Bringing the BFYA Teen Feedback Session to Kansas City

For any YALSA member, the Teen Feedback Session of Best Fiction for Young Adults is a highlight of attending ALA’s Annual Conference or Midwinter Meeting. It isn’t just getting the feedback on what titles teens liked from this year’s publishing cycle…but seeing teens up at the mic, sharing their thoughts with marketers, editors, agents and library staff. It’s empowering and reminds us why we do what we do. After experiencing the Midwinter 2017 BFYA Teen Feedback Session, we began to think about how we could get our teens to the conference at Annual.

Chicago and Denver are the closest ALA’s conference ever comes to Kansas City (although KC is a large city, we don’t have the conference facilities to host ALA)  That means our teens will never have the chance to experience and reap the benefits of  the BFYA Teen Feedback Session. They will never have the awesome power of addressing the committee and a room of library staff and publishers. And on a late spring day in Kansas City…we decided to change that.

Three YALSA members from two library systems – Amanda Barnhart from Kansas City Public Library (MO), and Peggy Hendershot and Kate McNair from Johnson County Library (KS) – came together to talk about the BFYA Teen Feedback Session. Our grand idea was to figure out a way to take teens to Chicago and get them on the mic…but soon learned that there are ample teens in Chicago waiting their turn and we wouldn’t steal their moment to speak up. We still wanted to empower our teens and give them the opportunity to speak out and be heard, so we went back to the drawing table and came up with an idea that would impact more teens than we could have fit into a van on a roadtrip to Chicago…

Talk Book To Me was born. In line with YALSA’s Futures Report goal of designing programs with teens’ passions and interests at the heart that are strongly connected to academic and career achievement, we identified four goals for the program. 1) Give teens the tools to analyze a book and express their thoughts in the form of a review. 2) Amplify their voices to BFYA committee members, editors, agents and library staff. 3) Unlock opportunities for teens to build a portfolio of accomplishments.

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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.

Check it out: Teen Literacies Toolkit

Back in February 2017, I wrote about my experience creating a toolkit in one day at Midwinter. It was a great experience and our group got a lot done in one day. We submitted our first draft to YALSA and waited to see what would happen next. Like any good piece of writing, our first draft wasn’t our best draft. So back to the drawing board we went. After several revisions, multiple Zoom conversations, and dozens of Google Doc comments back and forth, we are very proud to report that our Teen Literacies Toolkit has been published!

In this toolkit, we use the lens of fake news to examine literacy skills and programs you can do to help your teens. We propose this lens helps us understand the digital environment many of our teens live in and how we can help them better understand that world. What I think is great about the toolkit is the various ways you can use it. For example, you can:

  • Read the whole thing, cover to cover. Reading the whole toolkit allows you to dive into a little literacy theory, along with pushing you to reflect on the things you currently do with your teens and how you can create impactful programming based on their needs (check out page 10, the section on Embedding Multiple Literacies into Programming and Instruction).
  • Jump into the toolkit and go straight for the potential programs. We spent a lot of time coming up with various “ready-to-go” programs for those who just want those meaty resources. For example, starting on page 4 there’s a list for 15 ways to create a literacy-rich environment, or go to page 14 for Activity Ideas (and see the Appendix for some worksheets).
  • Because we are using fake news as our lens to explore multiple literacies, we have a nice section on how teens search for information and their media environment. Starting on page 6, we explore that environment, while providing some activities to help your teens be a bit more critical with what they are looking at online.
  • We also created a hearty section of “Recommended Resources,” many with short annotations on why we selected those sources. They start on page 15 and include current articles, published research, videos to watch with your teens, activity plans, and more.
  • Our toolkit ends with an Appendix with additional resources. For those in a strategic planning position, you might be interested in our Literacies Program Planning Template. This template takes you through the steps of creating programs that combine multiple literacies as well as being intentional with outcomes and assessment measures. This template compliments our “Embedding Multiple Literacies into Programming and Instruction” section, which begins on page 10.

It feels great to have this toolkit published and we want to hear from you! Let us know your thoughts on the toolkit. What did you like about it? Did any sections resonate with you (and why)? Have you tried any of the things mentioned in the toolkit at your own library? Did the toolkit inspire any other thoughts that you want others to know while checking out the toolkit? 

