I recently had the opportunity to talk to Sheikla Blount, library media specialist at Columbiana Middle School in Columbiana, Alabama. Ms. Blount was recently named one of the recipients of the I Love My Librarian Award. The award is a collaborative program of Carnegie Corporation of New York, the New York Public Library, The New York Times and the American Library Association. A graduate of Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama, Sheikla clearly has a passion for libraries and children. She’s involved in the middle school, even outside the library, and the sponsor for the Junior United Nations Assembly and yearbook club. Continue reading
In an effort to strengthen library and museum services across the nation, Senator Jack Reed introduced the Museum and Library Services Act of 2017 (MSLA) along with Senators Collins, Cochran, Gillibrand and Murkowski. This legislation, introduced on Dec. 22nd, would reauthorize the Institute of Museum and Library Services. For this legislation to succeed, there needs to be a grassroots effort from citizens to encourage their Senators to support it. Please take a minute to email or call your Senators and ask them to cosponsor S. 2271, and encourage your friends, family, colleagues, and library’s advocates to do the same. Ready to use talking points and email templates available on the ALA site. Continue reading
In summer 2017, my branch library was invited to host seven on-site storytimes for The Denver Waldorf School (DWS), a local, private school whose philosophy aligns with the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. The agreement was for my library to provide a storytime and craft/art project for approximately 25 children (ages 3-6) once per week from June through August. This was our first opportunity to partner with the school, and the more I learned about the cornerstones of Waldorf education, the more inspired I became to apply the principles to our regular storytimes and school-aged programming. Additionally, the partnership motivated me to reevaluate the ways public library staff teach technology to middle grade and high school students, and has prompted me to incorporate more elements of Waldorf education into library programming.
Recently there was a discussion on the listserv for the Association of Rural and Small Libraries about what activities are good to undertake at the end of the year. It seemed like a good topic for the YALSAblog, too, so I’ve adapted my answers to make them more focused on serving youth:
Reflecting on this year
- Send thank you notes to volunteers, supporters, and anyone who gave a helping hand or moral support.
- Do a post-mortem of your overall efforts to serve teens in 2017. What was successful? What failed and why? What will you do differently next year? For more about taking the time to reflect, read this article, Time to Reflect: why does it matter in the workplace?
- Conduct a review library policies and procedures to see if they need updating. Some useful information is on the ALA site and YALSA’s wiki.
- Conduct a review the teen pages on your school or library’s web site and social media sites to see what needs updating or improving. Check out ASCLA’s web accessibility resources. Review content and style for inclusive language, professional content versus personal beliefs, and potential sexist, discriminatory, or similarly insensitive language or images. Ensure graphics do not show people in stereotypical roles.
To track progress on strategic goals, YALSA sends out an annual membership survey. This year, questions focused on how we practice advocacy at the local, state and national level.
One of the goals of the organizational plan was “100% of YALSA members conduct advocacy at some level and recognize that they are doing so. Activities include but not limited to participating in local youth development boards and groups.” So in this year’s member survey we asked you what types of local and legislative library activities you have engaged in and if not, why not?
We were pleased and surprised by the results. The great news is that out of members who filled out the survey, 80% practiced local advocacy and 62% practiced legislative advocacy in the last year. With an incoming administration in the White House, ALA and YALSA called on members to share information about the impact of libraries and library funding in the lives of teens. And thanks to those 62% of members who engaged in legislative advocacy in the last year, we kept IMLS funds in the the federal budget.
The largest barriers to practicing legislative advocacy were having the time and the know how (about 17% of members responded they did not know how to engage in legislative advocacy and 16% indicated they just don’t have the time). If you are looking to build your skills in this area or quick resources that can help you have a big impact, check out:
- The newly updated YALSA Advocacy Toolkit with a great section on legislative advocacy.
- The YALSA Wiki with information on legislative advocacy and statistics to share with your legislators on or before National Library Legislative Day (May 8, 2017)
- ALA’s resources for Virtual Library Legislative Day
We appreciate everyone who took the time to answer the member survey as we work to measure our progress toward the goals outlined in the organizational plan.
Since 2011, Opportunity Nation and Measure for America have collaborated to create the Opportunity Index. This expansive report examines economic, social, and geographical data as a way “to help policymakers and community leaders identify challenges and solutions” with regard to education and employment rates. The most recent edition of the Opportunity Index–which spans 2016–has just been released, giving the public better insight into the contributing factors that determine opportunity in a given community. Since one of the goals of this annual study is to be “useful as a tool to create community change,” we wanted to examine this as a potentially rich resource for public libraries, and explore the ways in which library workers might be able to incorporate these findings into our services (Opportunity Nation and Measure of America, 2017).
