The newest issue of YALSA’s Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults (JRLYA) is now published and freely available online at: It includes two award-winning papers from YALSA’s Midwinter Paper Presentation series and two additional research papers describing recent research related to teens and library services.

Mega Subramaniam’s paper “Designing the Library of the Future for and with Teens: Librarians as the ‘Connector’ in Connected Learning” won the 2015 YALSA Midwinter Paper Presentation award. In her paper, Prof. Subramaniam describes the basic concepts of connected learning and discusses five cooperative inquiry techniques that librarians can adapt for use in working with teens to design library programs and services. Each technique creates design partnerships between adults and teens, building on the concept of connect learning and enabling teens to take active roles in their own learning and library programming. The five design techniques include: “bags of stuff,”  “mission to Mars,” “layered elaboration,” “big paper,” and “sticky noting.”

Kyungwon Koh and June Abbas received the 2016 YALSA Midwinter Paper Presentation award for their paper entitled: “Competencies Needed to Provide Teen Library Services of the Future: A Survey of Professionals in Learning Labs and Makerspaces.” They discuss their survey of information professionals who manage makerspaces and other learning spaces in libraries and museums. The survey results reveal common job responsibilities and the major skills and knowledge needed for effective management of these spaces. The survey findings have much to teach us as the field of teen librarianship moves toward continued broadening of the role of libraries as informal education institutions.

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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:

YALS – Libraries and Learning: A Resource Guide for “Make, Do, Share”

cover of spring yalsYou should have already or will soon be receiving your Spring 2016 edition of YALS. The topic of the issue is Libraries and Learning. All the articles are excellent but the one that stood out to me was the featured interview with Shannon Peterson, the Youth Services Manager for the Kitsap (WA) Regional Library (KRL). The library received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for their program Make, Do, Share: Sustainable STEM Leadership in a Box.

One of the great things about this interview is that not only did we learn the context of this project (it began with a project called BiblioTEC, sponsored through the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation) but also heard about how Shannon and her staff frame the work they are doing. Many times in public libraries, we are so focused on helping our community, we don’t think about the reasoning behind our behaviors. These behaviors and the programming we create can be influenced by the theory we read and the theory we believe grounds our work as librarians. Shannon’s interview was full of all the things she and KRL was thinking of as they created the Make, Do, Share programming.
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Write for YALSA!

Have you considered writing for YALSAblog or the Young Adult Library Services (YALS) journal but are unsure what topic to write about? The YALSA Publications Advisory Board conducted a survey of blog posts and YALS articles from the past few years. Our results show that some topics get much more coverage than others, creating a need for more articles on certain topics and services. Here is a brief summary of our findings and how you can help fill these holes by submitting to the blog or YALS.

Please note that the purpose of the survey was to identify articles and posts that could be compiled into topic-based publications, so we didn’t include articles that were out of date, that were dependent on a theme such as Teen Tech Week, or were otherwise unsuited for a compilation. All results were finalized November 2015 for the YALS survey and March 2016 for the blog survey.

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Teen Research Trending: Mapping “boring” places—Socio-Spatial Research on Libraries

Ee, L. C. (2015). Mapping library spaces: Measuring the effectiveness of school libraries using a sociospatial approach. School Librarian, 63(2), 78-80.

As a PhD student writing a dissertation on geography in YA literature, I am a self-professed map lover. As a member of YALSA’s Research Committee, I’ve found myself increasingly intrigued with the physical and virtual mapping of our libraries and teen spaces. Loh Chin Ee’s 2015 article in School Librarian proposes a socio-spatial approach for librarians and school administrators to better understand how their libraries are being used. From the initial mapping of the physical space, allowing for recognition of resources and spatial relations, to the employment of ethnographic methods (observation, interviewing, and fieldnotes, in this particular study), Ee remarks on an underutilized school library space opening room for future research.

Focusing her study on a secondary school in Singapore, Ee sought to answer why students were under-utilizing the school’s library.  A preliminary report found that 40.9% of the school’s 1,113 students visited the library (and 21.8% visited at least once a week) and Ee remarked that the library felt empty during most of her visits. Ee illustrated a birds-eye view of the library and took pictures of particular spaces within the library, noting how each space was used. Ee recorded the usage of the library through various times of the day (morning, recess, afternoon), and noted that the space was also used as a space for meetings, hosting foreign visitors, and after school detention. Additionally, she interviewed students on their perceptions of the library, as space can motivate desire and action (Moje, Overby, Tysvaer, & Morris, 2008). Students frequently called the library “boring” and the library was seen as both a “dead space” (with little student engagement) and a “negative space” (as associated with detention) (p. 80).

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New issue of JRLYA

Volume 7, Issue 1, of YALSA’s Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults (JRLYA) is now available online at  This newest issue features research papers relating to teens, libraries, and LGBT issues.

