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: 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

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.

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.

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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100 Books Before College

I’m sure most librarians have heard of 1000 Books Before Kindergarten. We’ve been running that program at the Middletown Township Public Library for two years now, and the children and their parents love it. I was joking with my colleague one day that there should be a 100 Books Before College for high school students. And I thought…well actually, why not? So I started to plan.

So what is 100 Books Before College? It is a new low key reading program geared toward high school students. I have over 100 teen volunteers in my volunteer program, and many of them tell me they are too busy to read (not all of them, but many of them). This program is meant to encourage high school students to read for fun, despite their busy schedules of sports, homework, clubs, volunteering, and more. On my publicity for the program, I include the value in reading regularly: improve your cognitive skills, your reading comprehension, and maybe even your test scores!  Being an avid reader will help any student as they make their way beyond high school to college, vocational school, or a career.

The goal for the reading program: read 100 books before you graduate high school. I created a list of 100 suggested books to read, which has a mixture of classic and current fiction and nonfiction. Participants are encouraged to use the list as a guide, but they are not required to read these books. They can read any books that interest them!

I also asked the Princeton Review to donate prizes for those who complete the challenge. They have generously donated swag bags! So, students have 4 years to read 100 books, and at the end they get a Princeton Review swag bag and a book from the library. But the real prize? A sense of accomplishment and better reading skills!!

So how does it work? High schoolers can sign up online, and they simply log each book they read. They may write book reviews, but this is completely optional. I also have bi-monthly book raffles for participants. Anyone who is signed up for the program can enter for the chance to win a book or book set. This month’s prize is a set of Sherlock Holmes books! I used the program Wandoo Reader for the online program. We use Wandoo Reader for our summer reading program at the Middletown Library. As we already have this service, we might as well utilize it all year round!

I launched the 100 Books Before College program on September 1st, 2017. I started publicizing it in July 2017, and I sent it to all of my contacts at our local high schools. We already have 133 teens signed up! What I also love is, the majority of the teens signed up have never participated in the Teen Summer Reading Program. I notice each year that the bulk of TSR participants are middle schoolers. I’m thrilled to see high school students participate in a reading program at the library for the first time.

I am so excited about this program. I can’t wait for the first person to finish the 100 book challenge! So far the 133 teens have read a total of 778 books! I’ll continue to publicize and try to involve as many teens as I can. Will you take the Challenge?

Stephanie Chadwick is the Teen Librarian for The Middletown Township Public Library.

Connected Learning at a High-Tech High School

The YALSA Programming Guidelines help YA library staff plan, create, and evaluate teen programs. In this month’s blog, Michele Rivera, Digital Learning Specialist (aka Librarian) at Sheridan Technical High School in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, explains how she designs “interest-based, developmentally appropriate programs that support connected learning.”

Blogger: Michele, I know that Sheridan Tech is a public magnet high school, what else do we need to know?

Rivera: Like our two “sister” schools in Broward County, Atlantic Tech and McFatter Tech, students who wish to enroll in our school must meet certain academic criteria and enrollment is limited to 600 students. But Sheridan Tech is unique because it was founded on the commitment to a blended learning environment – combining face-to-face instruction with online curriculum, support, and resources. Every student is issued their own laptop. In their first two years, students attend their academic classes full-time on campus, with all their lessons and support available online. In their junior and senior years, they are enrolled half-time in academic classes, and half-time in their chosen technical program. Sheridan Tech offers over twenty different technical career choices, ranging from Automotive Service Technology to Practical Nursing. Students can graduate with a college-ready diploma, articulated college credit, as well as industry certification in their technical field. It is definitely not the old model most people think of as a “vocational school.”

Sheridan Tech Innovative Learning Center

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NaNoWriMo Writing Programs on Programming HQ

Looking for some great inspiration for writing programs as you plan your November calendar? Check out YALSA’s programming HQ for some engaging ideas to help celebrate NaNoWriMo. For more information on National Novel Writing month visit the site here. This initiative is in its 19th year as the ‘largest writing event in the world’. Individuals, classrooms, teams, and more ‘come together’ across the globe virtually and through writing to start a 50,000 word novel. Skills including setting and achieving milestones, confidence building, and story writing are just some of the many outcomes of being a part of this super exciting project! 

Even if teens at your library aren’t into writing a novel, chances are one of these writing programs will interest them!

Here’s a few to get you started:

Description: An event focusing on creativity, writing, and zine making was centered around the teen graphic memoir Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year by Ramsey Beyer. This program was generously funded through a Teen Read Week grant supported by YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. 

Description: Have students write a poem from the perspective of a fiction character in a book.  This ties fiction, poetry, and writing together. Optional: Do a contest where teens guess what character from what book the poem is written and give away a prize for who gets the most poems right. 

Description: www:]thewebcomicproject. is a three-day event encompassing the concept, development, and creation of a webcomic. Each meeting will last 1-2 hours.

