Last Monday, I talked about the benefits of a middle school collection in a public library, and how we chose a name, chose a collection size, and gathered feedback for my Library’s new Middle Ground. Our next steps were to get into the specifics of what exactly belonged in the Middle Ground versus the Juvenile and Young Adult Collections.
As I said in my last post, the way you structure and build your collection is going to depend on your community. I’m providing an account of how I did it as an example, to give you some things to think about while creating your own collection. For more guidance, check out YALSA’s Collections and Content Curation wiki page.
We learned through surveying that many of our middle school patrons were interested in nonfiction and graphic novels. Nonfiction and graphic titles tend to appeal to a wider age range of readers than fiction. In Middle Ground Fiction we were collecting books that spoke directly to middle schoolers, but such books are few in nonfiction and graphic novels. We wanted to include these collections in the Middle Ground, but chose to tweak the rules a bit for them.
A year and a half ago, I was tasked with creating a collection of reading materials aimed at middle schoolers for my public library. These types of collections—sometimes called junior high or tween collections—are becoming more popular in response to growing demand from patrons, but creating them poses some unique challenges. In my next two blog posts, I’ll share some information on my Library’s process: we did, why we did it, what we learned, what, and how you might begin your own process of creating such a collection. This can only serve as a guideline. You will need to develop your own methods to build a collection that meets the specific needs of your community.
In this post, I will discuss reasons for having a middle school collection in the public library and first steps to creating one. The next post will be about selection guidelines for the collection, and how to use those selection guidelines.
I will use the term “middle school collection” to refer to any collection designed to serve readers in the range of ages 10-14.
This is my library’s Middle Ground collection as it currently appears. We are working on expanding it to some additional shelving.
The set up
At the end of November, seven librarians were asked to participate in YALSA’s first resource retreat. The mission of the retreat was to create a literacies toolkit, expanding on the discussion that began in the 2014 report: “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action”. We were asked to create a document that was user friendly and accessible to both librarians and library staff who work directly for and with teens. The rest was really up to us, which was both exciting and a little daunting.
The retreat was scheduled for the Friday of Midwinter. Since this was YALSA’s first time trying a resource retreat, everything new to us was also new to YALSA. We were given a stipend to help defray travel and lodging costs and were asked to attend one phone conference before Midwinter to plan out a few logistical elements. In the phone call, we realized we needed a Google doc to keep our ideas in one place. This document proved to be a crucial element of our success during the retreat. We were glad we had done some leg work ahead of time to make the actual day of writing go a tad smoother.
Knock on wood, but I’m pretty sure that the universe won’t be able to top the craziness that was my 2012. In the same month I: became my library system’s first Youth Services Manager, was voted to serve as YALSA President, and had a baby.
Why do I mention that personal trifecta? Because quite soon thereafter, the year that I was President, The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report came out and challenged me profoundly. As we all now well know, it called for a “paradigm shift” in the way that we approach and implement teen services in libraries and I happened to have been in the unique position to think through those shifts on both a local and a national scale… while at the same time managing significant personal and professional capacity issues (as so many of us often do).
I mention all of this in a post intended to focus on this year’s Digital Media and Learning Conference because as I’ve worked to support future focused outcomes related to youth and libraries, I’ve spent a lot of time:
- Trying to achieve perfect solutions for complex problems
- Feeling like a weirdo for piecing together concepts, research, and tools from disparate sources
- Worrying about the general mess that comes with change
As it turns out, I need to get over myself. It’s not just me, or even just libraries for that matter, that are struggling with these issues. At DML, I had conversations with or heard from computer scientists and afterschool club organizers, intermediaries and funders, researchers and teachers who are all feeling as messy as I have been. But as we talked and connected, that messiness felt good, exciting, and full of possibility. That messiness felt like we were all moving forward to help this country’s most diverse demographic of teens be successful in an ever evolving tech, career, and cultural landscape. That messiness felt like progress.
You may have already read about YALSA’s IMLS funded project, “Future Ready with the Library.” It’s focus is on helping library staff in small, rural, and tribal libraries to support the college and career readiness of middle school students. That’s right, middle school students. Some people I talk with wonder, why start at that young age? Isn’t that too young? These are teens who are as much as 7 years away from graduating high school, why make them think that far in advance?
Those are all good questions and it’s understandable why they get asked. The thing is that what we do in libraries to support middle school student (and beyond) passions and interests, really helps them to think about pathways to college and career success, even if it’s not overtly presented that way. For example:
Welcome to the YALSAblog News of the Month. In this post we highlight a few news items from the past month that we think are of interest to staff working with teens in libraries, schools, and youth development organizations.
How often do you serve as guidance counselor? How many times have you helped someone complete the FAFSA? or helped someone complete a job application? or helped area community organizations run an annual job fair?
As YALSA president, I can opt to have a theme for my presidential year. When I re-read the new Organizational Plan and the Futures Report, it wasn’t difficult to choose a topic close to my heart. I worked in high schools for fourteen years, and now I work the reference desk and teach at a rural community college library, so everyday I think about how prepared my “kids” are for the real world. Whether that’s discussing with them how student loans work or offering interview tips or explaining why their mean teacher is requiring APA style, it’s always on my mind! College and career readiness have been buzz words for years in education, but I really want to stress workforce development, too. With the theme “Real Teens, Real Ready,” my President’s Program Task Force will offer opportunities to share best practices about college and career readiness and the skills needed for teens to succeed in adulthood.
