Transforming Library Services for & with Teens Through CE: The School of Life

cover of the reportAt the National Forum on Transforming Teen Services Through Continuing Education (CE), Shannon Peterson, Public Services Director at the Kitsap Regional Library in WA, spoke with Forum participants about continuous learning. This is what she had to say:

Imaginary gold stars to anyone that actually watched the School of Life video that was part of the pre-Forum materials. Raise your hand if you watched it. For those that did, what do you remember? What are some of the key points that stood out to you?

There’s clearly a lot going on in that small but mighty video. A few points that I think about a lot and will be talking about today are:

  • Nothing is fixed- individual and collective change is a constant
  • Why not you?- everyone is capable of being a part of the change they want to see
  • I particularly loved this quote: “The world is being made and remade every instant and therefore everyone of us has a theoretical chance of being an agent in history on a big or small scale.”

Over the next few minutes, I’m going to talk with you about my library’s small scale efforts to be a part of the change in library services for and with teens and along the way, share some really ridiculous and hilarious missteps that we’ve taken along the way.

Ok, so Kitsap. We are an interesting system in that we truly encompass very diverse communities and geography. We are a peninsula across the sound from Seattle, so ferries are a part of life. Our communities include two native amaerican tribal lands, non-incorporated and rural small towns, a ritzy Seattle bedroom community, and an urban area with 66% free and reduced lunch rate.
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Taking School Visits to the Next Level!

This program was a partnership between Saint Marys Area Middle School and the Saint Marys Public Library. It started when I was talking with the public librarian about coming for her annual visit to go on our televised morning announcements and talk about summer reading. Since I knew that she was willing to come for a full day, I asked if she wanted to add to her summer reading promotion. In addition to going on the morning announcements, she could be a station in an activity I was doing for the end of the year with 6th grade. We decided to give the students a list of questions that they had to ask the public librarian.
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Future Ready with the Library: The Power of Index Cards

This blog post is adapted from a Future Ready with the Library Community of Practice reflection by Amanda (Mandy) Bundy, Kaibab Paiute Tribal Library; Fredonia, AZ, Mandy is a member of the second cohort of the YALSA Future Ready with the Library project. Future Ready with the Library provides support for small, rural, and tribal library staff to build college and career readiness services for middle school youth. You can read more posts by current and previous project cohort members on this blog.

Mandy’s post is available in three parts
* Part 1 – Introduction
* Part 2 – Weeks 1 to 3
* Part 3 – Weeks 4 to 6
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Gimme a C (for Collaboration): Collaborate to Stop Summer Slide

As the school year wraps up and Summer Learning approaches, now is a perfect time to collaborate with your local school and public libraries. We all know how important it is for students to maintain literacies, math and other skills during summer vacation. It’s time to reach out and work together to give kids the best summer opportunities, especially those who need the most support.

For schools with summer reading expectations, providing summer reading lists to public libraries can help to ensure that they have listed books on hand for students. School library staff can help to facilitate the connection by reminding teachers to prepare and share lists in spring. Having reading lists early helps public libraries to purchase books before Youth Services Departments get too busy with summer programs.

Public library staff who serve youth can contact their local schools to promote summer learning opportunities. At the elementary level, visiting library classes to encourage students to participate in summer programs can get kids excited about the public library. They should have a flyer or brochure ready to send home with elementary students. Some libraries issue public library cards to students through school, and this can help kids take ownership of their library and strengthen the relationship between school and library.

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Future Ready with the Library Cohort 3 Time to Apply

Future Ready with the Library Cohort 2 members collaborate during the Denver face-to-face meeting.

Do you work with youth in a small, rural, or tribal library of any kind?

Would you like to help middle schoolers start to think about how they can turn what they love to do and are interested in into a career?

Do you want to join with your community members to support the success of middle school youth and their families?

Are you interested in learning more about teens, community engagement, connected learning, and college and career readiness?

If you answered “yes” to the above questions then it’s time for you to consider applying to participate in the third cohort of YALSA’s Future Ready with the Library IMLS funded project. The application period runs from April 9 to May 15, 2018.   All are welcome to apply, regardless of job title or type of library.  Note: ALA/YALSA membership is not required to apply.
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Research on Competency Content Area 6: Community and Family Engagement

Authored by the YALSA Research Committee

Throughout the current term, the YALSA Research Committee will be looking at YALSA’s new Competencies for Teen Librarians through the lens of research.  Through our posts, we will attempt to provide a brief snapshot of how scholarship currently addresses some of the issues put forth through the standards.

March 14 will never be the same for thousands of young adults who, in response to the high number of recent school shootings, found their voice in the streets of America during the National School Walkout, demanding adults and public officials pay attention to their call for gun control. So my question to our YALSA members “For those that are directly serving our YA population…How were you serving them on March 14 and how did you serve them during the March for Our Lives on March 24?” or “What skills have you helped the young adults in your community develop over time to assist them for this kind of action?”  How are our YALSA members committing to competency #6: “Community and Family Engagement: Builds respectful, reciprocal relationships with community organizations and families to promote optimal development for teens and to enhance the quality of library services”?

