Whether you are hearing or deaf, American or international, verbal or nonverbal, language makes up humanity’s primary method of communication. Precision of language is an important part of that communication. As children, we learn the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. These are to help us simplify and direct our communications with other people. Answer these five W’s and every conversation will be clear and understandable. Yet, in adulthood, the complexities of communication–non-verbal cues, method of communication, vocabulary, personal bias, visual perception, et cetera–cause us to overlook the value of specific language in our interpersonal interactions. The value of language lies in its ability to communicate with accuracy any idea, thought, feeling, or expression that you want to share with another human. As librarians, we ought to be very concerned with how much value is in our communication with customers.
Librarianship is a customer service based industry. We have a responsibility to our customers to provide them with an interaction that has value, regardless of what information or service a customer has requested. That value can be delivered any number of ways, be it through correct information, a pleasant conversation, or an introduction to new, relevant services. But all of those added values can only be achieved with precision of language.
Our responsibility to bring value to customer service interactions is incredibly important as it relates to social justice. Libraries are free of censorship and open to anyone who may come in the door. Regardless of your own background, we as professionals need to be prepared for interactions with people whose backgrounds and realities may be different than our own. We must be prepared to empathize with the lived experiences of our customers by affording them the basic dignities of personhood. To be blunt, we have to do better at accepting differences and mastering the vocabulary to interact with customers of other races/ethnicities and members of the LGBTIQ+ and disabled communities.
What do YALSA’s December and January webinars have in common? They each focus on how a #teensfirst approach to teen services is important . Both the December webinar on user-centered teen spaces, and the January session on supporting teen social justice and equity conversations, look at how to provide library services by paying attention to teen specific interests and needs.
On December 15 YALSA hosts, What Do You Want to Do Here? Designing Teen Library Spaces that Work, San Antonio, TX, teen librarian Jennifer Velázquez and Lee VanOrsdel, Dean of University Libraries at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan will discuss how their new spaces support the activities that teens and students want to participate in in library environments. Each has taken an innovative approach to creating user-centered spaces. You can learn more about the spaces Jennifer and Lee have developed in American Libraries and Jennifer’s space in the fall 2016 issue of YALS. (Login required)
The December Snack Break, produced by teens at the Hartford (CT) Public Library, provides examples of what teens like to do in library spaces.
A little over a week ago, I packed my bags for the 2016 YALSA Symposium. It wasn’t easy to rip myself away from the Cubs euphoria raging in my hometown of Chicago, but I was excited to share a weekend with people who were passionate about something even more important: serving young adults in the library. The Symposium theme was Empowering Teens, and there was lots of discussion about ways to fostering teen ideas, talent, and leadership in our libraries. Letting teens take charge may feel like extra work, but the benefit to them is worth every bit of effort.
We’ve all been there – something you hear or read at a library conference gives you that delicious fuzzy feeling of Hey… I could do that! You start jotting down notes about the idea and where it could go, what it could do for your community, and before you know it, the margins of the handout are scribbled with your new plans for world domination.
I love those moments. I always say, if I get just one great idea from a workshop or webinar or conference, then it was worth it. I left the 2016 YALSA Symposium with an entire folder of great ideas, as I was one of the lucky librarians who got to judge the Teen Programming Contest.
That experience on Sunday morning was the absolute highlight of the Symposium for me, and I don’t say that to diminish the rest of the weekend. It was just so inspiring to hear so many amazing ideas – the other judges will agree with me that the decisions we had to make were incredibly difficult. I was impressed by the variety of pitches – some people had powerpoints and handouts for us, while others simply mesmerized us with a story of what they hoped to accomplish. It was clear that everyone had respect and hope for their communities, and wanted to empower their teen patrons in any way they could.
It is my absolute hope that everyone who pitched their idea to us will somehow, one way or another, make their idea a reality (and then write about it for one of YALSA’s publications!) If I learned only one thing while in Pittsburgh (and trust me, I learned a ton), I learned that we have amazingly talented people working in teen services.
At the 2017 YALSA Symposium, I hope that many more people take up the challenge. Make it an even tougher decision next year!
Sarah Amazing is the Teen Services Supervisor at the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library. She blogs at zen-teen.com
It is an unfortunate truth that we can’t make it to every conference we want to go to, even if it’s only a few hours away. Cost, travel, time away from work, family obligations, what have you keep us from going to conferences to see our colleagues, attend panels, and meet vendors for our libraries. But fear not! You’re not the only one #yalsalaeftbehind.
