More Than Accessible

Libraries strive to be inclusive spaces across North America, but are they? What is the difference between being accessible and being inclusive? More often than not, libraries find themselves as accessible places in an effort to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act or Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that we have here in my home province. Ramps that allow patrons with mobility issues to enter their local branches and modified collections for those with a visual impairment are ideal examples of how libraries can act as accessible spaces. The challenge is in making those same spaces inclusive to those who are different, specifically regarding programming and services normally available to the average patron.

Think of the last storytime you ran at your library. Perhaps it was a bit loud, active, got children out of their seats and was an all-around great time. Now ask yourself: would someone with autism feel comfortable in that environment? What about your teen programs? It took a long time before I even got close to offering inclusive programs because it is definitely a challenge. There are factors you normally don’t consider that can be major obstacles for those living with a disability.

I want to encourage you to make the effort, regardless of how daunting of a challenge it may seem, because the potential outcome will be more rewarding for you, your library, and your community than you can imagine. Getting starting is often the most challenging part of any project so I want to share a recent success regarding special-needs programming in the hope that it will inspire you to identify a need in your community and work with your local partners to address it.  You might also check out the resources on YALSA’s wiki.

Through focus groups, surveys, and community outreach, we identified a significant lack of support in our city for teens and young adults with special needs. We listened to parents talk about the lack of meaningful opportunities available for their children once they were phased out of school, and what was available had a significant price tag attached to it. Parents spoke about the desire to see their child learn the skills necessary to eventually hold a steady job and feel as though they are part of society, not a social outcast.

This is when most libraries make a common mistake: programming for the community instead of with your community. It’s easy to listen to a parent tell you that her son needs more opportunities to be social only to turn around and throw together a hodgepodge of a program, but what is the desired outcome? Will the program teach new skills, provide learning opportunities, enhance their quality of life or will it simply be glorified babysitting?  A colleague suggested I approach Community Living York South, a local organization serving individuals with disabilities and special needs. Several meetings later I had a better understanding of the challenges facing these individuals in our city and the role our library system could play in supporting them.  If you’re new to building outcomes into your program planning, check out the resources on YALSA’s wiki.

Many of the young adults I spoke with expressed a desire to learn how to use a computer. The basic skills we often take for granted were barriers for these youth and restricted their ability to achieve a fundamental mission of any library system – equal access to information. Through these conversations and research, I developed an adapted computer program for young adults with special needs. The workshop would be offered every Tuesday afternoon for two hours for 8 consecutive weeks. Since I was facilitating it, there would be no cost to the participants, but due to space and equipment limitations we were only able to take on nine students.

We decided upon several topics for the program:

  • Computer basics (turning on, opening & closing windows, etc.)
  • Keyboarding & mouse skills
  • Microsoft Word and communication skills
  • Using the Internet for research & Internet Safety
  • Cyberbullying and peer-pressure

Each lesson was comprised of educational games, computer exercises, real-world examples, group discussions, and a review period at the end of the session. We also encouraged participants to mentor their peers who were having difficulty with certain tasks. Some of our students were able to complete their work quickly, so rather than sit and become disinterested, they were encouraged to pair up and support someone in need of assistance. This became one of the most rewarding aspects of the program because participants were now learning more than just how to use a computer, they were developing their communication and interpersonal skills while making new friends.

I’ve made it sound much simpler than it is, but I want to encourage each of you to take on the challenge of making your library more inclusive. It won’t happen overnight and you’ll encounter countless roadblocks along the way, but know that it will all be worth it. The picture you see below is from the first class I had the pleasure of teaching and I keep it by my desk as a constant reminder that all it takes it a willingness to support those who are too often left behind.

Are you still wondering if you should be offering adapted programs? Well, let me tell you about Adam (I’ve changed his name for privacy) from the program. Adam came to the first class nervous and apprehensive because he had never used a computer. In his own words, he considers himself too “dumb” to use a computer, but that didn’t stop me from trying. Each week we practiced the most basic tasks to create a strong foundation of knowledge he could build on. It seemed as though little progress was being made, until I overheard his conversation with a classmate. I was walking around the class helping participants with their assignment when I heard Adam say, “I can’t believe I’m doing it. I’m actually using a computer. Look, I’m doing it!”

There’s an Adam in your community, and I know with your determination to support those in need, you can provide every Adam with an opportunity to succeed and make your library a truly inclusive space.

 

100 Books Before College

I’m sure most librarians have heard of 1000 Books Before Kindergarten. We’ve been running that program at the Middletown Township Public Library for two years now, and the children and their parents love it. I was joking with my colleague one day that there should be a 100 Books Before College for high school students. And I thought…well actually, why not? So I started to plan.

