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:

1. Field Trip to Book Store – fill out form with title selected and why you picked that book.

2. Write a “Thank You” note to a person on the provided list. (incorporate writing skills!)

3. Read, Read, Read!

4. Write book review comments on the provided “Traveling Bookmark” and leave it in the book.

5. Return the book to the school library in the designated “student reviewed books” display.

6. Select a different book to read that has been reviewed by one of your classmates.

7. Read, Read, Read!

8. Write book review comments on the provided “Traveling Bookmark” and leave it in the book.

9. Select a book from the school library to read!

Dana Kepler is the librarian at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Missouri. This summer she attended the Library of Congress Teacher Institute, to continue her professional development increasing student literacy, learning and advocating for the profession of school librarians. She also looks forward to presenting at the AASL National Conference in November. 

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.

Continue reading

Celebrate Pride Through Advocacy and Awareness @ Your Library

Every year, LGBTQIA communities host amazing parades, marches, and events to celebrate their pride. Whether we are members of this community, family members, or allies, these events have been joyous celebrations of love, appreciation, and acceptance.  However, as youth advocates, we must also remember that Pride celebrations are in remembrance of the Stonewall Uprising on June 27, 1969 in New York City. Not only did these series of events expose the New York City Police Department’s intolerance of the LGBTQIA community, it spurred an entire community to demand equal rights, which turned into a movement that is alive and well.

After the Stonewall Uprising, libraries have played a significant part in providing the LGBTQIA community not just access to information, but created the “Task Force on Gay Liberation  that sought to provide the LGBTQIA community with greater representation in libraries and the community. While libraries have been providing programs and services to the LGBTQIA community for forty seven years, the current political and social climate has seen a resurgence of hate and intolerance towards LGBTQIA people. However, as teen library staff, we can support our LFBTQIA teens by giving them access to knowledge and opportunities to help them advocate for themselves.

In order to implement programs and services, we need to ensure that our libraries are safe places where teens do not have to fear prejudice or intimidation. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Hate Crimes Statistics report (2016):

There were 5,818 single-bias incidents involving 7,121 victims. Of those victims, 59.2 percent were targeted because of a race/ethnicity/ancestry bias; 19.7 percent because of a religious bias; 17.7 percent because of a sexual orientation bias; 1.7 percent because of a gender identity bias; 1.2 percent because of a disability bias; and 0.4 percent because of a gender bias.

As unsettling as these numbers are, libraries can do a number of things to support LGBTQIA youth.  One action we can take is to check all of our policies, specifically behavior and collection polices. By re-visiting our behavior policies, we can check to see if there are statements that specifically state what behavior will not be tolerated.  By updating, or revising, this policy, we inform the public that there are rules that must be maintained to provide a safe environment for everyone who steps through the door. We can inform the public in a variety including handouts or signage the welcomes everyone regardless of their ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, and identity.  Another policy we need to review is collection development policies. By reviewing the language and the timeliness of these guidelines, we can support teens’ right to read even when members of the community who wish to have specific materials removed based on their personal and private opinions. According to the Library Bill of Rights (in regards to minors):

“Article V of the Library Bill of Rights states, “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” The “right to use a library” includes free access to, and unrestricted use of, all the services, materials, and facilities the library has to offer. Every restriction on access to, and use of, library resources, based solely on the chronological age, educational level, literacy skills, or legal emancipation of users violates Article V.

Continue reading

YALSA Board @ #alaac17: Membership Meeting & President’s Program

If you’re attending Annual, I hope you can join us Monday, June 26, from 10:30-noon, in the Convention Center, room W184bc, for the Annual YALSA Membership Meeting and President’s Program!

During the membership meeting, you’ll meet the current YALSA Board of Directors, as well as next year’s Board.  We’ll recognize grant and award winners, as well as donors.  I’ll give a brief update of board actions over the past year, and the incoming president-elect, Sandra Hughes-Hassell, will discuss her initiative for next year.

Directly after the membership meeting, my presidential program task force chair, Valerie Davis, will lead a panel discussion on the theme of “Real Teens, Real Ready” about college/career readiness and adulting.  She had great help finding these speakers–her task force members were Lisa Borten, Lisa Dettling, Jeremy Dunn, Katie Guzan, and Ellen Popit.

Panelists include:

  • Tiffany Boeglen and Britni Cherrington-Stoddart, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library – Non-Traditional Career Paths
  • Laurel Johnson, Skokie Public Library – Neutral Zone/Peer Guided Conversations
  • Lisa Borten, Brooklyn Public Library – Youth Council/Urban Art Jamm
  • Jennifer Steele, Chicago Public Library – (PRO)jectUS, creative workforce development/partnerships
  • Emmanuel Pratt, Sweet Water Foundation, Chicago – Neighborhood Development for Youth

The presentations are going to be awesome, so be prepared to find ideas that you can implement in your community!  See you there!

ALA Annual: Chicago Pride

Pride balloons

While you prepare for ALA Annual this summer (or any summer), it’s always worth taking a look to see what other events are going on in the city that you can enjoy before, during, and after.  This year, the conference will overlap with one of my favorite annual events in the city, the Chicago Pride Parade.  The parade will kick off for the 48th year on Chicago’s north side, where it will wind its way through Chicago’s famous Boystown neighborhood and out towards Lake Michigan.  For less mainstream festivities, you can also check out the Chicago Dyke March, taking place on Saturday the 24th in the Little Village neighborhood.  Whether or not you attend one of these events, this is the perfect weekend to enjoy LGBTQ Chicago.

If you do plan on attending the Pride Parade, you can find a map and more information at Chicago Pride Parade website, and should keep a few things in mind.  First, the middle of the parade in Boystown (along Halsted and Belmont) will have the biggest crowds – up to six or seven people deep on the sidewalks.  If you prefer a more laid-back viewing experience, try Broadway near the beginning of the parade route or Diversey near the end.  Second, it’s long!  Be prepared for about two and a half hours of fun, and another half an hour or hour of staking out a spot before the parade.  For me, this usually means bringing a camp chair, cold drinks, snacks, and lots of sunscreen.  Lastly, this is always a joyous event, so be prepared with smiles, cheers, and a camera.

Pride flag

If you want to skip the parade crowds but still enjoy the LGBTQ scene in Chicago, there are a few ways to do that.  Chicago’s Center on Halsted offers critical services as well as fun events for the city’s LGBTQ population, and will be celebrating Pride weekend with a party.  Or get busy thrifting at one of the Brown Elephant locations – proceeds support the Howard Brown Health Center, which provides crucial health services for LGBTQ individuals.  If you’re looking to avoid the Boystown crowds entirely, head north to Andersonville, where you can get a great meal at Hamburger Mary’s and enjoy their Dining with the Divas drag queen performances.  And of course, there’s always Chicago’s various flavors of LGBTQ bars, in Boystown or throughout the city.

Continue reading

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.
Continue reading