Gimme a C (For Collaboration!): Coding, Collaboration & Community

Earlier this year, the Westerville Public Library was awarded a LSTA Summer Library Program Grant through the State Library of Ohio that allowed us to purchase robots (Kibo, Dash & Dot, and Sphero SPRK+) to extend our already popular in-house technology programs. But we also wanted to reach children who might never make it to the public library. During June and July of 2017, we collaborated with the Westerville City Schools Summer Intervention program to visit 3rd and 4th graders–many of whom had never been to a public library– to introduce students to basic coding with our new robot partners.

Experience

The intrinsic appeal of learning with robots instantly captured students’ attention. We met one of the main goals–increasing interest in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math)–right away, as most students had no prior hands-on experiences with robotics. We emphasized basic coding concepts and the engineering design process: ask, imagine, plan, create, test and improve, then share results. We encouraged children to practice problem solving skills, discussing what worked and what didn’t, and making changes if time allowed.

We introduced the concept of coding by having students program adults to complete a familiar task: making a jelly sandwich. This classic demonstration of following step-by-step instructions was very effective, if occasionally a bit messy. The activity also reinforced the idea that the children are in control. They are the programmers; capable and smarter than the robot, which can only do what they instruct it to do — no more, no less.

Tips 

Allow time for free play. Robots are exciting! It’s natural for kids to want to play, so allow time for non-directed experimentation.

Social exchange — learning to take turns, ask questions, and try another person’s ideas —  IS learning.

Repeat sessions with the same group allows for deeper learning. We had to balance repetition with keeping classes small  to allow for hands-on experience. Repeat classes allow you to go beyond the initial playful period to more directed tasks and deeper understanding.

Expect the unexpected. Be prepared by experimenting ahead of time, but accept that children will try different things . . . and this is okay. You don’t have to know all the answers! Ask how they got to this point, and have them ask each other for ideas. It’s all part of the learning process.

End each class with a summary. Save time to gather together and share their thoughts if at all possible. Some children didn’t think they were learning because they were having fun! All were eager to demonstrate something they had programmed on the robot.

What if you don’t have robots? We began our coding instruction using the free resources on the Hour of Code website. Many “unplugged” activities can also be used to teach basic coding concepts. Our variant of Simon Says– “The Programmer Says”–was so popular it was requested by children in subsequent programs. Don’t be afraid to dive into coding!

Robin L. Gibson is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Joint Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation and Assistant Coordinator of Youth Services at the Fairfield County District Library in Lancaster, Ohio.

Photo Credit: Robin L. Gibson

Teen Podcast Tinker Sessions – TRW @ the Boston Public Library

During Teen Read Week we will launch the first of six Teen Podcast Tinker Sessions. During these workshops teens will get hands on experience using in-studio and portable recording devices, and audio editing software on computers in our Digital Media Lab. We will explore the methods of engaging storytelling, combining a more traditional definition of literacy with digital, media, and technology literacies. In an attempt to provide teens with experiential prompts, we are coordinating with four departments within the Boston Public Library to engage with historical letters, maps, architecture, and library staff members to unearth the stories associated with these pieces. The longer term plan of these initial Tinker Sessions is to generate interest and develop a core group of teens to create a program where regular podcast pieces are produced in Spring 2018 around topics of their choosing. The ultimate vision of this project is to cultivate an activity for teens to grow as individuals, strengthen their voice as a leaders and decision makers, and commit to a project where they can explore and shape their identity.

We are partnering with mentors from GrubStreet, a local non-profit that is a leading independent creative writing center, based in downtown Boston. This is a mutually beneficial partnership as GrubStreet seeks to expand its offerings to teen audiences and their expertise increases Teen Central’s capacity to provide teens with access to high-quality writing guidance through professional mentors in our informal learning environment.

While we have offered programs that allowed teens to tell their story through graphic design, film editing, and computer programming, the practice of performing digital storytelling through podcasts is an avenue and undertaking we have yet to accomplish due to a lack of appropriate equipment, staffing, expertise, and funding to do so. Through the help of YALSA’s Teen Read Week Grant, our hope is teens will be able to critically approach the process of media production, see themselves as media creators, and be empowered to tell the stories that are most relevant to their lives. Through community interviews, collaboration with other teens, and mentor facilitation, teens will be able to provide multiple perspectives and deep understanding of a topic or issue. Boston’s teen community is brimming with strong voices. We are excited and grateful to participate in the TRW grant. Ultimately, this opportunity helps the library and the city to preserve these stories while providing teens with a louder and more impactful platform to have their voices heard.

Catherine Halpin is the Youth Technology Coordinator at Boston Public Library, Teen Central. Ally Dowds is the Youth Technology Librarian at Boston Public Library, Teen Central.

Putting Teens First in Library Services: An Interview with Cheryl Eberly

In this installment of the video series, Putting Teens First in Library Services, Shannon Peterson and Linda Braun talk with Cheryl Eberly Teen Librarian and Volunteer Coordinator at the Santa Ana Public Library. Cheryl discusses the ways in which she integrates youth voice, outcomes, community partnerships, and informal learning into her work with teens.

