Real World Work Experience @ Spencer County Public Library

We were lucky to be chosen for the Dollar General Internship at the Spencer County Public Library.  Dollar General paid 5 interns to work 25 hours during June, our busiest month.   Our time flew by with all of the interns learning and improving.  The program didn’t start out as I planned but we adapted and everyone got what they needed. 

The candidates for internship attended four classes to help them be prepared to search for, apply to and keep a job.   Some of the teens didn’t want to put forth the effort to do well in the class.  A few of them said they were too tired to learn how to make a flyer or at another class they claimed to have made a resume in school, didn’t know where it was but did not feel compelled to make a new one.  Others took notes and paid attention, asking great questions to get better prepared. 

One of the main points I stressed during the classes and in all the advertising for the internship was the hours they would be required to work.  I planned their hours to coincide with our busiest times of the week.  A few teens came to me asking if they could work different hours.   At the time I had lots of applicants and maybe too much confidence in their dedication so I told them the times were required, causing a few good candidates to drop out of the program.  After we hired our five interns they each came to me with request about their schedules.   One forgot that she had summer camp one week, another summer school; two had transportation difficulties and the last doctor appointments.  We worked around their schedules, the work got done and I stressed that if this was in the “real world” they may be fired if they couldn’t work their schedule.    

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Field Trip for Literacy! Dollar General Grant Winner

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

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

Teen Fun Day @ Whiting Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

Thanks to YALSA and Dollar General the teens at the Whiting Public Library had a BLAST this year – and so did the staff! 

The grant that we received this year made it possible for us to offer our teens a variety of fun activities.  They got to experience building and playing with Little Bits, Makey Makeys, coding with robots, as well as making their own robots and much, much, more.  Our teens had a summer full of fun activities with tools that they had either never seen or played with.   

Every Thursday was Teen Fun Day at the Whiting Public Library.   We offered a variety of different activities – some low key and some more technical, and while I stressed about our teens having fun, they always enjoyed themselves.  Our first program of the summer started with both Shrinky Dinks and Makey Makeys.   None of our teens had ever used Makey Makeys, but once I started playing with the laptops and the Makey Makeys and showing them the basics, they couldn’t wait to take over. Soon every laptop was taken! It was the first time that I have seen them walking away from Shrinky Dinks! The following week we had a Scavenger Hunt which tested our teens’ library skills, and they had a blast.   After we finished our Scavenger Hunt, we moved to our activity room to make our BristleBots.  None of our teens had ever heard of them and I think that they were a little hesitant, but once we got started building them they loved them and we had no free table tops as they came up with different ways to race them. But the fun didn’t stop there.

As I mentioned before, thanks to the grant that we received, we were able to purchase a number of things for our teen programs, including Lit

tle Bits.  Our teens had never seen Little Bits before and it was a lot of fun showing them how they work.  We did a number of activities from the Little Bits site and once I felt everyone was comfortable seen how the Little Bits circuits worked, I let them get creative.  I put out a few things for them to use such as cups, paper tubes, LEGOS, markers, pipe cleaners, etc… It was a lot of fun watching them come up with ways to use the Little Bits and helping them figure out how to get something to work.   But we didn’t stop there – we also made our own operation games and our own board games. Both programs were a lot of fun and our teens were very excited about their creations. 

I can’t forget our LED pop-up cards which were a lot of fun to create.  We had a few problems with using copper tape correctly, but it was a great program and the teens had a lot of fun adding LED lights to their projects we had both regular LED lights in different sizes and had Chibitronics LED sticker lights which are really great.   Also this summer we were inspired to create our own book covers. We let our inner Harry Potter out and created our very own Spells and Potions books.  It was a little messy, but our teens got creative and they were happy with their final projects. 

At our last Teen Fun Thursday, our teens wanted to know what we would be doing next year, because they enjoyed themselves so much and they also made some wonderful friends.   Thank you YALSA and Dollar General from the Whiting Public Library!


My name is Montserrat Inglada and I am the Youth Services Librarian at the Whiting Public Library in Whiting, IN.   Books and kids have always been my passion, but I didn’t start off as a librarian.   I first went to Art School to become a Children’s Book Illustrator and ended up getting a degree in Graphic Design and later I went back to school and I obtain my teaching degree, but while trying to find a teaching job I came across and opening for a Youths Services Librarian and to my surprise I got the job and again I went back to school and obtained my degree in Library Science and I have been at the Whiting Public Library ever since. 