Several aspects of the data taken into consideration for this study prove extremely relevant to library services, and can be cited in conversations of change and adaptation. The index itself is divided into three components: Economy, Education, and Community. In order to address how library staff–specifically those working with youth–might engage with this report, each component will be addressed individually.
In order to gauge the economic status of each state, the Opportunity Index gathered a wide variety of statistics including those related to median income, unemployment rates, affordable housing, internet access, and poverty line proximity. Many of these factors already affect our daily interactions with library visitors, and we are likely aware of our community’s economic standing simply by working within it. However, understanding how our state measures up compared to the national average might help us prepare ourselves–emotionally and practically–for our interactions with youth. For states like Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Alabama, which fall on the low end of the Economic Index score, this might confirm what some library staff already know about the necessity of their services. However, a deeper understanding of this dataset–and the factors that influence it, like internet access and access to banking–might inform the programming or workshops available. Tangible actions might include increasing accessibility to financial literacy resources, introducing teens to summer work-and-learn programs and resume assistance, or forging connections between internship and volunteer opportunities. After all, a recent Partner4Work study found that “the various types of work experience [young adults] received in their program enabled them to explore career interests, identify new career goals, and even gain access to employment opportunities” (2017).
In the context of the Opportunity Index, the following factors make up the Education component–preschool enrollment, on-time high school graduation, and post-secondary completion. While our youth services might already include test prep or post-secondary information, we can certainly look at where our state falls on these individual scales. This data, combined with the data collected by our own districts, might inform the workshops or resources we offer our young adults and college students. Offering continuing assistance to our patrons as they navigate the college experience might include increased collaboration with nearby academic libraries, or implementing support systems for college students in the area. According to an article published in the September/October issue of Public Libraries, “49 percent of adult Americans don’t know that online skills certification programs are available at their libraries” (Perez, 2017). This knowledge, combined with the data provided by the Opportunity Index, might suggest we increase informational sessions surrounding the rich collections of e-resources and educational tools accessible through our library networks.
The third component of the Opportunity Index is the Community Score. This category is expansive, and takes into consideration factors like access to healthy food, volunteerism, violent crime rates, and group membership. Of particular interest to library staff working with young adults is the “Disconnected Youth” factor, a category describing young people who are not working or in school. Libraries in states with high percentages of Disconnected Youth might compare this data against their own patron base. If these young adults are engaging with library services, this opens up opportunities to provide information about trade programs, employment opportunities, or online education resources. However, if there is a low level of library use among this population, collaboration with community centers and neighborhood resources might be an avenue of outreach to pursue. The Community Score is only a data-based snapshot of the opportunities and gaps within our communities, but examining these factors has the potential to inform the service we provide in positive ways.
Armed with this data, library staff can find new and different ways to work with and for their young adult patron base. There are countless ways to use the Opportunity Index as a platform upon which new programming can be built, and as a catalyst for change within existing services.
References and Resources
Opportunity Nation and Measure of America. (2017). “2016 Opportunity Index.” Opportunity Nation. http://opportunityindex.org.
Perez, Amilcar. (2017). “Finding and Partnering with Trainers for Tech Programs.” Public Libraries 56(5): 15-17.
Petrillo, Nathan, ed.. (2017). “How Young Adults Choose a Career Path.” Partner4Work. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZOwyMd0C53F7INlgXvOYb68F-3WznswQsP_Fz9k1zko/edit.
During my first years as a school librarian, I worked at a junior high with a group of dynamite classroom teachers. “Collaboration” was a word that we used in discussions and also put into practice. One English teacher and I had the idea of working more closely with the public library and coordinating a summer reading program with our students. Although we did not receive the funding we requested, we pursued the partnership. Over the next five years, we successfully collaborated with the public library on a variety of projects.
We soon realized the necessity of developing a “winning team” to establish our collaborative relationship with the public library, involving stakeholders from both institutions. As we progressed we also realized the importance of celebrating our successes.
A winning collaborative team typically includes a school librarian and children’s or youth services librarian from the public library. Once everyone agrees to work together, all stakeholders should meet to discuss ways the two organizations could work together. Many creative ideas and great discussions develop over a cup of coffee.
Establishing a winning team through partnerships with other organizations is not always an inherent skill. Students in MLS and pre-service library education programs should be exposed to this concept during their studies. The students need to experience collaboration.
