Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Take a Learning Break with YALSA Snack Breaks

cover of the YALSA Teen Services CompetenciesAs you read the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff you may think to yourself, there are some things that I want to learn. Or, there are some areas that I want to get better at. One way to get started with that learning is with YALSA’s Snack Breaks. These videos, published monthly, are between 3 and 15 minutes long (well there might be a couple that are a bit longer) and cover a range of topics related to the new Competencies. Check out the Snack Break on Restorative Approaches to Behavior Management in Libraries.

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The December Dilemma: Addressing Identity in the Library

The December Dilemma image, white and yellow text on black background.

As we reflect on the holiday season, it is vital to assess our approach to cultural identity and diversity. Teaching Tolerance and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding recently hosted a webinar exploring the many ways educators can embrace diversity during this culturally complex time of year. As library staff, we can use “The December Dilemma” and its accompanying informational documents to analyze and improve our current holiday programming, and continue to foster an inclusive environment throughout the rest of the year.

Regarding holiday-specific diversity, this packet includes timelines and plans for holiday discussions. Perhaps the most thorough of these is the “Holiday Inclusion Planning Template,” which provides an outline for year-long holiday preparation and resource management. The chart’s description encourages users to identify “which part(s) of your curriculum relate most directly to the holiday and provide the best opportunity for a ‘teachable moment.'” Although originally designed for use by teachers in a school setting, the entire program can certainly be implemented in our context. Slight adjustments would result in an extensive and effective approach to this subject suitable for the youth we serve at our libraries.

Beyond discussion surrounding holidays, this webinar and the accompanying informational packet both address the establishment of a respectful atmosphere. Many of these tools, tips, and techniques can easily be adapted for our programming purposes. The “Rules of Respect” portion of this supplemental packet includes prompts for open discussions about respect, conscious listening, and thoughtful inquiry. While some of these activities–like forming a “listening circle” or creating a chart detailing what respect looks and feels like–are aimed towards a younger audience, the core concepts can be employed for a range of age groups. For example, writing and signing a Rules of Respect Agreement could provide a foundation for newly formed teen clubs, or be used as a way to establish expectations for storytime. Another unit, “My Identity and My Family,” includes book suggestions, activity templates, and discussion prompts that could be introduced into already existing programming or used as a stand-alone unit.

While this webinar and toolkit explore diversity within the specific context of the holiday season, they also provide a solid and thorough approach to religious and cultural tolerance. Whether we use this as preparation for holiday programming, or simply as a framework for conducting identity work within our libraries, this is an invaluable resource. The archived webinar and supplemental documents can be found here.

YALSA Symposium Inspiration from a Stipend Winner

As a young librarian, it can be difficult to find your footing. After receiving my degree and being a teen services librarian for a little over a year, I was thrilled to embark on the journey to Louisville in early November for this year’s YALSA Symposium, made possible by YALSA’s travel stipend. I was expecting a weekend full of information and new ideas, but I wasn’t expecting to come home with a new outlook on teen services and a reinvigorated passion for my job, which is exactly what happened!

Teens often feel like no one understands or cares about them, and I hear

this often from the teens that frequent my library. At the Symposium I realized that bringing them into the library wasn’t enough – I had to build a community of teens that supported one another and could make changes within their own communities, as adults are separate from the lives of teens in so many ways. Nearly every session I attended in Louisville focused on communities in some way, through either building a community of teens or drawing the surrounding community into the library through partnerships and local resources.
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How Student Engagement is Important for Libraries

A recent survey conducted by YouthTruth discusses whether or not students feel engaged in their school studies. Understanding student engagement is important for educators and librarians because it can give great insight into challenges affecting learning both inside and outside of the classroom. YouthTruth analyzed survey responses from over 230,000 students in grades three through twelve. The information was gathered through YouthTruth’s anonymous online climate and culture survey across 36 states. View the entire report here.