So what is 100 Books Before College? It is a new low key reading program geared toward high school students. I have over 100 teen volunteers in my volunteer program, and many of them tell me they are too busy to read (not all of them, but many of them). This program is meant to encourage high school students to read for fun, despite their busy schedules of sports, homework, clubs, volunteering, and more. On my publicity for the program, I include the value in reading regularly: improve your cognitive skills, your reading comprehension, and maybe even your test scores!  Being an avid reader will help any student as they make their way beyond high school to college, vocational school, or a career.

The goal for the reading program: read 100 books before you graduate high school. I created a list of 100 suggested books to read, which has a mixture of classic and current fiction and nonfiction. Participants are encouraged to use the list as a guide, but they are not required to read these books. They can read any books that interest them!

I also asked the Princeton Review to donate prizes for those who complete the challenge. They have generously donated swag bags! So, students have 4 years to read 100 books, and at the end they get a Princeton Review swag bag and a book from the library. But the real prize? A sense of accomplishment and better reading skills!!

So how does it work? High schoolers can sign up online, and they simply log each book they read. They may write book reviews, but this is completely optional. I also have bi-monthly book raffles for participants. Anyone who is signed up for the program can enter for the chance to win a book or book set. This month’s prize is a set of Sherlock Holmes books! I used the program Wandoo Reader for the online program. We use Wandoo Reader for our summer reading program at the Middletown Library. As we already have this service, we might as well utilize it all year round!

I launched the 100 Books Before College program on September 1st, 2017. I started publicizing it in July 2017, and I sent it to all of my contacts at our local high schools. We already have 133 teens signed up! What I also love is, the majority of the teens signed up have never participated in the Teen Summer Reading Program. I notice each year that the bulk of TSR participants are middle schoolers. I’m thrilled to see high school students participate in a reading program at the library for the first time.

I am so excited about this program. I can’t wait for the first person to finish the 100 book challenge! So far the 133 teens have read a total of 778 books! I’ll continue to publicize and try to involve as many teens as I can. Will you take the Challenge?

Stephanie Chadwick is the Teen Librarian for The Middletown Township Public Library.

NaNoWriMo Writing Programs on Programming HQ

Looking for some great inspiration for writing programs as you plan your November calendar? Check out YALSA’s programming HQ for some engaging ideas to help celebrate NaNoWriMo. For more information on National Novel Writing month visit the site here. This initiative is in its 19th year as the ‘largest writing event in the world’. Individuals, classrooms, teams, and more ‘come together’ across the globe virtually and through writing to start a 50,000 word novel. Skills including setting and achieving milestones, confidence building, and story writing are just some of the many outcomes of being a part of this super exciting project! 

Even if teens at your library aren’t into writing a novel, chances are one of these writing programs will interest them!

Here’s a few to get you started:

Description: An event focusing on creativity, writing, and zine making was centered around the teen graphic memoir Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year by Ramsey Beyer. This program was generously funded through a Teen Read Week grant supported by YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. 

Description: Have students write a poem from the perspective of a fiction character in a book.  This ties fiction, poetry, and writing together. Optional: Do a contest where teens guess what character from what book the poem is written and give away a prize for who gets the most poems right. 

Description: www:]thewebcomicproject. is a three-day event encompassing the concept, development, and creation of a webcomic. Each meeting will last 1-2 hours.

The YALSA Programming HQ would like to showcase even more teen writing programs! If you have one to submit, visit the site here: http://hq.yalsa.net, create an account to login and select the ‘post a program’ button. Sharing your program with others is a great way to grow the successes you’ve already experienced with others and help everyone get ready to celebrate a month of writing, no matter how teens choose to do it!

YALSA Snack Break: Reaching Outcomes

Each month YALSA posts a new Snack Break. These short videos are designed to give those working with and for teens a chance to learn something in a short amount of time.

In the latest YALSA Snack Break, Homer, Alaska, Youth Services Librarian, Claudia Haines talks about the value of working towards achieving impact with and for teens, even when an activity only is attended by just a few youth.

You can view the full YALSA Snack Break Playlist on YouTube

What is Youth Voice?

On October 19 at 2PM Eastern YALSA’s webinar will be on the topic of youth voice. Juan Rubio, author of the chapter “Working Together: Youth-Adult Partnerships to Enhance Youth Voice,” in YALSA’s book, Putting Teens First in Library Services: A Roadmap, will facilitate the session. This will be a highly participatory webinar that will include time for talking about challenges and opportunities that youth voice brings to teen library services. Participants will hear about real-life examples of youth voice in libraries and get to brainstorm ways to bring it to their own institutions.

Quotes from Rubio’s Putting Teens First chapter provide a good idea of what will be covered in the webinar:

Unless learning institutions such as libraries begin to incorporate youth voice
as an integral part of their offerings, youth, and especially minority youth, will continue consuming and producing media that frequently has nothing to do with how they conceive of their world and their community.

