Not worth it?

I’m at a library conference outside of the US. There was a speaker this morning that in one part of his presentation said, “I don’t even know that it’s worth trying to get teens into the library anymore.” I asked him to explain that comment further during the Q/A. I thought, okay-maybe I misunderstood as in didn’t quite hear correctly or was interpreting it in a way that wasn’t intended. He went on to explain that many libraries are seen as ‘nerdy’ and basically irrelevant to teens and that they get their information elsewhere anyways. We talked a bit after his presentation and he asked, ‘is it the job of the library to pick up where an education system has failed and left off?’ in regards to providing services to teenagers. I told him that I disagreed with this way of thinking and how could we just decide that a whole segment of a population doesn’t have value worth providing relevant services for? Perhaps there was still some kind of misunderstanding from not being in the same country but for the most part, the message was that teenagers just don’t have as much worth as younger kids or adults. While his opinions certainly weren’t representative fortunately, since several people told me of the strong teen programs that had at their library. When someone came up to me and said, ‘You know, I’ve heard Patrick Jones speak before, and I know he would disagree with the comment that teens aren’t worth bringing into the library,’-I knew it was more than just a translation problem and I’m glad I said something.
Every day that we serve teens in our libraries, we’re standing up for their needs. Is it often that we’re challenged to defend what we’re doing? Perhaps, yes. You’re not alone. Feel free to share your stories.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

Call Your Congressperson Regarding SKILLs Act

Please take a moment to call your Congressional Representative and Senator’s offices and ask that they cosponsor the SKILLs Act by signing on to Grijalva and Ehlers “Dear Colleague Letter.” This legislation is critical to the future of libraries.

On Thurs. Aug. 2, Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) sent a Dear Colleague letter asking Members of Congress to co-sponsor H.R. 2864, The Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries or SKILLs Act. This Act would encourage all schools to hire a professionally trained library media specialist (LMS) as well as include LMSs in the “highly qualified” category that classroom teachers are in. Without the “highly qualified” designation which was created as part of No Child Left Behind, schools have been opting out of hiring and/or retaining LMSs in recent years. As a result, youth are losing access to libraries and librarians.

More information, talking points and a copy of the letter are provided on the ALA Washington Office blog.

To find the phone number for your Congressperson’s office, go to and type in your zipcode in the box on the left.

Thank you for all that you do to ensure young people have access to excellent library services and resources!
-Beth Yoke

MySpace for Parents

In a May 2006 interview on DOPA and MySpace with Henry Jenkins and danah boyd, Jenkins states that, “Parents face serious challenges in helping their children negotiate through these new online environments. They receive very little advice about how to build a constructive relationship with media within their families or how to help their offspring make ethical choices as participants in these online worlds.”
At my library, my colleagues are offering a ‘MySpace for Parents‘ class where they teach parents how to set up their own MySpace account, and what to look for when their teens set up their own page. They also include resources in the workshop for further reading and information on other social networking sites the library uses.

What are other libraries doing to help parents help their teens ‘negotiate these online environments’? Or any ideas of what else we could be doing? Even if DOPA passes, parents will still need to know this information.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

Serving Teens Behind Bars

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

I’ve recently started providing outreach to the teen male population at a local Jail facility in NC. The speakers at this presentation had well developed, successful and award winning programs for incarcerated teens with lots of great ideas. Jack Gantos, author of Hole in My Life, spoke after the panel and recounted his own experiences in jail and as a writer. Michele Gorman moderated through her involvement on YALSAs Criminal Elements booklist.

What the panel seemed to have in common was a genuine desire to work with and not judge these readers, to meet them where they were at in their reading levels and interests, and not take no for an answer.

In the programs represented by the panel, incarcerated teens have participated in author visits (started off with just cold calling authors to see if they’d speak at the jail), storytellers, and musician visits,
Great Stories Book CLUB recipients, visual art on display at city hall, created partnerships with the judge, probation officer, teen and librarian to read and discuss books, produced a literary magazine and provided readers advisory.

While a mutual goal was to increase awareness of the library as an important community resource and to use literature as a vehicle for discussion, outreach to a jail is not without its obstacles. Funding (grants, scholarships, and donations sought), security (we are part of the library’s security program by being there), and staff (one jail staff member was teasing a teen that they should read the picture book b/c they weren’t smart enough to read. This interaction turned into the teen joking with the staff and choosing the book anyway. While we might not understand or respond in the same way the jail staff does, we need to understand, most have the heart to work there with the teens and connect with them too) can be challenging.

Reduction in recidivism
Teens read a book for the first time and keep on reading
Reading helps with social and personal issues (Flinn’s Breathing Underwater was a catalyst to for a teen to talk with his girlfriend about her manipulative behavior toward him)
quote directly from a teen:

”Keeps my imagination moving”
(there were more but that’s all I have for now)

Check them out when you can:

Austin Public Library: Second Chance Books created by Youth Specialist, Devo Carpenter.

Hennepin County Library: Home School and Juvenile Detention Center created by Outreach Manager, Patrick Jones.

Johnson County Library System: Read to Succeed created by Teen Services Librarian, Tricia Suellentrop.

Alameda County Library: Write to Read created by one of this years Movers and Shakers, Librarian Amy Cheney.

There are many other libraries serving teens in jails. What kind of tips do you have to share? What has worked well? How many are not quite sure they are comfortable in offering library services to this teen population?