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.

Civic Data Zine Camp

Since 2012, The Labs@CLP (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh) has provided Pittsburgh teens a digital learning space where they can explore new technologies and hone existing skills. We were one of the fortunate programs designated as an IMLS Learning Lab grantee, and our programming continues to develop our curriculum of teen-driven connected learning. Recent additions include a process through which teens can earn badges as they practice and refine new Labs skills, a transition into some of our neighborhood locations that have not yet received weekly Labs programming and equipment, and the annual Labsy Awards, which recognize the creativity and innovation of local teens. Over the last five years, this unique initiative has evolved and extended its reach into new locations, new disciplines, and new avenues of creativity.

Each summer, we invite groups of teens into our libraries to participate in what we call The Labs Summer Skills Intensives. Partnerships with local organizations like 1Hood Media and Pittsburgh Filmmakers, along with individual artists with unique specializations, allow us to explore a specific aspect of literacy—from songwriting to street art to sound recording—in a creative way. Each teen earns $100 for attending the entire week, and bus passes are available for anyone who might need one. These week-long camps give teens a platform for intimate engagement and complete immersion, and the results are extraordinary. In our camps, teens have produced music videos, written original songs, sewn their own fashion projects, and much more.

We saw The Labs Intensive formula as a great opportunity to highlight our teens’ expertise about their communities, while also increasing the reach of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Beyond Big Data initiative. Part of this effort involves the inclusion of data literacy programming into our existing repertoire, and we soon created a curriculum that would allow us to explore open data with a brilliant group of civically-minded teens. On July 31, we grabbed our supplies and headed to CLP – Squirrel Hill for the first day of Data Zine Camp.

The goals of this Intensive were the following:

  • To identify data as it impacts our everyday lives;
  • To think critically about data;
  • To practice storytelling using data;
  • To examine a personal, civic, or national issue through the lens of data; and
  • To create a Data Zine that documents not only our findings, but our process.

We began the week by introducing our partner, PublicSource. This local journalism network is unique because of its data-driven perspective, and its ability to amplify the compelling stories within data. Throughout our camp, the data journalists at PublicSource led us in fact-finding adventures, examined biases through critical discussion, and introduced us to a variety of data visualization tools and techniques.

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Teen Translator Interns @ the Sacramento Public Library

I am in charge of teen volunteers at the Arcade library and had noted that, of our approximately two dozen volunteers, many of them spoke languages other than English. At the same time, the Arcade library was seeing a large influx of new patrons who spoke said languages from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Syria; teens were also regularly asking about finding paid work in our area. I wanted to create an opportunity for the volunteers to use their linguistic skills and develop new ones related to professional working environments. It was also important to me that they be paid for their efforts.

I then came across a YALSA grant designed to monetarily support interns at one’s library and applied. I was informed that my program had been selected for one of the grants in early 2017. The amount of the grant totaled $1,000, all of which I paid directly to the interns.

The first thing I did after getting the grant was solidify the job description for the interns. I made the schedule flexible and the requirements loose – at minimum, applicants had to be at least 13 years old and be able to get to the library reliably. I highlighted the fact that teens who spoke Arabic, Persian/Dari, and/or Pashto would be given priority and that they would be paid. I also determined that, ideally, I would hire two interns – one who spoke Arabic, and one who spoke Persian/Dari, as those were the languages most often appearing in the community and that no library staff spoke. The description specified that interns were to email me with an answer to the question of why it was important for their community to have access to information.

Once this was finished, I sent the posting to teachers, administrators, and other community contacts in the Arcade area. When performing outreach, I talked about the opportunity to classes, especially those with adult ESL students, once the posting was translated into Pashto, Arabic, and Persian.

