2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Bibliomaniax – Teen Summer Book Club

This past summer, adolescent participants in the Santa Ana Public Library’s Teenspace committed to tackling the deep subject matter of Angie Thomas’s book The Hate U Give. It was an 8-week program held every Saturday, with the final session culminating in a screening of the acclaimed film adaptation following discussion of the final chapters. The program was coined “Bibliomaniax,” and utilized a connected learning model where teens shared their experiences and thoughts to analyze the themes of the novel, and discuss how they might act to implement change in their own community.

Each week the students had a few chapters assigned that they would come in to discuss, facilitated by staff for and with teens. The Hate U Give was chosen because the teens that we serve often face severe learning gaps exacerbated by the summer slide that occurs over summer vacation. This book is both high interest and accessible, written at about 4th grade reading level, allowing the students to be successful in the reading and comprehension of the novel. Discussing the novel with staff and peers was motivational and reinforcing for participants. 

One of the subjects the book touches on is “code switching”. This is where a person changes languages and cultural customs depending on their environment and social group. The protagonist of the book, a black American teenage girl, encounters code switching every day as she lives in a predominantly black neighborhood yet attends a predominantly white prep academy. She is perpetually in a struggle between being herself at home and feeling the need to alter her behavior as not to stand out, or feel alienated from peers and teachers at school. Teen participants identified with the struggle as most were Latino students who speak Spanish at home and English at school. Much time was spent discussing this, and it helped them identify with the book and provided insight into their own lives.

The subject of racial profiling and the senseless killing of an unarmed black teen by a police officer also hit home, as real stories are unfortunately brought to light in the news and through social media with disconcerting frequency. The protagonist has to cope with the aftermath of the trauma she has faced. The participants were highly engaged in the discussions of these topics as they are very real, and helped participants gain empathy and insight to the sensitive, but important subject matter.

Pizza was offered at each session to encourage program attendance, which incidentally helped offset the heavy subject matter of the book, and fostered an inviting social environment for teens. Additionally, In-And-Out gift cards were offered at opportunity drawings held at the end of each session. The library promoted the program by sharing a press release with local news outlets, distributing flyers at outreach events and on social media, promoting the program to leaders in the school district, offering volunteer credit to participants, and providing eye-catching bookmarks.

It could be easily stated that the Bibliomaniax program at Santa Ana Public Library Teenspace was a runaway success this summer. On the surface, it was a fun time to spend a couple hours every week with peers talking over pizza and sodas, but ultimately each and every student went away with a deeper understanding of current societal issues with a seed planted for future community activism and civic engagement. Teens expressed interest in coming back for future book club discussions and some had ideas about what books they would like to discuss. Teen participants definitely became card carrying bibliomaniacs. Knowledge is power, and this was a very powerful program that connected teens with both ideas and each other. 

Teens engaging in a lively discussion over pizza in the Santa Ana Public Library’s TeenSpace on the themes and content addressed in the novel.

Teens engaging in a lively discussion over pizza in the Santa Ana Public Library’s TeenSpace on the themes and content addressed in the novel.

 

Kelli Sjule is a Library Assistant at Santa Ana Public Library.

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Ford Memorial Library

At the Ford Memorial Library we are striving to provide tech education and resources to teens and young people in our rural area. With the recent expansion of our building we have been able to implement more tech infrastructure including a much faster network and internet connection, as well as our new mobile tech lab (pictured). This summer we have run a number of programs and activities to facilitate the goal of increasing tech literacy among our local youth.

Teens sit in a classroom for a presentation. Teens work on laptop computers.

Our teen intern, Harrison, was a key part of that process this summer. We hired him initially based on his previous customer service experience and interest in technology. We believe he shares our vision for bettering tech infrastructure in the area, and in addition to helping us with programs we also allowed him space to pursue his own projects. He created a video for our YouTube channel, taught a class on iOS, and did a considerable amount of research and outreach to help us bring an electric vehicle charger to our new parking lot.