In the first paper, “‘They Kind of Rely on the Library’: School Librarians Serving LGBT Students,” author Shannon Oltmann examined school librarians’ perspectives on collecting LGBT materials to show that school librarians generally support collecting them and positioning their libraries as safe, supportive spaces.

With his paper “Sex in the Stacks: Teenager Sex Education Information Seeking Behavior and Barriers to the Use of Library Resources,” Kyle Marshall focused on understanding the information sources teens use to gather sex education information, including curricular materials, interpersonal sources, digital media, and print sources. The teens in his study relied on a wide variety of resources for their sex education information needs, yet none relied on libraries when looking for sex education information.

Moving to a focus on library collections, Elizabeth Chapman and Briony Birdi analyzed 13 British public library collections to look for LGBTQ teen fiction holdings. As the title of their paper, “‘It’s Woefully Inadequate’: Collections of LGBTQ Fiction for Teens in English Public Library Services” suggests, they found generally limited holdings of LGBTQ fiction materials, regardless of library size or budget.

Lastly, in their paper “The Curriculum Materials Library as a Hub of Resources, Literacy Practices, and Collaboration: Expanding the Role of the Library to Support Foster Youth,” Yonty Friesem, Kelsey Greene, and Mona Niedbala show that organizational vision and relationship; structure, responsibilities, and communication; authority and accountability; and resources and rewards are all crucial to the creation and maintenance of successful ongoing collaborations between libraries and other organizations that serve teens.

JRLYA is YALSA’s open-access, peer-reviewed research journal. It aims to enhance the development of theory, research, and practice to support teen library services. JRLYA presents original research concerning: 1) the informational and developmental needs of teens; 2) the management, implementation, and evaluation of young adult library services; and 3) other critical issues relevant to librarians who work with teens. If you’re interested in publishing your research in JRLYA, see the writer’s guidelines at or send queries to editor Denise Agosto at

Submitted by: Denise E. Agosto, editor, JRLYA


Teen Research Trending: Sparks, Caring Relationships, and Developmental Outcomes for Youth

Ben-Eliyahu, A. & Rhodes J.E. (2014) “The Interest-Driven Pursuits of 15 Year Olds: “Sparks” and Their Association With Caring Relationships and Developmental Outcomes.” Applied Developmental Science, 18, 2 p. 76-89. DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.894414

As a practicing teen librarian, I am interested in research that helps me with my interactions with teens and the ability to convey the importance of teen librarians to my community. This research study examines the characteristics of teens’ deep interests and the role that caring relationships have in supporting the development of those interests. Ben-Eliyahu and Rhodes performed an exploratory study to examine how emerging deep interests related to a variety of characteristics including academic outcomes, demographics, social and emotional.

They defined a deep interest as a “spark” using previous definition that Benson and Scales used which was a “passion for a self-identified interest, skill or capacity that metaphorically lights a fire in the adolescent’s’ life, providing energy, joy, purpose and direction.” (p.76) They recruited participants through a Harris Poll Online and included only fifteen year-olds who resided in the United States. The participants received reward points in a rewards program and offered to enter into a sweepstakes. The surveys were self-administered and included 1,860 participants.

The researchers used a latent class profile analysis to determine groups of the participants based on the seven components of sparks such as joy and energy, lose track of time, purpose and focus, skills for career, getting along with others, improve surroundings, and encourage learning. These broke the participants into three groups: no spark, low spark, moderate spark or high spark.

Ben-Eliyahu et. al. had several interesting conclusions. The youth who identified with a wide range of sparks and high intensity had positive associations with supportive relationships. These relationships had positive outcomes. They stated that youth in the Low Spark group reported that their spark was in computers/electronics than the higher Spark groups and they spent more time online. They also reported that the Low Spark group spent more time pursuing interests related to studying, reading or learning. They suggested that these were more solitary activities. The High Spark group, on the other hand, reported interests such as sports, dance, or serving others which were more social.  The researchers suggested that these social activities lead to a rich context for developing peer and intergenerational relationships. These activities also contributed to greater academic success and increase their energy levels and readiness to learn.

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Makerspaces: The Utopian Learning Environment for Teens

Sheridan, K.M., Halverson, E.R., Litts, B., Brahms, L., Jacobs-Priebe, L. & Owns, T. (2014).  “Learning in the making: A Comparative study of three Makerspaces.”  Harvard Educational Review, 84, 4, p. 505-531.