Big shout out to the rest of the group (Kristin, Jennifer, Trent, Renee, Allison, and Julie) who helped write this toolkit and thanks to YALSA for turning our Google Doc into this beautiful toolkit.

  

One Week, One Story @ Jaffrey Public Library

Thanks to a Teen Read Week Activity grant by YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, Jaffrey Public Library is collaborating with independent comic book store Escape Hatch to foster local teens’ writing and artistic talents for One Week, One Story as our primary Teen Read Week initiative. The purpose is to take the mystery out of the creative process and empower teens to cultivate their artistic skills with autonomy and confidence, providing the tools for them to continue to do so well beyond the end of the program. One Week, One Story involves participants attending a workshop to create their own comics for publication in a bound anthology.

The library will host graphic novelist Marek Bennett to teach a time-challenge comic workshop on October 9, which is also a school holiday. Marek has had a lot of success teaching time-challenge workshops, such as On your mark, get set, draw! during last year’s summer program, and can speak from experience about how time constraints can free artists from perfectionism. His nonfiction graphic novel The Civil War Diary of Freeman Colby is also on this year’s YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens list, so he is able to speak to the entire publication process from creation to marketing one’s work post-publication. After a 3-hour workshop (and pizza) with Marek to learn the basic process of creating a comic book, teens may opt to attend social write-ins in the evenings to polish their works and collaborate for feedback. A final reception at the end of the week gives teens the opportunity to share their work with the wider community and celebrate having completed their comics.

In preparation for the initiative, the library has purchased graphics tablets and editing software so that participants may learn to use the tools typically used by graphic novelists today. The library will also bolster its collection of graphic novels and books about creating graphic novels to provide further references for participants. Throughout Teen Read Week, participants may reserve a graphics tablet to digitize their stories. The library will host a workshop that covers the basics of how to use the hardware and software, or participants may set up a one-on-one tutorial with a librarian.

At the end of One Week, One Story, teens who choose to do so may submit their completed comics for publication. Escape Hatch recently launched an independent publishing venture and will publish the teens’ work in a bound anthology. All participants, regardless of whether they chose to submit their work, will receive a copy of the anthology. Escape Hatch will hold a book release party to launch the teens’ work and will make copies available to purchase.

By providing teens with the information and tools to create, as well putting the tangible results of their efforts in teens’ hands, we aim to strengthen literacy skills and inspire a genuine excitement in authorship. Furthermore, we hope that seeing their friends’ work published inspires teens who do not participate. We will harness the momentum generated by Teen Read Week to implement further programming and independent creative efforts using the tools and resources purchased for the program.

Julie Perrin is the director of the Jaffrey Public Library in Jaffrey, NH.  Andrea Connolly is the Youth Services Librarian.  Their library is a recipient of a Teen Read Week Activity grant from YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

Gimme a C (For Collaboration!): Coding, Collaboration & Community

Earlier this year, the Westerville Public Library was awarded a LSTA Summer Library Program Grant through the State Library of Ohio that allowed us to purchase robots (Kibo, Dash & Dot, and Sphero SPRK+) to extend our already popular in-house technology programs. But we also wanted to reach children who might never make it to the public library. During June and July of 2017, we collaborated with the Westerville City Schools Summer Intervention program to visit 3rd and 4th graders–many of whom had never been to a public library– to introduce students to basic coding with our new robot partners.

Experience

The intrinsic appeal of learning with robots instantly captured students’ attention. We met one of the main goals–increasing interest in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math)–right away, as most students had no prior hands-on experiences with robotics. We emphasized basic coding concepts and the engineering design process: ask, imagine, plan, create, test and improve, then share results. We encouraged children to practice problem solving skills, discussing what worked and what didn’t, and making changes if time allowed.

We introduced the concept of coding by having students program adults to complete a familiar task: making a jelly sandwich. This classic demonstration of following step-by-step instructions was very effective, if occasionally a bit messy. The activity also reinforced the idea that the children are in control. They are the programmers; capable and smarter than the robot, which can only do what they instruct it to do — no more, no less.

Tips 

Allow time for free play. Robots are exciting! It’s natural for kids to want to play, so allow time for non-directed experimentation.

