“Unleash Your Story” by Serving the Individual

Each year I approach Teen Read Week with the same thought in mind: every location will do the same thing to save me time, cost, and energy. (Side note, I am the teen librarian for the Defiance County Public Library System. We serve three locations.) It was just this past year when I realized that in order to better serve the teen population, I need to look at each individual library and the teens that each library serves. I need to establish strong relationships, discover their passions, listen to their requests, and introduce them to new challenges.

Defiance County teens are truly individuals with a variety of interests, ambitions, and backgrounds. The teenagers who frequent the library and attend events are non-readers, gamers, avid YouTube watchers, and socializers who use the library as a meeting place. Each teen has their own story to share. While the teens at Defiance discuss Steven Universe and cart around their Magic: the Gathering decks, the teens in Sherwood want to socialize and perform whole group activities, and the teens in Hicksville will do anything that involves video games, anime, or scavenger hunts.  

Understanding that many of the teens are non-readers, non-writers, and need a break from schoolwork, it was essential to incorporate the concept of connected learning. How can these teens “unleash their story” without having to write it down on paper? Problem solved, thanks to my co-worker who is an avid gamer and holds a stop-motion animation degree.

At Johnson Memorial Library, the teens will create a machinima, an animated film using Minecraft. At Sherwood Branch Library, the teens will film a pixilation, a stop-motion animation using people.  At Defiance Public Library, the teens will play tabletop RPGs while filming their gameplay.

In addition, there will be one event that all locations will host: the Teen Read-In. The Teen Read-In is designed as an open house, and the intention is to bring in new faces to each of the library locations. We will be showcasing our libraries’ resources, our spaces, and our love. We want local teens to know that they can come to the library to read, relax, find information, and meet new people who share the same interests.  

We are also blessed to host a Skype visit with debut author Chelsea Bobulski (The Wood), at Sherwood Branch Library and Johnson Memorial Library. At Defiance Public Library, we will Skype with Romina Russell, author of the Zodiac series. Those who attend the Skype visits will receive a copy of the authors’ respective book.

I am extremely honored, and yes, a bit nervous, to have received a Teen Read Week grant. I just hope that these events will truly show that our library system desires to treat our teens as individuals and further encourage their ideas and passions.

Pamela Rellstab is the Teen Librarian of the Defiance Public Library System in Defiance, Ohio.

Building a Better Library for and with Teens: Dollar General Teen Summer Intern Grant

The Teen Summer Intern Program funded through the generosity of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YALSA provides libraries with a unique opportunity to implement the practice of building programs and services around the concept of for and with teens. Hedberg Public Library’s teen volunteer program and Teen Advisory Board (TAB) have given teens the opportunity to offer ideas, creativity and service to the library and its customers for many years. The Dollar General Teen Summer Internship Grant awarded to our library has magnified and expanded the many positives of the teen volunteer and TAB programs and has more fully demonstrated the value of providing rewarding experiences and support for teens in useful leadership roles with the goal of increasing teen engagement. Teens have reached further by mentoring their peers and by planning and carrying out activities in their own space at our library for the first time.

To get started, intern position descriptions were posted on the library’s teen web and Facebook pages and were announced during TAB meetings and Teen Volunteer Training sessions. Posters were positioned in the teen area at the library and were distributed to high school librarians. Our main local radio station broadcast an interview with library staff promoting the positions and the opportunity for teens to gain paid work experience. Applications were posted and in-person interviews were held with the Young Adult Librarian and Head of Youth Services. TAB participation or library volunteer experience was preferred for the positions but was not required. Two teens were hired to work an average of four hours per week during the summer learning program. Payments were made through two stipends paid over the summer.

Teens gained important career and workforce development skills through the application, interview and training process. Interns took part in the summer learning and summer lunch program intern/volunteer training sessions conducted by librarians and library workers. Additional training for interns covered basic library policies and procedures, safety and emergency guidelines, a full tour of the library and detailed instructions for the teen summer learning program. Following training, interns assisted teens as they registered and completed check in for the teen summer learning program at iPad kiosks in our teen area using an online tracking system. They also distributed prizes and mentored peer volunteers working with the baby/toddler and school-age programs in the children’s area.

