How to Get Teens Fit and Happy Through Collaboration and Creativity

Now that school is out, it’s time to discuss with our teens about the value of healthy habits and lifestyles. When we talk about healthy habits, we need to think beyond physical fitness and focus on all aspects of healthy living which includes the mind, body, and soul. With the new YALSA Organizational Plan in place, we now have a framework to take these concepts to our teens and ask them what they would like to see in the library and how we (staff and patrons) can successfully develop these ideas.

One important that libraries need to consider is to implement, or increase, programs and/or services to help teens develop a positive sense of well-being in order to navigate this chaotic world. As the organization plan brilliantly states “Today’s adolescents’ face an expanding array of social issues that place them at physical and psychological risk, and libraries can help. Libraries can contribute to solving and alleviating the issues and problems that negatively impact teens, and can put more teens on the path to a successful and fulfilling life.” Although this concept is not new to us, the big question is how do we develop solid services that will get teens into the library? The best place to start is to consult our core group of teens who either volunteer, are part of our advisory groups, and teens who do, and do not, participate in library programs.

When we ask teens about what they would like to see in the library it’s important to provide options. In other words, we need to break down what we mean by a “positive sense of well-being” which is basically what can the library do to promote healthy lifestyles in regards to the mind, body, and soul. Whether it’s about offering meditation workshops, reading buddy programs, gaming programs, dance classes, arts and crafts workshop, and/or buying books and audiovisual materials for self-improvement,  we want to encourage teens to tell us what would bring them to the library. If we don’t have a core group of teens who visit the library, pose this question during outreaches or via social media. As teen library staff, we must take advantage of every opportunity we can to communicate with teens even if it’s not library-related. Lastly, if teens still can’t decide on what they would like to do, bring in your community partners to talk more about the importance of good eating habits, mental health, and civic engagement. When teens have a better understanding of what it is we are trying to do, let’s bring in professionals to guide the decision-making process. When the teens have given us the feedback we need, we can move forward with these services as they are relevant and distinct to our teen communities.

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YALSA @ ALA Annual 2016: Update on Board Meetings, Discussions & Actions

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July!

As we celebrated our country’s independence last weekend, YALSA, too, has sought to break free from past models of association work and is currently exploring new ways to engage our members that better meet their interests, skills and busy lifestyles.

It was with those #teensfirst  and members’ first ideals in mind that the 2015-2016 YALSA Board approached our work before and during ALA Annual last month as we worked on aligning existing YALSA groups, programs and services with the association’s new Organizational Plan.

Here are some highlights:

– The Board adopted the following consent items, which were items that were discussed and voted on previous to annual, including:

– The Board also approved a more concrete structure to support and revitalize interest groups.

– The Board approved experimenting with new kinds of member engagement opportunities, especially virtual and short-term ones.

As part of its effort to align YALSA’s existing work with the new Organizational Plan, as well as update member engagement opportunities so that they better meet member needs, the Board began a review of all existing member groups at our June meeting.  While the Board was not able complete the review, we did come to decisions about some of the groups.

– The Board agreed that the following committees’ structure and workflow will remain as they currently are:

  • Alex Award Committee
  • Editorial Advisory Board for YALS/YALSAblog
  • Financial Advancement Committee
  • Margaret Edwards Award Committee
  • Mentoring Task Force
  • Michael Printz Award Committee
  • Morris Award Committee
  • Nonfiction Award Committee
  • Odyssey Award Interdivisional Committee
  • Organization and Bylaws Committee
  • The Hub Advisory Board

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YALSA @ ALA Annual 2016: Take the Next Step in Teen Services

Over the past few years, I have noticed that there has been a movement in YALSA to shift teen services in libraries. This shift has taken teen library staff from being mere program providers to being opportunity connectors and learning leaders. With the rise of connected learning, libraries are quickly moving into the forefront of informal learning and teen empowerment. Library staff have become vital elements in the empowerment of teens through relevant, outcome-based programming that develops the 21st century teen. This notable change in direction has made me extremely passionate about services for and with teens, and I noticed this theme in every session I attended this year in Orlando. Library staff all over the country are stepping up their programming in favor of interest-based learning and exploration that effectively engages today’s teens.

