Speak Up for Teens!

Two great opportunities are on the horizon for advocates for teens.

ALA Policy Corps

ALA President Jim Neal has launched a new initiative that is committed to building a small and passionate crew of library advocates. The 10 to 12 ALA members selected for this impactful group will become experts in explaining the importance of libraries to colleagues, legislators, funders and influencers. Policy Corps members will be provided specialized training in speaking to these constituents and will be coached into becoming advocacy experts.

This is an amazing opportunity to highlight how libraries help teens overcome the challenges they face! Check out ALA’s website to learn more about the qualities of an ideal candidate and apply by November 3.

District Days Taskforce

The District Days Taskforce is seeking member volunteers for work April-September 2018. If you are interested in advocacy and want to be a leader without having to travel, please volunteer for the District Days Taskforce.

District Days is YALSA’s August initiative to encourage members to advocate for and with teens through local engagement with elected officials (including members of Congress who are on recess). Studies show that in-person meetings with informed constituents can have a huge impact on legislative decisions. Help provide YALSA members with the statistics, resources, training, tools and best practices they need to build relationships with elected officials around the critical role libraries play in supporting successful teens.

Learn more and volunteer by December 1!

TRW 2017: Unleashing Teen Stories through Community Engagement

Teen Read Week 2017 has begun! This year’s theme, Unleash Your Story, centers around the power of the story and how they can be used to communicate identity, discover the world, and share personal experiences. During this week, our goal as library staff is to encourage teens to tell their own stories and find the stories of others. Whether that’s hosting programs that center around creative writing, providing reader’s advisory, or hosting an author visit, this initiative can also give you the opportunity to encourage teen participation in the stories of their communities through activism and involvement.

Each and every one of your library’s teens has a story that affects their view of the world and their place in it. Right now, our political climate is rife with division and uncertainty and teens want to speak out about the issues and causes that matter to them, but many may not have the resources or skills to take action. As library staff, we have the privilege of serving as a connector between these teen voices and the communities that they belong to. Sandra Hughes-Hassell, President of YALSA, has laid out her presidential theme for the 2017-2018 year that will help empower library professionals aid teens in finding their voices and develop the competencies needed to become potential community builders and activists. This theme, Youth Activism through Community Engagement, is the perfect springboard for this year’s Teen Read Week theme because they both involve highlighting the voices and stories of our youth and sending these voices out into the world to make a difference.

The next step forward is determining how to become that connector between teen voices and their communities. Right from the start, we should strive to listen to our teens and observe them using the library space. Teens are the experts when it comes to the issues facing them and by interacting with them in your teen space or reference desk, you will quickly realize what they are concerned with or passionate about. Last year, our library hosted several Open Mic Nights for teens; at first, many simply covered their favorite songs or performed dance routines that they had seen in music videos. However, as the program progressed, they started to open up and began performing original poetry or improvising on the spot. Many of their performances discussed struggling with bullying, being victims of homophobia, and poverty. Not only was it incredibly moving, but it reminded me as community participant, that teens need a space to simply share their stories with their peers. The act of speaking and being heard was a powerful yet simple way to empower teens and reinforce positive peer interaction with others in their immediate community.

If teens are concerned with issues on a more national level, connect them to resources that can help them address it. In my library’s local community, we have a high number of Latino families that are uncertain about their futures what with the recent news about the Trump administration’s plan for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students and what that means for their families. Our goal has been to encourage not only Latino teens, but teens from all backgrounds, to become literate in the rights and struggles that others are facing. During Teen Read Week, reader’s advisory can be a powerful tool that connects teens to voices outside of their own experiences and perspectives. If you need some titles to keep handy, YALSA’s The Hub blog recently featured a great booklist that highlights teen activism. On a programming level, provide teens with resources that lead them to data about immigrant issues and help them start a social media campaign targeting to students in their schools and community to raise awareness. When teens have the facts to back up their voices, they can be empowered to take their stories out to their community at large and begin their journey towards becoming a powerful community builder!

For more information on how to host a successful Teen Read Week at your library, check out YALSA’s ning page for outreach resources, program planning, and more. If you need inspiration on how to encourage teens to unleash their stories this week, check out the Teen Programming HQ to see how other libraries are engaging in this year’s theme. Do you have a program or outreach initiative that you are excited about? Share it with YALSA members on the Teen Programming HQ site! Finally, let everyone know what you are doing for Teen Read Week on social media by using @yalsa and #TRW17.