I love working with kids and coming up with ideas for programs.   Every year my staff asks me to slow down, as we always seems to have a crazy amount of programs for the kids and teens, especially in the Summer and I always promise that I will not go so crazy the following year, but I get excited about new ideas and every year ends up being crazy, but at least it’s never boring and I love it and most importantly I think the kids enjoy it too!

Droids Invade the Putnam County Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

The theme for this year’s Summer Reading Program was “Build a Better World”. I think it is safe to say that in the world of the future, robots will be doing most of the building. I once heard someone say, “There will be two types of jobs in the future…telling a computer what to do, and being told by a computer what to do”. With that in mind, the Putnam County Library hosted a three part robotics programming workshop for kids and teens during the Summer Reading Program. We want to lead the way for our community to be on the side of telling the computers what to do. With such a focus on STEM learning nowadays, and with the 2017 YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant that we received this year, we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to host a programming workshop and it would be the ideal way to steer our community in this direction.

This entire program came about with a partnership with Cummins Filtration, an engineering corporation with a distribution center and offices located here in Cookeville, TN. Cummins provided much needed volunteers (robotics mentors), while the funding for the robots was provided by a generous summer reading grant from Dollar General and YALSA, as well as a donation from Cummins. The idea was to get kids interested in robotics and programming. The more they get interested when they are younger, the more this should translate to a desire for learning eventually leading to future engineers and programmers. So, using the grant money from DG and the donation from Cummins we bought our very first robots. They are Star Wars BB-8 droids made by Sphero and they are magnificent. Through an app we are able to manually control these droids as well as program them to run autonomously. The plan was to have kids program these droids to run a maze. So we set up the program, created a curriculum, collaborated with our Cummins volunteers, invited kids, and crossed our fingers.

The results were better than expected. In the first session, we had 17 kids ranging in age from 6-16 (and a few parents that wanted to participate). Many of them stayed for the entire 3 program event and others came on board later. In the first event, we taught everyone what robots were, why we use/program them, and the fundamentals of programming. Next we went through some simple programs with our droids and found out just how difficult it can be to correctly program a robot and account for all the variables. Finally, in our last session, we programmed our droids to run the maze. And they did it! Our programs worked! The droids raced through the mazes to reach the end!

With the success of this program comes the inception of even more robotics programming. We are still working on the specifics and logistics of future programs, but rest assured that more droids will be invading the Putnam County Library soon.


Written by Phil SchallerWith a BA in History from the University of Florida and a MLIS degree from Valdosta State University, I currently work as the Assistant Director/Adult Services Librarian of the Putnam County Library System in Cookeville, TN. This position is also in charge of collection development and programming for the young adult part of the library. I have a love of gaming of all kinds and have recently gamified our SRP with the result of having a much increased buy-in from teens and adults patrons.

Robotics at Oneonta Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

What a Summer! Oneonta Public Library experienced everything from robotics to bees, from bubbles to modified stuffed animals, and all things in between during Build a Better World 2017. Oneonta Public Library is a relatively small library with a staff of 5 full-time employees and 2 part-time employees. This means that all of our employees wear many hats throughout the year but especially during the summer.

We do not have a teen services librarian, per se, but the staff here at Oneonta Public Library is filled with people willing to jump in and help with whatever comes up. Since this year’s theme was Build a Better World, we could think of no better way to decorate the teen area than with Minecraft. Here is what it looked like:

I am not a teen, but this was amazing. Cassandra, our programs coordinator, spent hours planning and assembling each block of this scene.

For a variety of different reasons, it sometimes seems like teen services and programs are an afterthought. We feel that if we provide books for teens, we are doing our jobs. According to the YALSA Futures report (2014), “The library is no longer simply a quiet place to connect to physical content. It is instead a place, physical and virtual, to learn how to connect and use resources of all types from physical books to apps to experts in a local, regional, or national community.” We wanted to make sure that we brought our teens to the forefront of Build a Better World 2017 by writing a grant to bring a robotics-type program to the teens, so they could experience the library as a place where teens can learn about things they are interested in. After weeks and weeks of scouring the internet for experts, looking at different technologies to develop a plan, and many hours in the office typing away at the keyboard, we submitted and won a YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant.

