Digging into the IMLS Strategic Plan

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has been an essential resource for libraries and library schools since its inception over two decades ago. According to its mission statement, this agency works “to advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grant-making, research, and policy development.” On the ground, the work supported by the IMLS takes the form of anything from STEAM programming to data-rich research projects. “Transforming Communities,” the recently published 2018-2022 IMLS Strategic Plan, reviews specific successes and focuses on broader strategies to lead us into the next few years. Certain aspects of the plan—approaches to learning and literacy, library engagement statistics, and serving the under-served—might be of particular interest to library staff who work with youth.

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Teen Tech Week: Playing with Failure

The theme for this year’s Teen Tech Week is “Libraries are for Creating,” and an important aspect of creativity is failure and the ability to embrace trying something new to see what happens. Programs based around improv games and experimenting with recording video can give teen and youth patrons an opportunity for low-risk creation. Continue reading

Teen Tech Week: Four Steampunk Ideas

Teen Tech Week is finally here! “Libraries are for Creating” is a good theme for to introducing teens to Steampunk. Steampunk is not “punk” at all; the science fiction author, K.W. Jeter made up the word in the 1980’s. Think of it as science fiction meets Victorian Age. Jeter coined the word to describe some of his works, such as Morlock Night and Infernal Devices. It is not only a genre of literature, but also a style of clothes, video games, movies, and more. Steam-powered technology was prominent in Victorian times, when there was no electricity. Steampunk is a fun and creative way to get teens excited about reading and get them thinking outside the box. Not only does Steampunk inspire reading, but it also fosters creativity and encourages recycling. Continue reading

Teen Tech Week: 9 Activities for Creating at Your Library

This year’s Teen Tech Week theme, “Libraries are for Creating,” highlights how teens can combine technology and creativity to create some truly unique products.  The ideas and resources here make for great program activities this Teen Tech Week and any time of the year.

Paper Circuits

This low-tech, low-cost project integrates art into an activity that is perfect for teaching how circuits work.  The main supplies are copper tape, a 3-volt coin cell battery, and a basic LED. MIT’s High-Low Tech features a tutorial and templates, and Sparkfun has a list of projects.  If money is not a barrier, take it a step further with LED stickers from Chibitronics.


Sewable Circuits / Wearable Electronics

Sewable circuits similar to paper circuits, only instead of copper wire, electrical current is conducted through conductive thread.  Create a circuit with the thread, an LED, a battery holder, and metal snaps.  The sewing is fairly basic, so sewing newbies should be able to participate, but teens without an existing understanding of circuits might do better starting with paper circuits.  One draw of sewable circuits is that teens can create a functioning and (possibly) fashionable product in a relatively short amount of time. MIT has an excellent lesson plan here, or this Instructables project is a good starting point.


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Technology on the Inside: Inside the Juvenile Justice System

The Boston Public Library (BPL) has had a partnership with the Department of Youth Services (DYS) since 2010. DYS is the state agency that serves teens who are incarcerated and there are two locations in the Metro Boston region that houses up to 90 young men in seven different units. DYS doesn’t have a formal library and for the past seven years each month two BPL Teen Librarians visit each of the units and provides library services by providing books-those books are booktalked to engage the teens and teens may also make specific requests. Each month approximately 70 books from BPL are checked out along with upwards of 30 of those that are specific requests. January 2018 marks the expansion of this program and brings technology into DYS provided by the public library as a pilot program. There are significant limitations for teens in DYS especially with technology and this type of program isn’t routine in most juvenile detention settings.

Twelve Kindles were purchased with up to 40 popular titles downloaded on each. The titles are recreational and popular in nature and many of the titles are only available in hardcover. Two units were designated as sites for this pilot year. Every other month one Teen Librarian goes to the two units and meets with the teens and talks about the books, some methods of accessing books and teaches tips in digital literacy with the Kindles. The teens have access to the Kindles in their classrooms every day and as this is a pilot program input from them is crucial as are new titles to add on the Kindles. The program has an MOU (memorandum of understanding) and responsibilities are expected from both organization such as keeping statistics of usage, surveying the teens usability and likability of the titles and the Kindles themselves. The hope is after the pilot year the program can expand into other units as well as expanding the program itself to incorporate the existing applications on the Kindles like Kahn Academy into exposing teens to these applications.

