When someone wants to start their own garden, there are a lot of things they have to think about–location, climate, soil, and maintenance to name a few. It is important to know what kind of soil you are dealing with before you start cultivating the ground. Determining the quality of your soil allows you to utilize the ground to produce the best crop possible.
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” -Audrey Hepburn
What does this have to do with having a teen presence and programming at the library? I have found the same principles and practices used in having a successful garden can be applied to cultivating a teen presence at your library.
I am the director of Bolivar-Hardeman County Library in Bolivar, Tennessee. We are a small and rural public library serving a diverse community. When I started nearly two years ago our teen attendance at our programs were at an all-time low—basically zero at our library. The demographic of our patrons is increasingly getting older. It was and is my passion to revitalize the library into a place where teens want to come. Shortly after I started, I became of a member of YALSA (Young Adult Library Service Association) and ARSL (Association for Rural and Small Libraries). You can become a member by going here for YALSA and here for ARSL. I was starting from ground zero on developing any type of teen programming at the library. YALSA and ARSL has and continues to provide invaluable information and resources regarding teens and young adults with little to no budgets. One example is the Future Ready with the Library grant I received to be a member of the second of cohort. Future Ready with the Library provides support for small, rural, and tribal library staff to build college and career readiness services for middle school youth. I highly encourage you to read more about Future Ready with the Library. The past several months I have been very busy with gathering information about my community, schools, and youth for the Future Ready with the Library project. Because of my recent research and community engagement it has given me a fresh perspective on Bolivar. One thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was the lack of teen involvement in the library.
This blog post is adapted from a Future Ready with the Library Community of Practice reflection by Amanda (Mandy) Bundy, Kaibab Paiute Tribal Library; Fredonia, AZ, Mandy is a member of the second cohort of the YALSA Future Ready with the Library project. Future Ready with the Library provides support for small, rural, and tribal library staff to build college and career readiness services for middle school youth. You can read more posts by current and previous project cohort members on this blog.
This is adapted from a Future Ready with the Library Community of Practice reflection by Allison Shimek, Fayette Public Library in La Grange, TX. Allison is a member of the second cohort of the YALSA Future Ready with the Library project. Future Ready with the Library provides support for small, rural, and tribal library staff to build college and career readiness services for middle school youth. Read more about Future Ready with the Library and apply for cohort 3.
Like everyone in the Future Ready with the Library cohort, over the past several months I have been busy with meetings and gathering information. Through this work I learned a tremendous amount about my community. So far I met with the middle school principal, middle school librarian, school district assistant superintendent, members of the community theater, parents, a local camp, teens, and the local Rotary Club. It seems that the majority of the community agrees that middle schoolers need social skills that will help them prepare for the workforce. At the same time, those I talk with note that there is little for middle school youth to do in the town during out of school time. Except for band and sports, all after school activities end at 6th grade. There is nowhere for teens to go and hang out or a place that they can feel is just for them. The entire community and the teens recognize this as a huge topic of concern. As a part of the Future Ready with the Library work, I plan to continue to meet with more community groups and businesses in the local area to learn how to and plan for ways to better support teens. Continue reading
During Teen Read Week we will launch the first of six Teen Podcast Tinker Sessions. During these workshops teens will get hands on experience using in-studio and portable recording devices, and audio editing software on computers in our Digital Media Lab. We will explore the methods of engaging storytelling, combining a more traditional definition of literacy with digital, media, and technology literacies. In an attempt to provide teens with experiential prompts, we are coordinating with four departments within the Boston Public Library to engage with historical letters, maps, architecture, and library staff members to unearth the stories associated with these pieces. The longer term plan of these initial Tinker Sessions is to generate interest and develop a core group of teens to create a program where regular podcast pieces are produced in Spring 2018 around topics of their choosing. The ultimate vision of this project is to cultivate an activity for teens to grow as individuals, strengthen their voice as a leaders and decision makers, and commit to a project where they can explore and shape their identity.
We are partnering with mentors from GrubStreet, a local non-profit that is a leading independent creative writing center, based in downtown Boston. This is a mutually beneficial partnership as GrubStreet seeks to expand its offerings to teen audiences and their expertise increases Teen Central’s capacity to provide teens with access to high-quality writing guidance through professional mentors in our informal learning environment.
While we have offered programs that allowed teens to tell their story through graphic design, film editing, and computer programming, the practice of performing digital storytelling through podcasts is an avenue and undertaking we have yet to accomplish due to a lack of appropriate equipment, staffing, expertise, and funding to do so. Through the help of YALSA’s Teen Read Week Grant, our hope is teens will be able to critically approach the process of media production, see themselves as media creators, and be empowered to tell the stories that are most relevant to their lives. Through community interviews, collaboration with other teens, and mentor facilitation, teens will be able to provide multiple perspectives and deep understanding of a topic or issue. Boston’s teen community is brimming with strong voices. We are excited and grateful to participate in the TRW grant. Ultimately, this opportunity helps the library and the city to preserve these stories while providing teens with a louder and more impactful platform to have their voices heard.
