Back to the Basics: Why Getting Teens Writing is Important

The Reading Public Library, Teen Loft located in Reading, PA provided three three-hour writing workshops this summer facilitated by professionals funded by the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Grant.

  • Ekphrastic Poetry: Motivos, a bilingual print magazine run by founder/publisher and former ALA National presenter Jenee Chizick-Aguero, provided a workshop on ekphrastic poetry. Teens used the elements around them and drew inspiration from things that were familiar to them such as music, movies, and artwork to find their creative voice. Jenee also encouraged them to submit their writing to her magazine for publication. She also shared resources her magazine provided such as scholarship information. The RPL also subscribes to her magazine so that they are available at all times.

  • Short Story Writing: Young Adult author of Immaculate and Transcendent Katelyn Detweiler began with a discussion about how she got into writing, the challenges she faces and working for a publishing company in New York which gave teens insight into how a book is created from start to finish. Teens were then given prompts to help get them started.
  • Comic Book Panels: Author and artist Jean Esther taught teens how to make their own comic book and the challenges he faced when creating his own. He also spoke about his journey as an artist. The workshop started off with basic drawing tips and tricks they could use to bring their drawings to the next level. After they created their main characters, they were ready to work on their storylines and share their work.

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Dollar General Grant Winner: Eastern Shore Public Library

In January of 2017, I took on the exciting challenge of becoming the first Youth Services Librarian for Eastern Shore Public Library, where we have 2 branch libraries and 2 affiliate libraries serving a rural community that includes the counties of Accomack and Northampton. I have never regretted it for a moment and find priceless daily rewards in my hours working with and for young people at the libraries.

The library system works hard to compensate for having a very small staff, so we were very excited to learn we had received the Teen Intern grant from YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation! We posted the positions online and created a press release which led to an ample number of applications for our two positions. We hired two teen interns, Anna and Jenninyah, for the summer (one for each of the branch libraries) to help with all of our Summer Reading Program events, Lunch at the Library programs, and our Garden Club at our Northampton Free Library in Nassawadox. In the early stages of implementing the Teen Intern Program, there were times when it felt as if the unexpected grant might be adding more to my workload rather than the hoped-for opposite. However, at this point, I can truly say I do not know how I would have managed without the support of my wonderful Teen Interns.

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Future Ready with the Library: Bringing Social Emotional Learning to Teens, Families, & Community

This post was written by YALSA Future Ready with the Library Cohort 2 member Vicki Bartz, County Librarian, Ortonville and Graceville (MN) Public Library.

SEL wheel created by CASEL - https://casel.org/what-is-sel/For the Ortonville and Graceville (MN) Library’s Future Ready with the Library project I am working with a committee of family and community members to develop our college career readiness services for middle school youth and their families. The planning process has been interesting as we learn how best to connect with the schools and other community members to develop a successful service. We want to focus on middle school social emotional learning as a step towards college career success. However, while some of those we are working with see great value in helping middle school teens gain social emotional skills in order to prepare for life success, others have not been so certain that this focus is important to this work.

After working with our planning committee we decided to host a meeting of parents and teens with a focus on social emotional learning. At the meeting we talked with parents about the five skills teens need in order to be successful in life. As we had this discussion with parents, the middle schoolers worked on the 5 Love Languages Mystery Game. This game gives young people the chance to think about what they most would like to recieve from a caring adult – a hug, having someone else clean their room, getting a surprise, and so on. From this teens gain an understanding of the types of support they would like to receive from adults.
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Dollar General Grant Winner: Interview with a Teen Intern

I am one of the 2018 YALSA/Dollar General Teen Intern grantees. This was our library’s first summer running a teen internship program. As we wrap up our program for the summer, I’m reflecting on how it went.

Our library serves a community where there are not many job opportunities for teens. Every time I visit schools and ask teens what they want to see at the library, one of their first answers is “jobs” (followed by “slime”). Therefore, our goal with this internship was to create a supportive and engaging “first job” experience for teens. We asked them to fill out an application and go through an interview process. We interviewed six teens for two positions. My hope is that this was a learning experience in a supportive environment, even for teens who were not offered the internship.