Teen interns held a Kahoot! practice session for a middle school team preparing for our library system’s Battle of the Books competition. They guided participants as they chose a team name and team captain and helped facilitate the design of Sharpie Tie-Dye T-shirts. Senior Moments Tech Day brought teens, seniors and families together to showcase some of the cool gadgets used by teens like robots, 3D printer and more.

Continue reading

Teen Summer Learning Intern or Old Bridge Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

The Old Bridge Public Library’s usage increases exponentially during the summer months while our staffing stays the same.  This makes it difficult to offer the summer learning programs that would benefit our community, but thanks to the YALSA Dollar General Grant, we were able to acquire a teen volunteer to host a myriad of STEM classes centered on the “Build a Better World” theme. 

We have a thriving year round teen volunteer program with over 100 active teens and during the summer months this number increases.  So when we advertised for our summer learning intern position, we knew we would get a huge number of applicants.  Close to a hundred teens applied for the intern position.  We knew more than half of them had the tech skills and open schedule that we needed, but would they have the social skills to make this program successful?  In order to find that out, we held interviews to see if they would be able to interact with all ages, including leading a group of their own peers.

We chose Ariana, or “A” as our summer learning intern for many reasons.  Since A was a teen volunteer for 4 years working in all aspects of the library, and went to a technology high school, she already had the necessary library and technology skill set that we were looking for.  There was no need to train her on those sections.   The Teen Librarian and I gave her a brief talk on the ages that she would be serving and explained their developmental stages.  Because of this, depending on the people attending the program, she was able to alter her robotics programs to ensure that everyone was getting a valuable experience out her STEM classes.    

LED circuit droid

Our summer intern was an essential part in our summer learning programs.  Since we believe in empowering teens, A’s role was not only to act as support in librarian run programs, but to also create her own. One of the first agenda items that we went over with A was to make a list of goals and program ideas to give her some guidance on how the summer would run.

Continue reading

Teen Summer Interns @ Benzie Shores Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

We’ve had a children’s librarian vacancy for almost 2 years now and I’ve been filling in as our youth services coordinator. Finding skilled help in a rural area has proven difficult, but that’s a blog post for another time. With the vacancy, I’ve been extremely grateful for the interns we’ve had this summer, made possible from a grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

The best part of having interns was the fluidity they brought to our programs. Having extra hands around to keep energetic and mobile toddlers from running amok at programs was certainly helpful. During busy times, we were able to set up a separate Summer Reading Program registration table that was manned by the interns. The first day of summer reading is usually a chaotic nightmare (in a good way…) and this year we managed the crowds with no problems, even with the record number of children and teens signing up.

At one point during the summer, I told the interns “your task today is to play Lego with a group of 1st and 2nd graders. Are you ok with that?” It was a joy watching the interns interact with our younger patrons.

Last summer, I spent countless hours maintaining our summer reading program registration spreadsheet. Our interns were able to complete this task with hardly any training. I was amazed at the little amount of oversight they required.

We had a few challenges, but all were to be expected. Teens are busy people and their schedules can change at short notice. They also have family obligations that they don’t always have control over. We had 3 interns and tried to schedule them so that we always had 2 on the schedule in case one of them couldn’t make it. Our interns were bookworms, so at times it was like monitoring kids in a candy store. Overall, they were respectful of their “library” time and stayed on task.

The intern program was so successful that I cannot imagine going through a summer without them.

 

Stacy Pasche has an MLS from Indiana University at Indianapolis and has been fortunate enough to work for the Allen County Public Library (Indiana) and the Pewaukee Public Library (Wisconsin). She is currently the Assistant Director of the Benzie Shores District Library, a small library in beautiful Frankfort, MI. As a small and rural public librarian she works with all ages and all aspects of public library services, from Teen services to cleaning the occasional bathroom. Her heart belongs to her beloved Chiweenie- and her family.

Summer Teen Programming @ S.W. Smith Memorial Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

Teen Programming at the S.W. Smith Memorial Public Library was able to expand based on the generosity of the YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Grant.  Using the funds from this grant our library was able to offer more programs for our teen population. The programs were diverse as to reach teens with many different interests. 

Obviously, we want to encourage reading in our teens, therefore, a Teen Book Club was offered once a month.  We only had 2 students attend, but they were friends which made it nice for discussion.  They were comfortable with one another and shared their thoughts and feelings freely.  The third meeting will occur after this document is submitted, but the two girls plan to attend and actually picked the book for the month.