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Banned Books Week Approaches

Recently I spoke on a panel discussing graphic novels and their representation of sex education and self-acceptance from an LGBT perspective. The conference, called Flame Con, has taken place for the last three years in Brooklyn, NY and focuses on pop culture with an LGBT lens. As part of the panel we discussed what exists on this topic for all ages including children and teens. In our conversation, we touched on why these titles are important and whether they live on the shelves of libraries. They mostly do, but in my preparation, I found myself on ALA’s Banned Books Week page and saw that many of the books that I know and love for their inclusivity were among the most challenged for 2016. In fact, the top five of the ten were challenged due to their inclusion of LGBT characters. Other reasons these books were challenged focused on sexual content, lewd language, and violence. To see the top ten list of 2016, which includes picture books, graphic novels, YA titles and more, click here.

According to ALA’s Banned Books Week page, “Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers — in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” This year Banned Books Week is taking place from September 24th – 30th toting the hashtag #wordshavepower. Let’s show our unity as we fight for our teen’s right to read what they need.

This week allows us as librarians and advocates to shine a spotlight on those books that others want to put in the dark. Censorship of these titles silences the voices of the authors and puts blinders on our readers. It effects our First Amendment rights as readers. As we all know, representation in young adult literature is paramount to the teens that we serve. Whether those books are windows or mirrors for the readers we must make sure our patrons can either see themselves in a book or learn about the lives of others through what they read. If we do not fight against these challenges our teen patrons will continue to find the books they need censored.

So how can ALA and YALSA help you? Take a look at our resource pages on Banned Books Week and the Office for Intellectual Freedom. There are tools located there that can help you report challenged titles, get support for these challenges, and build a rock-solid collection development policy. So you know what you may be facing here are definitions from ALA’s Challenge Support site:

  • A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.
  • Censorship is a change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes.
  • Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.

The Challenge Support site also goes on to explain you can contact the Office for Intellectual Freedom whenever you hear even the slightest rumbling around a book at your library. They even give you the contact information right on the page! We’ll share it here for even easier access: For assistance with challenges to library materials, services, or programs, please contact Kristin Pekoll at the Office for Intellectual Freedom, 800-545-2433, ext. 4221, or via email: kpekoll@ala.org. Granted it can be scary when something is challenged in your collection, but remember we are all in this together (that may or may not be a High School Musical reference – don’t censor me!).

In the meantime, when you are not dealing with a live challenge, celebrate those books that have been banned in the past. Make a display of the books or put a list of the books on a bulletin board. Ask your teens or colleagues what their favorite Banned Books are and show them off. We can be advocates for our teens and their literature in whatever way we choose – whenever we choose. As YALSA members and/or teen librarians we sometimes house the most controversial books in our collections so be brave, report challenges, and advocate for Banned Books.

For everyday Advocacy information, be sure to check out YALSA’s Advocacy Page and Toolkit!

Derek Ivie is the Youth Services Coordinator at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System in Bellport, NY. He has served on many booklist and award committees, and is currently serving as a Board Member at Large for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

Youth Activism Through Community Engagement—Presidential Task Force

 

After the horrors of Charlottesville unfolded, we saw powerful and moving responses via social media, petitions, and public demonstrations. Recently, YALSA President Sandra Hughes-Hassell wrote a blog post about what library staff can do to help. The 2017-2018 YALSA Presidential Year theme of Youth Activism through Community Engagement is an appropriate call to action for library staff to support teens in developing the necessary skills and confidence to engage in their communities.

Advocacy and civic engagement are not activities solely for adults but have been taken up by youth across the world. Age is not a barrier for participation but an opportunity for teens to learn more about what they believe and how they can make an impact. More and more teens are organizing for social change and demonstrating a compassion for those in need. As library staff, we can encourage this excitement by sharing resources, offering a brave and welcoming space, providing opportunities for leadership, promoting thoughtful and #ownvoices reading, and facilitating teen engagement in their communities.

Wethe Presidential Advisory Task Forcehave collected a sampling of resources to help further support youth activism in your library, in addition to including resources that can help foster conversations with teens about Charlottesville,  race, institutionalized racism, and systemic oppression.