Learn more about Cheryl’s work on the National Arts and Humanities Program Awards website. You can purchase Putting Teens First in Library Services: A Roadmap from the ALA Store.

Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Integrating School & Public Library Systems in Nashville, Tennessee

As a new school year begins in Tennessee, Nashville Public Library (NPL) and Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) are entering the next phase of our partnership. The Limitless Libraries program has long acted as a bridge between the two organizations, offering MNPS educators and students in grades 3-12 access to NPL’s materials. NPL and MNPS migrated to a shared ILS in July 2017, creating a technical bridge to further support this relationship. Doing so created cost savings for the city and public library access for all MNPS students, including those in grades PreK-2.  This ILS merger has been in process for over a year, and it has been exciting to see the culmination of so much time and thought.

Since no existing ILS was functional for both school and public libraries, teams at NPL and MNPS worked with TLC’s Carl-X team to create a custom solution for Nashville. We determined that we could align on many parameters, including the check-out period for educators, and log-ins for students and educators. Other parameters needed to be set up differently for MNPS and NPL locations. The loan rules for student accounts provided a particular challenge, with school and public librarians accustomed to circulating different types of materials for different periods of time. We’re fortunate that we already had strong relationships with our MNPS colleagues in place, so that we could work through issues as honestly and efficiently as possible.

We worked out some solutions readily, but others required quite a bit of brainstorming and further ILS development to resolve.  Student-friendly self-checkout, for example, was not available in Carl-X or their web client, Carl Connect. TLC worked with school librarians to create a new web-based self-checkout option, specifically with schools in mind, to be rolled out in the near future.

Merging systems has been a huge undertaking. Surprises and challenges will continue to arise over the course of the school year, and MNPS, NPL, and TLC teams will continue to work together to meet them.  MNPS and NPL now understand the ways that Nashville’s school and public libraries differ and align on a very granular level. In this way, tackling such a complicated project has made out partnership much more meaningful and effective.  We’ve also been able to provide our patrons with an unprecedented level of access to library materials, which certainly makes all of the work worthwhile.

Allison Barney is the coordinator of Nashville’s Limitless Libraries program, a partnership between Nashville Public Library and Metro Nashville Public Schools.  She currently chairs the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

Photo Credit: Nashville Public Library

YALSA/Dollar General Grant Provides for Unforgettable “Meet the Author Night,” With Jennifer Latham!

It all started with a grant received by McKinley Elementary, a Title 1, Tulsa Public School, in Oklahoma. The idea was to pull our neighborhood young adults and recent McKinley Elementary graduates in and keep them reading throughout the summer, thus preventing the “summer slide!”

The unfortunate reality of the situation, in retrospect, was that we really had no way to reach these kids. We had a marquee, which advertised the school’s “Summer Cafe,” support and our volunteer based summer camps for our school’s youngest students and we had a telephone. We enthusiastically approached the all call, reaching out to our 5th and 6th graders, but the result was negligible, at best. In addition,if the young adults wanted breakfast, I’m certain they slept right through it and likely lunch as well.

The positive to all of this was that Jennifer Latham, a local Tulsa writer, but not a lifelong Tulsan, had a recently released young adult out, entitled “Dreamland Burning.” The book was a fictionalized account of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots. The young adult novel, published by Little Brown was not only engrossing, but it was assigned to the 9th graders at Tulsa Public School’s leading high school, Booker T. Washington, which was actually in the novel.

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Libraries Ready to Code Grant Application Information Session

Did you miss the information session earlier this week on the Libraries Ready to Code application process? Did you attend but want to review the slides and the information presented? If so, you can watch the recording of the session right here.

The slides are also available.

Don’t forget you can learn more about the project, access grant application FAQs, and get started with the application on the Libraries Ready to Code website.

Apply Now for the Libraries Ready to Code Grant!

Libraries Ready to Code

The application for Phase III of the Libraries Ready to Code Grant is open now through August 31, 2017.

The grant program, sponsored generously by Google, will fund a cohort of school and public libraries to design computational thinking and computer science programs for and with youth, including underrepresented youth. A total of 25-50 grants up to $25,000 each are available.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Public or school library (you do not need to be an ALA member to apply, but members will be given preference during the review process)
  • Library must be located in the United States or U.S. Territories
  • Program must be focused on computational thinking or computer science
  • Program must be completely free of cost to youth and their families, including deposits
  • Program must serve youth (anywhere on the Pre-K to grade 12 spectrum)
  • Must have prior approval from your library administration to implement the program (if grant funds are provided). Verification may be required upon request

Please note, you must meet all of the above eligibility requirements in order to apply for the grant. If you do not, your application will be disqualified.

A virtual information session about the grant program and application process will be held on Aug. 1 at 2:30pm EST. Reserve your seat here.  The recording of the session will be made available to those who can’t attend it live.  Additionally, before submitting an application, we encourage you to read the Request for Proposal and use it as a guide to filling out the application).  In addition, an FAQ, and list of resources including sample programs are on the Libraries Ready to Code site to inform your work as you prepare your grant application. Questions? Contact us.

