Teen Design Lab Reflections, Day One

Hi everyone! So I wrote a post on Friday about an upcoming camp I was helping to plan. During the afternoons this week, we are leading a Teen Design Lab camp. Our general objectives for the camp are:

  • Help youth learn about the community through exploration
  • Engage youth in contributing to community problem-solving
  • Learn about digital media and technology

I’ll be leading a week long reflection series about how the camp goes with the teens each day and how what we are doing fits in while YALSA’s programming guide. I’ll try to have the reflection post every evening, although this first post is the morning after (since the first day is full of craziness, debriefing, and figuring out where to get dinner).

Day One 

What we did:

  • Spent some time on designing a roadmap for the week (see photo). Ann had written this roadmap for the week in terms of the themes of the projects we would be working on and then what skills and outcomes we were hoping for. This roadmap was partially empty and in the picture, you can see we asked questions and got answers from the teens to fill in the roadmap.
  • Community tour. We had the teens go out into the Peoria Heights downtown area and observe what they liked about the area (and what teens might like about this area), what they thought was problematic or what they didn’t like about the area, and then what questions they had or what surprised them about something they saw. We also sent them out with iPad Minis to take photographs with. We encouraged them to talk to store owners and ask questions. The facilitators wandered around the downtown area as well, but we really let the teens do their own thing. We will use this feedback for future design projects this week.
  • Spoke with the township administrator, Roger, (we had met him previously and he gave us input in how he hoped the camp would run). He talked about his beliefs in doing community engagement and some of the neat projects the Richwoods Township had done recently.

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Programming is challenging, especially when you have to anticipate

Since May, I’ve been part of a planning team designing a week-long summer camp (July 20-24, 2015) for 8-12 year olds and for teens in the Peoria Heights (IL) area. This team is a smaller aspect of a much larger project, the Digital Innovation Leadership Program (DILP). This project is funded through the University of Illinois Extension and works with 4H offices across Illinois to plan and lead programs. Our goal is to focus on three learning areas: digital manufacturing, digital media production, and data analytics.

For me, it’s an exciting grant because it really builds off what I’ve done this past year. I get the opportunity to think more about digital literacy and how what I learned can be applied in other situations, always bending the curriculum/workshop to fit the context of the group. Additionally, I played a major role in the creation of the 8-12 year old camp and played a support role in developing the curriculum for the teens. The teens are building off the work of Ann Bishop and her team have been doing in Seattle: InfoMe, which I wrote about in my December 2014 post. Here are five things I learned (or got confirmed) about planning along the way.

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Week of Making: Maker Faire

To end out our week of making I’ve asked my colleague Michelle Angell to share her experiences with Maker culture. She started out with programs and wanted to create makerspaces, but found that a Maker Fair was an even better way to celebrate and embrace the Maker community. The following is Michelle’s response. Continue reading

30 Days of Teen Programming: Delivering what the community wants & needs

One of my favorite sections of the Teen Programming Guidelines (is it nerdy to have favorite sections?) is “Align programs with community and library priorities.” But you have to be deeply involved with community agencies and activities in order to be ready to act on the community’s priorities as they arise. This sounds obvious (and it is!), but it’s taken me a few years to figure it out.

Several years back my coworker and I began working with the Seattle Youth Employment Program (SYEP). SYEP is a city agency that places youth with barriers in paid internships in a variety of environments in city government and the private sector. It also provides them with job training and academic support. We worked with SYEP staff to design a curriculum that would build the interns’ digital and information literacy skills. We were sometimes surprised by the needs identified by SYEP staff and the interns’ employers: touch typing, for example, and basic MS Word. We learned a lot about putting our own assumptions aside.

Over the years, we continually evaluated and adjusted the program. We dropped some pieces and added others to make it as relevant as possible to the youth’s needs and the needs of their employers. Mayor YEP Logo

This year, Seattle’s mayor put forth a huge Youth Employment Initiative in which he asked SYEP to more than double the number of youth placed in jobs over the summer. Suddenly, the community had spoken: youth employment was a major need. Because we already had an ongoing relationship with SYEP, the library was poised to expand the partnership to serve more youth with our trainings. We also helped in other ways, like providing meeting rooms for SYEP staff trainings. Next summer, the mayor intends to make the program five times larger than it is this year (eep!), which will present a huge opportunity for library involvement.

Of course, being in the right place at the time is always partly a matter of luck. But you can’t be lucky if you’re not out there.

