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.
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

——-

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.

Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Fine free.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the Los Angeles Public Library system (LAPL) have created a system-wide collaborative effort similar to those discussed in the now completed Public Library & School Library Collaboration Toolkit (.pdf). The toolkit was published earlier this month by the AASL/ALSC/YALSA School and Public Library Cooperation Committee.  There are three System-wide Initiatives found in other parts of the nation described in the toolkit, but Los Angeles has cooperated in a way that is different, yet (you can view the other System-wide Initiatives and many other programs that will fit any public or school district on ALSC’s web site). 

Continue reading

Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Reach Across the Aisle for Partnerships that Transform Youth Services

Through school-public library collaboration, librarians support one another in expanding and nurturing their communities’ literacy ecosystems. Patricia Jimenez is the school librarian at Sunnyslope High School (SHS) in the Glendale (Arizona) Union High School District. At the time of their collaborative work, Emily Howard was the young adult librarian at the Cholla Branch of the Phoenix Public Library (PPL); she is now the assistant branch manager at Desert Sage. Together, Patricia and Emily developed a series of programs based on their determination to take literacy “where teens are.”

School librarian Patricia and public librarian Emily’s partnership began when Emily reached out about visiting the Sunnyslope campus to discuss what the Desert Sage Branch had to offer SHS students. Patricia was thrilled because she had been meaning to do exactly the same thing.

After their initial meeting, Patricia arranged for Emily and a colleague to visit SHS’s library during lunch periods, helping students sign up for PPL library cards when they are most frequently in and out of the media center. The visits offered a low-key way for the collaborators to get to know one another better. They chatted during the set-up, the time between lunches, and during the tear-down as well.

The collaborators learned they had a great deal in common. Patricia showed Emily some typical SHS library programming, sparking the idea of having Patricia bring that programming to the Cholla Branch. A month later, Patricia boxed up her FebROARary activities and headed to Emily’s PPL branch. Participants in the joint program made dinosaur buttons, colored dinosaur bookmarks, and applied dinosaur tattoos. While the PPL teens were not as excited to participate as SHS students usually are, parents with their younger children stopped in and got involved. Patricia was able to work with a different audience, which was truly fun for her.

Continue reading

Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Cultural Competency and Serving Immigrant and Refugee Teens through Community Partnerships

Rachel McDonald has been a Teen Services Librarian for King County Library System in Washington state since 2007. Her primary interests are incorporating youth voice and bridging the digital divide through library programs. Rachel has been a member of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) since 2004, serving on the Board of Directors and multiple task forces and award committees, including the Alex Awards and the Michael L. Printz Award. She was a recipient of YALSA’s 2013 Excellence in Library Services to Young Adults award and is a student in the University of Maryland College of Information Studies YX certificate program.. She is currently reading The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom by Helen Thorpe.

cover of YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library StaffIn this YALSAblog post Rachel McDonald highlights how skills in YALSA Competency areas related to Community Engagement and Cultural Competence and Responsiveness enable her to meet the needs of non-dominant youth.

For the past five years I’ve worked as a Teen Services Librarian in Tukwila and Seatac, two communities that are a part of the King County (WA) Library System. Due to their close proximity to Seattle, and cheaper housing costs, both cities are popular with newcomers to the United States. In fact, over 40% of the population of Tukwila is foreign-born. At the high school down the street from the Tukwila Library, students speak over 45 world languages. Since the 1990s, local refugee resettlement agencies have resettled thousands of refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Burma, Eritrea, Iraq, Nepal, Somalia, Syria, and Ukraine in South King County.

The longer I work in these communities, the more I understand how important cultural competence and responsiveness are to effectively serving my entire community, and teens in particular. While awareness of one’s own cultural beliefs and cultural differences within the community is an important first step, truly transforming services to teens involves building relationships with other community organizations in order to better engage with different cultural groups, especially those who may experience barriers to using the public library. In Tukwila and Seatac, that means working with partners such as the International Rescue Committee and New Futures.
Continue reading

How Student Engagement is Important for Libraries

A recent survey conducted by YouthTruth discusses whether or not students feel engaged in their school studies. Understanding student engagement is important for educators and librarians because it can give great insight into challenges affecting learning both inside and outside of the classroom. YouthTruth analyzed survey responses from over 230,000 students in grades three through twelve. The information was gathered through YouthTruth’s anonymous online climate and culture survey across 36 states. View the entire report here.

The survey targeted four specific statements, which followed with percentages of their findings. The first was that, “across all grade levels, the majority of students feel engaged.” The results to this statement showed 78 percent of elementary school students, 59 percent of middle school students and 60 percent of high school students respectively felt engaged in school work. It is interesting to see that number drop from the time a student left elementary school and finally made it to high school. However, it isn’t surprising. In elementary school students are constantly praised for the work they do and are often times engaged in more “fun programs” than those who entered the older grades.

This isn’t to say that middle schools and high schools aren’t doing their job of praising students or that they are not having fun. They are – I see it on a daily basis on the social media websites and social media accounts that the schools and teachers at middle and high school levels use. A lot happens in middle school and high school: Life changes occur, college prep begins and suddenly the fun of school is hidden beneath the requirements needed to leave and enter the real world. Students may not feel engaged, not because their teachers aren’t showing how important they are but because so much is happening that education gets lost in the shuffle.

According to the survey, “most students take pride in their school work.” This result shows 72 percent of middle school students taking pride and 68 percent of high school students. The survey broke it down even further to state that females are slightly more likely to take pride in school work than males or students who identify as other than male or female.

The last two survey findings were interesting to me, as they speak a lot to an area I feel public libraries can step in and help fill the gap.

Continue reading

Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Lessons Learned from a Waldorf School Partnership

In summer 2017, my branch library was invited to host seven on-site storytimes for The Denver Waldorf School (DWS), a local, private school whose philosophy aligns with the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. The agreement was for my library to provide a storytime and craft/art project for approximately 25 children (ages 3-6) once per week from June through August. This was our first opportunity to partner with the school, and the more I learned about the cornerstones of Waldorf education, the more inspired I became to apply the principles to our regular storytimes and school-aged programming. Additionally, the partnership motivated me to reevaluate the ways public library staff teach technology to middle grade and high school students, and has prompted me to incorporate more elements of Waldorf education into library programming.

Continue reading