 

Teen Activism

Youth Activism Project

Teen Vogue: 20 Small Acts of Resistance to Make Your Voice Heard Over the Next 4 Years

10 Trans and Gender-Nonconforming Youth Activists of Color Making a Huge Difference

The Forefront of Resistance

Medium: A Nervous Wreck’s Disabled Guide to Stepping Up

Life Hacker: 30 Young Adult Books for Activists in Training

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Summer Learning @ South Sioux City Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

We were blessed to receive the Summer Learning Resources Grant through YALSA and Dollar General.  This grant provided us the luxury of purchasing books along with their audiobook companions, a listening table, CD/MP3 player and chairs. We were able to set this up in our computer room for youth in Middle School and High School students to use on a daily basis.

Our town is a minority/majority town and with this listening center it will help with ELL students learning and hearing the English language. We were able to meet our goals of having 1) the students hear how the words on a page can come alive in an expressive manner, 2) helping the students hear the sounds of the words without interruption and create a more fluid reading, and 3) having the audio books help the students master the skill of listening.

During our past Summer Reading Programs some of our ELL students and newly emigrated students struggled to meet the goals set for others their same age. With being able to include books in audio format, they were able and excitedly joined our program with no concerns of being left behind or feeling left out. We encouraged collaboration with the ELL staff at the High School to bring the youth into our Public Library on a field trip, where they met with me, talked with me, were made to feel comfortable in the library atmosphere and learn what we can offer to them. Throughout the summer I was able to meet back up with those students who I watched grown in their confidence of using the library, to enjoying the listening center and then finding the graphic novels! It was a huge success.

My name is Odessa Meyer. I’ve been the Youth Services Librarian at the South Sioux City Public Library in South Sioux City, NE since 2009. I never knew I wanted to be a librarian. I went to college for Computer Programming, worked in many different fields and eventually made my way into a school system in NE. When I decided it was time to go back to my hometown, I applied for the position at the library, was granted the opportunity to accept the job and fell in love. I had no idea how perfect this position was for me and how perfect I was for this job.

Field Trip for Literacy! Dollar General Grant Winner

Thanks to YALSA and The General Dollar Literacy Foundation English, fifty students were able to increase their ability to read, develop an interest in books, and become more comfortable using school library services. As a high school librarian and the recipient of a Summer Learning Resources Grant, I created a summer program that would provide funds for students to select books THEY WANTED to read as part of a field trip experience to the local bookstore.  Looking online or through catalogs to select a book does not get the student as involved as actually seeing, touching, smelling and perusing thousands of books—that is a much more engaging experience for developing booklovers! Also, witnessing other bibliophiles outside the school in the real world provides students with a new and refreshing perspective on reading, the love of books, information and the freedom to choose. 

Our school is fortunate to have a store within walking distance of our school, and the field trip took place on a beautiful, sunny day which only increased the pleasure and privilege of the experience for the students. Participants are English Language Learners (ELL) who come from families facing language and socio-economic challenges. Many do not have the resources or family support to purchase books for reading other than what is provided by the school. As grant facilitator, I was able to build relationships with the students, and draw them into the library, building their confidence in not only reading, but utilizing the library space and resources as a beneficial support system for future academic success.  Collaboration with ELL teachers provided additional supervision, support and enthusiasm for the project, as well as encouraged future use of library services for their students. Since the students reviewed and donated their book back to the library, it increased the library collection with high-interest student selected books. Additionally, the grant provided funds to purchase culturally relevant lit circle books for reading and discussion that the students look forward to reading next.  Here is a simplified project itinerary: Continue reading

YALSA @ ALA Annual 2017: Youth Development through Community Engagement

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend ALA Annual 2017 in Chicago last month, where YALSA-sponsored panels and sessions focused on everything from how to run a tech/makerspace to creative ways to engage teens inside the library and out. Regardless of what the specific topic of each panel was, I began noticing a common theme running throughout: the future of teen services lies squarely within the realm of community and civil engagement. Presenters kept returning to this theme of team-based and service driven learning; that teen development is tied to meaningful contributions to both peers and adults, empowering a positive self-image, and fostering a capacity to creatively problem solve. All of this sounds great, but what does this mean for your library, exactly?

