Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Book Clubs with Heart

Collaboration. In theory, an easy concept. As a school librarian, I understand the importance of collaborating with my public librarians, and I try my best. But if you are anything like me, sometimes knowing what you should do and actually being able to execute it are two totally different things.

When it came time to think of a topic to write about for this collaboration-themed post, I immediately thought of the program that is run jointly by Mira Johnson, the HS librarian in my district and Penny Kelley, our YA librarian at the public library. I thought I’d interview them about the program, the work involved, and the benefits and challenges.

Tell me about the book club:

We run a book discussion program with students in grades 5 to 7 based on the Jane Addams Peace Association’s book awards. These are “given annually to the children’s books published the preceding year that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence.” After reading and talking about the books together, we took a trip into New York City to attend the awards ceremony. We listened to the authors and illustrators make speeches and then we got to talk to them ourselves. We hold meetings at both libraries and we’ve made presentations about our club to the Board of Education, the Friends of the Library, the PTA, and other grade levels in the district.  

Where did the idea to start a book club focused on a book award come from and how did you decide to work together?

Penny’s been involved with the Jane Addams Peace Association for many years, and she always thought the ceremony would be great to bring kids to. Also, the books are always so good, and full of so many things to talk about. When she mentioned it to me, I said, yes, let’s go for it.

Because our community is so small, we decided to collaborate for some programs, so we wouldn’t compete for the same kids’ very limited time. Also, sometimes a school can be a more captive audience. We took advantage of this when we brought the JAB club to the high school’s public speaking class for practice on their presentation. That was a magical collaboration.

What challenges did you face?

Sometimes there was confusion over which library we’re meeting at, or slightly different equipment/WiFi in a different space. I think the kids got used to our different teaching styles and accommodated well. I also think it’s a good bridge—they get to see school and public libraries working together and see how we’re both working toward the same big goals!

The biggest challenge was probably getting approval from the school to miss school on a Friday. Also coordinating the permission slips was a little tricky. Technically, it was officially a public library trip, but because it was a school day, the school still needed copies of the permission slips, etc.

What has the response from the kids been?

I think they really get a lot out of it. The first year, we also visited the UN, and, although that made for an exhausting trip (!), they really “got” the ideas of peace and social justice that the Jane Addams Peace Association is all about. They connected the books to the art that’s all over the UN and the things the guide was saying as well.

Have you noticed an impact with the students because of the collaboration?

We now have a “social justice” vocabulary, a small collection of shared books in our brains, and some really fun, moving experiences. It’s such a great experience to meet and hear from authors and illustrators that you’ve met through their work.

Melissa McBride is a school librarian in Southold, NY. She is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation and the YALSA Board of Directors. You can follow her on Twitter @SESLibraryLand.

Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Collaborating on a Mini-Con

SPLC WordleThe annual Comic-Con in San Diego is a juggernaut that everyone looks forward to. Photos of celebrity sightings, interview snippets, and panel videos dominate the web during the event. And Comic-Con isn’t about just comics anymore of course – it’s about books, movies, graphic novels and all things pop culture in general. So what about those of us nowhere near San Diego? You DIY your own!

Hosting your own Comic-Con provides a great event for patrons of all ages to express themselves, meet with other pop culture fans, and learn about new characters and fandoms. Mini conventions are also a great way for public libraries and school libraries to…you guessed it…collaborate! Co-hosting an event of this size can allow for multiple spaces for more activities and panels, and provides opportunities for guests to meet people they don’t already interact with on a regular basis. So what steps should you take first?

Assemble Your Team
Hosting a mini-con is a big undertaking. Collaborating on one means you’ll have more people on your team of leaders and planners. Make sure to involve representatives from all entities involved. Consider a panel of tweens and teens also – they’re often more in-tune with current trends. Host a contest among local schools for your poster artwork.

Create a Schedule
First, think about all the cool stuff that conventions feature like discussion panels, mixers, contests, artist alleys, etc. How can you recreate them? Depending on the size of your event, start brainstorming early enough so you have time to contact possible artists, panel members, and other participants. You’ll also need to book any spaces that are being used. And make sure to promote well in advance so people can clear their schedule and create their costume!