The best way to achieve outcomes that incorporate a strong youth voice component are library programs that take place through a series of workshops where teens and adults come together for several sessions. Meaningful social bonds are more likely to develop if young people are engaged in a series taking place over longer periods of time. When this occurs, teens develop affinity with the adult facilitator(s) and with the institution as a whole. Creating an opportunity to connect in these ways provides youth with an implicit incentive to be part of the program and to fully engage, which will enable a richer and more productive experience.

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Bringing the BFYA Teen Feedback Session to Kansas City

For any YALSA member, the Teen Feedback Session of Best Fiction for Young Adults is a highlight of attending ALA’s Annual Conference or Midwinter Meeting. It isn’t just getting the feedback on what titles teens liked from this year’s publishing cycle…but seeing teens up at the mic, sharing their thoughts with marketers, editors, agents and library staff. It’s empowering and reminds us why we do what we do. After experiencing the Midwinter 2017 BFYA Teen Feedback Session, we began to think about how we could get our teens to the conference at Annual.

Chicago and Denver are the closest ALA’s conference ever comes to Kansas City (although KC is a large city, we don’t have the conference facilities to host ALA)  That means our teens will never have the chance to experience and reap the benefits of  the BFYA Teen Feedback Session. They will never have the awesome power of addressing the committee and a room of library staff and publishers. And on a late spring day in Kansas City…we decided to change that.

Three YALSA members from two library systems – Amanda Barnhart from Kansas City Public Library (MO), and Peggy Hendershot and Kate McNair from Johnson County Library (KS) – came together to talk about the BFYA Teen Feedback Session. Our grand idea was to figure out a way to take teens to Chicago and get them on the mic…but soon learned that there are ample teens in Chicago waiting their turn and we wouldn’t steal their moment to speak up. We still wanted to empower our teens and give them the opportunity to speak out and be heard, so we went back to the drawing table and came up with an idea that would impact more teens than we could have fit into a van on a roadtrip to Chicago…

Talk Book To Me was born. In line with YALSA’s Futures Report goal of designing programs with teens’ passions and interests at the heart that are strongly connected to academic and career achievement, we identified four goals for the program. 1) Give teens the tools to analyze a book and express their thoughts in the form of a review. 2) Amplify their voices to BFYA committee members, editors, agents and library staff. 3) Unlock opportunities for teens to build a portfolio of accomplishments.

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TRW 2017: Unleashing Teen Stories through Community Engagement

Teen Read Week 2017 has begun! This year’s theme, Unleash Your Story, centers around the power of the story and how they can be used to communicate identity, discover the world, and share personal experiences. During this week, our goal as library staff is to encourage teens to tell their own stories and find the stories of others. Whether that’s hosting programs that center around creative writing, providing reader’s advisory, or hosting an author visit, this initiative can also give you the opportunity to encourage teen participation in the stories of their communities through activism and involvement.

Each and every one of your library’s teens has a story that affects their view of the world and their place in it. Right now, our political climate is rife with division and uncertainty and teens want to speak out about the issues and causes that matter to them, but many may not have the resources or skills to take action. As library staff, we have the privilege of serving as a connector between these teen voices and the communities that they belong to. Sandra Hughes-Hassell, President of YALSA, has laid out her presidential theme for the 2017-2018 year that will help empower library professionals aid teens in finding their voices and develop the competencies needed to become potential community builders and activists. This theme, Youth Activism through Community Engagement, is the perfect springboard for this year’s Teen Read Week theme because they both involve highlighting the voices and stories of our youth and sending these voices out into the world to make a difference.

The next step forward is determining how to become that connector between teen voices and their communities. Right from the start, we should strive to listen to our teens and observe them using the library space. Teens are the experts when it comes to the issues facing them and by interacting with them in your teen space or reference desk, you will quickly realize what they are concerned with or passionate about. Last year, our library hosted several Open Mic Nights for teens; at first, many simply covered their favorite songs or performed dance routines that they had seen in music videos. However, as the program progressed, they started to open up and began performing original poetry or improvising on the spot. Many of their performances discussed struggling with bullying, being victims of homophobia, and poverty. Not only was it incredibly moving, but it reminded me as community participant, that teens need a space to simply share their stories with their peers. The act of speaking and being heard was a powerful yet simple way to empower teens and reinforce positive peer interaction with others in their immediate community.