Volunteer for the Board Development Committee or District Days Taskforce!

YALSA is now seeking volunteers for two virtual member groups:

  • Board Development Committee (formerly the Governance Nominating Committee): this group will work from January 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019, and will be responsible for identifying candidates for the 2019 slate, training and on-boarding individuals who serve on YALSA’s Board of Directors, and identifying and cultivating future leaders.  This is a great opportunity for someone who has board or governance experience, whether at the local, state or national level.  Committee size: 5-7 virtual members.
  • District Days Taskforce: If you enjoy marketing and have some experience with local-level advocacy, this opportunity is for you!  This group will work from April 1, 2018 through Sept. 30, 2018 to provide resources and support to members to engage locally with elected officials.  Learn ore about District Days on the wiki.  Taskforce size: 5 – 7 virtual members

Fill out the Committee Volunteer Form by December 1st, 2017

Thanks for all the time and talent you volunteer to YALSA!  If you’re looking for other ways to get involved, visit the YALSA web site for more opportunities or check out this brand new video from Jack Martin and Kate McNair!  If you have questions feel free to get in touch with me (cmartin@hri.uci.edu).

Crystle Martin,  YALSA President-Elect

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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Banned Books Week Approaches

Recently I spoke on a panel discussing graphic novels and their representation of sex education and self-acceptance from an LGBT perspective. The conference, called Flame Con, has taken place for the last three years in Brooklyn, NY and focuses on pop culture with an LGBT lens. As part of the panel we discussed what exists on this topic for all ages including children and teens. In our conversation, we touched on why these titles are important and whether they live on the shelves of libraries. They mostly do, but in my preparation, I found myself on ALA’s Banned Books Week page and saw that many of the books that I know and love for their inclusivity were among the most challenged for 2016. In fact, the top five of the ten were challenged due to their inclusion of LGBT characters. Other reasons these books were challenged focused on sexual content, lewd language, and violence. To see the top ten list of 2016, which includes picture books, graphic novels, YA titles and more, click here.

According to ALA’s Banned Books Week page, “Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers — in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” This year Banned Books Week is taking place from September 24th – 30th toting the hashtag #wordshavepower. Let’s show our unity as we fight for our teen’s right to read what they need.

This week allows us as librarians and advocates to shine a spotlight on those books that others want to put in the dark. Censorship of these titles silences the voices of the authors and puts blinders on our readers. It effects our First Amendment rights as readers. As we all know, representation in young adult literature is paramount to the teens that we serve. Whether those books are windows or mirrors for the readers we must make sure our patrons can either see themselves in a book or learn about the lives of others through what they read. If we do not fight against these challenges our teen patrons will continue to find the books they need censored.

So how can ALA and YALSA help you? Take a look at our resource pages on Banned Books Week and the Office for Intellectual Freedom. There are tools located there that can help you report challenged titles, get support for these challenges, and build a rock-solid collection development policy. So you know what you may be facing here are definitions from ALA’s Challenge Support site:

  • A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.
  • Censorship is a change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes.
  • Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.

The Challenge Support site also goes on to explain you can contact the Office for Intellectual Freedom whenever you hear even the slightest rumbling around a book at your library. They even give you the contact information right on the page! We’ll share it here for even easier access: For assistance with challenges to library materials, services, or programs, please contact Kristin Pekoll at the Office for Intellectual Freedom, 800-545-2433, ext. 4221, or via email: kpekoll@ala.org. Granted it can be scary when something is challenged in your collection, but remember we are all in this together (that may or may not be a High School Musical reference – don’t censor me!).

In the meantime, when you are not dealing with a live challenge, celebrate those books that have been banned in the past. Make a display of the books or put a list of the books on a bulletin board. Ask your teens or colleagues what their favorite Banned Books are and show them off. We can be advocates for our teens and their literature in whatever way we choose – whenever we choose. As YALSA members and/or teen librarians we sometimes house the most controversial books in our collections so be brave, report challenges, and advocate for Banned Books.

For everyday Advocacy information, be sure to check out YALSA’s Advocacy Page and Toolkit!