Social exchange — learning to take turns, ask questions, and try another person’s ideas —  IS learning.

Repeat sessions with the same group allows for deeper learning. We had to balance repetition with keeping classes small  to allow for hands-on experience. Repeat classes allow you to go beyond the initial playful period to more directed tasks and deeper understanding.

Expect the unexpected. Be prepared by experimenting ahead of time, but accept that children will try different things . . . and this is okay. You don’t have to know all the answers! Ask how they got to this point, and have them ask each other for ideas. It’s all part of the learning process.

End each class with a summary. Save time to gather together and share their thoughts if at all possible. Some children didn’t think they were learning because they were having fun! All were eager to demonstrate something they had programmed on the robot.

What if you don’t have robots? We began our coding instruction using the free resources on the Hour of Code website. Many “unplugged” activities can also be used to teach basic coding concepts. Our variant of Simon Says– “The Programmer Says”–was so popular it was requested by children in subsequent programs. Don’t be afraid to dive into coding!

Robin L. Gibson is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Joint Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation and Assistant Coordinator of Youth Services at the Fairfield County District Library in Lancaster, Ohio.

Photo Credit: Robin L. Gibson

Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Integrating School & Public Library Systems in Nashville, Tennessee

As a new school year begins in Tennessee, Nashville Public Library (NPL) and Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) are entering the next phase of our partnership. The Limitless Libraries program has long acted as a bridge between the two organizations, offering MNPS educators and students in grades 3-12 access to NPL’s materials. NPL and MNPS migrated to a shared ILS in July 2017, creating a technical bridge to further support this relationship. Doing so created cost savings for the city and public library access for all MNPS students, including those in grades PreK-2.  This ILS merger has been in process for over a year, and it has been exciting to see the culmination of so much time and thought.

Since no existing ILS was functional for both school and public libraries, teams at NPL and MNPS worked with TLC’s Carl-X team to create a custom solution for Nashville. We determined that we could align on many parameters, including the check-out period for educators, and log-ins for students and educators. Other parameters needed to be set up differently for MNPS and NPL locations. The loan rules for student accounts provided a particular challenge, with school and public librarians accustomed to circulating different types of materials for different periods of time. We’re fortunate that we already had strong relationships with our MNPS colleagues in place, so that we could work through issues as honestly and efficiently as possible.

We worked out some solutions readily, but others required quite a bit of brainstorming and further ILS development to resolve.  Student-friendly self-checkout, for example, was not available in Carl-X or their web client, Carl Connect. TLC worked with school librarians to create a new web-based self-checkout option, specifically with schools in mind, to be rolled out in the near future.

Merging systems has been a huge undertaking. Surprises and challenges will continue to arise over the course of the school year, and MNPS, NPL, and TLC teams will continue to work together to meet them.  MNPS and NPL now understand the ways that Nashville’s school and public libraries differ and align on a very granular level. In this way, tackling such a complicated project has made out partnership much more meaningful and effective.  We’ve also been able to provide our patrons with an unprecedented level of access to library materials, which certainly makes all of the work worthwhile.

Allison Barney is the coordinator of Nashville’s Limitless Libraries program, a partnership between Nashville Public Library and Metro Nashville Public Schools.  She currently chairs the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

Photo Credit: Nashville Public Library

Common Reading for Freshman Students

A continuing trend for colleges and universities is to sponsor a Common Reading Program for incoming freshman. These programs aim to connect new students around a shared experience that promises to build community. Every freshman (in theory) reads the book, so when they arrive in August, they have something to talk about beyond the normal freshman small talk.

Now, this isn’t a new idea and in fact, lots of libraries have done similar programs with their more broader community. We might call it something different, like City Reads or One Book, One City, but the concept is the same. It’s a way to bring people together, create common ground, share diverse perspectives, and come to a better understanding of one another.

The library is a natural partner in these sorts of programs, not only for our ability to provide copies of the book, but also the wealth of resources around the book itself. We are in great positions to provide programming and additional information for those really interested in the book content. Additionally, because the library is often considered a third space, it’s a natural spot for some community discussions on the book.

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A New YALSA Toolkit on Partnerships and Funding

On May 9th, YALSA published a new toolkit called Partnering to Increase Your Impact.