This allowed us to spend $1,000 on a single teen program. To say the least, there were fireworks and cake to celebrate (not really but it felt that way). We decided to purchase Cubelets, 2 Makey Makeys, and a WonderWorks Dash Bot.

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Apply Now for the Libraries Ready to Code Grant!

Libraries Ready to Code

The application for Phase III of the Libraries Ready to Code Grant is open now through August 31, 2017.

The grant program, sponsored generously by Google, will fund a cohort of school and public libraries to design computational thinking and computer science programs for and with youth, including underrepresented youth. A total of 25-50 grants up to $25,000 each are available.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Public or school library (you do not need to be an ALA member to apply, but members will be given preference during the review process)
  • Library must be located in the United States or U.S. Territories
  • Program must be focused on computational thinking or computer science
  • Program must be completely free of cost to youth and their families, including deposits
  • Program must serve youth (anywhere on the Pre-K to grade 12 spectrum)
  • Must have prior approval from your library administration to implement the program (if grant funds are provided). Verification may be required upon request

Please note, you must meet all of the above eligibility requirements in order to apply for the grant. If you do not, your application will be disqualified.

A virtual information session about the grant program and application process will be held on Aug. 1 at 2:30pm EST. Reserve your seat here.  The recording of the session will be made available to those who can’t attend it live.  Additionally, before submitting an application, we encourage you to read the Request for Proposal and use it as a guide to filling out the application).  In addition, an FAQ, and list of resources including sample programs are on the Libraries Ready to Code site to inform your work as you prepare your grant application. Questions? Contact us.

Apply now through August 31, 2017.

Secrets of Grant Success: Give Your Community The Chance To “Unleash Your Story”

Serving on the Teen Read Week committee has given its members the opportunity to read numerous applications submitted for the TRW mini-grants. This valuable experience has provided us with handy tips to improve our own future grant writing endeavors, and we wish to share our insights with you for the purpose of strengthening your own 2017 YALSA/Dollar General Teen Read Week Grant application.

First, align your concept with YALSA’s Teen Read Week theme “Unleash Your Story”. Be sure to demonstrate how the funds will support teens as they write, tell, and share their own stories. Will the grant help connect teens with the numerous stories, biographies, autobiographies, and folktales in your library? If not, what purpose will it serve? Refresh yourself with The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action to ensure or adjust your proposal to better align with it.

Be sure your purchases meet the grant requirements. Funds must be used to enhance activities and services for teens. Seek alternate funding in your community to purchase snacks, decor, or signage for the event. Be specific in your application about your purchases, as the grant reviewers will want a complete breakdown of fund allotments. Explore other YALSA grants, such as Baker & Taylor/YALSA Collection Development Grant or YALSA’s Great Books Giveaway, for the purchase of collection development materials.

Consider your community. Gather statistics from credible sources like the United Census Bureau or your state’s Department of Education. Use the data to illustrate the need the grant funded program will fill for your teens. Include under-served teens in your idea as well. How many teens live locally? What are their interests? Contact a local local organization and partner up on the project. A clear narrative of your activity must be provided. Explain your vision and define your purpose. Break down the steps of preparation and implementation. Incorporate best practices as outlined in YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines. Perhaps most important is to know and communicate the knowledge or skills teen participants will gain by participating in your event or activity.

Wrapping up and evaluating your program is as important as the preparation for it. Determine which indicator is most appropriate to measure the impact of your project. Will you ask teens to complete a survey? Are you going to take attendance? Will teens be required to successfully complete a task? Will you tally return visits or circulation increases? Providing examples or briefly describing your method for measuring the impact of your program will show that you know your teen patrons and understand how a grant-funded program will serve them.

You can find other well-thought out TRW mini-grant award recipients on the YALSA Programming HQ. Check out a few examples of successful past grant awardees, such as those listed below, to compare and improve your proposal.

Co-written by Amanda Barnhart (2016-2017 Teen Read Week chair), Aimee Haslam (2016-2017 Teen Read Week committee member) and Melissa West (2016-2017 Teen Read Week committee chair and 2017 Emerging Leader).

“Who Doesn’t Like Libraries?”