From Harrison:

In my time at the Edith B. Ford Memorial Library, I have gained a plethora of knowledge. While participating as the Teen Intern at the library I took part in activities associated with our Summer Reading/Learning Program. During this endeavor, I managed time that involved setting up, cleaning up, as well as managing start and end times with the movement of youth groups. I also developed science-related activities for youth groups regarding astronomy. Further, at the end of the Summer Reading Program, I creatively displayed literary works and coordinated their movements on our shelves. Additionally I set up and moved technological equipment such as those used for photography, videography and gaming. Likewise, I put this equipment to use while taking photos, recording videos, and setting up and logging gaming equipment for patrons. In conjunction with technology, I assisted patrons using their devices as well as those owned by the library. Additionally I assessed the uses of technology both from a modern point of view as well as from an archaic point of view. Furthermore I gained insight into consumer relations and customer service. This was achieved by taking phone calls from patrons and local libraries and completing actions that are required to assure a seamless experience among our surrounding communities. 

My personal project was to bring an electric vehicle charging station to our area. This project was something that was of interest to not only myself, but to some of the other library staff. This involved researching options as to the companies that would make both logistical and practical sense to work with for our current plans for what the end product to this project would be. After assessing companies to work with, I chose one and began our endeavor towards a solution to this lack of a charging station in our centrally located area. It started with an email to the company, which led to an organized business call with the company to assess costs as well as rebates which our non-profit library could benefit from. This led me to discover the tasks of a business in operating alongside companies to gain a desired outcome. This led me to contact the director of the library and start the process of getting a quote as to the installation of a charger in the parking lot of our library. This was a great learning opportunity for myself in order to gain insight as to the operations of a business.

 

Luke Hodde is an IT Specialist at Edith B. Ford Memorial Library. 

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: The “Summer Slide” Happens in High School Too!

32 percent.  That is the number of students ages 15-17 that say they don’t read during the summer according to Education Weekly (Jones).  Of those teens who do read, they average two. Why? Distractions and lack of access to relevant and diverse reading materials during the summer months.  While I didn’t have the concrete proof of statistics that indicate teens weren’t reading over the summer, I knew in my heart this was true. The good news, 53 percent of youth readers from ages 6-17 state that they get the majority of their reading materials from the school library (Scholastic).  This speaks volumes about the importance of school libraries and their roles in preventing the “summer slide” even at the high school level. My goals through our summer reading/learning program is to encourage students to continue to increase their literacy skills by providing them with diverse, relevant and high interest materials over the summer.  Not an easy task with a shrinking budget and a lack of a diverse culture at our school. However, due to the generosity of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YASLA Summer Learning Resources Grant that I was able to provide my students with access to a diverse and relevant summer reading program that provided each of them with a book to take home and read over the summer.  

As a high school librarian in Barre, Vermont, a socio-economically struggling school, I see everyday the decrease in student engagement surrounding the various literacy initiatives meant to decrease the achievement gap.  One of my biggest frustrations has been how to reach all students and help them to expand their summer reading and learning opportunities despite their own personal challenges in, and out of school. As a former History teacher, I recognized early in my career the importance of including multiple voices in the study of history. It is through this lens that I evaluated our school library collection and our summer reading program.  What I found was a program that was started with good intentions, but lacked student voice, relevant selections, and was more adult focused than student focused. By working with my teen advisory group and the English Department, we revamped our program and included a variety of voices meant to reach as many teens as possible.  

I love my student library advisory.  While they are typical teens and not always focused on the task at hand, they were instrumental in developing the summer reading collection to include a variety of choices.   Though our student body is majority white, we do have students of color and many LGBTQ students whose experiences need to be validated. My student advisory researched online, asked their friends and even looked over my professional magazines in order to identify various books that they felt best expressed the diversified experiences and populations found in our school.  I also put up a white board asking for suggestions in the library. Student input was invaluable in building momentum for the summer reading program this year. By allowing my teens to identify and suggest books, we created a summer reading collection that is diverse and encouraged even struggling readers to find a book of their choice. Surprisingly, one of the most popular selections for our struggling readers was the non-fiction book Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge.  It proved that given a book based on interest, even the most reluctant readers can become excited by a book.  

