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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Future Ready with the Library: An Exploratory Lab on Kodiak Island

A version of this content was originally posted on the YALSA Future Ready with the Library Cohort Community of Practice and written by Katie Baxter. The Future Ready with the Library project is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

youth interviewing each otherI popped over to the Community College recently to meet with Libby, the professor of Alutiiq Studies, who also co-chairs 4-H on Kodiak island. Since it was 10 cents Wednesday at the local Monk’s Rock coffee shop I was able to spring for delicious homemade pumpkin spice cookies to bring to the meeting. Libby was as thrilled as I was to have a little break for creative collegiality. I started our conversation by talking with Libby about Future Ready with the Library cohort member Laura Pitts’ Building Better Leaders program model.

I also wanted to talk with Libby about the Exploratory Lab I’m working on for the Kodiak Future Ready with the Library project. I have most of the activities, learning experiences, and materials in place for our project. However, I am missing one thing, an activity grounded in Alutiiq cultural values. I am familiar with the story telling traditions and themes of Alutiiq culture that draw upon the tribal value system, but, I am not as well versed in activities. While I could have explored the online Alutiiq Word of the Week database to find out about activities, this was a great opportunity for me to sit and learn with Libby.
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More Than Accessible

Libraries strive to be inclusive spaces across North America, but are they? What is the difference between being accessible and being inclusive? More often than not, libraries find themselves as accessible places in an effort to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act or Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that we have here in my home province. Ramps that allow patrons with mobility issues to enter their local branches and modified collections for those with a visual impairment are ideal examples of how libraries can act as accessible spaces. The challenge is in making those same spaces inclusive to those who are different, specifically regarding programming and services normally available to the average patron.

Think of the last storytime you ran at your library. Perhaps it was a bit loud, active, got children out of their seats and was an all-around great time. Now ask yourself: would someone with autism feel comfortable in that environment? What about your teen programs? It took a long time before I even got close to offering inclusive programs because it is definitely a challenge. There are factors you normally don’t consider that can be major obstacles for those living with a disability.

I want to encourage you to make the effort, regardless of how daunting of a challenge it may seem, because the potential outcome will be more rewarding for you, your library, and your community than you can imagine. Getting starting is often the most challenging part of any project so I want to share a recent success regarding special-needs programming in the hope that it will inspire you to identify a need in your community and work with your local partners to address it.  You might also check out the resources on YALSA’s wiki.

Through focus groups, surveys, and community outreach, we identified a significant lack of support in our city for teens and young adults with special needs. We listened to parents talk about the lack of meaningful opportunities available for their children once they were phased out of school, and what was available had a significant price tag attached to it. Parents spoke about the desire to see their child learn the skills necessary to eventually hold a steady job and feel as though they are part of society, not a social outcast.

This is when most libraries make a common mistake: programming for the community instead of with your community. It’s easy to listen to a parent tell you that her son needs more opportunities to be social only to turn around and throw together a hodgepodge of a program, but what is the desired outcome? Will the program teach new skills, provide learning opportunities, enhance their quality of life or will it simply be glorified babysitting?  A colleague suggested I approach Community Living York South, a local organization serving individuals with disabilities and special needs. Several meetings later I had a better understanding of the challenges facing these individuals in our city and the role our library system could play in supporting them.  If you’re new to building outcomes into your program planning, check out the resources on YALSA’s wiki.

Many of the young adults I spoke with expressed a desire to learn how to use a computer. The basic skills we often take for granted were barriers for these youth and restricted their ability to achieve a fundamental mission of any library system – equal access to information. Through these conversations and research, I developed an adapted computer program for young adults with special needs. The workshop would be offered every Tuesday afternoon for two hours for 8 consecutive weeks. Since I was facilitating it, there would be no cost to the participants, but due to space and equipment limitations we were only able to take on nine students.

We decided upon several topics for the program:

  • Computer basics (turning on, opening & closing windows, etc.)
  • Keyboarding & mouse skills
  • Microsoft Word and communication skills
  • Using the Internet for research & Internet Safety
  • Cyberbullying and peer-pressure

Each lesson was comprised of educational games, computer exercises, real-world examples, group discussions, and a review period at the end of the session. We also encouraged participants to mentor their peers who were having difficulty with certain tasks. Some of our students were able to complete their work quickly, so rather than sit and become disinterested, they were encouraged to pair up and support someone in need of assistance. This became one of the most rewarding aspects of the program because participants were now learning more than just how to use a computer, they were developing their communication and interpersonal skills while making new friends.