Get Social
You’ve got a Facebook account, Twitter account, Instagram, and more. Use them to promote, promote, promote! On the day of the event don’t be afraid to Periscope or Facebook Live stream your event. Just be sure to let everyone know they’re on camera. And because you’ll attract new patrons, keep a sign-in sheet around for people to register their email address and social media handle so you can keep them in the loop on future library events.

Beyond Library Collaboration
Collaboration between school and public libraries is key, but don’t forget to involve the many other resources in your community. Wouldn’t it be cool if your mini-con had a panel at a local comic book store, or an art gallery hosted an art show as part of your event? What about a “Romance in YA” panel at the public library hosted by book club students from a local high school? Contact any bookstores in your area, and ask other local businesses to donate or sponsor prizes. Groups like Rotary or your Chamber of Commerce may be able to recruit adult volunteers.

Have you hosted a mini-con at your library? Do you have suggestions for more ways to collaborate? Let us know in the comments below!

Shanna Miles is a school librarian and author in Atlanta, Georgia and a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation. You can follow her on Twitter at @srmilesauthor.com. 

Breaking the Silence about Teen Dating Violence @ Your Library

On Monday, February 13, 2017, teens are invited to join a national conversation about teen dating violence. According to a 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “[a]mong high school students who dated, 21% of females and 10% of males experienced physical and/ or sexual dating violence.” The same study also concluded that “[a]mong adult victims of rape, physical violence, and/ or stalking by an intimate partner, 22% of women and 15% of men first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.” As teen library staff, have an opportunity to raise awareness about teen dating violence by helping teens advocate for their loved ones, friends, and themselves.

Given the amazing selection of books and resources that have been published for teens about dating violence (DV), we can bring awareness in many different ways. One method is to create a display that is going to invoke a powerful statement that needs to be said. For the month of February, my library posted this in our outside display case:

With these displays, we cab develop programming that can initiate a dialogue with teens about DV. If we have yet to connect with community groups and resources that can help us deliver our services, Teen DV month is a great place to start.

During Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, the teens at my library will discuss Jennifer Shaw Wolf’s Breaking Beautiful and a representative from Peace Over Violence will be there to answer any questions about teen DV. What I want to stress about these kinds of programs as that we need to declare that whatever happens at this event stays at this event. Victims of abuse need to know that the Library is a safe place so, by creating a circle of trust, we are actually stating we are here to help them. By opening up this conversation with our communities, it is incredibly helpful to invite an expert to answer the questions we don’t know or are qualified to answer.

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YALSA’s Literacies Resource Retreat Toolkit Creation

The set up

At the end of November, seven librarians were asked to participate in YALSA’s first resource retreat. The mission of the retreat was to create a literacies toolkit, expanding on the discussion that began in the 2014 report: “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action”. We were asked to create a document that was user friendly and accessible to both librarians and library staff who work directly for and with teens. The rest was really up to us, which was both exciting and a little daunting.

The retreat was scheduled for the Friday of Midwinter. Since this was YALSA’s first time trying a resource retreat, everything new to us was also new to YALSA. We were given a stipend to help defray travel and lodging costs and were asked to attend one phone conference before Midwinter to plan out a few logistical elements. In the phone call, we realized we needed a Google doc to keep our ideas in one place. This document proved to be a crucial element of our success during the retreat. We were glad we had done some leg work ahead of time to make the actual day of writing go a tad smoother.

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Future Ready with the Library: Being Future Minded

What does it mean to be Future Ready? It is a phrase I had not given much thought to prior to applying and the YALSA Future Ready with the Library project. As a member of the very first cohort of the three year project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in partnership with the Association of Small and Rural Libraries, I have been given the opportunity and challenge, if you will call it, to tackle issues in my community that affect college and career readiness for middle school students. I am not alone in this endeavor. Fifteen other libraries, some public, some school, some tribal, are in this pursuit with me. We come from across the United States, from Kodiak, Alaska, to Greenwich, New York, to Chipley Florida, to Scottsboro, Alabama and will work together for the next year to learn about and recognize needs in our communities and the ways in which libraries can assist by creating pathways to college and career success for middle schoolers and their families.
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STEAM Zone: an Afternoon of Mechanical Engineering at Miami-Dade Public Library

The Miami-Dade Public Library hosted a series of innovative, technology-based programs for center city youth that focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (a/k/a STEAM). 