The survey targeted four specific statements, which followed with percentages of their findings. The first was that, “across all grade levels, the majority of students feel engaged.” The results to this statement showed 78 percent of elementary school students, 59 percent of middle school students and 60 percent of high school students respectively felt engaged in school work. It is interesting to see that number drop from the time a student left elementary school and finally made it to high school. However, it isn’t surprising. In elementary school students are constantly praised for the work they do and are often times engaged in more “fun programs” than those who entered the older grades.

This isn’t to say that middle schools and high schools aren’t doing their job of praising students or that they are not having fun. They are – I see it on a daily basis on the social media websites and social media accounts that the schools and teachers at middle and high school levels use. A lot happens in middle school and high school: Life changes occur, college prep begins and suddenly the fun of school is hidden beneath the requirements needed to leave and enter the real world. Students may not feel engaged, not because their teachers aren’t showing how important they are but because so much is happening that education gets lost in the shuffle.

According to the survey, “most students take pride in their school work.” This result shows 72 percent of middle school students taking pride and 68 percent of high school students. The survey broke it down even further to state that females are slightly more likely to take pride in school work than males or students who identify as other than male or female.

The last two survey findings were interesting to me, as they speak a lot to an area I feel public libraries can step in and help fill the gap.

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Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Lessons Learned from a Waldorf School Partnership

In summer 2017, my branch library was invited to host seven on-site storytimes for The Denver Waldorf School (DWS), a local, private school whose philosophy aligns with the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. The agreement was for my library to provide a storytime and craft/art project for approximately 25 children (ages 3-6) once per week from June through August. This was our first opportunity to partner with the school, and the more I learned about the cornerstones of Waldorf education, the more inspired I became to apply the principles to our regular storytimes and school-aged programming. Additionally, the partnership motivated me to reevaluate the ways public library staff teach technology to middle grade and high school students, and has prompted me to incorporate more elements of Waldorf education into library programming.

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How Libraries can Build Communities with Minecraft

On Thursday afternoons, in the heart of the Beacon Hill Library in Seattle, you might find an animated group of youth on laptops designing parkour courses, rendering torch lit dungeons or co-constructing capture the flag arenas—all in Minecraft, the popular world-building game. To some, this scene might seem somewhat out of place in a library: Aren’t video games and lively teen banter fundamentally at odds with an institution whose core identity markers are books and silence? Not according to Juan Rubio, the Digital Media and Learning Program Manager for the Seattle Public Library (SPL).

“This is how they begin to build a bond and affiliation with the library,” explains Rubio. “I want to create learning opportunities while keeping the environment fun and playful—and Minecraft is a good transition in that direction.” Creating teen-friendly zones and activities is part of a widespread movement by libraries to become dynamic hubs that engage the community in a broad range of services and events.

Rubio spearheaded the partnership between SPL and Connected Camps to deliver a free after school Minecraft program for 10 – 13 year-olds. He’d run successful Minecraft clubs in his previous incarnation with the Brooklyn Public Library and decided to build on the experience in Seattle. Following the successful pilot at Beacon Hill, Rubio aims to roll the program out to more of SPL’s 27 branches.

“We wanted to target middle school youth, and to add another layer—not just Minecraft for Minecraft’s sake. My outcomes are around design and computational thinking, so Connected Camps was a good fit for us,“ said Rubio. In terms of practical implementation, the library offers breakaway rooms, wired laptops, and on-site supervision, while Connected Camps provides a structured Minecraft program and the support of an in-game mentor.

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Engaging with the 2016 Opportunity Index

Since 2011, Opportunity Nation and Measure for America have collaborated to create the Opportunity Index. This expansive report examines economic, social, and geographical data as a way “to help policymakers and community leaders identify challenges and solutions” with regard to education and employment rates. The most recent edition of the Opportunity Index–which spans 2016–has just been released, giving the public better insight into the contributing factors that determine opportunity in a given community. Since one of the goals of this annual study is to be “useful as a tool to create community change,” we wanted to examine this as a potentially rich resource for public libraries, and explore the ways in which library workers might be able to incorporate these findings into our services (Opportunity Nation and Measure of America, 2017).

This is an infographic from the Opportunity Index.