The YALSA Programming HQ would like to showcase even more teen writing programs! If you have one to submit, visit the site here: http://hq.yalsa.net, create an account to login and select the ‘post a program’ button. Sharing your program with others is a great way to grow the successes you’ve already experienced with others and help everyone get ready to celebrate a month of writing, no matter how teens choose to do it!

Bringing the BFYA Teen Feedback Session to Kansas City

For any YALSA member, the Teen Feedback Session of Best Fiction for Young Adults is a highlight of attending ALA’s Annual Conference or Midwinter Meeting. It isn’t just getting the feedback on what titles teens liked from this year’s publishing cycle…but seeing teens up at the mic, sharing their thoughts with marketers, editors, agents and library staff. It’s empowering and reminds us why we do what we do. After experiencing the Midwinter 2017 BFYA Teen Feedback Session, we began to think about how we could get our teens to the conference at Annual.

Chicago and Denver are the closest ALA’s conference ever comes to Kansas City (although KC is a large city, we don’t have the conference facilities to host ALA)  That means our teens will never have the chance to experience and reap the benefits of  the BFYA Teen Feedback Session. They will never have the awesome power of addressing the committee and a room of library staff and publishers. And on a late spring day in Kansas City…we decided to change that.

Three YALSA members from two library systems – Amanda Barnhart from Kansas City Public Library (MO), and Peggy Hendershot and Kate McNair from Johnson County Library (KS) – came together to talk about the BFYA Teen Feedback Session. Our grand idea was to figure out a way to take teens to Chicago and get them on the mic…but soon learned that there are ample teens in Chicago waiting their turn and we wouldn’t steal their moment to speak up. We still wanted to empower our teens and give them the opportunity to speak out and be heard, so we went back to the drawing table and came up with an idea that would impact more teens than we could have fit into a van on a roadtrip to Chicago…

Talk Book To Me was born. In line with YALSA’s Futures Report goal of designing programs with teens’ passions and interests at the heart that are strongly connected to academic and career achievement, we identified four goals for the program. 1) Give teens the tools to analyze a book and express their thoughts in the form of a review. 2) Amplify their voices to BFYA committee members, editors, agents and library staff. 3) Unlock opportunities for teens to build a portfolio of accomplishments.

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Check it out: Teen Literacies Toolkit

Back in February 2017, I wrote about my experience creating a toolkit in one day at Midwinter. It was a great experience and our group got a lot done in one day. We submitted our first draft to YALSA and waited to see what would happen next. Like any good piece of writing, our first draft wasn’t our best draft. So back to the drawing board we went. After several revisions, multiple Zoom conversations, and dozens of Google Doc comments back and forth, we are very proud to report that our Teen Literacies Toolkit has been published!

In this toolkit, we use the lens of fake news to examine literacy skills and programs you can do to help your teens. We propose this lens helps us understand the digital environment many of our teens live in and how we can help them better understand that world. What I think is great about the toolkit is the various ways you can use it. For example, you can:

  • Read the whole thing, cover to cover. Reading the whole toolkit allows you to dive into a little literacy theory, along with pushing you to reflect on the things you currently do with your teens and how you can create impactful programming based on their needs (check out page 10, the section on Embedding Multiple Literacies into Programming and Instruction).
  • Jump into the toolkit and go straight for the potential programs. We spent a lot of time coming up with various “ready-to-go” programs for those who just want those meaty resources. For example, starting on page 4 there’s a list for 15 ways to create a literacy-rich environment, or go to page 14 for Activity Ideas (and see the Appendix for some worksheets).
  • Because we are using fake news as our lens to explore multiple literacies, we have a nice section on how teens search for information and their media environment. Starting on page 6, we explore that environment, while providing some activities to help your teens be a bit more critical with what they are looking at online.
  • We also created a hearty section of “Recommended Resources,” many with short annotations on why we selected those sources. They start on page 15 and include current articles, published research, videos to watch with your teens, activity plans, and more.
  • Our toolkit ends with an Appendix with additional resources. For those in a strategic planning position, you might be interested in our Literacies Program Planning Template. This template takes you through the steps of creating programs that combine multiple literacies as well as being intentional with outcomes and assessment measures. This template compliments our “Embedding Multiple Literacies into Programming and Instruction” section, which begins on page 10.

It feels great to have this toolkit published and we want to hear from you! Let us know your thoughts on the toolkit. What did you like about it? Did any sections resonate with you (and why)? Have you tried any of the things mentioned in the toolkit at your own library? Did the toolkit inspire any other thoughts that you want others to know while checking out the toolkit? 

Big shout out to the rest of the group (Kristin, Jennifer, Trent, Renee, Allison, and Julie) who helped write this toolkit and thanks to YALSA for turning our Google Doc into this beautiful toolkit.