Why You should Care about the FCC’s Attack on Net Neutrality

In 2015 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), after an outpouring of support from the public, put in place strict regulations to make sure  internet service providers (ISPs) could not do things like create fast lanes, or “throttle” online traffic.  They preserved an open internet where all traffic is treated equally online and where large corporations did not get preferential treatment over individuals or small institutions, like libraries or schools.  The American Library Association (ALA) has long been a supporter of net neutrality–keeping the Internet open and free to everyone–and has issued several statements on the topic.  Net neutrality aligns closely with libraries’ core value of providing free and open access to information for everyone.  You can learn more and keep up to date on developments from their District Dispatch blog.  This week, the Trump administration proposed rolling back those regulations with an ironically named “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal, and they are now accepting public comments about the proposal.  Continue reading

An IMLS Overview

If you are anything like the general population you know that the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) does SOMETHING with libraries (and museums) but you really have no idea what it does. We hope by now that you know that IMLS is on this year’s chopping block, per the White House’s proposed budget, but aren’t sure how it will affect you, and why it’s a big deal.

And these cuts are a Big Deal. The IMLS is fairly young, as government organizations go, having been created in 1996 by the Museum and Library Services Act (the act combined the Institute of Museum services and the Library Programs Office), and is reauthorized every 5 years, but it touches every state and US Territory in the country. IMLS now supports all libraries- public, academic, research, tribal, and special as well as every type of museum- from children’s to planetariums to history. Over 158,000 museums and libraries combined benefit from IMLS funds every year.

The majority of IMLS support to libraries is the Grants to States program. Grants to States is the biggest source of federal funding for libraries across the country. It is a bit of a misnomer, because these grants aren’t competitive or something that requires an application. Every state automatically receives funding from Grants to States based on population needs, over $150 million dollars in funds is distributed to libraries every year through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). Each state receives a base amount of $680,000 and each Territory receives a base amount of $60,000, which is then matched at the state level. (To find out how your state uses LSTA funds visit the IMLS State Profile Page.)

Each state or US Territory is able to determine how they will allot these funds, and many states distribute their library portion through their State Library. These funds support a variety of library functions and operations. States use this money to fund staff at state library agencies, continuing education for library workers, Talking Books programs (books for the blind and physically handicapped), broadband internet access, programs for teens, seniors, and at-risk populations, access to databases and downloadable books, and much more. Visit your state library’s web site to learn more about all of the resources and services they have available to help you help teens.

The IMLS also supports libraries through competitive grants, research, surveys, and policy development. The IMLS works in partnership with state agencies and museums to collect data and distribute the collected information to state and federal agencies. This data is used to identify the upcoming trends in library and museum services and to identify target needs across the country. These trends are studied and policies for best practices and plans to improve them are established. Initiatives on InterLibrary Loan, staffing, library governance, collections and more are developed through these extensive surveys and research.

Without the funding from the IMLS libraries will be facing far-reaching budget and service cuts. We will see the funds for things such as the databases we depend on for research dwindle, the funds for downloadable content dry up, and our state agencies will likely lose valuable staff that support our work at the local level. Statewide library funds will effectively be halved by these measures, putting library services and libraries at risk.

How can you help?

Facts and figures drawn from https://www.imls.gov/

Transforming Teen Services: The Empathetic Librarian

While libraries have long participated in the struggle for social justice and equality, it hasn’t been until recent months that our efforts have reached the attention of the public. We’ve pushed diversity and inclusiveness to the forefront with movements like Libraries 4 Black Lives and Libraries Are For Everyone. Libraries and librarians have also begun to incorporate social services alongside more traditional library services. We’re connecting patrons with mental health agencies, public health workers, and housing assistance. Libraries including San Francisco Public Library and Denver Public Library are offering themselves up as safe havens for the homeless; places where these patrons can find support and compassion.

Although the majority of these programs are directed towards adults, many libraries are reaching out to teens. School librarians are collecting materials specifically for LGBTQ youth while public librarians are providing outreach to homeless teens. The YALSA Futures Report explicit calls out for libraries to serve underserved youth including those incarcerated, homeless, or otherwise in crisis. At the root of these services is empathy. By empathy, we mean the “ability to understand and share the feelings of another” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2017). It requires that librarians look beyond collection development, teen programming, and readers’ advisory as tasks to carry out. Instead, we need to carefully assess how we explicitly (but sometimes not) provide help and support to teens through this work. Empathy is inherently a part of the work we do every day. Libraries serve as community hubs and safe spaces, stepping beyond the traditional perception of libraries as warehouses for books. As community anchors, libraries advocate for teens through political engagement and outreach. Advocacy itself is an empathetic activity, nurtured by understanding and compassion. By promoting services and advocating for underserved youth, we demonstrate our commitment to and empathy for teen patrons along with promoting the well-being of our community as a whole.