Our Summer Reading Program focused on the “Build a Better World” theme.  Our young patrons learned about conservation, maintaining a healthy water shed, recycling, forestry, and ways to keep the environment healthy.  For our Summer Reading end of the year event we had a “Dance Party” with a DJ, pizza, snacks and crafts.  We were hoping the DJ would be a draw for the teens and it was.  They enjoyed listening to the music, dancing and eating pizza.  This was the most successful event we had with teen attendance.

Our library owns an Xbox 360.   Using the grant funds I was able to purchase an extra controller, a variety of games, and offered a “Teen Game Day”.  Board games and card games were also made available.  We had teens attend who are not library attendees, which was great, we reached a new population!  The teens enjoyed time socializing playing games and eating pizza.

Science Tellers is an educational science program that uses science to tell a story.  During the program chemical reactions as well as other scientific concepts are demonstrated using hands on audience participation, bringing the story to life.  Our teens enjoyed being chosen as volunteers for science experiments!

The Solar Eclipse presentation educated attendees on solar and lunar eclipses.  Attendees learned differences in these eclipses as well as the history of them.  Future eclipse dates were also discussed.  Viewing glasses were provided so the eclipse could be viewed safely.

Koozie Crochet taught patrons simple crochet stitches and allowed them to make a popsicle holder.  Teens learned a valuable life skill and left with their own creation!

I also was able to purchase a variety of STEM materials with the Dollar General Grant funds.  I hope to have an event for teens where they can use these materials and will visit the library knowing they are available for them to use. 

My name is Diane Finn, I have been the Youth Services Librarian at the S.W. Smith Library in Port Allegany, PA since January 2016.  When I was hired the children’s programs were minimal and had low attendance.  I have since increased the number of programs offered, developed the programs to be more interactive and engaging for children as well as educational.  With these changes attendance has increased and I have received positive feedback from the community.  However, the teen programming has not been as successful.  Using the YALSA/Dollar General Literacy Grant we were able to improve our teen programming.

Teen Summer Intern @ Rebecca M. Arthurs Memorial Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

The internship at our library was the first job I have ever applied for, because it was really the only job that would help with my future job, which I hope to be either working with elementary, high school, or college level students teaching History. I definitely learned how to interact with children much better than I knew how to before, and I know how to help them with things they needed, like help reading directions on the projects we would have them doing. I also got to meet quite a few unforgettable children, and I have pictures they have drawn for me to thank me for little things, which was really sweet. I watched nearly all of these children open up and their personalities really came through so much more than they had at the start. Things like these around the community are wonderful for young children, I think, and it shows them how to be compassionate, helpful adults later in their lives. I also learned a lot from this internship too, not just with the children. I learn important time management skills, faster organization skills, and it’s a bit easier for me to plan out things, like to help with setting up what we did with the classes, which a few we had to do last minute because of changed plans, but everything worked out wonderfully, and most times we even had fun with it as well.

I also had a wonderful opportunity to meet a teen author through this, which was really interesting for me because it’s always been a slight dream of mine to write my own books some day. I bought two of his books, and also won the competition that he had to win an advanced copy of his third book. I also learned basic skills around the library, like shelving, checking in, library card applications, and I brushed up on the Dewey Decimal system too. I also met a really cool girl my age, who I believe will be a friend of mine even after the internship is over. We hit it off right away and we related on quite a few interests too, and when we got to work together it was nonstop laughing and joking while we did what was needed. I was really happy to hear that it was someone I didn’t know, because I love meeting new people.

Amanda, who led the sessions with the children, was also nice and wonderful, and her children were there all day with us, which was awesome, as they were some of the sweetest and coolest children I’ve met. They’ve drawn me bunches of pictures and they seemed to really like me, which helped me interact with them a little easier. Amanda was super nice and caring, which helped any nervousness I had about the internship previously go right out the door, she was super friendly and really easy to get along with, and it was comfortable interactions too, we got quite a few laughs in while we worked on everything. Overall, I’m very glad I applied and I was really thankful for everything I got out of this job, as well.

