Libraries and the FBI Guidelines for Preventing Extremism in Schools

As pointed out in Intellectual Freedom News recently, the FBI has announced plans to refer more suspects showing leanings toward becoming terrorists—particularly juveniles—to interventions by involving community leaders, educators, mental health professionals, religious leaders, parents and peers, depending on the circumstances. In these cases, the FBI will not necessarily cease its criminal investigation and will remain alert to suspects who become dangerous or plan to travel to join extremists overseas. To assist this effort, the FBI has published guidelines for secondary school personnel regarding at-risk behaviors that serve as “drivers of violent extremism,” to facilitate intervention activities that would disengage youth from them.

While this may seem expedient from the FBI’s law enforcement perspective, there is little published evidence that high schools are hotbeds of potential terrorist recruits. For example the September 2015 report lists 54 “American foreign fighter aspirants and recruits” in Appendix II whose ages are listed. Of these 54, 3 are age 15-17 (all are from one Colorado family), and 2 are age 18 (both from Minnesota). Far more are over age 30.

The FBI Guidelines imply that there should be increased surveillance of adolescents deemed “at risk” by a variety of criteria, especially those youth who use social media and the Internet to access information. Given the changing demographics of the high school population, it is incumbent on school media specialists and their public library counterparts to remember that minority teenagers are already oversurveilled online and in person in a variety of contexts. Adding libraries to this list of surveilled institutions runs in direct opposition to the institution’s mission as well as its attractiveness and usefulness to young people.

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When Libraries Become a Refuge for Youth in a Post-Election World

Provided by Kyna Styes

Provided by Kyna Styes

On November 8, 2016, the United States of America elected Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States. The campaign process and the election was both tumultuous and divisive. When the results of the election were announced, some people took to the streets to protest their anger and disappointment while others expressed hatred and bigotry in acts of violence, vandalism, and intimidation. Needless to say, our country is hurting and many of our patrons are living in fear for themselves and their families. In times like these, many assume that libraries must remain neutral and continue business as usual. However, for those of us who work on the front lines, we see the pain and we see the fear, especially from the youth. As young adult library staff, we can no longer remain neutral because it our responsibility to stand up for youth and convey to our communities that libraries are a safe space for all and we will not tolerate any behaviors that threaten the safety and the well-being of our youth.

Before we create a plan of action, we need to go back to the fundamentals of what it means to be a young adult professional. On June 27, 2015, the YALSA Board of Directors adopted the Core Professional Values for the Teen Services Profession (developed by YALSA’s Professional Values Taskforce) that outlines nine values that set the foundation for young adult professionals. Here are the nine values: Accountability, Collaboration, Compassion, Excellence, Innovation, Inclusion, Integrity, Professional Duty, and Social Responsibility. If you have not reviewed this document, take a few minutes to read it, especially the values that focus on: Compassion, Inclusion, and Social Responsibility. As young adult library professionals, some of us have already witnessed the backlash of the election as teens divulged their fears, shed tears, and made hasty decisions to do things that could harm them in the future. By upholding these core values, we have a responsibility to inform teens that they are safe in our buildings and that we, as library professionals, will help them in any way we can to make sure they have access to services and information to overcome any adversity they may face. More importantly, by demonstrating these values with our teen patrons, we have the opportunity to build, or reinforce, relationships where they know we care about them and that they are not alone. Here are some great ideas that youth services library workers are doing for their communities, post-election:

By standing up for our youth, not only are we modeling positive behaviors between youth services staff and teens, we are conveying to our non-youth services colleagues, fellow city workers, and community partners that we need to work together to ensure our youth is provided for, nurtured, and protected. In other words, start partnering with your city organizations to create a united front to convey to the community that we will stand up and protect the youth of our cities. More importantly, relay patron concerns to city officials and ask them to stand with us and our partners. As the Social Responsibility states, “[Social responsibility creates a] mutual trust between the profession and the larger public [by responding] to societal needs as they relate to teens and libraries” (2015).  YALSA has some partnering resources on its wiki that you may want to explore. Continue reading

Follow-up from the Nov. 16 Town Hall on Supporting Youth during Difficult Times

Yesterday over 40 YALSA members met online during the YALSA virtual town hall to discuss ways that we can support youth in our community during turbulent times.  The outcome of the recent election has caused many young people to feel anxious and uncertain about the future of their rights and of our country, and we know that many incidents of bullying, hazing, harassment, and hate crimes have been reported in the past week. Because of this, the focus of the town hall was changed to focus on what we can do create safe spaces for our youth, how to create empathy, and how to empower teens to promote positive change in our community.

Why do need to offer these types of services to our youth? Because it’s our job.  Last year, the YALSA Board approved a document called Core Professional Values for the Teen Services Profession that focuses on nine core values that define professionalism for those who work for and with teens through libraries. Three of those nine are compassion, inclusion, and social responsibility–values that have been extremely important in the past few weeks.