Last summer, Emporia State University students enrolled in a Resources and Services for Early Learners class developed collaborative program plans to be implemented at both school and public libraries. One of the plan’s first steps was to identify other organizations as collaborative partners, and other information professionals who could become part of a winning team. The two ideas listed below illustrate possible projects that involve the public librarian and the school librarian.
–Have a Summer Drive-in program where children create their own cars with cardboard to “drive” to the events. This collaboration was with the school, Public Library Summer Reading program and the local drive-in. (Ashely Green)
–The Arbor Day Extravaganza helped the children learn about the environment and how they can protect and nurture it. The public librarian and the school librarian will help the children plant trees or shrubs into plastic containers that can then be taken home. (Heather Green)
These two ideas are examples of creative thought through collaboration; a final ingredient celebrating the success of collaborative winning teams.
As a young school librarian working with a classroom teacher to establish a collaborative event with the public library, my colleague and I neglected to establish a team involving professionals from each organization. Today, developing a winning team will establish more productive and successful collaborations.
Jody K. Howard is an adjunct professor at Emporia State University and is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.
Photo Credit: Jody Howard
Thanks all to all who have donated to YALSA so far, especially those who have given since the challenge match was announced. We’re currently at $4,535 in money raised. Thanks to all who gave at the symposium – we raised $2,000 in Louisville! And that wasn’t from members writing big checks – it was from donations of $5 to $10 that added up quickly. So every dollar really counts!
Your donations to Friends of YALSA and the Leadership endowment advance the impact of teen services across the country. Thanks to you, YALSA is able to annually fund a Spectrum Scholar, an Emerging Leader, and so much more. And now, with the challenge match, your gift will go farther to help support an additional spectrum scholar, provide scholarships to a brand new leadership e-course, and help establish a PhD fellowship for teen services.
If you haven’t donated to YALSA this year, please make a gift today! And, if you have made a gift, please consider making a second one, to maximize this match opportunity! Your gift will go farther to help support an additional spectrum scholar, provide scholarships to a brand new leadership e-course, and help establish a PhD fellowship for teen services. This is a perfect opportunity to talk with friends and colleagues about the great work of the association you are a part of, and inspire them to make a contribution as well.
- Donate by credit card from ALA’s secure website. (choose “Divisions,” then “YALSA,” then “Leadership Endowment”).
- Send a contribution by mail,using the printable mail-in form (PDF). Complete the form and mail it back with your donation to: Friends of YALSA, 50 East Huron, Chicago, IL 60611.
- To set up a recurring donation,use the Network for Good’s secure website. (In the “Designation” box, type “YALSA”)
We only have until January 15th to take advantage of this $10,000 matching opportunity, so take advantage of this opportunity to double your impact!
Libraries strive to be inclusive spaces across North America, but are they? What is the difference between being accessible and being inclusive? More often than not, libraries find themselves as accessible places in an effort to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act or Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that we have here in my home province. Ramps that allow patrons with mobility issues to enter their local branches and modified collections for those with a visual impairment are ideal examples of how libraries can act as accessible spaces. The challenge is in making those same spaces inclusive to those who are different, specifically regarding programming and services normally available to the average patron.
Think of the last storytime you ran at your library. Perhaps it was a bit loud, active, got children out of their seats and was an all-around great time. Now ask yourself: would someone with autism feel comfortable in that environment? What about your teen programs? It took a long time before I even got close to offering inclusive programs because it is definitely a challenge. There are factors you normally don’t consider that can be major obstacles for those living with a disability.
I want to encourage you to make the effort, regardless of how daunting of a challenge it may seem, because the potential outcome will be more rewarding for you, your library, and your community than you can imagine. Getting starting is often the most challenging part of any project so I want to share a recent success regarding special-needs programming in the hope that it will inspire you to identify a need in your community and work with your local partners to address it. You might also check out the resources on YALSA’s wiki.
Through focus groups, surveys, and community outreach, we identified a significant lack of support in our city for teens and young adults with special needs. We listened to parents talk about the lack of meaningful opportunities available for their children once they were phased out of school, and what was available had a significant price tag attached to it. Parents spoke about the desire to see their child learn the skills necessary to eventually hold a steady job and feel as though they are part of society, not a social outcast.