One of the first sessions I attended was a presentation on Raspberry Pi by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. I had visited their booth in the exhibit hall and wanted to learn more about their products and how to incorporate them into my programs. Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your tv or computer monitor and uses a keyboard and mouse. It’s a high-performance device that allows the user to explore computing, coding, and more. I was amazed at how such a small device has put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world. In addition to computer education, Raspberry Pi has an unlimited number of uses; everything from turning it into a personal wifi hotspot to creating advanced maker projects like a wearable camera or developing a multi-room music player. Recently, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has partnered with British ESA Astronaut, Tim Peake, to send two Raspberry Pis (dubbed the Astro Pi) into the International Space Station. Both devices were augmented and coded in part by school-age students to measure the environment inside the station, detect how it’s moving through space, and pick up the Earth’s magnetic field. Each Astro Pi is also equipped with a different kind of camera; one has an infrared camera and the other has a standard visible spectrum camera. I had absolutely no idea that a Raspberry Pi had this much potential for STEM and cross-curriculum learning, or that the same Raspberry Pi’s that were sent into space are the same as the ones you can purchase online. Not only is the potential for engaging STEM learning abundant, but The Raspberry Pi foundation makes its learning resources available for free on their website. You can download their magazine, MagPi, check out their books that will help you navigate a Raspberry Pi, or begin tinkering with a Pi by downloading the desktop interface, Raspbian. With all of this potential for making and learning packed into a compact, affordable package, Raspberry Pi’s are the next step in your library’s makerspace.

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Week of Making: Making on a Shoestring

It’s hard to get excited about makerspaces when you don’t have ANY budget for materials. Installing and maintaining the software to run a 3D printer might seem a logistical impossibility when you don’t even have permissions to run the Windows updates on your public computers. But there are a number of ways to establish a maker culture with things you might already have lying around your library.

Use your graveyard of equipment for a hardware tear-down. Our digital natives may never have had the opportunity to peak inside a tower or under the keyboard of a laptop. Showing them how to upgrade the RAM or swap out other bits attached to a motherboard is a real-world skill that makes computers more useful for longer. Back when I sponsored a high school technology team, one of the most impressive student projects I saw involved a student daisy-chaining a set of old CPUs together to create a robust machine. Before adding to the e-waste explosion, offer your deaccessioned hardware to your teens, along with screwdrivers, clamps, and other basic tools. If your patrons see you playing with this sort of stuff, you may receive donations…

Photo: https://twitter.com/shk_le_shka

Photo: https://twitter.com/shk_le_shka

Hack their old toys.In a similar vein, one of my Alabama colleagues demonstrated how you can eviscerate a thrift-store Tickle Me Elmo to produce your own weird sound effects, a project certain to delight most teens.
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Week of Making: The Future of Making

When I read this the other day I thought, this is a call to action for library staff:

“The Department of Education (ED) and Alliance for Excellent Education are announcing the launch of Future Ready Librarians, an expansion of the Future Ready initiative aimed at raising awareness among district and school leaders about the valuable role librarians can play in supporting the Future Ready goals of their school and district. Among other critical roles, Future Ready Librarians design collaborative library spaces that enable open-ended exploration, tinkering, and making that empower students as creators, and will serve as digital learning coaches who work side by side with teachers. In addition, a network of nationally recognized librarians, with support from Follett, will provide input on the development of strategies aligned with the Future Ready Framework, and five Future Ready Summits will be held in regional locations throughout the country and will include librarian-designed and facilitated sessions for district leadership teams on designing collaborative learning spaces. – From the White House Fact Sheet on the President’s Nation of Makers initiative.

I think that announcement is a pretty exciting one and not just because libraries are called out. (Yes, that’s awesome.) Also notice there is a strong focus on the impacts that making activities facilitated with, through, and by libraries. Read this again:

“Among other critical roles, Future Ready Librarians design collaborative library spaces that enable open-ended exploration, tinkering, and making that empower students as creators, and will serve as digital learning coaches…”

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Week of Making: Bringing makerspaces to teens

CC: SJPL Pop-Up Mobile Maker's Space by San Jose Library

CC Image courtesy of San José Library on Flickr

Just over a month ago I became the first STEAM Librarian at the San José Public Library, located in the heart of Silicon Valley. While my title is new, STEAM programming is far from new to my urban library system. Surrounded by so many technology resources and partners, we are lucky to have passionate library staff leading STEAMstacks programs and participating in worldwide events like Hour of Code.

Before my position was even created our Innovations Manager brainstormed ways to extend STEAM programming to the city’s underserved neighborhoods. Part of the envisioned future stated in The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action is for library staff to “leave the physical school library or public library space regularly and provide services to targeted communities of teens (e.g. those who are incarcerated, homeless, in foster care, or in classrooms and other in school locations) where they are, rather than waiting for teens to find a way to get to the physical library space.” The Maker[Space]Ship, a mobile makerspace, is designed to do just that.

