Last week, my library science department hosted Alison Macrina, the founder and director of The Library Freedom Project (LFP). From their website: 

The Library Freedom Project is a partnership among librarians, technologists, attorneys, and privacy advocates which aims to make real the promise of intellectual freedom in libraries. By teaching librarians about surveillance threats, privacy rights and responsibilities, and digital tools to stop surveillance, we hope to create a privacy-centric paradigm shift in libraries and the local communities they serve. 

Alison’s three-hour workshop went by so fast, probably because she is an engaging speaker and the things she talked about were interesting. There is so much to know and learn about digital privacy…especially as librarians. We are in a critical position to help spread this information to the communities we serve. Alison herself is a librarian/has a librarian background so she definitely sees our potential in helping to protect intellectual freedom in these spaces. She is so about librarians, the LFP even has a toolkit all for us!

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While trying to get an overview of library services offered in my area, I spoke with a high school librarian who brought up an idea that seemed revolutionary to me. The librarian had previously been a special education teacher, so she purposely made her library services welcoming to this population.

Note: This particular high school still has a "Special Education" program. Most schools are inclusive, so students attend classes together, and those who have learning disabilities or special needs may have a tutor for certain subjects, or attend other learning activities to get extra help.

Because of her background, the librarian reached out to the current English teachers to form a book club for students with disabilities. She wanted to hold a weekly book club in the library during English class. Holding programs during school hours can be difficult, because there is already so much to do during a school day. But it increases participation, since many students ride the bus or have other after-school obligations, and often can’t stay late.

For the book club, students chose a book from three the librarian suggested—no required school reading, but instead books that were of an appropriate age level, deemed “fun” reads. She read aloud one chapter a week, and they were responsible for reading the next two chapters on their own, to discuss at the beginning of the next week’s meeting.

The librarian used the rest of the period to relate the book to skills that would help the students in English class. Sometimes they would have informal quizzes to help with reading comprehension. Students also learned how to pick a thesis and write a short critical essay, which the teacher accepted at the end of the semester for bonus points.

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What insights can the busy YALSA member glean from the new volume in The Handbook of Research in Middle Level Education: Research on Teaching and Learning with the Literacies of Young Adolescents (Malu & Schaefer, 2015)? This research-based handbook is the focus of this blog, which is the 3rd installment in a series of blogs being published by members of YALSA’s Research committee. I used two basic criteria to decide which ideas from this handbook were worthy of sharing with the YALSA community. First, the featured concept had to have some parallel relationship and/or applicability within Library and Information Science research and practice. Second, the concept has, in my opinion, not been fully integrated into in LIS research and therefore warrants more attention by YALSA scholars and practitioners. My aim is to synthesize the common threads in literacy research across the disciplines of Education and Library and Information Science in hopes that either YS practitioners or scholars alike might be interested in furthering their knowledge of this concept or incorporating it into their repertoire of practices.

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YALSA wants to know what you’re doing for and with the teens in your community around the topics of: 1) teaching tolerance, 2) building cultural competence, 3) facilitating dialogues about race, equity and inclusion; and 4) welcoming and serving immigrant teens. If you’ve developed services, programs, resources or partnerships to facilitate any of these activities, and are willing to share your information with the library community, please let us know by filling out this brief form by no later than Dec. 1st. We’ll compile and share out the examples we receive so that other libraries can benefit from your great work!

A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

International Games Day (IGD) took place on Saturday, November 21 as libraries worldwide hosted an array of gaming events. Now in its eighth year, IGD is guided by the American Library Association (ALA) in collaboration with Nordic Game Day and the Australian Library and Information Association. Participation is free, and libraries can request game donations from sponsors or opt to join online international games such as this year's Minecraft Hunger Games tournament and the telephone-style game, Global Gossip.

