High school is a game of priorities. With sports, music, studying, and social commitments, older teens have to be really interested or otherwise invested in a program if it’s going to find a spot on their already crowded calendars. One of the most meaningful ways to get high school students involved at the library is through offering a teen volunteer program. With the approach of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the National Day of Service, January is the perfect time to consider engaging older teens at the library through community service opportunities.

Why Volunteer?

Many high schools require community service as a condition of graduation. Of the schools that don’t assign service projects, many still require student council representatives or honor society members to commit to volunteering a certain number of hours. Community engagement is also an important component of many scholarship and college applications, and some teens have court assigned community service or an interest in developing resume worthy work skills. All this combined means that teens want to hear more about volunteer opportunities.

Better yet, volunteering teaches teens about giving back to the community and participating in something larger than themselves. The Corporation for National and Community Service and the President’s United We Serve campaign encourage students to give back to their neighbors on MLK day. In addition to providing a true benefit to the community, service projects can help teens reflect on what it means to provide a positive contribution to the community and the world. It also helps build several of the 40 Developmental Assets. By giving teens the opportunity to provide service to others and to fulfill a useful role in the community, library volunteer programs help teens learn positive values such as caring, responsibility, and a sense of purpose.

There are many different ways that you can incorporate volunteering into your regular program schedule, and with a bit of planning, you can insure the experience is mutually beneficial. Here are a few ideas to try at your library. Read More →

The fall season is a favorite season for many-warm sweaters, fall leaves, pumpkins and apple cider. Autumn is also a time to reflect on the year’s bounty and to say thank you. November brings Election Day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving-three days we can extend a special thanks to our troops and veterans and to acknowledge the children and teens also affected by military life.

In my rural community, many young people are impacted by military deployment. The statistics show that many of the teens in your town may be as well. According to the Department of Defense, 1.8 million children and teens in the United States have family members who are currently serving in the military, and 85% of those teens attend public schools and most likely use public libraries (National Military Family Association).

Even if a teen doesn’t have a parent in active service, he or she may have a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or cousin serving. Studies have shown that “rates of anxiety among military children – as well as emotional and behavioral difficulties – are higher than the national averages” (NMFA), but families cope better with deployment when they receive community support. The best way to help teens manage the stress of deployment is to acknowledge their experience by showing that you know who they are and that you are available to talk (NMFA). Read More →


Ballerino. Photo from flickr user Scooter Lowrimore via Creative Commons license

The other night I dropped my son off for his first dance class. It was heart warming to see him so fully engaged in something new, a positive activity that will undoubtedly help him build self-confidence and an appreciation of art. I had a fun reminder of his enthusiasm for the performing arts this morning when I saw a post by the Teen Librarian Toolbox about books for dance lovers, and I made a connection between my experience as a parent and what we do as librarians. The TLT blog author points out that we shouldn’t forget the arts in the mix of all the new STEM projects we host at the library. In fact, I have heard many librarians refer to the acronym STEAM which throws art in the mix, right beside the hot topics in science, technology, engineering and math. As you build your programs for this fall and winter, don’t forget about art. Read More →

Taiko Drums

An interactive Taiko performance–forming new connections brings fresh knowledge to the library.

Rural librarianship can mean a small staff, but it can also mean a tight-knit community full of residents and organizations happy to share their knowledge. Working with other organizations and local experts helps maximize impact and expand services to new audiences without overburdening librarians.’ How do you find new partners? Leave the library!

Earlier this week, April Witteveen wrote an installment in the YALSA Blog’s Back to School series about making new connections within the school system. ‘ She recommends “stepping outside your comfort zone” which’ also applies to forming community partnerships. If you want to form a partnership to deliver new programming opportunities, step outside the building and strike up a conversation.’ ‘  Read More →

Belgrade Community Library Teen Zone

Belgrade Community Library Teen Zone

In 2005, my community constructed a much needed 5,500 square foot library addition. The floor plan included space for materials, a community room, and storage, but it lacked something very important–an area for teens. Young adults browsed the collection, checked out items, then zipped right out the front door. As we turned our attention to youth programming, we realized the room was not helping our efforts. We wanted to encourage teens to linger, to come to the library because it was a safe, comfortable place. It was time for a Teen Zone.

With very little money and very little floor space, the library created a comfortable area that is frequently used by local middle and high school students to read, socialize, study, play computer games and craft. Here is how we did it: Read More →

Picture of Teen Zone

Belgrade Community Library Teen Zone in rural Montana.