Once we selected our two interns, I worked to establish schedules and expectations with them. I also worked to create a list of tasks for them to complete over the course of the summer. I am glad I followed YALSA’s advice to plan more work than I thought they needed, because both interns learned quickly and finished tasks quickly. Both of our interns supported our summer reading program by helping prepare for and host children’s and teen programs. They also worked on various projects to help children and teens engage with our library space and collection, by creating displays, passive programs, and more. One of my goals for the year was to re-invent our teen space and collection by finding ways to give teens ownership of the space. There’s no better way to do this than to hire a teen to help!

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Dollar General Grant Winner: Teen Interns @ Bartlett Public Library District

The Bartlett Public Library District had nine teen interns during the summer of 2018 which was made possible by the generosity of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YALSA. The nine teen interns (Ayesha, Abby, Abigail, Andrew, Cailin, Emily, Ian, Safa, and Sakhee) learned about teamwork, problem solving, and customer service skills by working with and for library staff as the teens designed and facilitated programs for youth. The assistance of the teen interns made it possible to offer four more programs that did not require registration each week at the Bartlett Public Library.

Abigail shows off a puppet craft that she taught to youth.

The nine interns were split into different groups: one assisted library staff with a Readers’ Theater program, four were STEM/LEGO program interns, and four were Craft program interns. Each group had an hour each week for planning and preparation of their activity and then an hour to run the program. Each week, Ruth Anne Mielke and I (the direct supervisors’ for the interns) checked in with the teen interns to make sure that they had the supplies they needed and to see how comfortable they felt with how the program ran that day and if they had suggestions for the next week. This weekly check-in was an essential part of engaging with the teen interns and ensuring that their internship was beneficial to them and the library.

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YALSA Dollar General Grant Implementation and School Collaboration

This is my second year working as the children & youth services librarian at my small library in Bath County, Kentucky on the edge of Appalachia. Last year, it was nearly impossible to get teens into the library — I averaged one every two weeks! So in September 2017, I approached the high school librarian and proposed hosting a morning book club at the high school library. With her help promoting to students in school, we met with about 20 teens every Monday morning during their study zone. We covered many of the YA novels that were nominated for a 2017-2018 Kentucky Bluegrass Award and concluded the school year with a lesson on adulting (at the request of the teens!). Through this weekly book club, the teens began to get to know me and request books from the public library that I was able to check out to them using the mobile app for our library ILS.

Our final project for summer reading – a mental health display with inspirational quotes, random acts of kindness, and book suggestions.

I applied for the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning grant in the spring and when I received it, I knew exactly how I would get more than the 1 or 2 teens I had the previous summer. I started by offering my book club group the opportunity to form an advisory council at the public library and I lured them in with food. This got the teens into the library and gave them some ownership over the YA stacks. Of the twenty teens in the book club, five formed the Teen Advisory Council. Through their suggestions on programming needs and books, I was able to create a series of programs that would fit into the CSLP theme “Libraries Rock” and would provide the teens with much needed mental health and self-care resources.

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Dollar General Grant Winner: Using teen interns to bring more services to bilingual and underserved patrons

The Hall County Library System in Gainesville, Georgia serves a diverse community, with over 28% of the population Hispanic. The library system has made it a priority to better serve the county’s diverse community, as well as to provide more outreach services, especially in the eastern part of the county where the East Hall Branch had been closed due to budget cuts.

Allysa reviewing the children’s Spanish books with me. Photo by Deborah Hakes with GPLS.

