In March of 2014, Albany Public Library was awarded a YALSA Teen Tech Week grant, supporting a music production program we were excited to try.  We called it Build-A-Song, and the idea was to help teens create an original song from scratch, in just five days.  Thanks to the YALSA grant, and with additional assistance from our local Guitar Center, we put together a mobile recording setup that included a Mac Mini with GarageBand and ProTools Express, PreSonus USB Audio Interface, two microphones with a stand and vocal pop filter, studio monitor speakers, headphones, and a MIDI keyboard. We already owned several guitars that we used for free music instruction programs, as well as several percussion instruments; with these and the software instruments available, we had all the ingredients for a full band.  To actually build the song, we dedicated one day to each of the following: drums and bass, guitars and keyboards, electronic effects, vocals, and finally mixing and mastering.  We also put out lyric prompts and a submission jar, and invited teens to write anything from a word to a couplet or even full song.  These would provide material and inspiration when it came time to record vocals.  We decided to record in the middle of our busy youth services room, valuing participation over pristine recording conditions.

Buildasong buildjar

We started the first day by showing teens the basics of the recording software.  We decided to use GarageBand because of its easier learning curve and since we have several iPads for teen use that have it installed.  Teens chose a tempo, and then collectively selected a pre-recorded beat to work from -- this was the only component of the final song not composed or played by teens.  Next, they used the MIDI keyboard to trigger various drum and percussion sounds and create their own beats.  The bassline came next, which was created by lowering the pitch of an electric guitar two octaves .  Though they were encouraged to do so, none of the teens wanted to try playing the guitar themselves, so one of the youth services librarians became their hands and played notes and ultimately a full bass riff dictated by teens.

girls singingThe next day found some teens willing to try playing guitar, despite having no previous experience doing so.  They especially enjoyed changing the effects and hearing themselves sound like rock stars, and were remarkably adept at finding notes and rhythms that complimented the parts of the song already recorded.  This remained true when we moved to the keyboard, which a large number of teens and children played.  Something surprising was that although it could be made to sound like any other instrument, most preferred more natural piano and organ sounds.  Another wonderful surprise was that teens began playing together, with one on keyboard and one on guitar.  It was moving and amazing to see two people who had only just met playing instruments they had never played before, improvising along with a song they were creating out of nothing and sounding GOOD.  A wonderful spirit of collaborative play arose, with others in the room joining in on maracas and xylophones, and one teen breaking out a clarinet she had brought from home - and rocking it!

The following day, we turned up the weird.  We used a Makey Makey to hook up fruits, vegetables and more to the computer, turning a banana and a hole punch into musical instruments.  Here, the sound effect choices were more inspired.  Teens turned a strawberry into a snare drum, a hammer into a trumpet, even connected the Makey Makey to themselves and high-fived each other to add cymbal crashes.  It was very cool to see the expressions of wonder as teens used and witnessed this wizardry in action!

boy singingThe next day we recorded vocals, and the song started taking shape.  To start, we took out the lyric prompts from the submission jar for people to read and record.  We also supplied more blank forms and plenty of pens and paper.  But the biggest draw was simply putting out a mic on a stand with headphones.  We had lots of freestyle
rs, several who read others’ lyrics or wrote their own, and one girl who sat down and wrote a complete original song!  Several teens chose to sing together in pairs or groups, and a few times small crowds arose with people clapping and singing together.  Hooks and choruses were spontaneously created and developed, which became key parts of the song.  The joy and excitement was contagious as burgeoning music producers got to see their parts come together in a real live song.