Apply now through August 31, 2017.

YALSA @ ALA Annual 2017: Youth Development through Community Engagement

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend ALA Annual 2017 in Chicago last month, where YALSA-sponsored panels and sessions focused on everything from how to run a tech/makerspace to creative ways to engage teens inside the library and out. Regardless of what the specific topic of each panel was, I began noticing a common theme running throughout: the future of teen services lies squarely within the realm of community and civil engagement. Presenters kept returning to this theme of team-based and service driven learning; that teen development is tied to meaningful contributions to both peers and adults, empowering a positive self-image, and fostering a capacity to creatively problem solve. All of this sounds great, but what does this mean for your library, exactly?

Whether your library has a strong history of offering services and program to teens, or is struggling to get teens into your physical space, community engagement is the key to creating lasting meaningful experiences that teens need to develop and become successful adults. YALSA’s Teens First infographic pinpoints areas where library staff can focus their efforts no matter where your community’s teens are to be found. Are there teens in your library space? Utilize their presence to provide volunteer opportunities that impact social or environmental issues close to your teens’ hearts. Teen Advisory Groups are a gold mine of youth development opportunities, as you can harness the creativity and interests of these teens to plan programs that meet a specific community need. Teens will not only be invested in developing the program itself, but will take responsibility for its success and outcomes. In the meantime, teens develop self-worth, a sense of belonging, and ownership as they contribute to the group’s efforts, as well as learning how to effectively communicate their ideas to a larger group of peers. Are you like many libraries where teens are scarce? Team up with your local schools or community organizations to bring opportunities to teens where they are.

Last year, my coworker and I teamed up with the local school library staff to raise awareness about bullying during Anti-Bullying month in October. Teens brainstormed ways to promote a healthy self-image and came up with a riff on the Six Word Memoir. Each student wrote a simple messages about themselves on mini whiteboards and posted the selfies to their various social media profiles. Teens were able to promote a positive message about themselves and get other teens to think about why they were important and worthwhile, too. We encouraged them to tag both their school and the library as a way to demonstrate our involvement with the project. This simple partnership allowed the community’s youth to have a voice about a serious issue by sharing authentic content that they created; it also gave them the opportunity to use their social media platforms to positively impact their peers.

YALSA’s new President, Sandra Hughes-Hassell has also recognized community engagement as the key to bringing teens and youth into successful adulthood. In her recent announcement on the YALSAblog she stated that, as President, her goal is to support library staff to address the unique challenges of their community’s youth by “building teen leadership skills and amplifying their voices.” Over the coming year, she wants to promote YALSA events that aim to encourage and address youth development through community engagement, including One Book, One Community, Teen Tech Week, and more. Keep an eye out for opportunities to get involved with this campaign as the year progresses. In the meantime, If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out YALSA’s recent set of case studies that highlight how various libraries have already begun to think about programming in this way. Remember that this new paradigm shift doesn’t have to mean reinventing the programming/services wheel. Any program can be tweaked to highlight youth development, even if it doesn’t directly include a partnership or whether it takes place inside or out of your own library’s space. It’s just about putting teens first.

Presidential Theme for 2017-2018

I am excited to begin my presidential year and to continue the work begun by past-president Sarah Hill!

Youth Activism through Community Engagement is the theme for my 2017-2018 YALSA Presidential year. I selected this theme for several reasons. The theme reflects a number of the paradigm shifts identified in YALSA’s Future’s Report and promotes teen involvement in their communities, thus building teens’ leadership skills and amplifying their voices. The theme strongly aligns with YALSA’s vision, mission, and impact statements by supporting library staff in working with teens to address the unique challenges they face in their communities and creating opportunities for teens’ personal growth, academic success, and career development.  The theme also demonstrates YALSA’s commitment to an asset-based and youth-centered approach to the transformation of libraries and teen services, and will help library staff focus on developing many of the teen outcomes described in the Reimagined Library Services for and with Teens infographic.

But, perhaps most importantly, I selected Youth Activism through Community Engagement as my theme because teens are experts on the issues facing them and their communities because they are living the issues. This is especially true for youth who are experiencing marginalization due to racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism, or other forms of oppression. Teens want to make a difference in their communities but often lack the skills to take action. I believe library staff have the ability and the responsibility to help teens develop the skills they need to become agents of positive change in their schools and communities.

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Putting Teens First In Library Services: A Road Map

Check out this 20 minute video in which I talk with Shannon Peterson, Youth Services Manager, Kitsap (WA) Regional Library, about the new book, Putting Teens First in Library Services: A Road Map, we edited for YALSA. During our conversation we talk about each of the topics (continuous learning, connected learning, youth voice, community engagement, and outcomes) covered in the volume. We also discuss some of the ways that the title will be useful to a wide-range of library staff from those just starting out to those who have been working with and for teens for many years.

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