A couple months back, I attended the IMLS Focus Convening on Learning in Libraries in Kansas City. While the actions of ideating, making, prototyping, and tinkering were clearly linked to learning, one of the emerging themes throughout the convening was the need to thematically classify the diversity of the intellectual activities that emerge within these growing learning environments in libraries. Sheridan and her colleagues extrapolate on the diversity of intellectual activities that take place in makerspaces (one type of learning environment hosted by many libraries) by conducting comparative case studies of three makerspaces: Sector67 in Wisconsin, Madison; Mount Elliott Makerspace in Detroit, Michigan; and Makeshop at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

Using purposeful sampling, Sheridan and her colleagues selected these three salient makerspace sites because they each have specific roles that they play in their communities. Sector67 was created by adult makers for other promising adult makers. The Mount Elliott makerspace was created to serve a community with limited resources, and Makeshop is a museum-based space that is open to all youth and families who visit the museum. The Mount Elliott and Makeshop makerspaces are most likely the closest to the maker environments found in libraries – sharing fairly similar purposes, target participants, media, disciplines, duration of projects, learning arrangements, and learning foci. Both these environments also support the fluid, sporadic, and deregulated “making” that takes places in teen makerspaces that many YALSA librarians host.

In their research, Sheridan and her colleagues found three major unifying themes in these three makerspaces that appear to be distinctive. First, these makerspaces bring together disciplines that are traditionally separate (i.e. computing happens in the same space as welding and sewing happens together with electronics), which is quintessential of an authentic STEAM learning environment.  Disciplinary boundaries are broken down, seamlessly facilitating the creation of novel work using various tools, materials, and practices. “This blending of traditional and digital skills, arts and engineering creates a learning environment in which there are multiple entry points to participation and leads to innovative combinations, juxtapositions, and uses of disciplinary knowledge and skill…” (Sheridan et al., 2014, 526-527).  Secondly, these makerspaces are a hybrid of formal learning practices (such as demonstrations, workshops, etc.) and informal learning practices (such as thinking, doing, and valuing), allowing makers to select which learning arrangements fit their style, the duration of time to spend on tasks, and pursuing ideas that can be impromptu or meticulously-planned. Lastly, each of these spaces value the processes involved in making (i.e. tinkering, playing, prototyping, etc.) and do not stress having end products that must work. These environments embrace failures, and use these failures as a springboard for the generation of the next set of ideas. The observations that Sheridan and her colleagues conducted found that makers sometimes initiate projects that do not come to fruition. However, as is often the case, remarkable and useful artifacts emerge in these making environments.

This research helps to illuminate the wide range of making practices and the types of learning that it supports. Makerspaces are community-driven and support connected learning practices, intergenerational learning, and participatory culture – making it a utopian learning environment for teens. As teen librarians initiate or expand their makerspaces to serve the needs of teens and their communities, it is essential that teen librarians find avenues to further develop or enrich these themes in their makerspaces.

Mega Subramaniam is an associate professor at the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland where she researches the diverse role that libraries can play in STEM and digital literacy learning among underserved young adults.


Impact on teen friendships in an age of technology

It’s hard to go through a day without seeing a teen using some piece of technology. Sometimes it seems like they are glued to their phones (similar to their adult counterparts), even when they are walking. Or you’ll see many of them together, snapping and Instagraming their afternoon at the local coffeeshop.

How does all this technology impact teen friendships? As a teenager, friendships are crucial. Your friends become your sounding board, provide advice and support you in times of need, and become a pseudo family as you head towards adulthood. The Pew Research Center was curious about this and in 2014-2015 conducted a nation-wide survey of teens aged 13-17. The report, Teens, Technology, and Friendships, was published in August 2015 and I think it sheds some light on teens’ communication style.

From the report, I pulled three main ideas. The report is jammed packed with interesting statistics and worth a look through. But for a condensed version…

Making friends online

According to the teens surveyed, 57% reported that they had made a friend online at some point. However, it was less likely that these online friends turned into people teens met in person (only 20%). When you break up the 57% of teens who have made at least one friend online, it was more likely these teens were older (15-17 years old).

Boys were more likely to have made online friends through video games (the networked component that allows you to play with other people online playing the same game) while girls were more likely to make friends through social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram).

The so what: As I was reading this section of the report, I thought back to growing up and writing pen pal letters to students either in the United States or across the world. Could something like this be replicated through video games or social media platforms by the library? Perhaps if a library has a video game system for teens to use, they could pair up with another library who has the same video game so their teens could play against and with each other? Or the teens could “take over” a social media platform that the library uses to communicate with teens and talk to another teen department at another library?

Keeping in touch with friends

Regardless if the friend was made online or is an in-person friend, texting is the popular means to communicate with them. Teens reported that 49% used texting as their main form of communication with friends. Other forms of communication included instant messaging, social media platforms (and direct messaging), email, video chat, phone calls, video games, and other messaging apps (Kik or WhatsApp). Many teens said that the medium to communicate was based on the type of friendship they had with the other person. Only the closest friends would be eligible for a phone call, while newer friends were easier to text or talk to in another messaging app. It was interesting that 85% of teens said they had called their friends at some point (analog is not dead!).

The so what: Teens have created a system for building trust in friendships seen through how they communicate with each other. They have rules for how to communicate with each other and these look different than how we might be use to communicating with friends. By seeing that this sample of teens is more likely to use written word to communicate can better help us understand the teens we serve (and what sort of programs could happen with this framework in mind).

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