However, our empathetic work with youth is often overlooked or ignored. In the research and professional literature, empathy in libraries is frequently referred to as customer service. Yet this work is much more than that providing a teen patron with a library service. Being empathetic requires us to be active and engaged listeners who have a mindset of helping. This is already a core component of librarianship. Librarians impact the lives of youth by offering the library as a welcoming space for teen emotional, social, and psychological development. By being empathetic, we reach out to youth who may not have anyone else or feel misunderstood by peers, parents, or teachers. Through our engagement with teens, we display compassion and understanding that improves that quality of all library services.

Libraries serve as a critical “third place” for youth, particularly underserved youth. Separate from home and school, libraries act as a judgement free space where teens can express themselves, hang out, and find support. Whether through teen mentorship, interest-driven education, or teen library space design, librarians place great value on teens and serving teens. A transformation of teen services and the ways in which a library can support teens is in progress. By incorporating empathy into library work with teens, librarians illustrate the continued importance of libraries in communities.

You can find great resources about serving diverse and underserved teens at this YALSA wiki.

Abigail Phillips, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State University. You can find her on Twitter (@abigailleigh) and by e-mail (abigail.phillips@usu.edu).

YALSA’s Spring Professional Learning is Here

Spring is just about here and YALSA is ready to support your professional learning needs with our spring Snack Breaks, webinars, and e-courses. Here’s what’s we’ve got for you:

Snack Breaks

Every month YALSA posts a new Snack Break, a short video about a topic of current interest to library staff working with teens. The March installment, produced by Megan Christine-Carlin Burton (from the Kitsap Regional Library) features teens describing what STEM means to them and how the activities they take part of in and through the library supports their teen learning.

You can check out our past Snack Breaks and find the new productions posted each month in the YALSA Snack Break playlist.
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Yesterday’s YALSA Member Town Hall

During yesterday’s YALSA town hall, members discussed  the different actions we can take as library staff and as private citizens to support teens, especially those who are the most vulnerable in this current social and political climate.

We discussed how to take social action for teens at the local level, and ways to engage teens in community events to help them become better citizens. We talked about how to welcome conversations on diverse issues, display and purchase diverse materials, and teach youth how to be kind, compassionate human beings. We talked about registering voters in the library, holding town halls, community archiving, interviewing local civil rights activists, and taking teens to legislative events at the state capitol building. Many excellent ideas were shared and we invite you to share yours on the Teen Programming HQ!

We shared many resources, like YALSA’s Advocacy webpage with the recently updated 2017 Advocacy Toolkit, as well as the Advocating for Teen Services in Libraries YALSA wiki page.  We reminded everyone of the Supporting Youth in the Post-Election Climate page that was created before last November’s town hall, as well as the Youth Activists’ Toolkit, that can be adapted for use in all types of libraries.  We talked about how communities of all sizes could benefit from a library having a resource like Los Angeles Public Library’s Citizenship webpage, A blogpost can’t list or describe all the great ideas that were shared during the town hall.  If you’d like to hear more, please listen and read the chat conversation.

Did you know that YALSA has a Legislation Committee? The Legislation Committee, chaired by Heather Dickerson, is currently evaluating advocacy and social action resources for YALSA members and teens to ensure that YALSA has the best information to serve our users in the current political climate. They’re also gearing up for National Library Legislative Day, and are seeking stories of how members have advocated for teens and libraries at the local, state, and national levels. The committee will send out a call for stories in the coming weeks. The committee is also reaching out to individuals from each state who will attend NLLD in Washington to ask for their help in delivering YALSA specific materials to our elected officials, with a particular emphasis on reaching out to members of Congress who serve on education-related committees.

Thanks for all you do to support teens in your community!

 

Middle School Monday: Building a Middle School Public Library Collection, Part 2

Last Monday, I talked about the benefits of a middle school collection in a public library, and how we chose a name, chose a collection size, and gathered feedback for my Library’s new Middle Ground.  Our next steps were to get into the specifics of what exactly belonged in the Middle Ground versus the Juvenile and Young Adult Collections.

As I said in my last post, the way you structure and build your collection is going to depend on your community.  I’m providing an account of how I did it as an example, to give you some things to think about while creating your own collection.  For more guidance, check out YALSA’s Collections and Content Curation wiki page.