The final day was intended for mixing and mastering, but we ended up having so many teens wanting to add vocal and instrumental parts that we had little time for post-production.  Some mixing did get done, but most was completed later by a staff member.  Once the song was finalized, a slideshow was created which was then posted on the library’s YouTube page.

girl using softwareBuild-A-Song was a very successful program for us, and a good fit for our patrons and mission.  We have several other music and video production programs as well as hands-on creative programming for kids, teens, and adults.  We are about to launch our Albany Made Creative Lab, which will expand our ‘maker’ programming by adding 3D printing, vinyl cutting, and a range of multimedia tools including the Build-A-Song recording setup.  The Build-A-Song program was so popular that we have now run it twice, tweaking and improving it along the way.  Key lessons learned were to be flexible and let teens lead, incentivize participation, and edit continually rather than save it all for last.  The second time, we also invited teens to photograph and film the process, and with staff help they created a stop-motion music video for Build-A-Song 2.  Expanding the experience this way created wider interest and increased the ways for teens to participate.  It has also inspired continued creativity: we finished the second video a month ago, and still have kids and teens talking about it and asking to create music and videos.  It is wonderful being able to say yes to this!  After the initial purchase, running this program costs us nothing but our time - and pays endless dividends in teen learning, enjoyment, and sense of accomplishment.

To hear both Build-A-Songs and watch their videos, please visit Albany Public Library’s YouTube page:

http://is.gd/build_a_song

Further reading

Here’s an interview with one of our teen participants for the Educator Innovator blog:

http://educatorinnovator.org/at-local-libraries-teens-pursue-and-publish-their-passions/

And here is an interview we conducted for the YALSA Teen Tech Week website:

http://teentechweek.ning.com/forum/topics/teen-tech-week-grant-winner-tor-loney-albany-public-library

---

Tor Loney is a Youth Services Librarian at Albany Public Library, concentrating on teen engagement.  He is especially interested in creative arts and emerging technologies, and is involved in filmmaking, music production, guitar instruction, and electronics programming for kids and teens.  He previously worked as an Information Literacy Librarian and Instructor at the University at Albany, where he received his Masters' of Science in Information Science.

Happy Fall!

I just wanted to thank our members for the 537 volunteer committee applications that were submitted and to give everyone an update on the award and selection committee appointments process!

The appointments task force was finalized in October and award and selection committee chairs were selected. The appointments task force and I are still working on filling all of the award and selection committee member vacancies, but rosters should be finalized soon.

Appointing the local arrangements committee for Midwinter 2015 is the next priority.

ALA Appointments: There has been one ALA Appointment call to review the general ALA appointment process. The slate for the nominating committee has not been officially presented, but does include one YALSA member.

ALA President Elect Sari Feldman has put out a call for volunteers for the ALA committees listed below. Please let me know if you are interested in being recommended for any of them. The ALA application form closes this Friday, November 7, 2014.

It's been a pleasure and a privilege to go through all of your applications. Thank you so much for your dedication to YALSA and to teen library services!

 

My library is the closest library to public housing in my community. Most teens who visit the library are poor. Their city is unsafe, ranking 3 on a 1 to 100 scale, with 100 being safest. Their schools are failing. The public high school was forced to restructure after years of ranking in the lowest 5% of Michigan schools. Every week I see teens who are suspended, on probation with the juvenile system, homeless, or runaways.

Despite all this, the library's Teen Zone is a mostly safe and positive space. Young people gather daily to use the computers for schoolwork, online games, and to catch up on what their friends are doing. Teens drop in and out of the library to see who's hanging out. The space is abuzz with conversation and activity. We ask everyone to engage in a library activity--access the wireless, color the tattoo and mandala designs available on the table, play xbox. Anyone who learns something at a program can ask for the supplies anytime and continue creating. An active Teen Advisory Group (TAG) helps plan and host programs.

JodiKrahnkeBlogPicture3

However, providing quality programs that engage teens and allow them to experience new technology can be a challenge. As with many libraries in the U.S., the downturn in the economy saw property tax in-takes decline while the community's needs increased. Grant money allows me to offer internships and unique programs of interest to TAG members I couldn't otherwise, so I have applied for and received several YASLA and Michigan Arts grants. I'm always watching for grants that will allow me to provide something I hope will improve the lives of teens at my library.

Read More →

Winning one of YALSA's 2014 Teen Tech Week Grants was both professionally and personally rewarding. It was my second foray into grant-writing and I was surprised that my plan for Exploring Arduino and the creation of a portable STEAM lab at my library branch had won. I was also excited to learn something new, something that “my” kids would think was fun, cool, and wanted to learn too. Of course, with any new challenge, there are degrees of success.