Cover of Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree.

As James Patterson is noted as saying, “There is no such thing as a kid who hates reading.  There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books.”  

While the jury is out on whether students will actually read the books we selected this year, I am hopeful that when our school wide book discussion activity occurs in September, more students will be ready to participate and be excited by their choice.    

Because of YASLA’s Summer Learning Resource Grant, I am able to provide our students here at Spaulding High School with a relevant, diverse collection of summer reading materials to choose from that not only encouraged enthusiasm for our program, but allowed student choice to increase engagement. 

Additional Resources:

Jones, S. (2019, May 08). Students Increasingly Are Not Reading Over the Summer, Poll Finds. Retrieved August 13, 2019, from https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2019/05/student_increasingly_do_not_re.html

Miller, D. (2019, June 17). If Kids Can’t Read What They Want in the Summer, When Can They?: Opinion. Retrieved August 12, 2019, from

https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=if-kids-cant-read-what-they-want-in-the-Summer-when-can-they

KIDS & FAMILY READING REPORT. (2019). Retrieved August 14, 2019, from https://www.scholastic.com/readingreport/summer.html

https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=if-kids-cant-read-what-they-want-in-the-Summer-when-can-they

 

Christine Smith is a high school librarian in Barre, Vermont.

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Sparking Interest in Teen Interns

Through the Dollar General and YALSA Internship Grant we were able to create an internship program at our public library this summer. This was the first time we were able to offer a summer internship and it was very well received, both by library staff members as well as in the community. With the help of additional funding, we were able to hire three interns who each worked a total of 75 hours over the summer months.   

Our teen interns were juniors and seniors in high school, who had all participated in youth programm

ing at the public library for many years. It was helpful to have teens who were library users, participating in our internship program, because they already enjoyed many aspects of the library and blended easily into our work culture. Since we recruited library users, it was easy to find youth who were interested in participating, both through our teen programming and through word of mouth. It was also easy to keep them interested in the job throughout the summer, because they had invested interest in the tasks that they performed.   

A teen stands behind a table at a Summer Maker Fair.

B.F. Jones Memorial Library Summer Maker Fair

Because all of our interns had other commitments, such as jobs, activities and summer vacations, it was helpful to have three interns that could be rotated on our operating schedule. Rotating three inters meant that we could be more flexible with their scheduling, which worked well for all of us. It also gave us the opportunity to connect with several youth and gave them the chance to earn money, learn about their community and find out more about their public library.  

B.F. Jones Memorial Library Summer Maker Fair

B.F. Jones Memorial Library Summer Maker Fair

Since we expanded our funds, we were able to have our teen interns on site throughout the summer. This gave them the chance to really be a part of our Summer Learning program. This also gave us extra help for larger programs and provided the teens with the opportunity to collaborate on special programs, such as our end of summer Maker Fair. Our teen interns worked closely with our library staff on outreach programming as well as programs and events that we offer through our Summer Learning program. Some of the things they worked on were prepping STEM challenges and craft projects, assisting youth during programming, creating advertisements for events, shelving and organizing the collection, and assisting with special collection projects. They were also available to help with our Summer Food and Fun program, which we facilitate through our local YMCA and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. This is a free meal program that provides youth, ages 0-18, with a daily snack and lunch in our children’s department, during our Summer Learning programs and events. 

B.F. Jones Memorial Library Summer Maker Fair

B.F. Jones Memorial Library Summer Maker Fair

All of the tasks that our teens performed gave them a chance to experience a cross section of how our public library operates, as well as a glimpse into the community that we serve. We also gave our teens the chance to express their opinions about the projects they put together for library programs. These things all helped to keep their interest sparked throughout their internship. 