The research committee zeroed on three relevant recent studies describing how YA library staff in the field develop or need improvement with developing Community and Family Engagement for and with their teen populations by Harlan (2016), Hughes-Hassell and Stivers (2015), and Froggatt (2015).

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Gimme a C (for Collaboration): The Public Library & School Library Collaboration Toolkit is here!

The AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation (SPLC) is pleased to announce the publication of the Public Library & School Library Collaboration Toolkit.  This toolkit is the result of a three-year collaborative effort with members of AASL, ALSC and YALSA. It is a collection of information, research, and examples that will help facilitate and incorporate collaborative initiatives between public and school libraries.

The Public Library & School Library Collaboration Toolkit is organized into five chapters, and includes helpful links for additional examples or information.

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Digging into the IMLS Strategic Plan

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has been an essential resource for libraries and library schools since its inception over two decades ago. According to its mission statement, this agency works “to advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grant-making, research, and policy development.” On the ground, the work supported by the IMLS takes the form of anything from STEAM programming to data-rich research projects. “Transforming Communities,” the recently published 2018-2022 IMLS Strategic Plan, reviews specific successes and focuses on broader strategies to lead us into the next few years. Certain aspects of the plan—approaches to learning and literacy, library engagement statistics, and serving the under-served—might be of particular interest to library staff who work with youth.

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Technology on the Inside: Inside the Juvenile Justice System

The Boston Public Library (BPL) has had a partnership with the Department of Youth Services (DYS) since 2010. DYS is the state agency that serves teens who are incarcerated and there are two locations in the Metro Boston region that houses up to 90 young men in seven different units. DYS doesn’t have a formal library and for the past seven years each month two BPL Teen Librarians visit each of the units and provides library services by providing books-those books are booktalked to engage the teens and teens may also make specific requests. Each month approximately 70 books from BPL are checked out along with upwards of 30 of those that are specific requests. January 2018 marks the expansion of this program and brings technology into DYS provided by the public library as a pilot program. There are significant limitations for teens in DYS especially with technology and this type of program isn’t routine in most juvenile detention settings.

Twelve Kindles were purchased with up to 40 popular titles downloaded on each. The titles are recreational and popular in nature and many of the titles are only available in hardcover. Two units were designated as sites for this pilot year. Every other month one Teen Librarian goes to the two units and meets with the teens and talks about the books, some methods of accessing books and teaches tips in digital literacy with the Kindles. The teens have access to the Kindles in their classrooms every day and as this is a pilot program input from them is crucial as are new titles to add on the Kindles. The program has an MOU (memorandum of understanding) and responsibilities are expected from both organization such as keeping statistics of usage, surveying the teens usability and likability of the titles and the Kindles themselves. The hope is after the pilot year the program can expand into other units as well as expanding the program itself to incorporate the existing applications on the Kindles like Kahn Academy into exposing teens to these applications.

The existing BPL lending program gives teens a freedom of choice with their ability to choose the books they want to read, this program gives them even more of a choice by having multiple titles on one device that the teens can access as well as informally teaching them digital literacy. Programs like this with technology aren’t something that a lot of public libraries are doing with juvenile justice systems in the United States.

This is a pilot program and as such will be evaluated to see the success of the program. One of the expectations of the program is sharing out about the program, input from the Boston Public Library Teen Librarians, teens that utilize the program and staff at Department of Youth Services. Stay tuned for more YALSA Blog posts on this innovative program.

Socializing to Social Justice: WTF—Woke Teen Forum—at the Hartford Public Library

An interview with Gabbie Barnes by Izabel Gronski

This post is part of the YALSA Presidential Theme: Youth Activism through Community Engagement

The YALSA Presidential Advisory Taskforce was recently brainstorming librarians that were out there in the trenches, working hard to support youth activism through community engagement. Immediately, I thought back to a presentation at the 2016 YALSA Symposium by Gabbie Barnes and Tricia George from Hartford, CT. Their presentation was called From Socializing to Social Justice: Connecting teens to community through social narratives. They tackle youth activism head on in numerous ways, but the Woke Teen Forum in particular was truly inspiring. Their passion for teens and youth activism was evident throughout their presentation and interviewing Gabbie Barnes over a year after their presentation shows that their programs are still going strong. Tap into their passion and find some inspiration for ways to promote youth activism at your library.

Izabel: Tell us about the youth activism programs that you have started at YOUmedia Hartford.

Gabbie: YOUmedia Hartford at the Hartford Public Library is a digital learning and makerspace for teens ages 13-19. We are only open to teens during our service hours, which makes our operations work a little bit different than traditional libraries without dedicated teen spaces. We also average upwards of 85 youth per day, which, as you can imagine, makes 1:1 connections slightly more challenging. To engage as many youth as possible, we use multiple entry points for program development. As a result, youth activism at the library happens in many different ways.

  1. We have structured programs, called “intensives”—these require youth to participate on a regular basis and invest in a desire learning outcome. Those include:
  • Woke Teens Forum (which spawned the youth-led Unconference)
  • YOUmedia Advisory Council
  • Strong Girls Camp
  • Short-term internships for youth to build proposals around issues they’re passionate about.