A Mechanical Engineering class at the North Central Branch was attended by over twenty students. The class is the brainchild of Carol and Brianna Frachtman and is one of many offered by their school Engineering For Kids Broward. It focused on the creation of two hands-on projects that introduced a variety of engineering concepts and skill sets to a highly enthusiastic group of youth.

“We like to build on children’s natural curiosities and unlimited imaginations by offering inquiry-based, collaborative lessons that spark enthusiasm. It’s about discovery and play and having fun while learning,” said Carol.

The first lesson centered on the creation of a Candy Catapult. Carol explained how these simple machines were used to hoist weapons abCandy catapultsove the high ramparts of medieval villages. The youth were given all the supplies needed to create their own catapult, the foundation of which is a box of DOTS gumdrops. When several students asked if they might consume some candy, Carol quickly explained how that would compromise the volume and weight of their catapult’s foundation—the box of candy—and they might not be able to get enough tension to hurl their projectiles where they wanted.

To foster team building, the students broke into small groups and assembled their catapults. Once the catapults were completed, the concepts of accuracy and precision were discussed.

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Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Adapting Public Library Programs for Schools

In an environment where great emphasis is put on statistics like door count and program attendance, it is tempting for public library staff to view school counterparts either as competition, or conduits to promote our programs. A better approach to the numbers game is to collaborate together on programming, which can mean adapting public library programs for a school setting.

One example is the transformation of our annual Teen Read Week art contest into a passive program built around a collaborative display. This contest has been evolving year-by-year in an effort to find the elusive perfect formula, and remains a work in progress. Participation by a pair of local therapeutic private schools has traditionally been high, thanks to enthusiastic teachers. In an effort to encourage more in-library participation, this year it took the form of a month-long InkTober program. Pens and pads of sticky notes were placed around our teen space, while signs invited teens to contribute a drawing to the display each day. To include schools, I adapted the concept into a paper form that I sent out and then picked up at the end of the month. While there weren’t a huge number of entries, what we got made for a great display. Next year: large sheets of paper taped onto the tables and delivered to the schools, instead of the stickies.

inktober2Another example is our winter reading program for teens, during which students can earn points by visiting their school and public libraries, as well as reading. This came about after listening to a local high school librarian’s concerns over statistics. The reading log will follow the same basic concept as the bingo cards often used by libraries, but with only nine squares — like a tic-tac-toe board. Teens can earn a small prize for completing one three-square line, and a bigger prize for completing the whole board. Students will still be encouraged to read for pleasure, in fact I’ll be visiting at least one school for book talks (as well as promotion of the program). The talks will end with a reminder to visit both their school and public library to get help finding books they might enjoy. Signing off on the squares adds a little work for
library staff, but also adds a tally for their desk statistics and the real benefit: the opportunity for positive interaction with a young patron.
splc-committee-wordle-300x240Tips for Collaborating on Programs

  • Find the right partner; whether that’s a teacher, school librarian, or administrator.
  • Enhance rather than duplicate; if a school is already doing a similar program, ask how you can help.
  • Keep it simple; fit all the information people need to participate onto a single page.
  • Make it inclusive; consider the needs of schools that serve special populations.

 

Donna Block is Teen Services Librarian at Niles Public Library District, Illinois and a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

30 Days of Social Justice: Working with the Harry Potter Alliance

Currently, there are many social issues that are happening not only in the United States, but across the globe. In this time, teens may look through school, or outside their school, for ways that they can help those in need during these trying times. One great way for teens to do this is to start a campaign, and one organization that has many fun, interesting campaigns is the Harry Potter Alliance.photo

The Harry Potter Alliance is a non-profit group that works on campaigns to bring social change and donations to those in need. Their motto is that “The Harry Potter Alliance turns fans into heroes,” and their campaigns allow their participants to live up to this idea. The vision of the group is to make a “creative and collaborative culture that solves the world’s problems.” 

There are many different chapters to join or start. There are chapters that are affiliated with schools, communities, libraries, etc. There are chapters all over the world, working together to help those in needs. Being a part of the HPA is a great way to get teens active in their community. Starting a library chapter is a great way for teens to work together to make social changes, and give back to their community. It is also a great way for teens to meet other teens in their community, and is a positive outside school activity.

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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!