It doesn’t mean that you have to entirely miss out, either. Twitter is a great way to keep connected with other library staff in the field, and it’s no different when it comes to following panels at these conferences. You can still connect with the attendees and network online as they livetweet the panels that they’re attending. Most tweets will be tagged with #yalsa16 so they’ll be easy to find, and each session will have its own hashtag as well, to more easily filter through the results. We do love filtering, don’t we?
Even if you’re not attending but interested, make sure to look through a program list, to see what sessions would have interested you the most. Do you know anyone going? Will they be attending certain panels and take notes for you? Even if you don’t have that luxury, I have a handy list of hashtags for each session.
In 2015, Kitsap Regional Library received a three year National Leadership grant from the Institute of Museum and Libraries to design and implement a sustainable STEM programming model for public libraries. The project, entitled Make Do Share, collects tools and resources to support staff in planning, facilitating and improving STEM programs for and with youth.
Kitsap Regional Library created a downloadable guide to serve as a primary resource for those interested in STEM programming for and with youth. The Road Map portion of the guide provides an introduction to concepts and activities which support staff learning and planning. The Playbook portion outlines potential program types, provides examples of sample programs, and describes strategies to support successful facilitation.
Call for partnering libraries
As part of their dissemination plan, Kitsap Regional Library has committed to partnering with two small and/or rural public libraries to regularly support the planning and implementation of sustainable STEM programming in those communities.
What to expect as a partnering library
Partner libraries will walk through the Make Do Share resource guide with the support and guidance of Kitsap Regional Library staff during weekly virtual meetings and through scheduled assignments. Content areas include:
Two new activities that you don’t want to miss are now scheduled as a part of the YALSA Teen Services Symposium.
Symposium Solutions Desk
Come visit the Symposium Solutions Desk and get feedback and solutions for your burning questions and challenges. We’ll have YALSA members available and ready to talk with you about everything from programs to advocacy and developing outcomes to curating collections. Our advisors are: Continue reading
STEM learning is a growing part of student’s lives now because of all the fast technology advances. There are many great ways for students to participate in STEM activities while in school, but what can “out-of-school” educators, such as librarians, offer these same students? This is the questions that a group, sponsored by the Research+Practice Collaboratory, wanted to answer. Their main question was: “How can professional learning for out-of-school staff be organized to promote equity in STEM learning?” Through this discussion, four big ideas emerged to support this.
First, “seeing, hearing, and honoring” need to be at hand with all educators, whether in school or, out of school. This means, staff working with teens, and other youths, need to listen to what customers want. The best way to design a program is to listen to what your customers want from you.
Teen volunteers work with teen customers on sharing new technology.
For instance, recently I had a young man reach out to me because he wanted to start a STEM Club at my library branch. Although I was timid at first, due to time and money, we decided to go ahead. The positives of having a teen led STEM Club is, they have more ideas of what they want to do, and are very knowledgeable about all different types of STEM programs and projects. When our department started having teen led programs earlier in the summer, we had great success because the teen volunteers were excited to present their ideas, and teens in the community were excited to see what their peers were doing. Seeing, hearing, and honoring has really helped my department in a big way.
In this 16 minute Snack Break learn how Alyssa Newton is integrating coding activities into the work she does with and for teens in her community. After watching don’t forget to sign-up for YALSA’s October 20th webinar on coding, libraries, and learning. Members can register for free. Learn more on the YALSA website.
I started a new job as a teen services librarian one month before I graduated with my MLS. I was thrilled to get a full-time position serving my ideal population – at a dream location, to boot! My MLS program was amazing, and I learned more than I expected to. I felt confident with my library skills as I started the job. But any librarian can tell you, everything isn’t book-smarts! (No library pun intended.)
The skills that have really helped me roll with the punches as I get comfortable in my new position were learned from YALSA. Blog posts about passive programming have helped inspire me to bring some easy-to-implement ideas to my library’s teen section, which are looked at favorably since I’m new and not asking for lots of programming money right away. And countless other posts, along with the wiki, have good ideas for programming that I’m adding to my list for when I do feel comfortable asking for money.
It’s also nice to know you’re not alone, that other librarians and library workers have the same problems you might face: “Finally the big day arrives, it’s program time and…not one teenager shows up. Now you’re standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by supplies, and alone with your formerly fabulous program idea.” [from Pop-Up Programming 2 by Becky Fyolek]. And I say “you might face” already knowing, just two months in, that you are going to be alone in that programming room, and it’s going to make you feel pretty pathetic.