Six members and one chair worked since July 2016 in the Community Connections Taskforce to pull together ideas and resources about how libraries can partner with other organizations and locate funding opportunities.  Pictured are Adrienne Strock, Rachael Bohn, Bill Stea, Dina Schuldner (chair), and Billie Moffett.  Not pictured are Derrick Burton and Markita Dawson.

We worked virtually, through email, phone, and video chats to develop this resource that is invaluable to librarians and libraries in finding partnerships and funding that increase the impact Teen Services can have on the Young Adult population.

There are ten steps that should be taken in order to get the most out of a partnership.  They include identifying a teen need, making an inventory of the library’s assets, choosing assets that would come from another organization, and then identifying and vetting potential partners.  Once that initial research is done, it’s all about the relationship you build with your chosen partner.  Together, you can co-develop a program or service and implement it for the teens you serve.  Maintaining that relationship you’ve built will allow you to evaluate the impact of your program or service and either stick with it, or adjust it.  You may even discover that your partner isn’t the best fit, in which case you can move on to other potential partners you’ve already identified in the earlier steps.

We included some great commentary about some libraries’ experiences with partnerships.

There is also an invaluable section on funding opportunities that was developed in part through a survey conducted with libraries around the country.  You will find these ideas helpful in your own quest to increase funding for teen services at your library.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve YALSA as chair of the Community Connections Taskforce, and am grateful to have worked with such fine people in developing this resource.  Please share this toolkit with other members of your library who can help you make your partnership and funding dreams come true!

Dina Schuldner was a Young Adult Librarian at the Gold Coast Public Library in New York, where she developed the Teen Entrepreneurial Academy by partnering with local business owners.  She now lives in Virginia Beach, VA. 

YALSA Partners for Teen Success at Annual!

This week an awesome team of YALSA members (Chair Dina Schuldner, Rachael Bohn, Derrick Burton, Markita Dawson, Millie Moffett, Bill Stea, and Adrienne Strock) published a new toolkit, Partnering to Increase Your Impact, and I wanted to make sure you knew about some great partnerships that YALSA has formed for Annual conference this year in Chicago!

YALSA will partner with ALSC and AASL in the exhibit hall–visit us at #2731. And a shout out to these publishers for sponsoring the Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Luncheon: Blink, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Scholastic!

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Library Intersections: Where Does YALSA and Academic Librarianship Intersect?

At the start of my time in graduate school, I saw a post on a community forum. “Be a writer for YALSA” the subject line read. It was August, I was a young, excited, happy-to-be-becoming-a librarian and wanted to end up in a public library working with children and teens. The opportunity seemed perfect. I emailed the current YALSA blog editor at the time and the writing spot was mine.

I wrote for YALSA for two years, covering reports on after school opportunities, digital literacy, and reflections on the profession as I mixed theory from the class with practice in the field. The blog was a touchstone, a way for me to stay abreast with the field. I also love a good community of writers.

In the middle of my second year, the infamous job search began. I wrote up cover letters and polished up my resume. As I found public library jobs to apply for, I also was applying to academic librarian jobs.

I veered.

Today, I find myself at Pennsylvania State University Libraries. I’m a reference and instruction librarian who works a shifted schedule (Sunday-Thursday, 1-10 PM). I spend a lot of time with undergraduates, mainly freshman and sophomores but an occasional senior. What I love about my job is the ability for me to have one-on-one reference conversations with these students. I can really dig into how to research and I’m persistent – I’ve had conversations lasting up to two plus hours. While I’m still learning how to teach, I feel more settled in doing reference with undergrads.

But then why I am back blogging for YALSA you might ask? I’m back because I’m interested and invested in the intersection and overlap of the work of YALSA and the work I do as a librarian at Penn State. If we think about the long line of fantastic librarians a person has in their lifetime, we have an important handoff. I’m curious in the ways we are preparing teenagers for information literacy in college and also want to share the ways I’m teaching and learning from the teens during their first years of undergrad. I want to explore collaborations between academic libraries, public libraries, and school libraries. What are the ways we can work together, share resources, and build a community?

I’ve got some ideas on ways to talk about these ideas, but I also want to hear from you. Comment below on this blog post with topics you want me to explore. What should I write about? I would love any and all feedback.

I’m so glad to be back and blogging with YALSA.