 

Kristen Janci is a Youth Coordinator at B.F. Jones Memorial Library.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: When Summer Learning Deviates From the Plan on Paper

In the past six months I’ve learned a lot about collaborating, co-teaching and co-leading, recruiting, planning, marketing, career and job readiness, and most importantly, teenagers. The YALSA Summer Learning Resources grant was the first grant application I ever wrote, and I was humbled to be selected and given the chance to execute an educational library program (career and job readiness) with a unique twist (the culminating experience would be shopping for a professional interview outfit).

To prepare for summer, I worked with the high school principal and counselors, staff at the Boys & Girls Club, and appealed to teens directly. I spoke with parents, put an ad in our local paper, and held meetings with students. But as summer ticked closer, I grew more frantic, faced with a sparse participant roster. Most teens halfheartedly expressed interest but withheld their full commitment, holding out instead for a potential job at Hardee’s, Pizza King, or the local watermelon fields. 

In the end, my program reached a younger audience than I had anticipated. I worked mostly with teens ages 12-16. This would not be a crowd ready to shop for a professional interview outfit – they had years before entering the full-time workforce, and they were bound for plenty of changes in those years. 

Teens taking the Holland Code quiz.

Teens taking the Holland Code quiz.

The curriculum I executed, in which we discussed teamwork, hobbies and extracurricular activities, and communication with adults, was very different from the curriculum I had envisioned: streamlining resumes, serious mock interviews, and on-the-job excellence. The teens were younger, gigglier, and flightier – they weren’t tied up with work, but dealt with unstable housing arrangements, sports practices, and babysitting younger siblings. Even from this group it was impossible to get firm, eight-week commitments. 

Instead of the program I proposed and envisioned, I threw my enthusiasm into the people in front of me, holding my head high even when only two or three teens showed up for a meeting. I focused on planting seeds and didn’t stress about teaching it all. We didn’t purchase interview outfits, but our teens were able to earn a “stipend” with their attendance at meetings and instead purchased new school uniforms, school supplies, or equipment to help them reach their professional or educational goals.

A page from a teen's dialogue journal.

A page from a teen’s dialogue journal.

A page from a teen's dialogue journal.

A page from a teen’s dialogue journal.

It’s hard to see a grant-funded program deviate from your vision. It’s different from an isolated flop because there’s more time, effort, and energy woven in – it feels like there’s more at stake, because it’s something you’re doing very publicly. I’ve learned that there’s still a lot to learn about how, when, where, and why teens will congregate for an event, which motivates me and inspires me to keep going, keep trying. 

I won’t disregard this experience or pretend it never happened; it was painful and confusing at times, but never a waste. I now have a better understanding of my patrons. I now have new partners with my same passion for youth, and plenty of notes on what worked and didn’t work with this particular attempt. My plan going forward is to continue to lean into each encounter – each fumble and each success. 

Abby Davis is a Youth Services Librarian at Laurel Public Library.

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Tips and Tricks to Make your Internship Program Successful

For the second year in a row, the Walkersville Branch Library, a small rural suburb located just North of Washington, D.C., hosted their annual Summer Lunch Program. With free lunch served daily for an average of 85 children and teens, we needed not only a friendly face to welcome our hungry families, but one who had the organization and quick-thinking skills to jump in wherever needed, even after the last juice box was given away.

From the last week of June through the first week of August, “Ms. Lydia” greeted our families, served up a quick lunch, signed up families for our Summer Challenge, and assisted with program preparation and administration. We were truly grateful for her service and assistance throughout some of our busiest times at the library.

However, we learned some things too. Managing a teen intern is very different then managing a regularly employed library staff member. 

