Back to (After)School – Desperately Seeking Teens for TAB

With school back in session, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and recruit new blood for our Teen Advisory Boards (TAB). If you already have a good group as it is, it’s still a great idea to recruit new members as their perspective would be incredibly valuable as every teen brings new and interesting ideas. Although some of us may be reluctant to have a large TAB, the sky is the limit when it comes to the size of TAB because the more passionate teens we get, the more spectacular results we will get!

As we recruit new members, it’s super important to get the incoming freshmen on TAB. Freshmen literally have a full four years before they graduate, which means they are more inclined to stick with TAB as they  have a bit more flexibility and availability compared to upper classman who are swamped with AP classes, extracurricular activities, and applying for college.  By taking an interest in lower classman, not only will they find a sense of purpose, they will feel like they a part of something that won’t require tryouts or anything intimidating. However, before we start recruiting like crazy, it’s a good idea to review our applications, guidelines, and procedures just so we can outline what we expect from TAB members.

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Back to (After) School: A Week of Passive Programs

You know how it goes: it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon and suddenly the library has become overtaken by teens! This after school rush is prime time for library staff to engage teens on a variety of levels, whether that be through interest-driven activities or by encouraging them to learn a new skill; the opportunities are limitless. Passive programming is a great way to do this without throwing teens right back into the structured learning environment that they just left. Teens need a chance to unwind, however, exploration and discovery doesn’t need to stop! When I first took up my position as library staff working with teens, I was overwhelmed by the potential for programming that I felt should be happening after school hours. I tried to push everything into this limited time frame and as I was feeling burned out, I realized my teens were too. I turned to passive programming to change things up and offer a different variety of learning opportunities for teens after school.

Use your space: At my library, Zion-Benton Public Library in the northern Chicago suburbs, we recently opened a teen space during the summer of 2015. This space has provided us with plenty of opportunities for cohesive, creative passive programming. During the first few months after the teen space’s debut, we asked teens to help us promote the new space by taking a creative selfie that answered the question, “how do you use the teen room?” We asked them to post it on social media and get the word about the opening. It was a lot of fun to see the different ways that teens enjoyed the space! Don’t have a dedicated teen room? Set out a monthly guessing jar for teens, or a weekly (or daily!) riddle out on your reference desk. You can still engage teens and provide some fun passive activities for your daily visitors.

 photo 12376848_1140853169281789_1585423341534969787_n_zpswwbl728q.jpg Get teens involved: I decided to use teens to promote various programs by encouraging them to take a selfie with a particular book or performing a specific activity. For example, every April we host an author festival for teens at our library. I will put the visiting author’s books out on a table a week before the festival with a sign encouraging teens to create word art that predicts what the books are about, based on the book’s cover. If they take a selfie with the book and their sign, post it on social media and tag the library, we give them some kind of small incentive. Teens come up with some pretty crazy ideas based on the book’s cover. We usually call this passive program, “Judge a Book by It’s Cover.” It’s always a hit. You could do the same kind of activity with teen book reviews as well.

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Back to (After) School: Community Service for Preteens

More and more these days, teens and preteens are expected to participate in community service for their school requirements. This is a great opportunity for teens and preteens to give back to their community and learn skills that are helpful in their lives, education, and career. For a library, it can often be difficult to accommodate the vast number of teens and preteens who wish to participate. It is also difficult dealing with different ages and abilities.

In my library system, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, we have a program for older teens, ages 14 – 18, that they apply to, are interviewed for, and dedicate their time for a semester. Because of the responsibilities that are given to these teens, it would be difficult to accommodate those that are younger. This is why our system developed the Community Service Project for Preteens program(s).

The Community Service Project for Preteens is a great way for youths, aged 11 – 14, to earn their community service requirements, but they are also given tasks that are more appropriate for their age. These preteens are not required to apply, as if for a job, they simply have to register to come and complete the given task. By having preteens register for the program, staff are able to control the number of participants, but it also teaches preteens the responsibility of signing-up on time. These programs often fill up fairly quickly, and we do not allow a waiting list due to the quantity of the materials, etc. By meeting the deadline for registration, preteens are gaining responsibility for themselves. 

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How to Bring Digital Literacy to Your Library

Over the last few years the library world has been buzzing about programming in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and coding, the new digital literacy. For many librarians like myself, who come from a humanities background and are used to planning programming around books and literature, this new digital literacy can seem daunting. Add in the fact that many celebrated STEM and coding programs are backed by large budgets, multi-system libraries, and lots of staff, and the idea of putting together a meaningful program at your own library can seem almost impossible! However, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need a big budget and oodles of staff to bring computer science to your community. You just need Girls Who Code.

GWC2Girls Who Code is a national nonprofit aimed at closing the gender gap in tech. As the name Girls Who Code indicates, women are still vastly underrepresented in the tech industry – just 18% of computer science graduates are women. Girls Who Code is working to change this with their FREE Clubs program that teaches middle and high school girls how to code after school during the academic year. The organization partners with volunteers like libraries to host and facilitate the Club curriculum – all you need to host your own Club is space, computers, internet and leadership. The program goes beyond just exposing young people to the hard skills of computer science, it also fosters soft skills like public speaking, networking, and collaboration. Additionally, the Girls Who Code network includes a supportive and active community of over 10,000 girls across the country.

 

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Back to (After) School: Programming with Food in an After-School Club

As many library staff members have noticed, the library is a great place for teens to go after school. Whether it be for studying, working on projects, or a safe place to wait for a parent, teens are visible in the library after school.  At my branch, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library at University City, we have a group of teens that come after taking early college classes at our local university down the road. Library staff have noticed that the teens come into the branch around two o’clock, and stay until their parents get off work; often, this is not until around five o’clock. That aspect got teen library staff thinking. What can we do to provide teens snacks, but in a fun, educational way? And thus, Cuisine Corner was born.

Cuisine Corner is a club that teen library staff developed to help high school students learn to cook simple things during after school hours. This program provides them with a fun snack, but also teaches them ways to cook for themselves. This is a great skill for high school students to take with them to college. Not only are library staff teaching teens a life skill, but, often, the teens are teaching each other things to cook. The club also coincides with The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action. The shared idea, for the envisioned future, is that teens are “learning a skill of personal, work, or academic interest.”

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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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