My name is Hannah Stephens, I am from Brookville Pennsylvania, and I will be 17 in December! The library job was my first ever job, and I applied would be able to get to know how kids behave better than I understood them before, and to save money for a trip to Germany next summer, which will help with the World History teaching career I’d like to pursue. A few interesting fact about me would be I have a three year old shih tzu named Paisley, I collect and play the ukulele, and I currently have four of them! 

Teen Summer Interns @ Addison Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

When our library first began hiring teen summer interns, it was our goal to provide a first job experience and job skills training to at-risk and low-income young adults. We knew we would have to teach our kids the basics: filling out an application, showing up on time, and communicating with coworkers. We wanted them to go through the same orientation process as any other new staff member, including all the paperwork.  It was through this process that we uncovered barriers and knowledge gaps among our kids that we had not prepared for.

Many librarians are already familiar with the concept of “Summer Melt.” Up to 40 percent of low-income and first generation students that are accepted to college do not show up for their first day of class. Sometimes they face an unexpected crisis at home. For many others, though, the barrier is something relatively small. They haven’t filled out paperwork correctly. They aren’t sure how to pay for books. They forgot to turn something in on time. These are problems that could be solved, but students don’t know always where to get help.

By taking our interns through the standard orientation, we uncovered many of the same roadblocks. Of the thirteen interns we have hired in the last three years, five could not produce two forms of ID. Only two knew their social security number. At least four experienced a period of housing insecurity. One intern did not know what to do with a check. Our kids needed much more than just job training.

We also saw an opportunity to talk about topics that are usually too dull or distant to interest teens. Interns asked what we meant by “benefits.” They wanted to understand retirement savings. They had questions about paying taxes. Although many libraries have found success with programs on “life hacks” or “adulting,” it remains extremely rare to engage young adults in these more difficult subjects.

Any library considering a teen internship program should prepare to provide this kind of support. You need to know how to apply for a copy of a birth certificate in your county. You need to have a good contact at your local social services agency. Those of us that work in low-income communities consider ourselves well-versed in these services, but even we can be caught off-guard. Teens don’t always recognize that they are missing important documents and their brains aren’t wired to think about retirement, so these issues rarely come up.

The internship program creates a unique space where teens are motivated to tackle difficult, “real world” problems, but it reaches a very small percentage of our community. Our experience opened our eyes to an important role we can play in the lives of young adults, whether they are college-bound or not. The challenge for us now is to find a way to bring these services to more teens in our community.

What is your library doing to get kids ready for adulthood? What partnerships have you built in the community to reach these teens?

Elizabeth Lynch is the Teen Services Coordinator at Addison Public Library in Addison, IL.

Teen Summer Interns @ Charles Ralph Holland Memorial Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

As a part of the Summer Reading Program at the Charles Ralph Holland Memorial Library, five local teenagers were chosen as interns for the purpose of assisting the staff of the library in an effort to make this year’s Summer Reading Programming bigger and better than ever.   Our summer interns worked hard assisting staff members every Thursday during the Summer Reading Program doing things such as preparing the craft and helping children with their crafts, setting up games outside the library, being present as chaperones to the children as they played with Legos and Minecraft in different areas of the library, and assisting in handing out meals provided by the ETHRA Summer Food Program.  Once the program had concluded for the day, the teen interns would assist staff around the library with things such as breaking down sets, cleaning up, assisting patrons, and shelving library books.  Two of the interns worked outdoors on helping plant the library’s community garden and paint the ‘Patron Pantry’ that holds donated canned foods, school supplies, and hygienic items.  Another two teen interns updated our social media sites and tweeted out all of our events.  You can catch these pictures and hash tags on Twitter and Facebook.  The last intern resurfaced all of the library’s damaged DVDs and helped staff organize teen event supplies. 

Some of the teen interns had volunteered at the library before, but most were unaware of all the work that goes into running children’s programming and maintaining a library. Our interns gained skills in customer service by working daily with both adults and children.  Each teen intern got to actively participate in engaging young people while being pulled in multiple directions by energetic children.  The interns helped kids build Legos, play games, and read children’s stories aloud. They even helped record the events by taking turns as event photographer. Without them I feel many of the precious moments during the summer would have been lost. A few of the interns expressed interest in pursuing a career in working with children and found helpful that the internship provided hands on experience in dealing with children. I feel the internship presented the teens with the opportunity to learn whether a public service job interested them and educated them on the role of the library in a community.