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Week of Making: Budget Friendly Technology for YA Programming

Today’s teens, as many know, are more about interacting and being hands-on at the local library than ever before. A major reason for this is due to advances in technology, which has assisted in helping the local library evolve into a better, more interactive place for our customers. There are many amazing resources for teen programming, when it comes to technology, but some of these can be expensive. Now that it is the time when we are at the end of our budget year, I have researched budget friendly STEM and technology ideas that are great for programming. Some great YALSA resources are Making in the Library Toolkit and YALSA’s STEM Wiki.

In the past, my department has done a few STEM programs for teens that were extremely cheap and/or free. The first program that we held was when we used virtual reality (VR) cardboard glasses, so teens could participate in VR worlds. VR cardboard glasses are fairly cheap, running from $4 – $15, depending on the brand. We used both the Google branded ones and a set from Light in the Box.

VR cardboard glasses

Courtesy: Paste Magazine

The best part about this program? Teens just need to bring in a smartphone and download free apps. I have done a little research and made a list VR Cardboard Apps but the teens that came to the programs found a lot of new ones as well. There are some apps you can purchase, but library staff and teens utilized free ones.  Continue reading

Kid Club: Connected Learning in Minecraft

When Mimi Ito, Tara Tiger Brown and I started Connected Camps a little more than a year ago, we did so in part to deepen our understanding of how connected learning could power a mission-driven start-up. As educators and entrepreneurs we wanted to create high quality online learning experiences accessible to young people in all walks of life; as geek girls we wanted to do it in a way that was collaborative, fun, and hands-on.

We chose Minecraft as our core platform and now run a FREE multiplayer Kid Club server where youth (aged 8 to 15) can level up their tech and SEL skills. The server runs year-round from 12pm – 6pm PT daily and is moderated and staffed by trained high school and college counselors. The counselors host a variety of themed clubs and activities daily, including minigames, survival challenges, and build events. The server is supported by forums, which are filled with all kinds of free Minecraft resources, for youth, educators, and parents alike.

Last summer we partnered with LA Public Libraries to offer free programming for the young people they serve. The partnership was so successful that this summer we want to invite all libraries with an interest in Minecraft to have their youth join our free Kid Club server. We know there are a ton of wonderful programs being run at libraries nationwide that are connected learning aligned. Here’s a bit more on our approach:

  1. We are a freely accessible online learning community.

Our online programming is available all year round and youth can connect to our servers and mentors from anywhere—home, school, a library, or a community center. Our format means that we are a persistent community, not a one-time experience. Youth can continue to learn, grow, level up, and develop lasting friendships. Research shows that when we give youth the opportunity to develop friendships and connect with experts while building and problem solving together, the experience is transformative. Not only do they retain specific content and skills better, but they also acquire higher-order skills like problem solving, teamwork, and literacy.

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Rethinking YALSA: Virtual Town Hall on Monday!

Don’t forget to login on Monday, June 13, 2016, from 2 – 3 pm Eastern for a Town Hall Discussion!

The Town Hall will be about the Organizational Plan that the Board just approved.  See President Candice Mack’s recent blog post for more information.

The Town Hall will be led by Candice and me, and we’ll be joined by many board members, too. The agenda is as follows:

2:00 – 2:15 pm:  Overview of the Organizational Plan & Steps Already Taken

2:15 – 2:45 pm:  Discussion with Participants about Involvement & Engagement Activities

Question to Ponder: What YALSA member engagement activities have you found most meaningful?

2:45 – 3 pm: Q&A and Wrap-Up

If you can’t make it to the virtual town hall, but you’re attending ALA Annual in Orlando, we’d love to see you at the session What’s New in YALSA and How You Can Be a Part of It! The session will be on Saturday, June 25th, from 8:30-10 am at the Rosen Centre, Room Salon 03/04. It will be similar to the virtual town hall, and YALSA’s strategic guru Eric Meade will join the discussion. You can find out more about the Whole Mind Strategy Group in this interview with YALSA Board member Kate McNair.

We’ll be using a format that the Board has been using to meet virtually– Zoom. You don’t have to use video, but it does make conversation easier. And we always love when cute animals accidentally walk in front of the screen!

Email the YALSA Office soon to receive the login information: yalsa@ala.org