Washington, D.C. is a dream location for librarians: books, libraries, galleries, museums, history, monuments, culture, and food. At the beginning of May, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in National Library Legislative Day along with over 500 other librarians. My trip was funded by a generous travel stipend from the Young Adult Library Services Association. Although I have been a librarian for 23 years and have advocated for libraries in my school district and community, this was my first opportunity to advocate on the national level. I am hopeful that my experience will encourage you to become a national advocate as well.

Alex Simons, Liaison Librarian at the University of Houston, is the Texas coordinator for NLLD. She and Letitia Smith from YALSA prepared me for the visits on Capitol Hill by sending information about library advocacy and about how to conduct successful meetings with Members of Congress. In addition to Alex Simons, the other members of the Texas delegation were Jeanne Standley, Executive Director of Libraries at the University of Texas at Tyler, and Carlyn Gray, retired Director of Library Services at Round Rock ISD and currently Librarian at Austin Community College. Gloria Meraz, Assistant State Librarian at Texas State Library and Archives, attended as a resource person and was instrumental in providing information on the impact of federal funds for Texas libraries and the Texas State Library.

This event is exceptionally well-planned and organized. ALA hosts NLLD events and training for registered participants at a local hotel on Monday and plans office visits on Tuesday. Folders with information about important library issues are prepared for each of the 435 Representative’s offices and 100 Senator’s offices. The Texas delegation generally meets on Sunday night to divide up visits, and Monday they arrive early at the House office buildings. With current threats to eliminate funding for critical federal library programs, the folders were filled with data showing how libraries truly do change lives. Alex Simons suggested that we focus on a maximum of three issues to clarify at each office to get the most out of our time during visits. Armed with our data and our stories, we hit the halls.

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Meet with Your Congress Member–It’s Fun (kinda) & You can #SaveIMLS

My purpose of writing this blog post is to demonstrate that meeting with your member of Congress is easy and even a little fun!  Why do this?  Because this year is unlike any other in recent history: the White House is proposing to eliminate IMLS and with it all federal funds for libraries.  We must convince our members of Congress now that this will have devastating effects, or libraries will lose the support and funding they need to help their communities.  This is a do or die type of situation, and it calls for extraordinary measures.  The Congressional Management Foundation says that in-person meetings with elected officials are the single most effective way to educate them about your cause and persuade them to support it. If all YALSA members met with their members of Congress, that would send a compelling message that they could not ignore!

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A New YALSA Toolkit on Partnerships and Funding

On May 9th, YALSA published a new toolkit called Partnering to Increase Your Impact.

Six members and one chair worked since July 2016 in the Community Connections Taskforce to pull together ideas and resources about how libraries can partner with other organizations and locate funding opportunities.  Pictured are Adrienne Strock, Rachael Bohn, Bill Stea, Dina Schuldner (chair), and Billie Moffett.  Not pictured are Derrick Burton and Markita Dawson.

We worked virtually, through email, phone, and video chats to develop this resource that is invaluable to librarians and libraries in finding partnerships and funding that increase the impact Teen Services can have on the Young Adult population.

There are ten steps that should be taken in order to get the most out of a partnership.  They include identifying a teen need, making an inventory of the library’s assets, choosing assets that would come from another organization, and then identifying and vetting potential partners.  Once that initial research is done, it’s all about the relationship you build with your chosen partner.  Together, you can co-develop a program or service and implement it for the teens you serve.  Maintaining that relationship you’ve built will allow you to evaluate the impact of your program or service and either stick with it, or adjust it.  You may even discover that your partner isn’t the best fit, in which case you can move on to other potential partners you’ve already identified in the earlier steps.

We included some great commentary about some libraries’ experiences with partnerships.

There is also an invaluable section on funding opportunities that was developed in part through a survey conducted with libraries around the country.  You will find these ideas helpful in your own quest to increase funding for teen services at your library.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve YALSA as chair of the Community Connections Taskforce, and am grateful to have worked with such fine people in developing this resource.  Please share this toolkit with other members of your library who can help you make your partnership and funding dreams come true!

Dina Schuldner was a Young Adult Librarian at the Gold Coast Public Library in New York, where she developed the Teen Entrepreneurial Academy by partnering with local business owners.  She now lives in Virginia Beach, VA.