Several aspects of the data taken into consideration for this study prove extremely relevant to library services, and can be cited in conversations of change and adaptation. The index itself is divided into three components: Economy, Education, and Community. In order to address how library staff–specifically those working with youth–might engage with this report, each component will be addressed individually.

Economy

In order to gauge the economic status of each state, the Opportunity Index gathered a wide variety of statistics including those related to median income, unemployment rates, affordable housing, internet access, and poverty line proximity. Many of these factors already affect our daily interactions with library visitors, and we are likely aware of our community’s economic standing simply by working within it. However, understanding how our state measures up compared to the national average might help us prepare ourselves–emotionally and practically–for our interactions with youth. For states like Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Alabama, which fall on the low end of the Economic Index score, this might confirm what some library staff already know about the necessity of their services. However, a deeper understanding of this dataset–and the factors that influence it, like internet access and access to banking–might inform the programming or workshops available. Tangible actions might include increasing accessibility to financial literacy resources, introducing teens to summer work-and-learn programs and resume assistance, or forging connections between internship and volunteer opportunities. After all, a recent Partner4Work study found that “the various types of work experience [young adults] received in their program enabled them to explore career interests, identify new career goals, and even gain access to employment opportunities” (2017).

Education

In the context of the Opportunity Index, the following factors make up the Education component–preschool enrollment, on-time high school graduation, and post-secondary completion. While our youth services might already include test prep or post-secondary information, we can certainly look at where our state falls on these individual scales. This data, combined with the data collected by our own districts, might inform the workshops or resources we offer our young adults and college students. Offering continuing assistance to our patrons as they navigate the college experience might include increased collaboration with nearby academic libraries, or implementing support systems for college students in the area. According to an article published in the September/October issue of Public Libraries, “49 percent of adult Americans don’t know that online skills certification programs are available at their libraries” (Perez, 2017). This knowledge, combined with the data provided by the Opportunity Index, might suggest we increase informational sessions surrounding the rich collections of e-resources and educational tools accessible through our library networks.

Community

The third component of the Opportunity Index is the Community Score. This category is expansive, and takes into consideration factors like access to healthy food, volunteerism, violent crime rates, and group membership. Of particular interest to library staff working with young adults is the “Disconnected Youth” factor, a category describing young people who are not working or in school. Libraries in states with high percentages of Disconnected Youth might compare this data against their own patron base. If these young adults are engaging with library services, this opens up opportunities to provide information about trade programs, employment opportunities, or online education resources. However, if there is a low level of library use among this population, collaboration with community centers and neighborhood resources might be an avenue of outreach to pursue. The Community Score is only a data-based snapshot of the opportunities and gaps within our communities, but examining these factors has the potential to inform the service we provide in positive ways.

Armed with this data, library staff can find new and different ways to work with and for their young adult patron base. There are countless ways to use the Opportunity Index as a platform upon which new programming can be built, and as a catalyst for change within existing services.

 

References and Resources

Opportunity Nation and Measure of America. (2017). “2016 Opportunity Index.” Opportunity Nation. http://opportunityindex.org.

Perez, Amilcar. (2017). “Finding and Partnering with Trainers for Tech Programs.” Public Libraries 56(5): 15-17.

Petrillo, Nathan, ed.. (2017). “How Young Adults Choose a Career Path.” Partner4Work. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZOwyMd0C53F7INlgXvOYb68F-3WznswQsP_Fz9k1zko/edit.

Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Creating a Winning Team

During my first years as a school librarian, I worked at a junior high with a group of dynamite classroom teachers.  “Collaboration” was a word that we used in discussions and also put into practice. One English teacher and I had the idea of working more closely with the public library and coordinating a summer reading program with our students.  Although we did not receive the funding we requested, we pursued the partnership. Over the next five years, we successfully collaborated with the public library on a variety of projects.

We soon realized the necessity of developing a “winning team” to establish our collaborative relationship with the public library, involving stakeholders from both institutions. As we progressed we also realized the importance of celebrating our successes.

A winning collaborative team typically includes a school librarian and children’s or youth services librarian from the public library. Once everyone agrees to work together, all stakeholders should meet to discuss ways the two organizations could work together. Many creative ideas and great discussions develop over a cup of coffee.