On the last day of the summer intern program, the five teenagers were asked to take part in an interview that allowed them to answer questions about their time at the library.  One of the questions that asked was, “What was your favorite experience during the summer?”  Every teen responded with “being with the kids” as one of their favorite.  They loved crafting and reading to our summer readers and we know everyone enjoyed their company.  Teens handed in evaluations to help the library better cater future programming. The teen summer interns were provided with a stipend for all their services during the summer.  Funding from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and the Young Adult Library Services Association made the Teen Summer Intern Program possible. The hard work and determinations of teens selected for awards made the 2017 Charles Ralph Holland Memorial Library Summer Reading Program a huge success by breaking all previous records recorded by library staff in programming and attendance.

Hello, my Name is Kathrine Chalman, and I’ve served as director of the Charles Ralph Holland Memorial Library since July 2015. Having earned a Masters of Information Science Degree from the University of Tennessee, and started a number of library programs for teens, children, and adults this year, including a Story Time for Kids, Teen Board Game Night, Coffee and Coloring, and Young Adult Book Club. I recently taught a basic coding course at the local high school and am eager to share ideas and learn new programming methods.  With the completion of the library’s 2017 Summer Reading Program, I plan to start additional teen programming, including art and more coding courses. The Charles Ralph Holland Memorial Library 2017 Summer Reading Program set record breaking numbers in both attendance, community partnerships, and programming outreach.

Pemberton Community Library’s Teen Summer Learning Programs: Dollar General Grant Winner

The Pemberton Community Library, a branch of the Burlington County Library System in New Jersey, hosted two teen programs to provide opportunities for continued learning this summer with SAT Practice Test Prep sessions and a weekly Teen Summer Reading Book Club. Both of these programs were made possible thanks to YALSA and Dollar General!

Offering a six session SAT Practice Test Prep course to teens interested in taking the test during the upcoming school year or have previously taken the SAT and wanting to improve their scores proved to be successful. Many teens attending the local high school would not have the opportunity to attend a similar course to improve their score or raise their confidence in their test-taking ability due to the cost or time limitations during a school year. The participants ranged in grade level from entering 9th to 12th grade with about half of them having previously taken the SAT.

The class covered a general overview of the SAT, with a focus on writing samples, reading, language, grammar, math, and essay analysis. The instructor was able to provide individualized attention to each participant, which was acknowledged with positive comments from the participants in the survey at the end of the course. The review of basic skills for each section helped them focus on the parts that would be covered on the test. A review of Learning Express, the library’s online test prep database, was also included in the course to introduce participants to this otherwise unfamiliar library service. Now that they know this database is available to them with their library card, they plan to use the database for their continued test preparation.

Over the six weeks, having taken many of the practice tests provided in the SAT workbook, one student reported that his score increased by 60 points from the beginning of the course. Given the tools for continued test preparation, we hope that the participants will be able to tackle the SAT with renewed confidence. After this experience and exposure to one of the library’s most valued databases, we also hope the participants remember the tools the library has to offer for helping them further their education goals.

The second program held over the summer meant to encourage teens attending the local high school to complete their required summer reading. The local high school participates in the One Book One School initiative for their summer reading title each year, so the chosen title for our Teen Summer Reading Book Club was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. We provided refreshments and coloring each week while we listened to the audiobook. Each participant received a copy of the book to read along as they listened to the story of Wade Watts, a teen on a competitive search for an Easter Egg in a video game left by a deceased billionaire to hopefully win his fortune. At the end of each book club meeting, we discussed what was read. Commenting and questions were also asked throughout listening to the book and this was encouraged to support their reading comprehension and confidence in discussing what they were reading with peers.

This program featured the One Book One School title, but was not limited to students attending the school that assigned the book. Any high school student was able to share in reading and discussing each week. While many were from the local high school, one teen was homeschooled. This was an enjoyable experience and gave teens a chance to become more comfortable with peers as they discussed the book. With both programs, we hope the teens that participated gained confidence in themselves and feel more comfortable around their peers and this carries over into the new school year. Providing these opportunities that might not exist elsewhere during the summer break from school was rewarding and we will consider offering them throughout the school year as well.

Theresa Preziosa is a Youth Services Librarian at the Pemberton Branch of the Burlington County Library System. She started there as a student assistant in high school and loved the library so much, she decided to become a librarian when she grew up.

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.