Working in a rural library often means a small space, a small budget, and a small staff. Despite all the hurdles to overcome, teen library services are very important in rural communities where other facilities for teens may not exist. In my community, the need for productive teen activities has popped up in both community and library needs assessments. With just over 10,000 people in our service area, the library is one of the few places in the community open to young adults outside of school hours. We have an important role to play in providing a safe and enriching space for teens, but this can seem like a daunting task when your official job description ranges from baby story time to technical services.

I work directly with teens every day, but my job involves a wide range of other tasks. Like many other rural librarians, I sometimes start my work day singing with toddlers and finish it with offering assistance to older adults on the computer, but teens deserve to have services tailored just for them, even in the smallest public library.’  YALSA’s Public Library Evaluation Tool provides examples of basic to distinguished’ public library practices as they pertain to teens. One element of this tool that stands out to me is “equitable funding and staffing levels.” Step back for a moment and think about whether or not your institution is providing equitable resources and time toward teen services. Between fixing the printer, collection development, and desk schedules, we must find the time to offer quality services and programs to teens. Read More →


Music Map

Title: Discovr by Filter Squad

Cost:’ Free

Platform:’ iOS 7.0 or later on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad (optimized for iPhone 5)

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been busy spreading the word about one of my library’s Teen Read Week programs, Express to Speak. The workshop is the culminating event of our second annual writing contest and will focus on hip hop and spoken-word poetry. With Teen Read Week and hip hop on the mind, I was inspired to “Seek the Unknown” through Discovr, an app created for music exploration.

There are a few different apps on the market designed to introduce listeners to a variety of artists (e.g. Spotify, Pandora, etc.), but Discovr offers something unique–interactive Music Maps that draw connections between similar musicians. Start the process by searching for a musician, and the app will create a map with new bands. If you wish to expand your options, tap a musician and watch the map grow. Read More →

Sing!Title: Sing! Karaoke‘ by Smule

Cost:’ Free (additional credits must be purchased or earned for some songs)

Platform:’ iOS 5.0 or later on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad; Android 4.0 and up.

So you may not be an American Idol or the Voice, but who doesn’t like a little friendly, musical competition? Sing! gives smartphone and tablet users the opportunity to compete karaoke style from anywhere. ‘ Sing the words on the screen, and earn points for rhythmic and vocal accuracy. ‘ If you are especially proud of (or amused by) your performance, you can share the recording with other Sing! users and watch it climb the “Hot Performances” list. ‘ There is an additional option to share your talent via facebook, twitter, and other social media sites, or if you’re feeling a bit shy, you can keep your performance private. Read More →

iPoe logoTitle:’ iPoe – the Interactive and Illustrated Edgar Allan Poe Collection‘ by Play Creatividad

Cost:’ $3.99

Platform:’ iOS 4.3 or later on iPhone and iPad

Mr. Edgar Allan Poe just celebrated his 204th birthday last month (Jan 19). Even though his writing is almost two centuries old, teen patrons still check out Poe’s macabre stories for required and leisure reading. There is something about Poe’s language that makes me want to either draw a picture or share the text out loud (“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary…”).’ Apparently, I’m not alone; I was thrilled to learn about the iPoe interactive app from a fellow techie earlier this month. ‘ Full of creepy illustrations, sounds, and interactive components, this five-star app digitizes Poe’s most famous tales for a modern audience. Read More →

ARSoccerTitle:‘ ARSoccer – Augmented Reality Soccer Game by Laan Labs

Cost:‘ $1.99

Platform:‘ ‘ iOS 4.0 or later.

As I sat down to write this post, I reflected quite a bit on what 2013 will bring to the app market. ‘ Teens will of course continue to be interested in apps designed to kill time and connect with their peers, but augmented reality apps may be one of the most interesting and fastest growing trends. ‘ “Augmented reality” is a view of the real world modified by some ‘ technology enhancement. AR augments our physical experience with music, data, video, and other media.

Research cited by the FierceDeveloper blog estimates that AR sales may reach $5.2 billion by 2017. Many of these apps will be marketed to teen audiences. ‘ The same post mentions a great example; the new Taylor Swift AR app allows fans to scan an image of her latest album to launch videos or hear background information about songs. ‘ Last week, Linda posted about Dimensions–another app that augments reality. Other AR apps blend the real world with fun games. ‘ ARSoccer, the App of the Week, falls into this category. Read More →