Establishing a winning team through partnerships with other organizations is not always an inherent skill. Students in MLS and pre-service library education programs should be exposed to this concept during their studies. The students need to experience collaboration.

Last summer, Emporia State University students enrolled in a Resources and Services for Early Learners class developed collaborative program plans to be implemented at both school and public libraries. One of the plan’s first steps was to identify other organizations as collaborative partners, and other information professionals who could become part of a winning team. The two ideas listed below illustrate possible projects that involve the public librarian and the school librarian.

–Have a Summer Drive-in program where children create their own cars with cardboard to “drive” to the events.  This collaboration was with the school, Public Library Summer Reading program and the local drive-in.  (Ashely Green)

–The Arbor Day Extravaganza helped the children learn about the environment and how they can protect and nurture it. The public librarian and the school librarian will help the children plant trees or shrubs into plastic containers that can then be taken home. (Heather Green)

These two ideas are examples of creative thought through collaboration; a final ingredient celebrating the success of collaborative winning teams.

As a young school librarian working with a classroom teacher to establish a collaborative event with the public library, my colleague and I neglected to establish a team involving professionals from each organization. Today, developing a winning team will establish more productive and successful collaborations.

Jody K. Howard is an adjunct professor at Emporia State University and is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

Photo Credit: Jody Howard

Transforming Youth Services: Supporting Youth Through “Adulting”

About seven months ago, I noticed a new trend among public libraries of offering adulting programs. When I first saw a posting via social media about this program, my brain screamed, Where were these programs when I was 17?! I didnt know ANYTHING about adultness.If youre unfamiliar with the concept of adulting, it means to carry out one or more of the duties and responsibilities expected of fully developed individuals (Urban Dictionary, 2017, ¶ 1). These included duties and responsibilities that seem bewildering to an older teen: finding an apartment (and roommates), signing up for utilities, managing bill payments, etc. Some youth may receive this type of instruction and guidance at home, within their communities, or by participating in youth-supportive groups but this isnt always the case.

Adulting programs are generally geared towards older teens (16 -18) and emerging/new adults (19 – early 20s) and support these young patrons in developing life and college ready skills. News articles and similar commentary about library adulting programs appeared somewhat flippant and even disrespectful or disparaging of young adult attendees. Yet through such programming, libraries are providing a unique service which appeals to two underserved age groups and impacts their lasting success, health, and wellbeing.

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Ipods in the library

As schools and libraries look at new technology and decide how they want to design programming, some decide to implement a “Bring Your Own Device” policy (BYOD) instead of buying a series of devices. In other situations, school and libraries decide to invest in various devices. In our district, we decided to think outside the box and invest in a class set of iPods.

Bring Your Own Device

In our district, we have a class set of iPods that are used in addition to Chromebooks, laptops, and the computer lab. Our teachers love using Kahoot, but sometimes it’s frustrating when the kids use their own devices and you can see the snapchat notifications popping up at the top of their screen. In addition, it makes the digital divide very clear on who has devices and who doesn’t. Our teachers will do team activities to minimize that, but they love that they can send an email to the library and say, “can I borrow a few iPods?”

In addition, some teachers may be working on a project or activity that requires a few basic searches to complete the assignment. They feel guilty filling up the lab for a small chunk of a project, but they know that an iPod functions like a smartphone and the kids can use it for simple searches. This also allows teachers to model using a cell phone as a tool. Adults and teens use their phones to help them get through the day, it’s great to be able to practice on an iPod and teachers can model good cell phone etiquette and help students expand those skills (Neilsen, 2013).

During presentations, several teachers enjoy using Nearpod as a way to gather data, engage students with VR, and present their lesson. We’ve learned that if we use the iPods, there’s less distraction from social media notifications, and there’s a smaller chance of them getting kicked off the wifi. As public libraries work to develop programs, gathering data from teens can help library staff improve programming. Using Nearpod or Google Forms can put a survey in a teen’s hand, and they may be more likely to give feedback compared to a paper form.
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