Catch Up With a Past Summer Grant Winner

Want to hear firsthand the benefits of applying for a Dollar General summer grant? 2015 summer learning grant winner Bill Stea, in a Q&A style spoke about his summer program for Walford West Library in Maryland and how receiving the grant helped him and his teen patrons. This is the first of a short series in which we catch up with previous grant winners.

  1. Please tell us a little bit about your library and your 2015 summer reading program

Waldorf West Library is the largest and newest of the four branches in the Charles County Public Library system in Southern Maryland. Our library serves the citizens and community of Charles County, a suburban county below the Washington, DC beltway. According to the 2013 US Census American Community Survey, 8,818 county residents are currently enrolled in Grades 9 through 12 in public school and 8,475 of teens in that age range have library cards. See more.

The summer learning grant applications are open now until January 1st, 2018. There are two types of grants available, valued at $1000 each, and 40 total grants will be awarded. Eligibility requirements apply. More information and applications can be found here.

Get Local and Host a Meet Up

YALSA meet up in the Johnson County Library makerspace

Looking to connect with other YALSA members and staff serving teens in libraries and organizations of all types? Don’t wait around for someone else to name the occasion, host a meet up yourself!

I’ve been a YALSA member for years, meeting other members at conference or virtually through volunteer work is awesome, but I know there are members nearby that I just haven’t had the chance to meet yet! So after a long time of talking about it, I teamed up with another local member, Amanda Barnhart, to host a meet up for YALSA members and anyone serving teens in libraries.

Our meet up was literally by-the-book, as we just followed the easy instructions in the YALSA meet up manual.

The Content: We decided to host our event on a weekday evening and focus on a make-and-take format where attendees could learn how to take a 3D scan of themselves using a Microsoft Kinect and mash it up with another 3D model in Tikercad. This is a program that attendees could easily replicate with teens with minimal equipment and (if you already have an outdated Kinect) no cost!

Attendees learned how to use a Kinect to take a 3D scan of themselves and use Tinkercad to combine that with the animal (or pokemon) body of their choice

Spreading the Word: Amanda and I advertised the event to our local public libraries, school district and library schools. We created a public facebook event to share and track attendance and YALSA staff helped us get the word out to local YALSA members.

Takeaways: YALSA staff provided us with copies of the Making in the Library toolkit and STEAM Programming toolkit as well as fliers about the benefits of membership. We also had signed books from two authors who had recently made trips through Kansas City as door prizes. Oh, and we printed everyone’s mashup too!

Outcomes: We had 14 attendees at our first local meet up and everyone had a blast! We even had one attendee make the trip all the way from Iowa to attend! After the event we sent out an attendee survey asking what people liked best and wanted to do more and the number one response was more networking!

Which leads us to our next steps. Two attendees have graciously volunteered to host our next meet up in a few months. We hope to keep this going with meetings 4-6 times a year, giving local YALSA members a chance to network and talk about common goals and challenges in serving Kansas City teens.

If you want to host a meet up in your town, check out YALSA’s meet up resources. It makes planning easy and gives you simple step-by-step instructions to host a great event.

Big thanks to YALSA members Dawna Ofstehage for helping take 3D scans and Dennis Ross for setting up the space and welcoming everyone to his Library!

Future Ready with the Library: An Exploratory Lab on Kodiak Island

A version of this content was originally posted on the YALSA Future Ready with the Library Cohort Community of Practice and written by Katie Baxter. The Future Ready with the Library project is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

youth interviewing each otherI popped over to the Community College recently to meet with Libby, the professor of Alutiiq Studies, who also co-chairs 4-H on Kodiak island. Since it was 10 cents Wednesday at the local Monk’s Rock coffee shop I was able to spring for delicious homemade pumpkin spice cookies to bring to the meeting. Libby was as thrilled as I was to have a little break for creative collegiality. I started our conversation by talking with Libby about Future Ready with the Library cohort member Laura Pitts’ Building Better Leaders program model.

I also wanted to talk with Libby about the Exploratory Lab I’m working on for the Kodiak Future Ready with the Library project. I have most of the activities, learning experiences, and materials in place for our project. However, I am missing one thing, an activity grounded in Alutiiq cultural values. I am familiar with the story telling traditions and themes of Alutiiq culture that draw upon the tribal value system, but, I am not as well versed in activities. While I could have explored the online Alutiiq Word of the Week database to find out about activities, this was a great opportunity for me to sit and learn with Libby.
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YALSA Member Survey – Reaching out to the community

One of the recommendations from the YALSA Futures Report was that library workers seek to serve all of the teens in the communities, not just those who come through the library doors. The results of the 2017 YALSA Member Survey showed that over half of respondents embrace this challenge by “reaching out to teens out in the community who are not regular library users.”

Roughly the same number of respondents said that they have been “discovering community needs and seeking out community partners to engage with to support those needs.” These two assertions are likely related, since partnerships are essential to reaching teens who do not walk into the library building. Clearly, many teen library workers understand that a successful young adult program is integrated into the other factions of teen life, be it educational or recreational.

Members who are looking for inspiration in infiltrating their own communities can look at YALSA’s Partnering to Increase Your Impact, a toolkit developed by the Community Connections Taskforce. Another great resource is the free map-my-community tool at https://youth.gov/map-my-community.

