Thoroughly in the swing of things now? Already bored with what’s going on? Happy but ready to add more programming and interest to your services? Whatever the case, maybe some of these innovations, research publications, and other cool tidbits will inspire you.
Even if you don’t work in a school media center, I’m guessing your life still tends to run on an academic schedule when you work with teens. So welcome to the new school year! Here’s what I think might be interesting, useful, or intriguing to you and your patrons this month.
- If your teens are interested in what’s new in the going green movement, have them look more globally to see what’s going on. In coastal Ecuador, young people from farming families are heading up efforts to save, cultivate, and redistribute heirloom seeds to revitalize the environment and help farmers prosper. Part of an organization called FOCCAHL, 20-year-old Cesar Guale Vasquez travels throughout nearby areas collecting seeds from farmers and also hosts swapping events so that farmers can trade seeds with each other in order to have more vibrant and diverse crops. Now take that for inspiration and add to it your own library’s resources on climate change, farming, and nutrition and plan an interesting program that combines science with activism and see what your advisory board wants to do with it. Many libraries now are creating their own seed libraries, and whether they’re for wildflowers or corn, they can be a great way to bring communities together, get young people to work with older people, and freshen up your local environment while doing your small part to keep the world cleaner and greener.
Matthews, J. (2012). Ecuador’s seed savior. World Ark, May 2012: 10-15. Continue reading
Is this what they call the dog days? Not for me! This is my first summer living in Boston instead of Tucson, and I’m soaking up the beautiful high-80s temps they call “hot” around here and spending as much time outside as possible. But I did manage to go inside and find a few interesting tidbits for your personal interest and professional usefulness.
- Have you ever tried to explain to someone why their offhand comment that “that’s gay” offends you? Or been annoyed when you offer to help carry something heavy and you’re refused because you’re female? Maybe someone made a rude joke about Middle Easterners not knowing you are of Saudi descent? These are called “microaggressions,” and the Microaggressions Project, a collective blog made up of submissions from anyone who wants to share an experience of feeling belittled, ignored, or just frustrated, whether because of their religious beliefs, gender identity, race, victim status, or a variety of other factors. Without resorting to hate speech or angry tirades (and no specific names, locations, or other identifying information is in any of the submissions), this blog would not only be a great resource for teens who feel like their voices aren’t being heard, but you could talk with your advisory group and possibly start your own project, with something as easy as index cards and a locked jar or box. Continue reading
School’s out, I’m no longer sick, and the blog is no longer down! In honor of the evolving focus of this column, I’ve changed its title and broadened my scope. But don’t worry; I’ll still be trolling the various databases for hard-hitting research, too. The first month of summer is usually the busy one, in which students are still finishing school, are already in summer school, or have begun to embark on busy summer adventures, like camp and travel. So the ideas I’m offering you are a bit more low-key or focused on the librarian, rather than the patron, since I gather that your patrons are not exactly in the mood yet for anything that requires a lot of commitment.
I’m back! After a month off for vertigo and another month of innovating, I’m glad to be resuming this column, even though it probably needs a new title, since it’s as much about innovation and general cool-stuff-is-happening-all-over-the-place-and-you-should-apply-it-to-your-library-work as it is about research. That said, here is some of the fresh new ideas coming out of the woodwork and being published or publicized this month.
- After I’ve waited for what seems like forever (but is really just since I joined Twitter and started following Levar Burton), the website RRKidz is finally live and going somewhere! This 21st century incarnation of “Reading Rainbow” promises access to the classic episodes that I know I adored as a kid as well as new content for today’s media devices, those ubiquitous tablets and genius phones, curated by Burton himself. My first recommendation is for you just to get excited. But also consider that some of your patrons may still remember the original show, and my guess is that even if they claim to be non-readers, they’ll have some great memories of it. “Reading Rainbow” may be for younger children, but you can get your teen volunteers excited about it by mimicking the show’s popular “You don’t have to take my word for it” section, in which real kids recommended their favorite books to others. What a great way to get teens to sit in on storytime, or to volunteer in your children’s section, and they can just as easily create videos on library computers to share their favorite YA stories with fellow teens, along with your help.
- The New York Times magazine recently held a contest for the best essay answering the question “Why is it ethical to eat meat?” The contest subject and its judges (all white men, mostly already known for championing animal rights and being vegetarians or vegans) immediately prompted outrage, interest, and annoyance, and all of the comments and criticism are well worth reading. Continue reading
You know how, no matter how many hundred channels you have, there is nothing on TV? More and more, people are turning to webseries and vlogs for fresher kinds of humor and entertainment. So why not start a vlog series for your library website, or get a bunch of teens together to write a script for an original series? You could also take advantage of the short format of these videos and host a “festival” of screenings of the best series and vlogs out there. Now that so many computers come fully equipped with a basic webcam and editing software, this is an inexpensive way to get creative and to learn more about technology.