Catherine Halpin is the Youth Technology Coordinator at Boston Public Library, Teen Central. Ally Dowds is the Youth Technology Librarian at Boston Public Library, Teen Central.
In the spring YALSA began its second year of the three year Future Ready with the Library project. The focus of this IMLS funded work that is a partnership between YALSA and the Association of Rural and Small Libraries is to provide staff in small, rural, and tribal libraries the opportunity to build college career readiness services for middle school youth and their families. YALSA’s first cohort in this endeavor got to work in January of this year and now it’s time for those wanting to participate in the project to apply to be a part of the second cohort.
You can learn about the project and how to apply in this recording of an information session held last week.
National Week of Making is upon us, and with that, I thought it would be fun to highlight some program ideas that I have done at my library, and some that were shared on the YALSA’s Teen Programming HQ. STEM programs becoming more and more prevalent in libraries, and it is possible to do these programs in the smallest of libraries to the largest.
As we all know, STEM programs are a great way to get preteens and teens excited about coming to the library. It is a chance for them to expand their STEM skills, and to use devices, programs, and materials that may not be available to them in their schools. At my library, we work with a lot of schools that are disadvantaged, and we want to be a place for preteens and teens to learn something outside of school that could interest them enough to make a career out of it. With this in mind, we started a STEM Club a couple of years ago, along with a dedicated teen volunteer. Within our club, we have taught teens how to code, print on a 3D printer, make apps, build with Strawbees, and so much more.
YouthTruth has recently come out with a new survey, College and Career Readiness, of 165,000 high school students “between the 2010-11 and 2014-15 school years,” and found a vast amount of information that shows that high school students want to go to college, but “most feel unprepared to do so.” High school students also feel less prepared for future careers and are “not taking advantage of support services,” such as programs presented at libraries and more. Along with high school students, middle school students also feel unprepared for college and a future career.
Laura Pitts, a librarian from The Scottsboro, Alabama Public Library shares how “rural, small, and tribal libraries are helping middle schoolers with college and career readiness” through YALSA’s first cohort of Future Ready with the Library funded by IMLS. The program’s mission is to “develop a way, through partnerships with community organizations or educational outlets, to address the issue of college and career readiness initiatives among middle school students.”
In her YALS article, Pitts mentions that “the workforce is moving towards 21st Century skills set that prides itself on encouraging students to look at various career, vocational, and educational opportunities that may be available to them in their own backyard.” Although working in the Future Ready program would be a great opportunity for any library, there are still many things a library can do to help middle schoolers on their own. Part of Pitt’s article discusses how it is important to work with your community, and this is extremely important. Libraries can reach out to local businesses and provide a Career Day program specific for middle school preteens. Preteens could come to their local library and meet local business owners, and learn about their career pathways, and what they do at their job.
March was a month that kept me hopping. I really enjoyed meeting so many people in the community, and hearing their concerns and interests. I met this month with people from the economic development committee, school board, superintendent, our business owners who belong to the Main Street organization, a couple of teen groups, and some interested parents. I still have meetings lined up with the school librarian, PTO, and our state rep who has been working with our manufacturing locations on how to attract more employees.
As I’ve talked with other Future Ready with the Library cohort members, I’ve expressed some frustration with the tendency of people to associate libraries with early literacy exclusively, which is actually my LEAST successful service area. Because of the conversations I’ve had, I look forward to really turning up my advocacy and letting the entirety of the town know what we are up to in serving middle school youth, and other teens too. Part of this will involve taking the library outside the walls for programs. Continue reading
On Monday, March 20th, my library hosted our first College and Career Readiness programming roundtable event. Our goal was to find out what our community members feel the youth in our community need in order to be successful. We personally invited community members (including teachers, school administrators, school counselors, school board members, county commissioners and parents) to the meeting, we encouraged youth to attend and it was advertised on Facebook, at the school literacy night and through word of mouth. We had food – I ordered pizza and breadsticks and had water available. We only had five adults and two middle school students attend. It was definitely not the turnout I was looking for – I had a lot more people say they were coming than who actually came – but that is okay. I know the people who attended care, I know they had opinions that they wanted to share and I was there to listen.
I started with a brief discussion on what the Future Ready with the Library project is all about and what the library’s goals are as a part of that project. As each person walked in I gave them a copy of the pamphlet I created that provides information on the project. I also gave everyone an article from Forbes on the top 10 things employers are looking for in employees and an article on the seven skills students need to succeed. Then I opened the floor for open discussion to the public and what followed was a fantastic two hour discussion. Continue reading