When we plan programs for teens, how do we create programs that will teach them something useful, but still fun and exciting? We can search the web, ask our colleagues for ideas, and look in old library school textbooks, but, ultimately, our journey begins with the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents.
When we look closely at the 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents, the general framework focuses on the external and internal assets that can be found in a teen’s environment, which helps them develop. According to the Search Institute:
“The 40 Developmental Assets follow “building blocks of healthy development—known as Developmental Assets—that help young children grow up healthy, caring, and responsible”
What’s great about these developmental assets is that we already offer programs that support one or more of these assets. Although we can’t hit every single asset (much to our chagrin), we can cover many of these building blocks by creating programs that ensure our teens are getting the support, encouragement, and opportunity to grow and learn in the library; by incorporating several developmental assets within our programs, we can help teens discover new things, which will inspire and entice them to come into the library with their friends to learn more. If we want to lure new teens, and current teens, I highly recommend introducing these programs during the annual summer reading program.
Staffing situations vary from library to library based on a number of factors including population served, budget, and organizational structure. So who gets to staff programs? YALSA’s guidelines lay out a number of considerations to take into account whenever making staff and volunteer assignments for a program, no matter our size or structure. Points 6.3 and 6.5 in particular consider the different roles that staff and volunteers take.
6.3: Consider which tasks are best suited to librarians and which are more suited to paraprofessionals, community partners and mentors, adult volunteers or Friends of the Library, and teen volunteers and participants.
With any program, someone needs to take the leadership role and accept responsibility for everything (the good and the bad) that comes of it. I find this is most often the person (usually a librarian) who pitches the program, and who believes in it enough to carry through with it. Whether hiring a presenter or relying on a crew of regular volunteers, the program leader needs to know (or find how to find) the answers to any question anyone may have about it from the time it first goes on the program schedule to three weeks afterward, when someone calls to ask when the next one will take place. The librarian leading a program is also most often the person charged with enforcing the rules as in, “Sorry, this a teen program for teens only.”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what we mean when we say “teen program.” When I started in libraries a teen program was a very specific thing – for the public library it was an out-of-school time event that teens might be involved in creating, and that always had a beginning, a middle, and an end. (Coming up with an idea, planning out the idea, implementing the idea.) It might be a yoga program or a duct tape program or a how to get into college program or a series on creating robots. All very specific and focused. Once the one-off program or series was over that was it, we moved on to the next “program.” As I continue to think about teen services in light of the YALSA Programming Guidelines and the YALSA Future of Libraries for and with Teens: A Call to Action report, I am more and more convinced that we don’t serve teens as successfully as we might by defining “program” in such a narrow way.
Instead, we need to think more broadly and focus on a larger-scale framework that focuses on specific outcomes and enables library staff working with teens the ability to meet a variety of teens’ interests and needs and at the same time give teens opportunities to gain skills that help them to succeed in life.
When the email got sent around the bloggers about doing a 30 days of programming, my mind instantly went blank. I’m just a librarian-in-training and haven’t done a lot of hands-on programming with teens. What could I bring to the conversation?
Then I remembered I did have a program. A hypothetical one that is. I’m currently taking a Media Literacy for Youth class which has been amazing. One of our assignments was to create either a lesson or program plan about a media literacy topic. It could be targeted to any age group and should last 2-3 hours. We had to write about outcomes, lay out all the activities, essentially plan it so some librarian could do it with the kids they work with.
I’ll lay out my idea and then want your feedback. Is this program realistic? Would it work with the teens you work with? And if it’s not realistic, what needs to be changed?
So…here I go!
As a twenty-something, I would say I’m pretty well-connected in social media. If someone asked what my favorite social media platform is, I would say it’s Twitter. There something exciting about Twitter when you think about it like a cocktail party (shout out to blogger Dave Charest for this analogy) — there are hundreds of conversations going on around you and you decide which ones to tap into. And our teens are using it so why not have a program that challenges them to think about not only how they use Twitter, but how others use Twitter?
As a member of YALSA’s Programming Guidelines taskforce I thought of my library’s teen technology intern program that’s been in existence since 2005 and has utilized an outcome based measurement system in the last few years to measure success.
The Teen Programming Guidelines devote a fair amount of space to discuss the details of developing programs that “Engage in youth-driven, evidence-based evaluation and outcome measurement.” Basically it points to more than attendance being the sole measure of success for a program. Considering both short and long-term goals defined by teen participants themselves, in what they hope to learn can be a way to assess if a program is on track or if it needs to be tweaked in any way. Evaluations can take the form of pre and post surveys, a face-to-face conversation, or even informally asking questions. Aside from what teens defining their goals, other capacities a program might want to focus on is “. . .an improvement or expansion of knowledge, skills, confidence, attitude, or behavior.” Pre and post surveys can do well in capturing this data because they can show a change from when the teen started the program to when they completed. Sometimes the hardest part is remembering to give them the survey!