In addition to highlighting another way that libraries offer more than books, IGD provides an opportunity for teens to participate in an intergenerational program that is social, educational, skill-building, and fun! Participating libraries offered a variety of activities from tabletop games to life-size versions of Twister, checkers, and Scrabble. Some libraries also provided an opportunity for teens to try their hand at new technology  through video games, virtual reality gaming, Lego Mindstorm activities, augmented reality sandboxes, and iPad games. The Future of Libraries for and with Teens report suggests that libraries give teens the chance to experience technology tools and devices in an informal setting, and IGD can provide such occasion.

Did your library participate in International Games Day? Have you hosted teen gaming events at your library? Share with us in the comments section below!

Please visit the International Games Day website for more information about this worldwide event.

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I tell myself all the time that the success of a teen program is more than “just” attendance. I know I’m not alone in that. A YALSA committee has even created a living document – Teen Programming Guidelines – that includes a section on evaluation and measurement. But still, it doesn’t take the sting out of a near-empty room, or eliminate the dread of explaining to your supervisor that your teen programming budget should remain static (dare we say increased?), regardless of attendance stats, in the continuing saga of library budget freezes and cuts.

Many colleagues have lamented the lack of attendance at a program for which they had such high hopes – the teens ASKED for it, or HELPED plan it, or it DREW double-digit attendance at another library, or was ALL OVER the listservs to which we subscribe. Sure, we tell ourselves and coworkers that “at least the kids that came had a good time,” but in that same moment we’re also thinking “what did I do wrong?” or the more self-defeating “maybe I should just be a reference librarian, they don’t have to deal with this kind of rejection” (apologies to my reference/adult services friends & colleagues – you know I love you and the work you do!).

If you take only one thing from this post, it must be this: we’re all programming rock stars. I believe it, and occasionally have to say it out loud to convince myself, but it’s true. If you’ve been in teen services for more than three years, you know the unspoken secret of our demographic – it changes, seemingly overnight! Sometimes, sooner than a pop star’s shimmer fades. Older teens graduate or are lost to the extracurriculars they need for their college apps; you might see them for volunteer hours, always in demand but in short supply. And yesterday’s tweens are today’s teens. Add in the constant evolution of technology and pop culture, especially the advent of YouTube celebs (seriously, there’s a whole con devoted to them!), and you’ve got the jist of the revolving stage upon which we play. A program you did last year for mostly seventh & eighth graders just won’t fly for the same group this year, but that gaming lock-in you did five years ago with the high-schoolers, tweaked ever so slightly, will. We’re like Madonna – continually reinventing our programs. Or maybe I should say Beyonce? Yeah, make it Beyonce. Madonna makes me sound old.

We need to break this cycle of self-doubt and shed light on the “real” problem: we don’t talk about our “flops” at all, and we really should! Our ideas are as fabulous as we are, but just might not be right for our current crop of teens. Comment here to share your story. Let’s create a blooper reel and share those “big” ideas that never really worked with our kids. They might work for someone else, or they might not. It never hurts to share. Also, please help us make Teen Read Week materials and resources better for you by completing the YALSA survey
Carolyn Aversano is the Teen Services Librarian at The Ocean County (NJ) Library, Jackson Branch.

A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

The adult coloring book craze is a trend that continues to take the library world by storm, with libraries around the country organizing coloring book clubs. Containing far more detail than children's coloring books and used for stress relief and relaxation, these books make for fun and easy programming with both teens and adults. The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report discusses the importance of developing individual relationships between library staff and teens in the community. Hosting a teen coloring event may be successful both in terms of bringing new faces into the library and getting those that might be more shy to open up during a quiet and relaxed activity.

Have you held a coloring program at your library? Any favorite books or online sites with printable pages that you'd recommend? Markers, pencils, or pens? Share with us in the comments section below!

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Last month, I started an anime club at my branch library because anime is still, and always will be, popular. In fact, we had six teens show up to the very first meeting and, needless to say, they are super excited to be a part of this program. During our first meeting, I asked the teens what they want to see in anime club and the first thing they asked me was: “Can we do more than just watch anime? I literally screamed “YES!” because I have every intention of diversifying this program and I will definitely need the teens’ help in making this club thrive.

