Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Creating a Winning Team

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

YALSA Fundraising Update

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.

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!

More Than Accessible

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.

 

Advocacy: Contacting Elected Officials

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!

Celebrate Success! Advocating for Teens

Last month, YALSA members were asked to complete our annual membership survey.  We asked you mostly the same questions last year, too, because we, like you, want to show continuous improvement and to make data-driven decisions.  One question in the survey listed possible advocacy activities, and we were thrilled by your responses!  The #saveIMLS effort brought out the fantastic advocacy efforts of many in our profession at the national level.  But many of you are advocating for teens in your library and/or library system, too.  Here are some promising statistics that showed improvement from last year:

  • 40% of survey takers worked with coworkers, administration, and stakeholders to overcome barriers to teen services (up from 33%)
  • 64% of survey takers spoke up about teen issues in formal and formal settings (up from 61%)
  • 48% of survey takers implemented positive change in teen services by working with administration and coworkers (up from 46%)

The Advocacy Standing Board Committee (Chair Kate McNair, Derek Ivie, Heather Sparks, Sarah Hill) is hoping to capture some of your successes by hearing your stories–we want to know what you did! In the YALSA enews email, we’ll be asking for specific ideas about how you advocated.  It’s not all about contacting members of Congress–we want to hear about the time you helped your teens overcome a barrier in your library or about the time you advocated for teens to your library director or principal.

We’re trying to overcome barriers to advocate for teens, too.  One of our activities as a Board this year is to “become knowledgeable about Governors’ boards and the process for appointment to them.” How awesome would it be if all governors had at least one teen advocate from library services serving on their committees or boards?

As I researched how I would go about this in my state of Illinois, I realized that the process was as simple as completing an online form. Governor Bruce Rauner has a huge list of Boards, Commissions, Task Forces, and Councils.  I’m a certified English teacher, librarian and administrator and am now a community college librarian in a rural area, so I selected the councils where I thought I could do the most good for the teens in my community.  I volunteered for the following committees: Commission of Children and Youth, Illinois Community College Board, Education Commission of the States, Education Funding Advisory Board, State Board of Education, State Board of Higher Education, P-20 Council, and the Youth Development Council.  It would take a miracle to be appointed to some of those, but I figured it was worth a shot, right? I’ll keep you updated on if I actually am appointed–promise!

Do you have an example to share in the comments about when you spoke up for teens in or outside your library?

And don’t forget about our wiki of great resources about advocacy…..

 

YALSA Fundraising – Double Your Impact!

Did you know that you have the chance to double the impact of your donation to YALSA?

From November 1st until January 15th, every dollar given to YALSA will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $10,000!

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! 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.

Take advantage of this opportunity to double your impact!

Thanks so much!

 

Chris Shoemaker

YALSA Past President

Member, Leadership Initiatives Fundraising Taskforce

Making the Public Library More Accessible to Students

In the course of my career, I have worked in almost every type of library (from Academic to Special), but I have spent the bulk of that time as a Public Librarian. One challenge that hasn’t changed in those 30+ years is providing students with access to materials.

At my first public library job in the early ‘90s, I worked closely with the librarians in the school district. They would fax over (because, yes, this was before email) assignment alerts for the various schools and I would pull materials for the students who would inevitably be coming in later to work on their assignments. The librarians of our community, public and school, worked as a team and the students benefited. It was helpful to me as well, because I could make sure there was a reserve cart pulled for specific projects before an over-zealous parent came in and checked out every single item in the library.

Fast forward 30 years, and some elements of this dynamic have remained while others have fundamentally changed. We have the internet; multiple school districts; reference collections are a thing of the past; 1:1 in some districts; cell phones; databases, staff reductions, elimination of school libraries, etc. All of these factors have changed the relationship between many schools and public libraries.

Students and teachers come to the public library in search of data and materials for assignments. In an effort to make sure that all students and teachers have access to materials in my library, we have created three new classes of library cards: limited library cards, digital library cards, and school library cards.

Our main library is located next door to one of our districts’ high school. We get many teens walking over after school to study.  We observed that some of these students couldn’t access databases (from home) or check out materials because they don’t have library cards, and since they walked to the library, didn’t have a parent or caregiver available to check out materials.

In an effort to make these materials and services available to all of our teen students, we created limited library cards and digital library cards. Limited library cards are for teens 14-17, who want/need to check out materials but don’t have library cards. Since our card policy requires a parent or guardian to register minor children for a library card, we have encountered teens who want to check out materials, but don’t have cards.  The limited card allows the teens to check out up to 3 items, and give them access to our digital databases. Without a library card, these teens would not be able to check out materials. It allows onsite and remote access to all of the library’s databases, but does not include access to materials charging.

The third type of card we created, a school library card, is designed for educators. They are helpful to teachers who want to stock their classrooms with supplemental materials, and who have traditionally taken on the responsibility for these items by checking them out on their personal library cards.  Unfortunately for the teachers, when materials are lost or overdue on a personal card, they are responsible for fines and replacement.  Issuing school cards allows teachers access to the materials, but shifts financial responsibility to the school.

If your school library and public library don’t have cooperative borrowing in place, you might want to consider similar ways to provide access to students.

Alexa Newman is a Youth Services Librarian at the Algonquin Area Public Library in Illinois, where she focuses on community programming. Besides her regularly scheduled duties, Alexa created and runs the library’s annual drama camp, storytelling festival, and teaching garden. In her spare time she loves to read, dabble in the arts, and putter in as many gardens as possible. Alexa is currently serving on the School-Age Programs and Service Committee and on the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Joint Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation.

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