The overall challenge was the timeframe – only five weeks between notification that my branch had won and Teen Tech Week. ' Purchasing the equipment – three SparkFun Inventor's kits and three laptops – didn't go as planned. All the equipment used in my proposal no longer existed and were replaced by more expensive items. The Inventor's Kits now available were upgraded, simplified, and cost $10 more each; this was a blessing in disguise as I wouldn't have to solder anything and preparing the kits involved nothing more than taping two pieces together with double-sided tape. The bargain laptops? I now knew the reason they were such a bargain – discontinued for newer, faster models with greater memory capacity, and nearly double the price. So back to the Best Buy website for a laptop that fit my technology and price needs. Success! And, with the financial and logistical help of the Treasurer of my branch's Friends, three laptops were acquired in record time. The next challenge was having the laptops ready to go which meant a phone call and email to our library system's IT department. In four days, IT staff loaded anti-virus and administrative software before downloading the open-source Arduino code. The equipment that formed the basis of a portable STEAM lab was ready!

Read More →

YALSA's Awards Nominating and Governance Nominating Committees have assembled the slate for 2015.

Any individual interested in being added to the slate as a petition candidate can do so by submitting a completed Petition for YALSA Ballot form via the YALSA website found here. The closing date to submit a petition is November 2, 2014.

Please note that you must first log into your ALA account in order to access the form.

Elections open March 24, 2015 and close May 1, 2015.

The slate is as follows:

Read More →

Happy Summer! Hope you are all surviving and thriving as your summer reading programs come to an end this year. Don't forget to look toward autumn, as YALSA's Fall Appointments season approaches!

As President-Elect, I'll be making appointments to the following YALSA committees and taskforces:

*Please note that the PPYA Committee is an all-virtual committee for the coming year. YALSA members with book selection and evaluation experience and who are comfortable working in an online environment with tools like ALA Connect, Google Docs, Skype, etc. should put their names forward for consideration.

Read More →

Yakama Native students could hardly wait to check out new books at the Yakama Nation Library, the latest recipient of YALSA's Great Books Giveaway. YALSA donates thousands of dollars worth of books every year to qualifying libraries across the United States.

Yakama Native students reviewing new books.

Yakama Native students reviewing new books.

The Yakama Nation Library serves 12 schools within a 5-mile radius, and students from all of those schools need access to books and information for reports, language studies, and recreational reading. Before YALSA's donation, the books on YNL's shelves were outdated. Now the collection has become richer with a more current range of fiction and nonfiction books and media to choose from.'  Read More →

Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 19 through April 25, and to help you be an informed voter, we're sharing interviews with each of the 2014 candidates for YALSA Award Committees.

This week we are focusing on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee, which honors the best book and up to four honor books written for teens, based entirely on literary merit, each year.

Candidates, who will be presented in alphabetical order, were asked to craft "Twitter-length" responses (i.e. around 140 characters). Full biographical information on all of the candidates can be found on the sample ballot.

Today we have an interview with Brooke Young.

Read More →

Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 19 through April 25, and to help you be an informed voter, we're sharing interviews with each of the 2014 candidates for YALSA Award Committees.YALSA_173x79

This week we are focusing on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee, which honors the best book and up to four honor books written for teens, based entirely on literary merit, each year.

Candidates, who will be presented in alphabetical order, were asked to craft "Twitter-length" responses (i.e. around 140 characters). Full biographical information on all of the candidates can be found on the sample ballot.

Today we have an interview with Ann Laurie Pechacek.

Read More →

Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 19 through April 25, and to help you be an informed voter, we're sharing interviews with each of the 2014 candidates for YALSA Award Committees.YALSA_173x79

This week we are focusing on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee, which honors the best book and up to four honor books written for teens, based entirely on literary merit, each year.

Candidates, who will be presented in alphabetical order, were asked to craft "Twitter-length" responses (i.e. around 140 characters). Full biographical information on all of the candidates can be found on the sample ballot.

Today we have an interview with Lalitha Nataraj.

Read More →