Derek Ivie is the Youth Services Coordinator at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System in Bellport, NY. He has served on many booklist and award committees, and is currently serving as a Board Member at Large for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

Youth Activism Through Community Engagement—Presidential Task Force

 

After the horrors of Charlottesville unfolded, we saw powerful and moving responses via social media, petitions, and public demonstrations. Recently, YALSA President Sandra Hughes-Hassell wrote a blog post about what library staff can do to help. The 2017-2018 YALSA Presidential Year theme of Youth Activism through Community Engagement is an appropriate call to action for library staff to support teens in developing the necessary skills and confidence to engage in their communities.

Advocacy and civic engagement are not activities solely for adults but have been taken up by youth across the world. Age is not a barrier for participation but an opportunity for teens to learn more about what they believe and how they can make an impact. More and more teens are organizing for social change and demonstrating a compassion for those in need. As library staff, we can encourage this excitement by sharing resources, offering a brave and welcoming space, providing opportunities for leadership, promoting thoughtful and #ownvoices reading, and facilitating teen engagement in their communities.

Wethe Presidential Advisory Task Forcehave collected a sampling of resources to help further support youth activism in your library, in addition to including resources that can help foster conversations with teens about Charlottesville,  race, institutionalized racism, and systemic oppression.

 

Teen Activism

Youth Activism Project

Teen Vogue: 20 Small Acts of Resistance to Make Your Voice Heard Over the Next 4 Years

10 Trans and Gender-Nonconforming Youth Activists of Color Making a Huge Difference

The Forefront of Resistance

Medium: A Nervous Wreck’s Disabled Guide to Stepping Up

Life Hacker: 30 Young Adult Books for Activists in Training

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Teens Have Parents Too: Encouraging Dialogue between Teen Library Staff & Parents

Teen Rolling Eyes at ParentsAs teen library staff, we are called to not only assist teens with their educational pursuits, but help them build the necessary skills to become productive adults. As we create services and programs for teens, we sometimes forget that teens aren’t the only one who benefit from these services—their parents do as well.  Although parental involvement may vary from community to community, if we see teens who visit the library with their parent(s) and families, we have a great opportunity to find out what parents would like to know about teen library services and how we can improve our programs to suit the needs of their teens.

For those of us who work, or have worked with, children see the power of parental involvement on a day to day basis. Whether it’s taking their kids to sports, tutoring, or bringing their children to the library for storytime, these parents take the time to expose their children to learning opportunities to ensure their kids are on the right track. By taking an active role in their child’s success, libraries have always been there to support parents with parenting collections, early literacy programs, create home school collections, and provide educational family programs to give parents the information they need to support their children.

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District Days are Here. Time to Act!

Colleagues-

Right now is your opportunity to advocate for federal library funding (#saveIMLS) and speak up for teens!  These “District Days” [the weeks when Congresspersons are home in their districts] are a unique opportunity to use summer programs and back to school efforts as a way for local representatives to see firsthand how libraries prepare teens for college, careers, and life.

What can you do over the next five weeks?

  • Invite your local representative to your library and show them how you are serving teens. Adapt this sample invitation (.docx) from YALSA. Make sure to incorporate teen voices in the visit.
  • Schedule a meeting with your representative and/or their staff in their local office.  This is a great alternative for you, if you don’t work in a library (like me), if your summer programs have already wound down, or if your school library isn’t open yet.  You can read on the YALSAblog about YALSA Executive Director Beth Yoke’s meeting with her representative and get tips for your own meeting. You can get additional ideas for preparing for your own meeting with your representative by also exploring the resources on the District Days page on YALSA’s wiki.
  • Write a letter to the editor for your local newspaper urging your members of Congress to support library funding. Even better, encourage teens to write letters or op-ed pieces about their experiences with libraries.
  • Invite friends to sign up for alerts and join the fight.

While we have made progress in the fight to save federal funding for libraries, the fight is far from over. As teen advocates we must continue to engage with our elected officials and remind them why federal funding is important to libraries and the teens they serve.

Make sure to share your District Days successes and challenges on Twitter with the #act4teens hashtag. Together, we can show Congress the power of libraries to create bright futures for all teens!