During our discussion about the club, the teens asked for a variety of programs that would include a cosplay event, a history of manga presentation, a Japanese food program, an anime inspired craft workshop, and other programs that celebrate the Japanese culture. Not only are these ingenious ideas, these will transform an already popular program into something else even more awesome. By taking a different approach to anime club, and asking teens what they want from a program, we, as teen services librarians, are demonstrating what it is to be innovative. According to the Core Professional Values for the Teen Services Profession, innovation “approaches projects and challenges with a creative, innovative mindset. 1” By changing the concept of anime club (aka. sitting around and watching anime), we are adding elements that have the potential to not only bring in more teens, but help us re-evaluate our approach to programming in general. For example, when starting a new service or program, it is absolutely essential to consult our teens; by going straight to the source, we establish the outcomes we want to reach, which will shape how we plan and implement a successful program. Once we get a consensus of what teens want from programs and services, we need to figure out the best ways to get teens into the library, which is why we need to get innovative with our outreach.

Although many of us use social media and other marketing methods, the one method that we can always rely on is reaching out to our community. Whether it’s a concert venue, a teen center, a school event, or even a college fair, we need to meet teens face-to-face and tell them what services are available. If we don’t have the means, or the opportunities to go out into the community, we can easily apply that idea to every teen that walks into our library. In other words, we need to be vigilant in making sure that every teen is welcome and that we are available to serve them to the best of our ability. Furthermore, we need to do everything in our power to establish some sort of contact with them, which can easily start with “Hi! I am the Teen Services Librarian. What’s your name?” By initiating, and creating an ongoing dialogue with teens, they will realize that there are actual adults who are dedicated to serving them, which is not only great for us, but incredibly beneficial for those who need a safe environment to be who they are and for those who feel the need to be a part of something. With this new anime club, my hope is to not only involve the teens in the planning process, but give them the chance to be involved in the implementation. Whether it’s passing out flyers, using their massive social network to promote the program, or setting up the program, teens will experience all the necessary steps to finish what they started. Anything is possible with teens so let’s give them the chance to show the community their passion and dedication to providing something unique and fun!

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A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

The week of Sunday, October 18 through Saturday, October 24 marked YALSA's 2015 Teen Read Week. With a "Get Away @ your library" theme, libraries were encouraged to showcase resources and activities to the teen community and support reading for fun. This year's theme was selected to "help teens escape from the day to day grind of school, homework, family responsibilities, part time jobs and so on by picking up something to read." Started in 1998, Teen Read Week is held every October to encourage teen reading and library use.

From author visits and in-house or social media contests to book giveaways and food, libraries spotlighted a number of creative ways to bring teens into the library. Maintaining connections with current teen library users and reaching out to new, potential users through both physical and digital library channels is important in light of comparisons provided in The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report. Whereas youth participation in libraries was previously a formal library-driven activity to gain feedback on collections or space, the envisioned future of youth participation is much more flexible and informal, with all teens in both the physical and digital library space receiving an opportunity to develop, implement, and evaluate programs and services. Encouraging teens to engage in the library events such as Teen Read Week may be the perfect way to gain insight from those hard to reach teens!

Did you celebrate Teen Read Week at your library? We want to hear from you! Share with us in the comments section below.

For more information on Teen Read Week, please visit the Teen Read Week website.

More information on the envisioned future of youth participation in libraries, please see The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report.

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In 2000, the world’s leaders joined together to establish the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. They selected 8 issues that impacted the world, and set a deadline of 2015 to address. In 15 years humanity joined together to reach most of the goals.

Now they have set new goals  for us to reach by 2030. They may seem huge, but humanity can be amazing! Everyone will need to reach beyond themselves to help reach these goals, but as providers of service to young adults we can help inspire and encourage everyone to think about these issues that impact the whole world.

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