So, here are our TOP 8 TIPS for those libraries interested in hiring a teen intern in the future:

  1. Require those interested candidates to drop off their application at the library. While email or online submission is easiest for those who are applying, requiring a quick visit to the library gives you an immediate snapshot into the individual on a relaxed basis. Did they drop off the application and run? Did they hang out to snag a library card? Are they a familiar face? 
  2. Offer an opportunity for those not chosen to receive some feedback on their application and interview. Not only is it valuable for them, but it forces us to step outside of our comfort zone and provide constructive feedback.
  3. Be honest with the amount of time that you are expecting from the intern. Teens don’t reside in a vacuum, and it can be frustrating to find out that their caregivers are expecting them for a family vacation that may take place in the middle of their required work time. 
  4. Set boundaries with your teen intern in the workplace.  If the teen gets a lunch break, will they feel welcome to take it in the break room?
  5. Be Specific about their daily job tasks and goals. Make sure to always have plenty of additional work to do if you find your intern completes their tasks in a more than timely fashion. 
  6. Welcome them when they arrive, and thank them when they leave. Yes, they were hired to do a “job” but learning the concepts of workplace creation are equally as important as the job they were hired to do. 
  7. The exit interview is just as important as the entrance interview. It can provide you with valuable information for the following year’s internship.  
  8. Work with the Workforce Development or Job Coordinator at your local school. They will know    the ins and outs of the work permit (should your state require it), and they will also have information about comparable internships and jobs in your area.  

 

Betsey Brannen is the Children’s Services Supervisor for Frederick County Public Libraries – Walkersville.

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Grant benefits library, teens

“I feel like I accomplished something today.”
– A summer teen intern after a particularly busy day of STEAM programming

Our library received a YALSA Summer Teen Intern Grant this year. We used the $1,000 grant award to provide a $500 stipend to each of our two summer teen interns assisting us with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) programming. Before our summer’s start, we laid out the follow goals or learning outcomes for our interns:

  • Participate in a real-world job seeking situation, including completing an internship application and sitting for an interview with our library’s interview committee;
  • Gain greater self-confidence and self-esteem while improving on social interactions in a work setting with people of all ages;
  • Enhance customer service skills by working with a diverse group of people with varying needs;
  • Improve problem-solving skills as STEAM activities require analytical thinking;
  • Gain work experience which will be helpful later when competing in the job market; and
  • Gain a greater appreciation for, and (we hoped) an interest in STEAM learning.

At our library, we have been emphasizing STEAM programming for children and teens for the past few years. This year, we found in the beginning that our teen interns had little experience working with the kind of STEAM resources that our library offers, but they quickly learned and began to appreciate them.

During their time with us this summer, each of our interns worked 50 hours assisting with STEAM programming, each interacting with library staff members and hundreds of children, teens, and adults. As we revisit our pre-summer learning outcomes for our interns today, we believe (and they believe) we were mostly successful in meeting these goals together. In the exit survey we asked interns to complete, they responded favorably to the question, “In which areas do you believe this internship has helped you,” checking off most of the above outcomes and adding some of their own that we hadn’t included, such as developing more patience. We are pleased with this outcome.

We’ve been fortunate enough to receive a YALSA Summer Teen Intern Grant on three occasions within the past couple of years. During the years, our approach to this grant and our interns has changed. In the very beginning, our interns were here to help us, we thought, (i.e., setting up a room, handing out program evaluations, and other necessary, but menial tasks) and to get a paycheck for themselves. 

The truth is that we as a library staff can handle these tasks on our own; this program is to benefit these teens. Our interns have much to offer and are not here solely for a paycheck. I refer to the above quote as evidence of this point. Yes, the stipend is nice and appreciated by our teens, but they also want to be engaged in meaningful work, and they appreciate the opportunity to interact with others, to learn new skills, and to be productive. 

These days, and for a long while, our summer teen interns (when we are fortunate enough to have them) help our staff members lead our STEAM programs, and they also provide us with valuable feedback on our programs and how we can make them better for people like themselves. Our library and our interns both benefit from this experience.

In closing, we offer some parting comments from our interns on the impact of their internships: 

  • “I learned that I’m a people person and that people flock to me. It made more positive and helped me to learn more about people.” 
  • “I realized I am a good multi-tasker and am an easy-going person. I have good patience with people’s requests and communicate well. I also realized I am an open-minded person.”