Best,

Sandra Hughes-Hassell, YALSA President

 

 

 

Celebrate Pride Through Advocacy and Awareness @ Your Library

Every year, LGBTQIA communities host amazing parades, marches, and events to celebrate their pride. Whether we are members of this community, family members, or allies, these events have been joyous celebrations of love, appreciation, and acceptance.  However, as youth advocates, we must also remember that Pride celebrations are in remembrance of the Stonewall Uprising on June 27, 1969 in New York City. Not only did these series of events expose the New York City Police Department’s intolerance of the LGBTQIA community, it spurred an entire community to demand equal rights, which turned into a movement that is alive and well.

After the Stonewall Uprising, libraries have played a significant part in providing the LGBTQIA community not just access to information, but created the “Task Force on Gay Liberation  that sought to provide the LGBTQIA community with greater representation in libraries and the community. While libraries have been providing programs and services to the LGBTQIA community for forty seven years, the current political and social climate has seen a resurgence of hate and intolerance towards LGBTQIA people. However, as teen library staff, we can support our LFBTQIA teens by giving them access to knowledge and opportunities to help them advocate for themselves.

In order to implement programs and services, we need to ensure that our libraries are safe places where teens do not have to fear prejudice or intimidation. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Hate Crimes Statistics report (2016):

There were 5,818 single-bias incidents involving 7,121 victims. Of those victims, 59.2 percent were targeted because of a race/ethnicity/ancestry bias; 19.7 percent because of a religious bias; 17.7 percent because of a sexual orientation bias; 1.7 percent because of a gender identity bias; 1.2 percent because of a disability bias; and 0.4 percent because of a gender bias.

As unsettling as these numbers are, libraries can do a number of things to support LGBTQIA youth.  One action we can take is to check all of our policies, specifically behavior and collection polices. By re-visiting our behavior policies, we can check to see if there are statements that specifically state what behavior will not be tolerated.  By updating, or revising, this policy, we inform the public that there are rules that must be maintained to provide a safe environment for everyone who steps through the door. We can inform the public in a variety including handouts or signage the welcomes everyone regardless of their ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, and identity.  Another policy we need to review is collection development policies. By reviewing the language and the timeliness of these guidelines, we can support teens’ right to read even when members of the community who wish to have specific materials removed based on their personal and private opinions. According to the Library Bill of Rights (in regards to minors):

“Article V of the Library Bill of Rights states, “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” The “right to use a library” includes free access to, and unrestricted use of, all the services, materials, and facilities the library has to offer. Every restriction on access to, and use of, library resources, based solely on the chronological age, educational level, literacy skills, or legal emancipation of users violates Article V.

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“Who Doesn’t Like Libraries?”

Washington, D.C. is a dream location for librarians: books, libraries, galleries, museums, history, monuments, culture, and food. At the beginning of May, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in National Library Legislative Day along with over 500 other librarians. My trip was funded by a generous travel stipend from the Young Adult Library Services Association. Although I have been a librarian for 23 years and have advocated for libraries in my school district and community, this was my first opportunity to advocate on the national level. I am hopeful that my experience will encourage you to become a national advocate as well.

Alex Simons, Liaison Librarian at the University of Houston, is the Texas coordinator for NLLD. She and Letitia Smith from YALSA prepared me for the visits on Capitol Hill by sending information about library advocacy and about how to conduct successful meetings with Members of Congress. In addition to Alex Simons, the other members of the Texas delegation were Jeanne Standley, Executive Director of Libraries at the University of Texas at Tyler, and Carlyn Gray, retired Director of Library Services at Round Rock ISD and currently Librarian at Austin Community College. Gloria Meraz, Assistant State Librarian at Texas State Library and Archives, attended as a resource person and was instrumental in providing information on the impact of federal funds for Texas libraries and the Texas State Library.

This event is exceptionally well-planned and organized. ALA hosts NLLD events and training for registered participants at a local hotel on Monday and plans office visits on Tuesday. Folders with information about important library issues are prepared for each of the 435 Representative’s offices and 100 Senator’s offices. The Texas delegation generally meets on Sunday night to divide up visits, and Monday they arrive early at the House office buildings. With current threats to eliminate funding for critical federal library programs, the folders were filled with data showing how libraries truly do change lives. Alex Simons suggested that we focus on a maximum of three issues to clarify at each office to get the most out of our time during visits. Armed with our data and our stories, we hit the halls.

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