The existing BPL lending program gives teens a freedom of choice with their ability to choose the books they want to read, this program gives them even more of a choice by having multiple titles on one device that the teens can access as well as informally teaching them digital literacy. Programs like this with technology aren’t something that a lot of public libraries are doing with juvenile justice systems in the United States.

This is a pilot program and as such will be evaluated to see the success of the program. One of the expectations of the program is sharing out about the program, input from the Boston Public Library Teen Librarians, teens that utilize the program and staff at Department of Youth Services. Stay tuned for more YALSA Blog posts on this innovative program.

Connect & Collaborate to Create Teen Learning Experiences

The fourth competency area in YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff is Learning Experiences. With all the other responsibilities of our library jobs, it’s a tall order to “use a broad collection of effective teaching strategies, tools, and accommodations to meet individual teen needs, build on cultural strengths, address learning differences, and enhance learning.” So how does a librarian find new ways to make learning fun and relevant for teens? Recently, I spoke with Cathy Castelli, school library media specialist at Atlantic Technical College and High School (ATC) in Coconut Creek, Florida, about strategies that she uses to continually excite and engage her students in meaningful learning experiences

As any fan of Saturday Night Live can tell you, a “Celebrity Guest Host” adds new excitement to a show’s routine. And since Ms. Castelli is an aspiring YA novelist, she has been able to connect and collaborate with several local YA authors, who make “guest appearances” at the school to teach creative writing workshops. Students listen with rapt attention, write and share enthusiastically when authors such as Stacey Ramey (The Sister Pact, The Secrets We Bury), Gabby Triana (Summer of Yesterday, Wake the Hollow), Steven Dos Santos (The Culling trilogy), and Melody Maysonet (A Work of Art) speak about their career paths, discuss their novels, and inspire creativity with stimulating writing exercises. Teens are learning how to express themselves while discovering the joys of reading and writing.
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YALSA Snack Break: Youth Engagement & Leadership

YALSA’s February 2018 webinar focused on how informal learning institutions can support teen leadership development by engaging with youth in community action projects. In this webinar clip, Eli Weiss, the webinar facilitator, discusses the Youth Engagement Pyramid (developed by the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality) and the importance of using a framework like this when designing and assessing youth led projects and activities.

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MAKING Time for Maker Programming!

“I love all the maker programming ideas, but I just don’t have the time in the my day to make it work.” This phrase has been uttered by so many library staff, all of whom wear way too many hats in their daily jobs. So, instead of sharing out ideas for developing programming, today we’re going to focus on different ways to implement maker programming into our schedule.

If you are the type of library worker who is looking for new maker ideas, don’t forget to check out YALSA’s maker resources.

Students creating “galaxy pinwheels”

Before we begin…

Remember that library staff develop programming based on their community needs. Maker programming may be a need in your community, but there may be another organization filling that need. There also may be library staff who have embedded STEM programming in their library programs, but they may not be labelling it as STEM (children’s librarians are amazing at doing this during craft time at story hour). Knowing what your community needs will help you work it in the right way.

Option 1: Embed it in a program/lesson you already do.

Starting a new program can be a challenge. The best way to start a maker program is to start small. For some stakeholders, hearing an idea about a maker program doesn’t mean anything, but seeing a small maker program can make stakeholders understand the library’s goals.

Work with a group that you meet with already, such as a TAB group, book club (ex: challenge them to make a popsicle stick harmonica when discussing Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Echo), story hour, study halls). Throw in a quick challenge that they will like and make them come back for more (My favorite is the duck call challenge).

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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.