YALSA has created a list of resources on this topic–Supporting Youth in the Post-2016 Election Climate.  We hope that you will find the information useful and share it widely with colleagues and co-workers.  In addition, ALA has created a Libraries Respond web page with further resources.  If you weren’t able to participate in the town hall, you can listen to the audio recordingread through the comments that were posted in the chat, and check out the tweets with the hashtag #yalsachat.  Many members shared what they are doing inside and outside of their libraries, and it was also great to hear what people were thinking about doing in the future.  As a result of the town hall, a YALSA Interest Group hopefully will soon be forming around ideas to help teens understand and empathize with our changing world, as well as to empower them to advocate for change in a positive manner.  Look for more information on that coming soon.  Also, if you’re interested in this topic, watch your YALSA eNews for information about the January YALSA webinar led by Renee Hill on the topic of helping youth recognize their ability to engage in social justice and equity activities.

Yesterday’s conversation was energizing and hopeful–thank you all for caring for the teens in your community!

Advocacy in Action: Speak Up for School Librarians with ESSA

What’s happening in your state with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? This federal plan replaces No Child Left Behind, and includes language regarding “effective school library programs,”  thanks to your advocacy!

In Illinois, the State Board of Education (ISBE) is charged with creating the plan for implementing the ESSA. The Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA), with the help of John Chrastka from the nonprofit group EveryLibrary,  worked hard over the summer to develop a plan to ensure that the ISBE includes school librarians as they implement ESSA. Now, as the ISBE holds listening tours all over the state, ISLMA asked for volunteers to speak up.

So I did.

Why?

Because my daughter needs a certified school librarian in her school with dedicated funding for library materials and services, not a paraprofessional trying her or his best with funding only from book fairs.

Because I want my community college students to come to me from high schools with certified school librarians–too many of them don’t. And I can tell by the research questions they ask me at the reference desk and during library instruction sessions that they are seriously lacking in information literacy skills.

Because I want to live in a community that values libraries of all kinds because of their ability to improve lives.

Each speaker at the event could talk for 3-5 minutes, so I made my story personal.  I’m a member of ISLMA, and, once registered to appear at a listening session, received talking points from the current ISLMA President, Patti Fleser.  I was able to coordinate with other speakers before the session I attended at Effingham High School so that we didn’t duplicate each other.  Because of my experience as a high school curriculum specialist, I discussed how school librarians are valuable to school improvement, serving as the natural curriculum and professional development experts in their schools, especially the small schools downstate. School librarians and a retired high school principal spoke concerning school libraries and how they support the concept of the whole child and promote the Illinois Learning Standards.

Guests at the ISBE Listening Session also received updates about what’s happened lately.  At its September meeting, ISBE adopted a college and career framework that consists of a benchmark for declaring a student “ready” for college and career:  a 2.8/4.0 GPA, a readiness college entrance score on the SAT, two or more academic benchmarks or an industry credential, and two or more behavioral and experiential benchmarks.  This led to several school administrators voicing their disagreement with this proposal, with one giving the example of a student who is an expert welder as a teenager. That student won’t be considered college and career ready according to this new proposal (especially if he’s a poor test taker), yet he’s already secured a career with a salary that will eventually pay more than most teachers.  In reply, the ISBE officials reiterated that they welcome feedback, and provided an email address for citizens to send comments and concerns. If you’re concerned about the teens in your communities, these are the meetings that librarians need to attend!  Superintendents, principals, teachers, librarians, the press, and local business leaders were in attendance, and the conversation before and after the event was uplifting and important.

As members of YALSA, we #act4teens. We know that effective school library programs make a school more successful in preparing students for college, career, and life. In the new YALSA organizational plan, one of the three priorities is advocacy to policy makers at all levels to increase support for teen library services. By attending this meeting, speaking up, and emailing comments to ISBE, I was able to advocate for libraries to employees of our state board of education. It didn’t hurt that I was able to build connections with community members concerned with the education of children and teens either.

What’s happening in your state? Check out this blogpost from EveryLibrary to find an ESSA calendar for school library stakeholders and to find more information about ESSA in your state.  What can you do to advocate the teens in your community?

Back to (After)School – Building a Positive Environment with a Library Afterschool Crowd – Part 2

This two-part piece looks at ways to manage large afterschool crowds in a library. To read about ways to build relationships and empathy, manage noise levels and energy, and work effectively with staff from other departments, see Part 1. This post discusses behavior and discipline.

To keep things fair, orderly, and predictable in a busy library, consistency is key.  At Addison Public Library, Elizabeth Lynch has found great success using a system called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). She says, “The core of PBIS is…that kids really don’t know what appropriate behavior is, especially in a public setting. So the focus is to educate them on what expectations are and think about the systems we’re creating and whether that’s giving them the support they need in the space, or whether we’re making it impossible or difficult for them.”

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PBIS is not only a philosophy, but also involves a set of clearly-defined rules, consequences, and instructions for staff. These are discussed in the sections below. Having clear and explicit rules helps teens learn what appropriate behavior is, and creates consistency in staff responses to troublemaking. It also reduces friction among staff, since everyone is operating under the same rules about what is appropriate and how to respond to infractions.

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Back to (After)School – Building a Positive Environment with a Library Afterschool Crowd – Part 1

 

For some libraries, back to school is more like back to the zoo.

