Community Engagement, Workforce Development, and the Oboe

This post was originally published as a monthly reflection by Future Ready with the Library cohort member Hannah Buckland.

From last February through this February, I participated in the Native Community Development Institute (NCDI), an opportunity organized by the Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP). Three northern MN tribes each appointed seven-member teams, and MHP supported each team in planning a community-based project of our choice. The Leech Lake team–with representatives from K-12 education, telecom, HR, gaming, housing, planning, and the library–selected the huge task of building a workforce development center. Over the year, MHP guided our work through six in-person, two-day NCDI workshops where we learned about project management, leadership, partnerships, policy advocacy, and community engagement. When I first read the call for Future Ready applicants, I immediately connected these two projects.

Future Ready has us viewing community engagement from the perspective of librarians; however, for a sliver of time each week, I’m not a librarian but rather a person living in Bemidji, Minnesota. During this time, personally, community engagement happens through music, specifically through playing the oboe in a community concert band. When I first began playing at age ten, a band director told me that to form a proper embouchure, I should whisper the word “home” and close my mouth around the reed just as I reached the M sound, lips curling softly over teeth. I spent years teaching myself oboe, sitting on my bedroom floor with method books (ILL-ed through my public library before I knew what ILL was), awkwardly and repeatedly whispering “home” until muscle memory finally took hold. After high school band ended, I joined my first community band and have found one everywhere I’ve lived since. Without music, I’m not sure how I would create my sense of community, of home. Continue reading

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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Advocacy in Action: Speak Up for School Librarians with ESSA

What’s happening in your state with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? This federal plan replaces No Child Left Behind, and includes language regarding “effective school library programs,”  thanks to your advocacy!

In Illinois, the State Board of Education (ISBE) is charged with creating the plan for implementing the ESSA. The Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA), with the help of John Chrastka from the nonprofit group EveryLibrary,  worked hard over the summer to develop a plan to ensure that the ISBE includes school librarians as they implement ESSA. Now, as the ISBE holds listening tours all over the state, ISLMA asked for volunteers to speak up.

So I did.

Why?

Because my daughter needs a certified school librarian in her school with dedicated funding for library materials and services, not a paraprofessional trying her or his best with funding only from book fairs.

Because I want my community college students to come to me from high schools with certified school librarians–too many of them don’t. And I can tell by the research questions they ask me at the reference desk and during library instruction sessions that they are seriously lacking in information literacy skills.

Because I want to live in a community that values libraries of all kinds because of their ability to improve lives.

Each speaker at the event could talk for 3-5 minutes, so I made my story personal.  I’m a member of ISLMA, and, once registered to appear at a listening session, received talking points from the current ISLMA President, Patti Fleser.  I was able to coordinate with other speakers before the session I attended at Effingham High School so that we didn’t duplicate each other.  Because of my experience as a high school curriculum specialist, I discussed how school librarians are valuable to school improvement, serving as the natural curriculum and professional development experts in their schools, especially the small schools downstate. School librarians and a retired high school principal spoke concerning school libraries and how they support the concept of the whole child and promote the Illinois Learning Standards.

Guests at the ISBE Listening Session also received updates about what’s happened lately.  At its September meeting, ISBE adopted a college and career framework that consists of a benchmark for declaring a student “ready” for college and career:  a 2.8/4.0 GPA, a readiness college entrance score on the SAT, two or more academic benchmarks or an industry credential, and two or more behavioral and experiential benchmarks.  This led to several school administrators voicing their disagreement with this proposal, with one giving the example of a student who is an expert welder as a teenager. That student won’t be considered college and career ready according to this new proposal (especially if he’s a poor test taker), yet he’s already secured a career with a salary that will eventually pay more than most teachers.  In reply, the ISBE officials reiterated that they welcome feedback, and provided an email address for citizens to send comments and concerns. If you’re concerned about the teens in your communities, these are the meetings that librarians need to attend!  Superintendents, principals, teachers, librarians, the press, and local business leaders were in attendance, and the conversation before and after the event was uplifting and important.

As members of YALSA, we #act4teens. We know that effective school library programs make a school more successful in preparing students for college, career, and life. In the new YALSA organizational plan, one of the three priorities is advocacy to policy makers at all levels to increase support for teen library services. By attending this meeting, speaking up, and emailing comments to ISBE, I was able to advocate for libraries to employees of our state board of education. It didn’t hurt that I was able to build connections with community members concerned with the education of children and teens either.

What’s happening in your state? Check out this blogpost from EveryLibrary to find an ESSA calendar for school library stakeholders and to find more information about ESSA in your state.  What can you do to advocate the teens in your community?

YALSAblog News of the Month – August 2016

Welcome to the YALSAblog News of the Month. In this post we highlight a few news items from the past month that we think are of interest to staff working with teens in libraries, schools, and youth development organizations.

Back to (After) School – Pathways to College and Career Readiness

photo of a park with fork in the pathYou may have already read about YALSA’s IMLS funded project, “Future Ready with the Library.” It’s focus is on helping library staff in small, rural, and tribal libraries to support the college and career readiness of middle school students. That’s right, middle school students. Some people I talk with wonder, why start at that young age? Isn’t that too young? These are teens who are as much as 7 years away from graduating high school, why make them think that far in advance?

Those are all good questions and it’s understandable why they get asked. The thing is that what we do in libraries to support middle school student (and beyond) passions and interests, really helps them to think about pathways to college and career success, even if it’s not overtly presented that way. For example:
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YALSAblog News of the Month – July 2016

Welcome to the YALSAblog News of the Month. In this post we highlight a few news items from the past month that we think are of interest to staff working with teens in libraries, schools, and youth development organizations.