Formats

We learned through surveying that many of our middle school patrons were interested in nonfiction and graphic novels.  Nonfiction and graphic titles tend to appeal to a wider age range of readers than fiction.  In Middle Ground Fiction we were collecting books that spoke directly to middle schoolers, but such books are few in nonfiction and graphic novels.  We wanted to include these collections in the Middle Ground, but chose to tweak the rules a bit for them.

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Middle School Monday: Building a Middle School Public Library Collection, Part 1

A year and a half ago, I was tasked with creating a collection of reading materials aimed at middle schoolers for my public library.  These types of collections—sometimes called junior high or tween collections—are becoming more popular in response to growing demand from patrons, but creating them poses some unique challenges.  In my next two blog posts, I’ll share some information on my Library’s process: we did, why we did it, what we learned, what, and how you might begin your own process of creating such a collection.  This can only serve as a guideline.  You will need to develop your own methods to build a collection that meets the specific needs of your community.

In this post, I will discuss reasons for having a middle school collection in the public library and first steps to creating one.  The next post will be about selection guidelines for the collection, and how to use those selection guidelines.

I will use the term “middle school collection” to refer to any collection designed to serve readers in the range of ages 10-14.

This is my library’s Middle Ground collection as it currently appears. We are working on expanding it to some additional shelving.

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30 Days of Social Justice: Wrapping Up and Taking Action

The 30 Days of Working for and with Teens for Social Justice campaign is wrapping up, but that doesn’t mean your actions have to end. As I mentioned on December 1st, Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice suggests great ways to get involved in the cause and help spread awareness. Actions range from asking for little effort (but causing a big impact), to major changes we can help implement through our libraries.

If you haven’t tried anything yet, check out the site and do something quick, like:
follow writers and activists of color on social media
teach teens about racism, violence, privilege, and more
diversify your reading list

If you’re attending Midwinter, make room in your schedule for Racial Justice at Your Library hosted by Libraries4BlackLives.

Be sure to check the Hub to make sure you didn’t miss any posts in this collaboration!

30 Days of Social Justice: Why the #OwnVoices Movement Is Crucial for Young Readers

What is the #OwnVoices movement?

Alaina: The #OwnVoices movement originated as a hashtag, started by Corinne Duyvis. Duyvis is an own voices author of OTHERBOUND and THE EDGE OF GONE. Duyvis started the hashtag with children’s literature in mind, but the hashtag has expanded by its users to include all literature or publishing. The hashtag #OwnVoices is meant to showcase works that are created by authors/illustrators who share the identity of their characters, such as a book with a d/Deaf protagonist written by a d/Deaf author.

Why is the movement so important?

Alaina: Whenever we talk about diversity in publishing and literature, there are some critical things to consider. Are we discussing diverse characters, or diverse authors, or diverse gatekeepers and industry professionals? Are we concerned with diversity in that stories are being published with inclusive casts, or are we also talking about the lack of diversity in whose work gets published, and who is sitting at the table making decisions about what to publish? The reason that #OwnVoices creators are so important is because, as marginalized people, we’re the best authority on telling our own stories. It’s great that more people are talking about how to write authentic, sensitive stories outside their experience, and getting sensitivity readers involved, but it’s also important that marginalized people are able to tell their own stories. And that’s what #OwnVoices does—it allows us to be a voice in our own storytelling, when stories about marginalized communities have historically been told by privileged people.

How does the movement relate to other literary movements, such as #WeNeedDiverseBooks?

Alaina: I think a lot of these movements fold together into a central goal—to have more diverse, authentic and intersectional representation across the industry. The different shades of hashtags, such as #OwnVoices and #DisabilityTooWhite (started by Vilissa Thompson), only go to show that there are nuances to the general idea of diversity, whether it’s the idea that disability representation isn’t inclusive of people of color, or the idea that we should prioritize authors writing about their own marginalized experience. These are all unique issues within the larger diversity movement, and I think every time a new hashtag or discussion pops up, it allows us all to dig in deeper and think about the ways we can improve, not just as individuals, but as an industry.

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Promoting Diversity in Homogeneous Communities

Last month at the YALSA Symposium in Pittsburgh, I caught myself in a disturbing thought. The conference featured discussion and idea sharing about all kinds of diversity, especially racial diversity. There was advice about building inclusive collections, providing vital services to underserved populations, and making the library a safe space for people of all races to express themselves and feel valued. On the last day of the Symposium, sitting in one of many sessions that touched on this topic, I thought, “This is so great. I wish I worked in a community where I could do this stuff.”

It didn’t take me long to realize that this thought was very, very wrong.

I work in an upper-middle class, mostly white, mostly Christian suburban community. Being near a large city, we have access to a lot of diversity around us, but our community itself is commonly referred to as a “bubble.”

Libraries are here to pop those bubbles. Continue reading