Here are some great vlogs and webisodes that should provide you with inspiration as they entertain you.
- The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: This relatively new series transfers Jane Austen’s novel to the life of a grad student recording her angst. It’s funny and a great way to make classic literature applicable to our current times. If your patrons are having trouble getting ready for their AP English exam, use this to take off the stress. Continue reading
American Libraries recently posted an article about programming for homeschooled kids and their families. There are a lot of great ideas there that you should take a look at, but very few of the ideas are focused on teens. Like any library media specialist knows, teens need to have their reading, research, and library skills in check before college, and those being homeschooled are no different.
In addition to inviting those teens to your regular programming and events, consider doing things for them during the lull of the day, when everyone else is in school. Not all parents who homeschool are necessarily schooled in how to use library databases, scholarly journals, and online media for research projects, so perhaps a small group might appreciate a workshop similar to the ones high school students get from their librarians. You could even designate a special hour a week for drop-in lessons.
On a similar note, homeschools don’t employ full-time college counselors, but you probably have a circulating and non-circulating collection of test prep books, college guides, and more. Another unique daytime program you can offer, then, is a college workshop. Invite some current college students, whose schedules also allow them to have some free hours during the day, to answer questions about local schools and essay topics, and see if any of your regular homework tutors can volunteer to come in and help with the process. Continue reading
I admit that this is more of a call for you all to innovate than it is me giving you ideas. I’ve been thinking lately about how today’s popstars, especially Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Jessie J, are all about having distinct, out-of-this-world style and attitude to go along with their music. Instead of the concept albums of the 1960s and 1970s, today’s pop culture likes its concept artists. Gwen Stefani mixed ska and angst with Jean Harlow, Katy Perry fetishizes and infantilizes herself, and the UK’s Marina & the Diamonds is unabashedly seeking popstar superstardom, and her aesthetic is all about how she’s “obsessed/with the mess/that’s America.” You can argue whether or not these artists are good or bad, whether they’re obvious or esoteric, whether they’re legitimate or faking it–I know I do–but you can’t deny that they are memorable and fascinating.
So what does that have to do with youth services? Lots, I’m sure. Thinking about popstars and performance/concept art can lend itself to all kinds of interesting book displays and programs. You may even end up inspiring a new generation of quirky songstresses and 21st century Bowies.
- First, check your catalog for CDs by any musician you would consider a “performance artist” or “concept artist.” You can also check at the end of this post for some suggestions. Next, create a display where you connect these albums to biographies that may be in your adult nonfiction section, novels about teen musicians, and other nonfiction titles relating to the artist’s aesthetic, from vintage fashion to abstract art. If you don’t feel you know enough about this topic, this is a great opportunity to bring in your teen advisory board or an awesome library student intern. Continue reading
Etsy, as you might know, is a flourishing online marketplace for independent artists, designers, and antiquers to sell and trade their wares. There are thousands of items in a ton of categories, from zines to custom-made wedding gowns to homemade soap and vintage lunchboxes. It’s not all great–they don’t have a parody site, Regretsy (NSFW), for nothing–but there are some gems. Here are some items available on Etsy that might spruce up your teen section, serve as a great prize for a reading contest, or just suit your own librarian style. And what’s better? Start a conversation with your craftiest patrons about what they’d do with an Etsy storefront, or use your library Pinterest account to pin all of your favorite (or most laughable) Etsy products.
Librarians Dewey It Better badge:
There’s a little bit of pin-up girl in all of us. This patch by user BadgesbyQuake will let you shout that out to anyone who sees your…tote bag?
Okay, so this isn’t really for the library, but it’s such an adorable idea I couldn’t resist! This is an excellent theme idea by user lilmoptop for a fellow librarian’s baby shower or wedding–or, frankly, any occasion, because who isn’t always building their personal library? Continue reading
Can we finally put the argument to rest? E-readers are not killing reading, nor are they killing books. As research shows, people who own e-readers not only read more than people who don’t, but they read both e-books and print books. Not to mention, there are plenty of populations, from prison inmates to seniors, who will need print books for a long time coming. Neither one is going away.
That’s not to say that they’re the same, though. Far from it. In my experience, e-readers attract different types of readers than print books, and they’re also engaging more people who were previously non-readers. Anybody who thinks that’s not great, well… There are also scads of e-reading apps available for phones, tablets, and computers, so e-content is available to more than just people with Nooks and Kindles. People use e-readers for a variety of reasons, from pleasure reading to research, so it’s good to consider how many bases you can cover. The Pew Research Center released a report on reading, readers, and e-readers recently, and ALA of course responded. While Pew’s data is encouraging (among other statistics released, the study found that people who use e-readers read more books per year than people who only read in print), ALA pointed out that the stats of who reads at all, and who reads in what format, are also related to education and income level. So what can you do about it? Continue reading