Whether your library has a strong history of offering services and program to teens, or is struggling to get teens into your physical space, community engagement is the key to creating lasting meaningful experiences that teens need to develop and become successful adults. YALSA’s Teens First infographic pinpoints areas where library staff can focus their efforts no matter where your community’s teens are to be found. Are there teens in your library space? Utilize their presence to provide volunteer opportunities that impact social or environmental issues close to your teens’ hearts. Teen Advisory Groups are a gold mine of youth development opportunities, as you can harness the creativity and interests of these teens to plan programs that meet a specific community need. Teens will not only be invested in developing the program itself, but will take responsibility for its success and outcomes. In the meantime, teens develop self-worth, a sense of belonging, and ownership as they contribute to the group’s efforts, as well as learning how to effectively communicate their ideas to a larger group of peers. Are you like many libraries where teens are scarce? Team up with your local schools or community organizations to bring opportunities to teens where they are.

Last year, my coworker and I teamed up with the local school library staff to raise awareness about bullying during Anti-Bullying month in October. Teens brainstormed ways to promote a healthy self-image and came up with a riff on the Six Word Memoir. Each student wrote a simple messages about themselves on mini whiteboards and posted the selfies to their various social media profiles. Teens were able to promote a positive message about themselves and get other teens to think about why they were important and worthwhile, too. We encouraged them to tag both their school and the library as a way to demonstrate our involvement with the project. This simple partnership allowed the community’s youth to have a voice about a serious issue by sharing authentic content that they created; it also gave them the opportunity to use their social media platforms to positively impact their peers.

YALSA’s new President, Sandra Hughes-Hassell has also recognized community engagement as the key to bringing teens and youth into successful adulthood. In her recent announcement on the YALSAblog she stated that, as President, her goal is to support library staff to address the unique challenges of their community’s youth by “building teen leadership skills and amplifying their voices.” Over the coming year, she wants to promote YALSA events that aim to encourage and address youth development through community engagement, including One Book, One Community, Teen Tech Week, and more. Keep an eye out for opportunities to get involved with this campaign as the year progresses. In the meantime, If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out YALSA’s recent set of case studies that highlight how various libraries have already begun to think about programming in this way. Remember that this new paradigm shift doesn’t have to mean reinventing the programming/services wheel. Any program can be tweaked to highlight youth development, even if it doesn’t directly include a partnership or whether it takes place inside or out of your own library’s space. It’s just about putting teens first.

Presidential Theme for 2017-2018

I am excited to begin my presidential year and to continue the work begun by past-president Sarah Hill!

Youth Activism through Community Engagement is the theme for my 2017-2018 YALSA Presidential year. I selected this theme for several reasons. The theme reflects a number of the paradigm shifts identified in YALSA’s Future’s Report and promotes teen involvement in their communities, thus building teens’ leadership skills and amplifying their voices. The theme strongly aligns with YALSA’s vision, mission, and impact statements by supporting library staff in working with teens to address the unique challenges they face in their communities and creating opportunities for teens’ personal growth, academic success, and career development.  The theme also demonstrates YALSA’s commitment to an asset-based and youth-centered approach to the transformation of libraries and teen services, and will help library staff focus on developing many of the teen outcomes described in the Reimagined Library Services for and with Teens infographic.

But, perhaps most importantly, I selected Youth Activism through Community Engagement as my theme because teens are experts on the issues facing them and their communities because they are living the issues. This is especially true for youth who are experiencing marginalization due to racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism, or other forms of oppression. Teens want to make a difference in their communities but often lack the skills to take action. I believe library staff have the ability and the responsibility to help teens develop the skills they need to become agents of positive change in their schools and communities.

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