 

Katina Gaudet is an Area Librarian at Lafourche Parish Public Library – South Lafourche Branch.

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Teens Leading Teens – The Power of Empowering Interns

This summer, The Bill Memorial Library of Groton, CT was fortunate to employ two teen interns through funds provided by the YALSA Teen Intern Program and Dollar General.  Over the course of the summer, our two interns were given a number of tasks that enriched our summer learning program for participants under age 10. These tasks included helping our youngest patrons with crafts, playing our summer learning game with younger students, and crafting a Cultural Banquet from beginning to end.  While we fully expected this intern program to be enriching for our summer learning participants and are interns alike, we didn’t foresee the greatest benefit of the program – the chance for our teen interns to lead other teen volunteers and gather important skills as future leaders.

Each year, we have a number of teens ask to volunteer during our summer learning project.  As any teen services coordinator knows, young volunteers can be a blessing and a curse. Volunteers are just as likely to be eager and passionate about helping the library as they are likely to be reluctant or forced by a parent to help out in their spare time.  We have certainly encountered this in past summers at the Bill Memorial Library. This year, however, was different. This year, we had teen interns that we tasked with overseeing these volunteers. And the result was both unexpected and rewarding.

As soon as we placed these younger, sometimes reluctant, volunteers in the charge of our older, passionate teen interns, we saw an immediate change in their engagement level.  Our young volunteers were suddenly eager to assist and began to see the benefit in assisting the library. The task of “volunteering at the library” was no longer a burden for these teen volunteers.  Suddenly, it was a worthwhile project that gave them a purpose and direction in the doldrums of summer. The older teen interns sparked a fire in these young volunteers that we as adults and authority figures could not start ourselves.  It was as if these young teens saw their older peers taking ownership of their newfound responsibility and said, “I want that too.” What we as staff witnessed was the growth of our young volunteers under the tutelage of their older peers, and what this meant for us was that we were watching a new generation of impassioned teen interns sprout up right before our eyes.  We also watched as our teen interns gained a level of confidence in empowering their peers and honed important leadership skills that will serve them later in life.

Bill Memorial Library interns Sam and Anika sit on the front steps.

Bill Memorial Library interns Sam and Anika.

Perhaps the greatest piece of knowledge we gleaned from our time with our teen interns was this: the ability for teens to empower their peers is invaluable and should be fostered whenever possible.  Our teen interns will be the next generation of leaders, and it is our hope that those teen volunteers will be the next generation of teen interns. The continuation of this cycle will ensure the ongoing enrichment of our summer learning program, our library, and our community, and this realization would not have been possible without the YALSA Teen Intern program.

 

Kate Bengston is a Teen Programming Coordinator at Bill Memorial Library.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Teen Literacy Kit Outreach Program

Our goal for the Teen Literacy Kit Outreach program was two-fold.  We wanted to encourage teens from high poverty and homeless families to continue building their reading and writing skills over the summer.  We also wanted to bring our library-based programs to the teens in our area who didn’t have transportation to the library during our regularly scheduled programs.  To accomplish these goals, we contacted our local Dollar General store and asked them to let us block off part of their parking lot and turn it into a Teen Program space once a month during the June/July summer break.  They enthusiastically agreed, and we got to work.  

Step 1:  Create Literacy Kits

Teen literacy kit contents.

Our concern centered on the large number of teens that are enrolled in the local middle and high schools who don’t have a consistent place to call home, much less a space to store books and journals.  My Children’s Librarian and I (Library Manager) wanted to find a way to give those teens portable reading and writing materials, so we came up with the idea of literacy kits: drawstring bags with a book, unlined note book, bookmark, pen, toy, writing prompts and word games, and a Frequent Readers card donated by our local Dairy Queen.  We also decided on an Honor Library so that the teens could take books and not worry about returning them.

Step 2:  Design Teen Programming for a Parking Lot

A tent is set up in a parking lot with library kits on display.