If your public library is in walking distance of a middle or high school, chances are you have what’s known as an “afterschool crowd”–a term uttered as often with alarm as it is with affection. While large groups of teens coming to the library is a gift and incredible opportunity, it can often leave library staff feeling out of control and create friction between Young Adult Services staff and staff from other departments, particularly those who value peace and quiet.IMG_6035 (960x1280)

While I was working on my Master’s of Library and Information Science, I had the pleasure of working for Elizabeth Lynch, the Teen Services Coordinator at Addison Public Library in Illinois. Every day, 60 to 120 kids troop across the street from Indian Trail Middle School to the library in a wave that calls to mind the Invasion of Normandy. The kids are hungry, chatty, sometimes cranky, and full of pent-up energy. Many come from low-income families and their parents work. The library is a safe place for them to stay until they can be picked up.

How do we provide these teens with education, fun, safety, and positive socialization—and keep them from damaging eardrums, property, or our relationships with other patrons and staff? I’ve drawn on my own experiences and advice from Lynch to offer some ideas.

In this post, we will discuss ways to build relationships and empathy, manage noise levels and energy, and work effectively with staff from other departments in your library. In Part 2, we will discuss behavior and discipline.

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Update on the Every Student Succeeds Act

As you probably know, the new federal education bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), was passed in December.  Since this is such a huge shift in policy, the law has not actually been implemented yet because state and local education agencies need time to plan for and adjust to the new law.  AASL is developing resources to help school librarians and school library advocates use this in-between time to speak up about the important role school libraries play in the success of students.   Check them out on their web siteContinue reading

Speak up for Teens this August

District Days offer the perfect opportunity for legislative advocacy. District Days are a period of time in which Congress is out of session and members of Congress are back in their hometowns. This year, District Days begin on August 1st and end on September 5th. This would be an excellent time for library staff to show elected officials how important libraries are and even get them to visit your library. Members of Congress are always busy in Washington and don’t get many opportunities to visit their local library and really see and understand all the services that libraries provide. It is important that they know this so that they can promote legislation that is beneficial to libraries and teens. If legislators actually see and experience all that libraries do they will be more likely to take action on behalf of libraries and teens. District Days offer library staff and teen patrons the chance to inform members of Congress of their constituents’ needs and help educate them on an issue that they might not know too much about. It can also help forge a relationship with elected officials that would be instrumental in bringing the needs of libraries to the minds of members of Congress, helping them make legislative changes that can only aid teens and libraries.

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Rethinking YALSA: Virtual Town Hall on Monday!

Don’t forget to login on Monday, June 13, 2016, from 2 – 3 pm Eastern for a Town Hall Discussion!

The Town Hall will be about the Organizational Plan that the Board just approved.  See President Candice Mack’s recent blog post for more information.

The Town Hall will be led by Candice and me, and we’ll be joined by many board members, too. The agenda is as follows:

2:00 – 2:15 pm:  Overview of the Organizational Plan & Steps Already Taken

2:15 – 2:45 pm:  Discussion with Participants about Involvement & Engagement Activities

Question to Ponder: What YALSA member engagement activities have you found most meaningful?

2:45 – 3 pm: Q&A and Wrap-Up

If you can’t make it to the virtual town hall, but you’re attending ALA Annual in Orlando, we’d love to see you at the session What’s New in YALSA and How You Can Be a Part of It! The session will be on Saturday, June 25th, from 8:30-10 am at the Rosen Centre, Room Salon 03/04. It will be similar to the virtual town hall, and YALSA’s strategic guru Eric Meade will join the discussion. You can find out more about the Whole Mind Strategy Group in this interview with YALSA Board member Kate McNair.

We’ll be using a format that the Board has been using to meet virtually– Zoom. You don’t have to use video, but it does make conversation easier. And we always love when cute animals accidentally walk in front of the screen!

Email the YALSA Office soon to receive the login information: yalsa@ala.org

YALSA’s Three-Year Organizational Plan and New Librarians

YALSA recently released their three-year organizational plan, which will stretch from now until 2018. It’s ambitious and builds off of the YALSA Futures report, published in December 2013. This plan calls for an understanding of a YALSA librarian’s changing role and the need for YALSA to adapt to these changes in the next three years. This plan has been getting a lot of buzz, especially on this blog (see why librarians are excited for this plan, Candice Mack’s great overview of the plan, and a post about member engagement).

In order to evolve and adapt, the plan picks three priorities that fit within both YALSA’s mission and vision statement. These priorities are

  • Leading the transformation of teen library services,
  • Advocacy to policy makers at all levels to increase support for teen library services, AND
  • Funder partner development

With each of the three priorities, YALSA has outlined strategies to reach their priorities and tangible ways to measure three-year outcomes. These outcomes are paired with a learning agenda, recognizing the fact that in order for these outcomes to happen, we as librarians need to keep learning to reach these goals. Finally, there is an implementation plan, which gives activities for 2016 and potential activities post 2016. This implementation plan promises to be a flexible and living document, so it can evolve as the priorities listed above are put into place.

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