This is when most libraries make a common mistake: programming for the community instead of with your community. It’s easy to listen to a parent tell you that her son needs more opportunities to be social only to turn around and throw together a hodgepodge of a program, but what is the desired outcome? Will the program teach new skills, provide learning opportunities, enhance their quality of life or will it simply be glorified babysitting? A colleague suggested I approach Community Living York South, a local organization serving individuals with disabilities and special needs. Several meetings later I had a better understanding of the challenges facing these individuals in our city and the role our library system could play in supporting them. If you’re new to building outcomes into your program planning, check out the resources on YALSA’s wiki.
Many of the young adults I spoke with expressed a desire to learn how to use a computer. The basic skills we often take for granted were barriers for these youth and restricted their ability to achieve a fundamental mission of any library system – equal access to information. Through these conversations and research, I developed an adapted computer program for young adults with special needs. The workshop would be offered every Tuesday afternoon for two hours for 8 consecutive weeks. Since I was facilitating it, there would be no cost to the participants, but due to space and equipment limitations we were only able to take on nine students.
We decided upon several topics for the program:
- Computer basics (turning on, opening & closing windows, etc.)
- Keyboarding & mouse skills
- Microsoft Word and communication skills
- Using the Internet for research & Internet Safety
- Cyberbullying and peer-pressure
Each lesson was comprised of educational games, computer exercises, real-world examples, group discussions, and a review period at the end of the session. We also encouraged participants to mentor their peers who were having difficulty with certain tasks. Some of our students were able to complete their work quickly, so rather than sit and become disinterested, they were encouraged to pair up and support someone in need of assistance. This became one of the most rewarding aspects of the program because participants were now learning more than just how to use a computer, they were developing their communication and interpersonal skills while making new friends.
I’ve made it sound much simpler than it is, but I want to encourage each of you to take on the challenge of making your library more inclusive. It won’t happen overnight and you’ll encounter countless roadblocks along the way, but know that it will all be worth it. The picture you see below is from the first class I had the pleasure of teaching and I keep it by my desk as a constant reminder that all it takes it a willingness to support those who are too often left behind.
Are you still wondering if you should be offering adapted programs? Well, let me tell you about Adam (I’ve changed his name for privacy) from the program. Adam came to the first class nervous and apprehensive because he had never used a computer. In his own words, he considers himself too “dumb” to use a computer, but that didn’t stop me from trying. Each week we practiced the most basic tasks to create a strong foundation of knowledge he could build on. It seemed as though little progress was being made, until I overheard his conversation with a classmate. I was walking around the class helping participants with their assignment when I heard Adam say, “I can’t believe I’m doing it. I’m actually using a computer. Look, I’m doing it!”
There’s an Adam in your community, and I know with your determination to support those in need, you can provide every Adam with an opportunity to succeed and make your library a truly inclusive space.
Over the course of the past year, library workers and supporters engaged in a massive effort to save funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which provides every state with funds for their library, and was threatened with elimination in the president’s proposed budget. This effort saw progress last month when the House of Representatives approved a funding measure that would actually increase IMLS funding. There is little doubt that the organized work of library advocates influenced this decision. However, IMLS funding will not be totally secure until Congress approves the FY18 budget, hopefully later this fall
For many library workers, however, there remains a fundamental dilemma regarding contact with elected officials. It’s definitely a powerful strategy in advocacy work. But where does advocacy cross the line and become lobbying, an activity that is restricted – but not prohibited – for nonprofit organizations? The YALSA Advocacy Toolkit offers a handy way to think about the distinction, stating that, “…advocacy is about providing information, especially information that emphasizes value; lobbying is about trying to influence a vote.”
Thus, contacting an elected official to inform them of the good work done in your library is not considered lobbying. In an excellent blog post on the topic, Linda Braun elucidates further:
You can advocate by speaking up and out to educate legislative officials about the value of teen services in the community. You can speak up and out to educate about the need for teen space in libraries. You can speak up and out to educate about the role that technology plays in teen lives. You can speak up and out to educate. You just can’t exert influence in order to have a legislator vote a particular way on a particular piece of legislation.
Of course, there are times when library workers do want their legislators to vote in a particular way, as evidenced by the drive to save IMLS funding. This is why we are urged to contact our legislators rather than elected officials serving on the most influential committees. As private citizens and constituents, we have the right to inform those persons elected to represent us of our opinions and desires.
Those of us who work with teens have a particularly compelling message for elected officials. After all, these teens may be casting their own votes the next time that official is up for re-election. When you communicate with your representatives in office, you are educating them about the mindset of the next generation of voters. For additional advocacy resources, visit www.ala.org/yalsa/advocacy and to help YALSA advance its advocacy work, please consider volunteering for the District Days Taskforce!