If teens are concerned with issues on a more national level, connect them to resources that can help them address it. In my library’s local community, we have a high number of Latino families that are uncertain about their futures what with the recent news about the Trump administration’s plan for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students and what that means for their families. Our goal has been to encourage not only Latino teens, but teens from all backgrounds, to become literate in the rights and struggles that others are facing. During Teen Read Week, reader’s advisory can be a powerful tool that connects teens to voices outside of their own experiences and perspectives. If you need some titles to keep handy, YALSA’s The Hub blog recently featured a great booklist that highlights teen activism. On a programming level, provide teens with resources that lead them to data about immigrant issues and help them start a social media campaign targeting to students in their schools and community to raise awareness. When teens have the facts to back up their voices, they can be empowered to take their stories out to their community at large and begin their journey towards becoming a powerful community builder!

For more information on how to host a successful Teen Read Week at your library, check out YALSA’s ning page for outreach resources, program planning, and more. If you need inspiration on how to encourage teens to unleash their stories this week, check out the Teen Programming HQ to see how other libraries are engaging in this year’s theme. Do you have a program or outreach initiative that you are excited about? Share it with YALSA members on the Teen Programming HQ site! Finally, let everyone know what you are doing for Teen Read Week on social media by using @yalsa and #TRW17.

Ready to Code Update

In June 2017, the American Library Association (ALA) announced a competitive grant program, sponsored by Google, that will fund a cohort of school and public libraries to develop resources to help get U.S. libraries “Ready To Code”. Libraries Ready to Code is an ongoing collaboration between ALA and Google to ensure expert library professionals are prepared to develop and deliver programming that promotes computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT) among youth, two skills that will be required for challenges and jobs of the future. The educational toolkit will consist of computer science resources that libraries find most useful for designing and implementing youth computer science programming. YALSA is administering the program on behalf of ALA. A committee comprised of nine members from AASL, ALSC, OITP and YALSA are currently working toward selecting 50 libraries, out of the 396 that have applied, to receive funding. The selected libraries will be announced in late October. If you want to promote CS and CT in your library you can access the available resources and library case studies.

Are You Ready for Teen Read Week?

Teen Read Week starts next week, but don’t panic! If you need some inspiration for programs, visit the 2017 TRW Pinterest board. There is even more information available at http://teenreadweek.ning.com/. If you haven’t downloaded the Teen Read Week Manual, it is still available.

Let everyone know what you are doing for Teen Read Week on social media by using @yalsa and #TRW17

Stay calm, and have a great 2017 Teen Read Week!

One Week, One Story @ Jaffrey Public Library

Thanks to a Teen Read Week Activity grant by YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, Jaffrey Public Library is collaborating with independent comic book store Escape Hatch to foster local teens’ writing and artistic talents for One Week, One Story as our primary Teen Read Week initiative. The purpose is to take the mystery out of the creative process and empower teens to cultivate their artistic skills with autonomy and confidence, providing the tools for them to continue to do so well beyond the end of the program. One Week, One Story involves participants attending a workshop to create their own comics for publication in a bound anthology.

The library will host graphic novelist Marek Bennett to teach a time-challenge comic workshop on October 9, which is also a school holiday. Marek has had a lot of success teaching time-challenge workshops, such as On your mark, get set, draw! during last year’s summer program, and can speak from experience about how time constraints can free artists from perfectionism. His nonfiction graphic novel The Civil War Diary of Freeman Colby is also on this year’s YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens list, so he is able to speak to the entire publication process from creation to marketing one’s work post-publication. After a 3-hour workshop (and pizza) with Marek to learn the basic process of creating a comic book, teens may opt to attend social write-ins in the evenings to polish their works and collaborate for feedback. A final reception at the end of the week gives teens the opportunity to share their work with the wider community and celebrate having completed their comics.

In preparation for the initiative, the library has purchased graphics tablets and editing software so that participants may learn to use the tools typically used by graphic novelists today. The library will also bolster its collection of graphic novels and books about creating graphic novels to provide further references for participants. Throughout Teen Read Week, participants may reserve a graphics tablet to digitize their stories. The library will host a workshop that covers the basics of how to use the hardware and software, or participants may set up a one-on-one tutorial with a librarian.

At the end of One Week, One Story, teens who choose to do so may submit their completed comics for publication. Escape Hatch recently launched an independent publishing venture and will publish the teens’ work in a bound anthology. All participants, regardless of whether they chose to submit their work, will receive a copy of the anthology. Escape Hatch will hold a book release party to launch the teens’ work and will make copies available to purchase.

By providing teens with the information and tools to create, as well putting the tangible results of their efforts in teens’ hands, we aim to strengthen literacy skills and inspire a genuine excitement in authorship. Furthermore, we hope that seeing their friends’ work published inspires teens who do not participate. We will harness the momentum generated by Teen Read Week to implement further programming and independent creative efforts using the tools and resources purchased for the program.

Julie Perrin is the director of the Jaffrey Public Library in Jaffrey, NH.  Andrea Connolly is the Youth Services Librarian.  Their library is a recipient of a Teen Read Week Activity grant from YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.