Real Teens, Real Ready

How often do you serve as guidance counselor? How many times have you helped someone complete the FAFSA? or helped someone complete a job application? or helped area community organizations run an annual job fair?

As YALSA president, I can opt to have a theme for my presidential year.  When I re-read the new Organizational Plan and the Futures Report, it wasn’t difficult to choose a topic close to my heart.  I worked in high schools for fourteen years, and now I work the reference desk and teach at a rural community college library, so everyday I think about how prepared my “kids” are for the real world.  Whether that’s discussing with them how student loans work or offering interview tips or explaining why their mean teacher is requiring APA style, it’s always on my mind! College and career readiness have been buzz words for years in education, but I really want to stress workforce development, too.  With the theme “Real Teens, Real Ready,” my President’s Program Task Force will offer opportunities to share best practices about college and career readiness and the skills needed for teens to succeed in adulthood.

YALSA already has a list of resources on the College and Career Readiness wiki page, and is excited about the Future Ready with the Library: Connecting with Communities for College and Career Readiness Services grant that was recently announced.  YALSA, in partnership with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL), is implementing an innovative project that will build the capacity of small, rural and tribal libraries to provide college and career readiness (CCR) services for and with middle schoolers. YALSA and ARSL will work with library staff to build needed skills while also developing, testing and refining turn-key resources, which other libraries can adapt for their own use.

The Real Teens, Real Ready task force will be preparing the President’s Program at ALA Annual in Chicago next summer.  If you have any innovative ideas you’d like to share with them, please contact Chair Valerie Davis. Other task force members are Lisa Borten, Lisa Dettling, Jeremy Dunn, Katie Kirsch, and Ellen Popit. More information will be coming soon about how you can help with this initiative!

YALSA @ ALA Annual 2016: Update on Board Meetings, Discussions & Actions

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July!

As we celebrated our country’s independence last weekend, YALSA, too, has sought to break free from past models of association work and is currently exploring new ways to engage our members that better meet their interests, skills and busy lifestyles.

It was with those #teensfirst  and members’ first ideals in mind that the 2015-2016 YALSA Board approached our work before and during ALA Annual last month as we worked on aligning existing YALSA groups, programs and services with the association’s new Organizational Plan.

Here are some highlights:

– The Board adopted the following consent items, which were items that were discussed and voted on previous to annual, including:

– The Board also approved a more concrete structure to support and revitalize interest groups.

– The Board approved experimenting with new kinds of member engagement opportunities, especially virtual and short-term ones.

As part of its effort to align YALSA’s existing work with the new Organizational Plan, as well as update member engagement opportunities so that they better meet member needs, the Board began a review of all existing member groups at our June meeting.  While the Board was not able complete the review, we did come to decisions about some of the groups.

– The Board agreed that the following committees’ structure and workflow will remain as they currently are:

  • Alex Award Committee
  • Editorial Advisory Board for YALS/YALSAblog
  • Financial Advancement Committee
  • Margaret Edwards Award Committee
  • Mentoring Task Force
  • Michael Printz Award Committee
  • Morris Award Committee
  • Nonfiction Award Committee
  • Odyssey Award Interdivisional Committee
  • Organization and Bylaws Committee
  • The Hub Advisory Board

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YALSA @ ALA Annual 2016: Take the Next Step in Teen Services

Over the past few years, I have noticed that there has been a movement in YALSA to shift teen services in libraries. This shift has taken teen library staff from being mere program providers to being opportunity connectors and learning leaders. With the rise of connected learning, libraries are quickly moving into the forefront of informal learning and teen empowerment. Library staff have become vital elements in the empowerment of teens through relevant, outcome-based programming that develops the 21st century teen. This notable change in direction has made me extremely passionate about services for and with teens, and I noticed this theme in every session I attended this year in Orlando. Library staff all over the country are stepping up their programming in favor of interest-based learning and exploration that effectively engages today’s teens.

One of the first sessions I attended was a presentation on Raspberry Pi by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. I had visited their booth in the exhibit hall and wanted to learn more about their products and how to incorporate them into my programs. Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your tv or computer monitor and uses a keyboard and mouse. It’s a high-performance device that allows the user to explore computing, coding, and more. I was amazed at how such a small device has put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world. In addition to computer education, Raspberry Pi has an unlimited number of uses; everything from turning it into a personal wifi hotspot to creating advanced maker projects like a wearable camera or developing a multi-room music player. Recently, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has partnered with British ESA Astronaut, Tim Peake, to send two Raspberry Pis (dubbed the Astro Pi) into the International Space Station. Both devices were augmented and coded in part by school-age students to measure the environment inside the station, detect how it’s moving through space, and pick up the Earth’s magnetic field. Each Astro Pi is also equipped with a different kind of camera; one has an infrared camera and the other has a standard visible spectrum camera. I had absolutely no idea that a Raspberry Pi had this much potential for STEM and cross-curriculum learning, or that the same Raspberry Pi’s that were sent into space are the same as the ones you can purchase online. Not only is the potential for engaging STEM learning abundant, but The Raspberry Pi foundation makes its learning resources available for free on their website. You can download their magazine, MagPi, check out their books that will help you navigate a Raspberry Pi, or begin tinkering with a Pi by downloading the desktop interface, Raspbian. With all of this potential for making and learning packed into a compact, affordable package, Raspberry Pi’s are the next step in your library’s makerspace.

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