This was the most challenging aspect of the program.  Whatever we planned to do, we would have to bring everything from tables and tents to craft supplies.  We decided to go with science experiments that could be done individually or as a team and didn’t need a lot of supplies to complete.  Each experiment had goals that would allow the teens to earn points towards a prize: a coupon for a free dilly bar at Dairy Queen. We had planned to run the program like one of our library programs with a set beginning and end time, and we advertised it that way, but we found that teens trickled in throughout the program time and could only spend an average of 15 minutes with us.  We modified the book talk to make it a quick introduction to the book and got the kids started on the experiments to keep them with us as long as possible. We passed out literacy kits to any teen who stopped by the tent and even a few that we chased down leaving the store. We only had 17 teens come to the first program and 12 teens come to the second program.

Step 3:  Get Your Local Schools Involved

 

Since the parking lot programs didn’t reach our target of 50 teens, we reached out to the middle school up the road from the Dollar General store.  They provide washers/dryers for homeless families in our area, and they also have a food pantry and used clothing rack. The school let us set up outside and pass out the literacy kits and honor books to teens during their laundry hours in July.  We were able to pass out the remaining 21 kits and 14 of the honor books to the teens that we had hoped to reach. Success!

A librarian is smiling in a tent full of books for teens.

 

Melissa Clark is the Library Manager at Millersville Public Library of Sumner County.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Creating Community: Teen Programming in an Urban Library

Located in Slavic Village, the Fleet Branch is one of 27 branches of the Cleveland Public Library. Fleet is one of the library’s busiest branches and serves a diverse population of patrons, from infants to seniors.

As a Children’s and Youth Services Librarian, I work with infants through teens. The library provides many programs, inside and outside the library, for our youth. Connecting with our younger patrons has always been easy. Connecting with our teens is much more challenging.

When I applied for the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant, I wanted to design a program that would engage and excite our teens. I wanted the program to be an opportunity for our teens to bond with each other and with the library staff. On most days, teens come to the library, use the computers, and leave. They have little interaction with anyone and it can be nearly impossible to get them off the computers.

My library branch is located in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood. The teens I serve deal with toxic stress every day and are not as apt to participate in programs. We try to entice them with food, movies, and music but are often unsuccessful. When teens do come to programs, they tend to keep to themselves and not interact with each other. I wanted to host a program that lent itself towards interaction and would be fun and engaging.

To do this, I purchased BreakoutEDU for our “Teen Agents: Mysteries Unraveled” program. BreakoutEDU is an escape room-esque program where teens are trying to solve clues and decipher codes to break in to a lock box. BreakoutEDU includes an interactive platform and a kit with lock boxes, locks, invisible ink pens, and other detective tools. BreakoutEDU supports collaboration. To solve each mystery, the teens have to communicate and work together.

Three teens stand in front of a dry erase board at Cleveland Public Library.

We had three teens register for the program and two of them showed up. On the first day of the program, we were able to get additional teens to join us. From the start, I could see the teens were having fun. We gave them their clues and told them to solve their first mystery. There was some initial hesitation, but they soon started talking and got to work. As the teens became acquainted with one another, they started to discuss other topics besides the mysteries they were working on. It was nice to see them begin to build relationships with each other.

Besides interacting with each other, the program also allowed the teens to interact with the youth staff. Myself and the branch’s library assistant facilitated the program. Although we were familiar with the teens who attended the program, we did not know them well. Throughout the program, the teens turned to us for guidance, which led to conversations and an increased rapport. Since the program’s conclusion, we have seen all of the teens in the library and had conversations with them. One of the teens even shared her writing with myself and the library assistant. The teens also told us they are excited to attend the program when we host it again.

Three teens gather around a table at Cleveland Public Library.

Even though we had small numbers for our program, I consider it a success. The program enabled our teens to meet new people and begin to establish relationships with the youth staff. I am looking forward to hosting more programs this fall!

 

Tracie Forfia is a Children’s & Youth Services Librarian at Cleveland Public Library.