YALSA already has a list of resources on the College and Career Readiness wiki page, and is excited about the Future Ready with the Library: Connecting with Communities for College and Career Readiness Services grant that was recently announced. YALSA, in partnership with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL), is implementing an innovative project that will build the capacity of small, rural and tribal libraries to provide college and career readiness (CCR) services for and with middle schoolers. YALSA and ARSL will work with library staff to build needed skills while also developing, testing and refining turn-key resources, which other libraries can adapt for their own use.
The Real Teens, Real Ready task force will be preparing the President’s Program at ALA Annual in Chicago next summer. If you have any innovative ideas you’d like to share with them, please contact Chair Valerie Davis. Other task force members are Lisa Borten, Lisa Dettling, Jeremy Dunn, Katie Kirsch, and Ellen Popit. More information will be coming soon about how you can help with this initiative!
Hope everyone had a great 4th of July!
As we celebrated our country’s independence last weekend, YALSA, too, has sought to break free from past models of association work and is currently exploring new ways to engage our members that better meet their interests, skills and busy lifestyles.
It was with those #teensfirst and members’ first ideals in mind that the 2015-2016 YALSA Board approached our work before and during ALA Annual last month as we worked on aligning existing YALSA groups, programs and services with the association’s new Organizational Plan.
Here are some highlights:
– The Board adopted the following consent items, which were items that were discussed and voted on previous to annual, including:
– The Board also approved a more concrete structure to support and revitalize interest groups.
– The Board approved experimenting with new kinds of member engagement opportunities, especially virtual and short-term ones.
As part of its effort to align YALSA’s existing work with the new Organizational Plan, as well as update member engagement opportunities so that they better meet member needs, the Board began a review of all existing member groups at our June meeting. While the Board was not able complete the review, we did come to decisions about some of the groups.
– The Board agreed that the following committees’ structure and workflow will remain as they currently are:
- Alex Award Committee
- Editorial Advisory Board for YALS/YALSAblog
- Financial Advancement Committee
- Margaret Edwards Award Committee
- Mentoring Task Force
- Michael Printz Award Committee
- Morris Award Committee
- Nonfiction Award Committee
- Odyssey Award Interdivisional Committee
- Organization and Bylaws Committee
- The Hub Advisory Board
Over the past few years, I have noticed that there has been a movement in YALSA to shift teen services in libraries. This shift has taken teen library staff from being mere program providers to being opportunity connectors and learning leaders. With the rise of connected learning, libraries are quickly moving into the forefront of informal learning and teen empowerment. Library staff have become vital elements in the empowerment of teens through relevant, outcome-based programming that develops the 21st century teen. This notable change in direction has made me extremely passionate about services for and with teens, and I noticed this theme in every session I attended this year in Orlando. Library staff all over the country are stepping up their programming in favor of interest-based learning and exploration that effectively engages today’s teens.
One of the first sessions I attended was a presentation on Raspberry Pi by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. I had visited their booth in the exhibit hall and wanted to learn more about their products and how to incorporate them into my programs. Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your tv or computer monitor and uses a keyboard and mouse. It’s a high-performance device that allows the user to explore computing, coding, and more. I was amazed at how such a small device has put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world. In addition to computer education, Raspberry Pi has an unlimited number of uses; everything from turning it into a personal wifi hotspot to creating advanced maker projects like a wearable camera or developing a multi-room music player. Recently, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has partnered with British ESA Astronaut, Tim Peake, to send two Raspberry Pis (dubbed the Astro Pi) into the International Space Station. Both devices were augmented and coded in part by school-age students to measure the environment inside the station, detect how it’s moving through space, and pick up the Earth’s magnetic field. Each Astro Pi is also equipped with a different kind of camera; one has an infrared camera and the other has a standard visible spectrum camera. I had absolutely no idea that a Raspberry Pi had this much potential for STEM and cross-curriculum learning, or that the same Raspberry Pi’s that were sent into space are the same as the ones you can purchase online. Not only is the potential for engaging STEM learning abundant, but The Raspberry Pi foundation makes its learning resources available for free on their website. You can download their magazine, MagPi, check out their books that will help you navigate a Raspberry Pi, or begin tinkering with a Pi by downloading the desktop interface, Raspbian. With all of this potential for making and learning packed into a compact, affordable package, Raspberry Pi’s are the next step in your library’s makerspace.
Any day now YALSA members and YALS subscribers should find in their mailboxes the latest issue of YALS. (The digital edition is already available on the Members Only section of the YALSA website.) The summer 2016 theme is college & career readiness (CCR) and includes articles on:
- Developing space that supports helping youth gain CCR skills and information
- Developing activities and a program of service that supports teen acquisition of CCR skills and information
- The role of digital equity in CCR
- What Project Lead The Way is all about
- How creating tinkering opportunities supports teen ability to gain 21st century skills
- The skills library staff need to succeed in the 21st century work place