30 Days of Teen Programming: Would this ACTUALLY work? A graduate student contemplates Twitter

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?

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30 Days of Teen Programming: Evaluate Outcomes

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?

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30 Days of Teen Programming: Develop Partnerships (part 2)

Girlvolution_Web LogoLast spring, a couple of coworkers and I did some outreach at an event called Girlvolution. It was a completely youth-led conference, with sessions on social justice issues ranging from foster care reform to sexual identity. The teens leading each session mixed statistical and factual information with their own perspectives and experiences.

It was the best conference I had ever been to. I was blown away by how poised, informed, and prepared the youth were. But I wondered: how did they do their research? Had they been visiting our libraries every year without us even knowing it?

Our Youth and Family Learning Manager looked into it and found out that this was exactly the case. Although Powerful Voices (the organization that hosts Girlvolution)  had a “Library Day” as part of their program each year, the library had not been providing direct support.

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What an awesome organization.

So this year, we collaborated. My coworkers and I met with their staff to hear more about their organization’s mission and goals, and to learn how we could help. We arranged for me to visit Powerful Voices on a Thursday afternoon a couple of weeks ago to talk to the youth and their adult allies (mentors) about research. It was a great conversation about everything from whether all the world’s information is available on Google (heck no) to evaluating resources.

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Results of a survey asking participants to rate the effectiveness of Library Research Day.

That Saturday, the girls and their allies all came to the library. We settled down in the computer lab and got SERIOUS about research. I showed them how to find books in our catalog, and how to decode Dewey. We dug into databases to find the most up-to-date information and the best statistics. We ended the day with pizza, which is never a bad idea.

Powerful Voices ends their sessions with a gratitude circle. That Saturday, many youth and adults mentioned finding out about all the great resources the library has to offer, and how helpful librarians can be. I was grateful for all I learned from them, and to be part of the support network for such talented and engaged young women.

30 Days of Teen Programming: Develop rich, mutually beneficial community partnerships

They were pretty excited about the new library.

They were pretty excited about the new library.

For the past six months or so, my fellow teen services librarian and I have been building a partnership with a local drop-in center for homeless youth. We began by meeting with staff several times and taking a tour of their facility to get a better sense of what they do, and how we could help. Then we moved into outreach efforts, like tabling at an on-site job fair. We even revamped their on-site library.  Continue reading

Ways Public Librarians Can Support Media Specialists to Celebrate National School Library Month

April is School Library Month! Here are some easy strategies for public librarians seeking to build productive partnerships with their school colleagues.

Get in touch with your local school librarians! Sometimes, this can be the most difficult aspect of cross-agency collaboration. I’ve noticed that, especially with regard to youth services librarians in larger, more bureaucratic public library systems, outreach specialists may try to follow a chain of command, asking for the building principal or even the superintendent for access to the school librarians. In many cases, those administrators may either not realize that the public library wants to help, rather than place demands, on school staff, and they often have a lot on their plate anyway. Reaching out to school librarians directly can be more effective, or better yet, ask a school librarian you have worked with in the past to connect you.

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Give local school librarians and teachers some extra privileges. One easy way to support the educators in your community: create a special patron class in your automation system, with an increased checkout limit. Nashville Public Libraries are on the cutting edge of this, with their Limitless Libraries program. They even have the high school and middle school libraries as routing stops! If your library doesn’t allow holds against on-shelf materials, you might consider a different policy for teachers. No teacher or school librarian wants to swing by the public library at the end of the day to find the audio version of Fahrenheit 451 has been nabbed since they looked it up in the OPAC that morning. Continue reading

The “Activity Gap”: More thoughts on libraries and after-school programs

Back in October 2014, I wrote about a report entitled: “America After 3 PM.” The Afterschool Alliance was writing about how students spend their time after school. In it, I raised the point of libraries as hubs for after-school activities, a free spot for teens to come if they don’t have the resources or access to other after-school programs. At the end of January, Alia Wong from Atlantic wrote an article called “The Activity Gap,” which discusses the access issues students from various socio-economic classes face with participating in after-school and extracurricular programs.

Wong begins the article by comparing two different students, Ethan and Nicole, whose family backgrounds contribute to two different lifestyles and life paths. While their names have been changed, these two students do exist and were case studies in a study published in Voices of Urban Education. This national study was conducted by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute of School Reform.

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