2) We have unstructured expressive outlets, which are drop-in and require limited commitment on the part of the youth other than showing up. Those include:

  • open mic nights
  • community conversations around controversial and “sticky” subjects
  • artistic workshops focused on messages of liberation.

We also work with a lot of community partners. I’m lucky to be friends with organizers in the community who want to engage youth, specifically. There is a vetting process for who does and does not work with our youth, but ultimately we create space for folks to work with the teens at the library if it’s mutually beneficial. Right now, we have an organizer who does one-on-ones with youth to find out what they’re passionate about and then organically offers gathering times to meet other teens who are similarly passionate. The end goal is a campaign, but the groundwork is starting with each conversation.

There is also a lot of grassroots work happening that I don’t know about–relationships being formed, meetings being had, and events being planned.

I: What inspired you to start the Woke Teen Forum, specifically?

G: We were in one of the most verbally abusive political campaign years of my adult life. The teens were always buzzing about it, and it felt like every day there was some new, horrible thing that they needed to unpack when they came to the library. As someone who stitched together a lot of what I know about systemic oppression in this country through self-guided learning, I felt like I could build a crash course for young people. My goal was to provide an entry point into what is—by design—a much more complex and complicated web than many of us realize. We talked about the intersections of race with housing, education, incarceration, voting, gender, food, and drug reform.

I: What is the most challenging part of pursuing these programs?

G: Scheduling. Even the most engaged teens struggled to make it to every meeting. Young folks are stretched so thin trying to build their resumes for college, be involved in their communities, and still maintain very active social lives. Finding a schedule that worked for everyone was just impossible. To boot, many of the teens I speak to wish that the library was open during their more “alert hours” which for many is in the middle of the night, but it made me ask myself just how effective we can be when we’re competing with after-school extracurriculars, sports, homework? In a perfect world, the public library would be open 24-hours to accommodate all of the schedules in our communities.

I: What was the reaction from your library administration?

G: We’re lucky to have an administration that is supportive of our ideas and believes that we were hired because we embed ourselves in what our community wants. I was most concerned about the acronym, but that was an easier sell than I expected.

I: And your teens?

G: Teens were on board from the beginning. They helped me determine what the topics were going to be; I didn’t want to build something for them without their input. After we finished the curriculum, two of the teens ended up organizing a youth-led design-thinking conference on educational equity. It was one of the most inspiring and awe-inducing moments of my career.

I: How about the community at large?

G: The community was so supportive. I had a few folks from various community organizations reach out to see if I wanted them to host one of the sessions related to their organization’s mission or personal area of expertise. Ultimately, I ended up leading all of the workshops, because of scheduling, but I’m going to try to make partnerships happen in WTF 2.0!

Youth are already doing activism work whether you know it or not. Rather than try to make something for them, figure out how to support what they’re already doing. Have conversations, create space, offer resources, make connections.

 

I: If you could share one piece of advice for librarians seeking to promote youth activism at their library, what would it be?

G: Youth are already doing activism work whether you know it or not. Rather than try to make something for them, figure out how to support what they’re already doing. Have conversations, create space, offer resources, make connections. Leverage your “power” as an adult to provide opportunities for youth to have a seat at the table in spaces they otherwise would not be included.

 

Activism is grounded in history, pain, and hard work. Many people have been doing this work long before it became a library buzzword, and many will continue to do the work long after it fizzles out.

 

I: Do you have any final words for our readers?

G: I fear that when we talk about activism and social justice in libraries that we’re buzzing in the way that we did with 3D printing and maker spaces—or whatever the next hot trend is. Activism is grounded in history, pain, and hard work. Many people have been doing this work long before it became a library buzzword, and many will continue to do the work long after it fizzles out.

Of course, too, I have to shout out my library elders: Spencer Shaw for promoting multiculturalism in libraries and their services and paving the way for black librarians in Hartford; Audre Lorde for being a womanist, anti-racist advocate, writer, and best of all, librarian; Margaret Edwards for advocating for youth and teens in the public library; EJ Josey for founding the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, and Ruth Brown for standing up for racial equality at the expense of her career.

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Gabbie Barnes is a Black, multicultural-dreamer living, working, surviving, and thriving in the Hartbeat: Hartford, CT. She is an auntie, soul sister, daughter, cat mother, mentor, librarian, consultant, mentee, and cinefile. She offers spiritual advising, tarot readings, and essential oil advice. Gabbie received her MLIS during a short, 4-year stint exploring life as a Pacific Northwesterner. She has institutional experience in academic, special, and public libraries. Find her on LinkedIn @hartfordlibraryninja or send her an email gbarnes@hplct.org.

Izabel Gronski is the young adult librarian at the Oak Lawn Public Library. She has experience founding and leading multicultural student groups at Northwestern University, including the International Students Association and the Polish American Student Alliance. She is passionate about expanding teens’ horizons by offering intercultural experiences and opportunities for community engagement. Follow her on twitter @izag or send her an email at igronski@olpl.org.