Teach Us All Highlights Powerful Youth Activism

By Julie Stivers

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

Have you watched the powerful documentary film, Teach Us All? This crucial and compelling film—directed by Sonia Lowman and distributed by Array—documents educational inequality in the US, framed with the history and lasting impact of the Little Rock Nine. The film is available to stream on Netflix or—to increase reach—you can host a screening at your school, district, or library. (Watch the trailer here.)

I was lucky enough to attend a screening organized by a group of equity-focused assistant principals in our WCPSS district.  Watching—and then discussing—the film with fellow educators made the experience even more meaningful. For me as a viewer, the crucial thread running through the entire film was the powerful student activism piece and how it directly relates to this year’s YALSA Presidential Theme: Youth Activism through Community Engagement.

Teach Us All highlights students championing for their rights, building grass-root organizations, questioning inequitable and structurally racist school policies, and working with each other to enact social change within their schools and communities. Youth voices were the most compelling:

“It is up to us as students to create that essential change.”

“Real change happens when the people who need it, lead it.”


Teach Us All
highlighted several community led, youth-based organizations that work with and through youth on issues related to educational equity and social activism.

StudentsMatter [studentsmatter.org]
“A national nonprofit organization founded in 2011, Students Matter promotes access to quality public education through impact litigation, communications and advocacy. Students Matter fights for education equality in the court of law and in the court of public opinion, where students’ rights and voices matter most.”

IntegrateNYC [integratenyc.org]
“We are building a powerful community determined to advocate for meaningful policies that can ensure a just and equitable school system for all our young people.”

IntegrateUSNetwork [integratenyc.org/build]
“Together, we are growing a new generation of real leaders who will unite our society. Students develop civic leadership and design solutions for real integration and real representation.”

Additionally, Teach Us All is committed to inspiring youth to engage with their schools and communities using a social activism lens. On the Teach Us All site, further resources are organized by stakeholder, including educators, parents, organizations, and most critically, students.

Have you seen Teach Us All? What were your main takeaways? How do the issues identified in Teach Us All relate to libraries? What inequitable and structurally racist policies and practices exist within our libraries that need to be examined and dismantled? How can library staff work with youth to develop community led, youth-based programs that empower youth to examine issues related to equitable library services and programs?

We would love to hear from you in the comments.

Making the Public Library More Accessible to Students

In the course of my career, I have worked in almost every type of library (from Academic to Special), but I have spent the bulk of that time as a Public Librarian. One challenge that hasn’t changed in those 30+ years is providing students with access to materials.

At my first public library job in the early ‘90s, I worked closely with the librarians in the school district. They would fax over (because, yes, this was before email) assignment alerts for the various schools and I would pull materials for the students who would inevitably be coming in later to work on their assignments. The librarians of our community, public and school, worked as a team and the students benefited. It was helpful to me as well, because I could make sure there was a reserve cart pulled for specific projects before an over-zealous parent came in and checked out every single item in the library.

Fast forward 30 years, and some elements of this dynamic have remained while others have fundamentally changed. We have the internet; multiple school districts; reference collections are a thing of the past; 1:1 in some districts; cell phones; databases, staff reductions, elimination of school libraries, etc. All of these factors have changed the relationship between many schools and public libraries.

Students and teachers come to the public library in search of data and materials for assignments. In an effort to make sure that all students and teachers have access to materials in my library, we have created three new classes of library cards: limited library cards, digital library cards, and school library cards.

Our main library is located next door to one of our districts’ high school. We get many teens walking over after school to study.  We observed that some of these students couldn’t access databases (from home) or check out materials because they don’t have library cards, and since they walked to the library, didn’t have a parent or caregiver available to check out materials.

In an effort to make these materials and services available to all of our teen students, we created limited library cards and digital library cards. Limited library cards are for teens 14-17, who want/need to check out materials but don’t have library cards. Since our card policy requires a parent or guardian to register minor children for a library card, we have encountered teens who want to check out materials, but don’t have cards.  The limited card allows the teens to check out up to 3 items, and give them access to our digital databases. Without a library card, these teens would not be able to check out materials. It allows onsite and remote access to all of the library’s databases, but does not include access to materials charging.

The third type of card we created, a school library card, is designed for educators. They are helpful to teachers who want to stock their classrooms with supplemental materials, and who have traditionally taken on the responsibility for these items by checking them out on their personal library cards.  Unfortunately for the teachers, when materials are lost or overdue on a personal card, they are responsible for fines and replacement.  Issuing school cards allows teachers access to the materials, but shifts financial responsibility to the school.

If your school library and public library don’t have cooperative borrowing in place, you might want to consider similar ways to provide access to students.

Alexa Newman is a Youth Services Librarian at the Algonquin Area Public Library in Illinois, where she focuses on community programming. Besides her regularly scheduled duties, Alexa created and runs the library’s annual drama camp, storytelling festival, and teaching garden. In her spare time she loves to read, dabble in the arts, and putter in as many gardens as possible. Alexa is currently serving on the School-Age Programs and Service Committee and on the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Joint Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation.

Putting Teens First in Library Services: An Interview with Ryan Moniz

Shannon Peterson and Linda Braun talk with Ryan Moniz, community librarian at the Markham Library. Ryan talks about how he and his colleagues engage with youth and community to design responsive and flexible programs and services.

You can learn more about Ryan’s work in the YALSA webinar, No Hammer Required: Overcoming Barriers Between Teens and Library staff. Putting Teens First in Library Services: A Roadmap is available for purchase in the ALA store.

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.