Admission time: like many of us in Library Land, I am still figuring out the best ways to measure program outcomes. Marking attendance is relatively easy (although to be fair, sometimes the teens move do around a lot, which can make them tricky to count). It’s a bit harder to identify the changes I want to see as a result of my program, and then accurately measure those changes.
The Programming Guidelines ask us to “Engage in youth-driven, evidence-based evaluation and outcome measurement.” I’m not quite there yet. As I mentioned in my post about our weekly drop-in, we’ve been working with participants in that program to identify priorities, and now we’re moving towards evaluations that will measure whether those priorities are being met. But it’s still a work in progress.
What I have gotten better at is working with community partners to create evaluations for programs. For example, we regularly work collaborate with Year Up to build their students’ information and digital literacy skills. Before each workshop, we meet with Year Up staff to make sure that we’ll be teaching the skills they want participants to gain. Collaborating with partners on our evaluations and learning from them about their own evaluation methods has made a huge difference in the quality of our evaluations overall.
At Year Up, I give the students pre- and post-tests to see how much our classes are moving the needle on desired skills and knowledge. We send Year Up staff an early draft of the tests (same questions for both) and incorporate their feedback in the final evaluation tool. Seems foolproof, right?
Are you a maker? With all the emphasis on high tech gadgetry, it can make you feel a little left behind if you can’t swing a 3D printer on your budget or lack the skills to wield some soldering equipment.
But, like the science-technology-engineering- math portmanteau STEM which added an “A” added to encompass art and become STEAM, the expansion of the “maker” trend to incorporate arts and crafts as a creative and productive use of time and space is a step towards recognizing the wide variety of material production that libraries have long been supporting. And it’s an easy way to get in on the making trend with supplies you likely have laying around.
We’ve had success with this sort of low-stress, drop-in crafting at our library.
So, your first questions might be, “Who is this? And why is he writing here?” Good questions. Let’s start there. My name is Miguel Figueroa and I work at the American Library Association on a new Center for the Future of Libraries initiative. As I’ve begun my work over the past year, I’ve been focused on three objectives:
- Identifying emerging trends relevant to libraries and the communities they serve
- Promoting futuring and innovation techniques to help librarians and library professionals shape their future
- Building connections with experts and innovative thinkers to help libraries address emerging issues
And if those objectives sound pretty obvious to you, I’m not surprised. I know that YALSA members, by the nature of your work and your audience, tend to be on trend, innovative, and outward-looking. In fact, over the past year YALSA members have been incredibly helpful in suggesting trends for me to explore, including Collective Impact, Connected Learning, and Emerging Adulthood.
Today, as part of “30 Days of Teen Programming,” I want to try to connect teen programming to an important and emerging view of the library as platform.
David Weinberg’s excellent article, “The Library as Platform,” proposed the potential for the library to serve as a platform by leveraging its data and information resources for members of the community to build from. And John Palfrey, in his forthcoming book BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google, encourages libraries to become platforms for hacking – engaging large communities of people with diverse skills and perspectives to remake libraries and their communities using the resources, information, and data libraries make available.
The first item in YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines states, “Create programming that reflects the needs and identities of all teens in the community.” And the overview of this guideline goes on to say:
In order to ensure that library programming meets the needs of all members of the community and does not duplicate services provided elsewhere, library staff should have a thorough understanding of the communities they serve. Library staff must continually analyze their communities so that they have current knowledge about who the teens in their community are. They must also develop relationships with community organizations already working with youth. Library staff play a crucial role in connecting teens to the community agencies and individuals that can best meet their needs.
The part of the overview that I think sometimes is difficult for library staff working with teens is the “continually analyze their communities so that they have current knowledge….” Continue reading
The Teen Programming Guidelines discuss the physical spaces of hosting teen programs in their eighth guideline. When YALSA released its Teen Space Guidelines in May 2012, I dove into the wealth of information that the guidelines provided. My school was in a transition period where we gained an additional media center space that needed to be completely renovated. Our original media center also needed some updating, so the Teen Space Guidelines was the perfect tool for me to use in approaching our spaces.
The first teen space guideline states, “Solicit teen feedback and input in the design and creation of the teen space.” Librarians and media specialists should always take into consideration the community they serve. I needed feedback on what our students wanted to see in our original space. A simple Survey Monkey survey was all it took to gain valuable insight into layout, furniture, needs, and wants for our high school students. With their advice, we were able to rearrange furnishings and incorporate a few new pieces to freshen up our original media center. Students also suggested that we move our manga section closer to the circulation desk. Manga books are cataloged in the 740s in the nonfiction collection. In our media center, this happened to put them in a far corner of our space and hard to see from the circulation desk. Not only are these super popular books that are checked out frequently, but they became hot commodities that were frequently stolen. (We do not have a book security system.) After moving these books closer to the circulation desk, students have easier access to them, and we do not lose near as many to theft. This also allowed us to promote the books more easily, which is also one of the guidelines in Teen Space Guidelines. Teen feedback can never be underestimated.