I’ve made it sound much simpler than it is, but I want to encourage each of you to take on the challenge of making your library more inclusive. It won’t happen overnight and you’ll encounter countless roadblocks along the way, but know that it will all be worth it. The picture you see below is from the first class I had the pleasure of teaching and I keep it by my desk as a constant reminder that all it takes it a willingness to support those who are too often left behind.

Are you still wondering if you should be offering adapted programs? Well, let me tell you about Adam (I’ve changed his name for privacy) from the program. Adam came to the first class nervous and apprehensive because he had never used a computer. In his own words, he considers himself too “dumb” to use a computer, but that didn’t stop me from trying. Each week we practiced the most basic tasks to create a strong foundation of knowledge he could build on. It seemed as though little progress was being made, until I overheard his conversation with a classmate. I was walking around the class helping participants with their assignment when I heard Adam say, “I can’t believe I’m doing it. I’m actually using a computer. Look, I’m doing it!”

There’s an Adam in your community, and I know with your determination to support those in need, you can provide every Adam with an opportunity to succeed and make your library a truly inclusive space.

 

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.

Summer Teen Internship @ Laurel Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

We were fortunate enough to receive one of the 2016 YALSA Symposium Awards to implement a Summer Teen Internship. Thanks to YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, we were able to successfully design and fund our program. We already have a very well established and recognized teen volunteer group, so this was a positive next step for us.

To be considered for an internship for the summer of 2017, teens were required to attend a mentoring program offered by a local community leader. Initially a fifteen-week program, the facilitator was able to design an eight-week program for the thirteen teens who signed up. Over the course of eight weeks, the teens learned many skills such as life skills, leadership skills, personal presentation, and public speaking. Guest speakers from the community were also brought in and the class concluded with each teen doing a videotaped presentation.

Upon completion of the mentor program, the teens could then apply for an internship position, where they would design and run their own program for the Youth Services Department. All applicants had to be a member of our Teen Ambassador Program and fill out an application and submit a short essay about the benefits that might be gained in a mentorship program by a mentee, mentor and community. After reviewing the applications and essays, we then scheduled interviews with the teens. The interviews covered their availability, their expectations, and how they saw their potential program running. After the interviews, we also got input from the facilitator of the mentor program and after which we selected five interns.

After their selection, we then held several meetings to finalize their programs, discuss budgets, time management and scheduling, and further expectations. Every intern was tasked with creating a supply list while working within their budget, creating a syllabus to cover their eight-week program, and working with us to create publicity material. One of the interns worked as a Youth Services Assistant while the other four held their own programs. One intern planned and carried out Story Times, another had a Comic Design Program, another did a Recycled Mini-House Program and one did a Basics of Photography and Videography Program for teens. All programs were very well attended and several had waiting lists. Every week the interns would evaluate their syllabuses and re-work anything that needed tweaking.

At the end of the eight weeks, we held a reception to recognize the interns and to showcase the work done by attendees of their programs. Families and members of the community gathered to see their displays and helped us to recognize the intern’s accomplishments. At the reception, the interns were given their certificates and received their stipends.

This was a very successful program for our library and our community and one we look forward to doing again. All the feedback we received was very positive, from the families and participants to the interns themselves and their families. The impact on the interns and our community was significant. In a community with one of the highest poverty rates in the state, we need programs like this to help propel our youth onto future success. By challenging them and giving them the skills they need to succeed and the confidence to step out, we are developing the future leaders that our community needs. If they are invested in our community as a teen, they will be invested as successful adults. It has been amazing to watch these teens really challenge themselves and step out of their comfort zones to successfully take on a task they never considered doing.

Gail Bruce is the Youth Services Librarian at the Laurel Public Library in Laurel, DE.

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!

YALSA Snack Break: Reaching Outcomes

Each month YALSA posts a new Snack Break. These short videos are designed to give those working with and for teens a chance to learn something in a short amount of time.

In the latest YALSA Snack Break, Homer, Alaska, Youth Services Librarian, Claudia Haines talks about the value of working towards achieving impact with and for teens, even when an activity only is attended by just a few youth.

You can view the full YALSA Snack Break Playlist on YouTube