HCLS received a generous grant from Dollar General to hire two bilingual interns to help during the 2018 Summer Reading Program. Their work would mainly focus on helping develop better library services to Hispanic youth and families. In addition, they would help assist at the summer pop up library and programs at the East Hall Community Center. One intern worked 16 hours a week in June and the second intern worked in July. Rising junior, Alyssa Ramos and rising senior, Doris Toledo were selected out of several applications. The first week of the summer reading program, Alyssa Ramos helped sign up patrons for library cards and the summer reading program at the Hispanic Alliance’s Health Fair. Alyssa and Doris also helped translate into Spanish new library marketing materials and community services information.
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Career Readiness Learning Day for our Summer Youth Leaders @ Pearl Bailey Library

We last checked into our Summer Youth Leaders @ Pearl Bailey Branch in Newport News here. Along with all of the training they get as part of the Wickham Avenue Alliance Youth Leadership Program and with their work helping us in our library, these teens also learn valuable skills related to joining the workforce. Using the Career Investigations Curriculum, and thanks to the generosity of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YALSA, we designed an interactive day of activities to teach our Summer Youth Leaders (14-15 year olds) where to look to apply for jobs online, all of the rules regarding youth employment in the state of Virginia, help them to design a resume, and how to prepare for and participate in a job interview.

Career Readiness Training Day was a hit with our Summer Youth Leaders, thanks to the teaching and patience of Ms. Andreia Nelson of the C. Waldo Scott Center, a partner in the Wickham Avenue Alliance. They first took a short pre-test to see what they knew of workplace etiquette, then they worked together to correct mistakes in a sample resume. Everyone then took a Kahoot quiz (online or on their phones) on state labor laws or regulations, with a Dollar General gift card prize for the winner!

Following that contest, each of the youth leaders were given a free flash drive and worked together to create their own resume, geared toward a job that they might like to have. Following that, we provided them with materials and showed videos that demonstrated what to do (and not to do) in a job interview. All of the Youth Leaders had interesting questions about the process of getting a job, and asked both of us facilitators what we looked for when we interviewed a job candidate. The quick answer: someone who shows up on time, comes prepared, demonstrates that they care about fulfilling a customer’s needs and answering their questions, and isn’t afraid to ask questions of their own if they don’t get it. At first, they were confused by our “post-interview professional handshake” contest, but they all succeeded in the end.

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Summer Volunteers: Maintaining Momentum

I love mistakes. They might not be fun to make, but I sure do learn a lot from them. Take the structure of the volunteer program I am overseeing this summer as an example. I ran it how it has been run for years: like a summer employment opportunity. This meant having interviews and orientations at the very beginning of the summer, the goal being to assemble our “staff,” then have them volunteer on a regular basis for the next two and a half months. So far, it has been successful overall, but not nearly as successful as it could be. I have, however, started to notice a marked decline in overall volunteer availability and general work ethic.

As you can see, the total number of volunteer hours per week is steadily declining. Relatedly, we have experienced about a 28% rate of attrition (of 21 volunteers, 6 are no longer able to volunteer). This causes us to ask more of other volunteers or to go without volunteers.

So, what did we do wrong this year? We expected too much, and we didn’t anticipate attrition. Fortunately, we are still receiving plenty of volunteer applications, so finding new volunteers isn’t an issue. However, I believe tweaking the structure of the volunteer program to make it more agile could naturally preclude such issues. Here’s what we will be doing next year:
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Summer Youth Leaders @ Pearl Bailey Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

Thanks to the generosity of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YALSA, this year Pearl Bailey Library has three summer Youth Leaders: Sari, Na’quan, and Alysse. These three will learn valuable workforce skills while helping us successfully pull off all of our Summer Reading activities and summer outreach events, as well as organizing the youth during programs and activities, and keeping the library organized as well. While in our Youth Leaders Program across the Wickham Avenue Alliance, they also receive career research training, learn teamwork skills and conflict resolution, all based on the Career Investigations Curriculum. The Youth Leaders also receive customer service training taught by experts from Starbucks, and they take money management workshops from Bayport Credit Union. 

Without further ado, let’s introduce you to the 2018 Youth Leaders at Pearl Bailey Library:

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