)–right away, as most students had no prior hands-on experiences with robotics. We emphasized basic coding concepts and the engineering design process: ask, imagine, plan, create, test and improve, then share results. We encouraged children to practice problem solving skills, discussing what worked and what didn’t, and making changes if time allowed.

We introduced the concept of coding by having students program adults to complete a familiar task: making a jelly sandwich. This classic demonstration of following step-by-step instructions was very effective, if occasionally a bit messy. The activity also reinforced the idea that the children are in control. They are the programmers; capable and smarter than the robot, which can only do what they instruct it to do — no more, no less.

Tips 

Allow time for free play. Robots are exciting! It’s natural for kids to want to play, so allow time for non-directed experimentation.

Social exchange — learning to take turns, ask questions, and try another person’s ideas —  IS learning.

Repeat sessions with the same group allows for deeper learning. We had to balance repetition with keeping classes small  to allow for hands-on experience. Repeat classes allow you to go beyond the initial playful period to more directed tasks and deeper understanding.

Expect the unexpected. Be prepared by experimenting ahead of time, but accept that children will try different things . . . and this is okay. You don’t have to know all the answers! Ask how they got to this point, and have them ask each other for ideas. It’s all part of the learning process.

End each class with a summary. Save time to gather together and share their thoughts if at all possible. Some children didn’t think they were learning because they were having fun! All were eager to demonstrate something they had programmed on the robot.

What if you don’t have robots? We began our coding instruction using the free resources on the Hour of Code website. Many “unplugged” activities can also be used to teach basic coding concepts. Our variant of Simon Says– “The Programmer Says”–was so popular it was requested by children in subsequent programs. Don’t be afraid to dive into coding!

Robin L. Gibson is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Joint Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation and Assistant Coordinator of Youth Services at the Fairfield County District Library in Lancaster, Ohio.

Photo Credit: Robin L. Gibson

Civic Data Zine Camp

Since 2012, The Labs@CLP (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh) has provided Pittsburgh teens a digital learning space where they can explore new technologies and hone existing skills. We were one of the fortunate programs designated as an IMLS Learning Lab grantee, and our programming continues to develop our curriculum of teen-driven connected learning. Recent additions include a process through which teens can earn badges as they practice and refine new Labs skills, a transition into some of our neighborhood locations that have not yet received weekly Labs programming and equipment, and the annual Labsy Awards, which recognize the creativity and innovation of local teens. Over the last five years, this unique initiative has evolved and extended its reach into new locations, new disciplines, and new avenues of creativity.

Each summer, we invite groups of teens into our libraries to participate in what we call The Labs Summer Skills Intensives. Partnerships with local organizations like 1Hood Media and Pittsburgh Filmmakers, along with individual artists with unique specializations, allow us to explore a specific aspect of literacy—from songwriting to street art to sound recording—in a creative way. Each teen earns $100 for attending the entire week, and bus passes are available for anyone who might need one. These week-long camps give teens a platform for intimate engagement and complete immersion, and the results are extraordinary. In our camps, teens have produced music videos, written original songs, sewn their own fashion projects, and much more.

We saw The Labs Intensive formula as a great opportunity to highlight our teens’ expertise about their communities, while also increasing the reach of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Beyond Big Data initiative. Part of this effort involves the inclusion of data literacy programming into our existing repertoire, and we soon created a curriculum that would allow us to explore open data with a brilliant group of civically-minded teens. On July 31, we grabbed our supplies and headed to CLP – Squirrel Hill for the first day of Data Zine Camp.

The goals of this Intensive were the following:

  • To identify data as it impacts our everyday lives;
  • To think critically about data;
  • To practice storytelling using data;
  • To examine a personal, civic, or national issue through the lens of data; and
  • To create a Data Zine that documents not only our findings, but our process.

We began the week by introducing our partner, PublicSource. This local journalism network is unique because of its data-driven perspective, and its ability to amplify the compelling stories within data. Throughout our camp, the data journalists at PublicSource led us in fact-finding adventures, examined biases through critical discussion, and introduced us to a variety of data visualization tools and techniques.

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