Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Fine free.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the Los Angeles Public Library system (LAPL) have created a system-wide collaborative effort similar to those discussed in the now completed Public Library & School Library Collaboration Toolkit (.pdf). The toolkit was published earlier this month by the AASL/ALSC/YALSA School and Public Library Cooperation Committee.  There are three System-wide Initiatives found in other parts of the nation described in the toolkit, but Los Angeles has cooperated in a way that is different, yet (you can view the other System-wide Initiatives and many other programs that will fit any public or school district on ALSC’s web site). 

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Connect & Collaborate to Create Teen Learning Experiences

The fourth competency area in YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff is Learning Experiences. With all the other responsibilities of our library jobs, it’s a tall order to “use a broad collection of effective teaching strategies, tools, and accommodations to meet individual teen needs, build on cultural strengths, address learning differences, and enhance learning.” So how does a librarian find new ways to make learning fun and relevant for teens? Recently, I spoke with Cathy Castelli, school library media specialist at Atlantic Technical College and High School (ATC) in Coconut Creek, Florida, about strategies that she uses to continually excite and engage her students in meaningful learning experiences

As any fan of Saturday Night Live can tell you, a “Celebrity Guest Host” adds new excitement to a show’s routine. And since Ms. Castelli is an aspiring YA novelist, she has been able to connect and collaborate with several local YA authors, who make “guest appearances” at the school to teach creative writing workshops. Students listen with rapt attention, write and share enthusiastically when authors such as Stacey Ramey (The Sister Pact, The Secrets We Bury), Gabby Triana (Summer of Yesterday, Wake the Hollow), Steven Dos Santos (The Culling trilogy), and Melody Maysonet (A Work of Art) speak about their career paths, discuss their novels, and inspire creativity with stimulating writing exercises. Teens are learning how to express themselves while discovering the joys of reading and writing.
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Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Reach Across the Aisle for Partnerships that Transform Youth Services

Through school-public library collaboration, librarians support one another in expanding and nurturing their communities’ literacy ecosystems. Patricia Jimenez is the school librarian at Sunnyslope High School (SHS) in the Glendale (Arizona) Union High School District. At the time of their collaborative work, Emily Howard was the young adult librarian at the Cholla Branch of the Phoenix Public Library (PPL); she is now the assistant branch manager at Desert Sage. Together, Patricia and Emily developed a series of programs based on their determination to take literacy “where teens are.”

School librarian Patricia and public librarian Emily’s partnership began when Emily reached out about visiting the Sunnyslope campus to discuss what the Desert Sage Branch had to offer SHS students. Patricia was thrilled because she had been meaning to do exactly the same thing.

After their initial meeting, Patricia arranged for Emily and a colleague to visit SHS’s library during lunch periods, helping students sign up for PPL library cards when they are most frequently in and out of the media center. The visits offered a low-key way for the collaborators to get to know one another better. They chatted during the set-up, the time between lunches, and during the tear-down as well.

The collaborators learned they had a great deal in common. Patricia showed Emily some typical SHS library programming, sparking the idea of having Patricia bring that programming to the Cholla Branch. A month later, Patricia boxed up her FebROARary activities and headed to Emily’s PPL branch. Participants in the joint program made dinosaur buttons, colored dinosaur bookmarks, and applied dinosaur tattoos. While the PPL teens were not as excited to participate as SHS students usually are, parents with their younger children stopped in and got involved. Patricia was able to work with a different audience, which was truly fun for her.

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MAKING Time for Maker Programming!

“I love all the maker programming ideas, but I just don’t have the time in the my day to make it work.” This phrase has been uttered by so many library staff, all of whom wear way too many hats in their daily jobs. So, instead of sharing out ideas for developing programming, today we’re going to focus on different ways to implement maker programming into our schedule.

If you are the type of library worker who is looking for new maker ideas, don’t forget to check out YALSA’s maker resources.

Students creating “galaxy pinwheels”

Before we begin…

Remember that library staff develop programming based on their community needs. Maker programming may be a need in your community, but there may be another organization filling that need. There also may be library staff who have embedded STEM programming in their library programs, but they may not be labelling it as STEM (children’s librarians are amazing at doing this during craft time at story hour). Knowing what your community needs will help you work it in the right way.

Option 1: Embed it in a program/lesson you already do.

Starting a new program can be a challenge. The best way to start a maker program is to start small. For some stakeholders, hearing an idea about a maker program doesn’t mean anything, but seeing a small maker program can make stakeholders understand the library’s goals.

Work with a group that you meet with already, such as a TAB group, book club (ex: challenge them to make a popsicle stick harmonica when discussing Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Echo), story hour, study halls). Throw in a quick challenge that they will like and make them come back for more (My favorite is the duck call challenge).

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I Love My Librarian Award Spotlight: Sheikla Blount

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Sheikla Blount, library media specialist at Columbiana Middle School in Columbiana, Alabama. Ms. Blount was recently named one of the recipients of the I Love My Librarian Award.  The award is a collaborative program of Carnegie Corporation of New York, the New York Public Library, The New York Times and the American Library Association.  A graduate of Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama, Sheikla clearly has a passion for libraries and children. She’s involved in the middle school, even outside the library, and the sponsor for the Junior United Nations Assembly and yearbook club. Continue reading

How Student Engagement is Important for Libraries

A recent survey conducted by YouthTruth discusses whether or not students feel engaged in their school studies. Understanding student engagement is important for educators and librarians because it can give great insight into challenges affecting learning both inside and outside of the classroom. YouthTruth analyzed survey responses from over 230,000 students in grades three through twelve. The information was gathered through YouthTruth’s anonymous online climate and culture survey across 36 states. View the entire report here.

The survey targeted four specific statements, which followed with percentages of their findings. The first was that, “across all grade levels, the majority of students feel engaged.” The results to this statement showed 78 percent of elementary school students, 59 percent of middle school students and 60 percent of high school students respectively felt engaged in school work. It is interesting to see that number drop from the time a student left elementary school and finally made it to high school. However, it isn’t surprising. In elementary school students are constantly praised for the work they do and are often times engaged in more “fun programs” than those who entered the older grades.

This isn’t to say that middle schools and high schools aren’t doing their job of praising students or that they are not having fun. They are – I see it on a daily basis on the social media websites and social media accounts that the schools and teachers at middle and high school levels use. A lot happens in middle school and high school: Life changes occur, college prep begins and suddenly the fun of school is hidden beneath the requirements needed to leave and enter the real world. Students may not feel engaged, not because their teachers aren’t showing how important they are but because so much is happening that education gets lost in the shuffle.

According to the survey, “most students take pride in their school work.” This result shows 72 percent of middle school students taking pride and 68 percent of high school students. The survey broke it down even further to state that females are slightly more likely to take pride in school work than males or students who identify as other than male or female.

The last two survey findings were interesting to me, as they speak a lot to an area I feel public libraries can step in and help fill the gap.

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Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Lessons Learned from a Waldorf School Partnership

In summer 2017, my branch library was invited to host seven on-site storytimes for The Denver Waldorf School (DWS), a local, private school whose philosophy aligns with the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. The agreement was for my library to provide a storytime and craft/art project for approximately 25 children (ages 3-6) once per week from June through August. This was our first opportunity to partner with the school, and the more I learned about the cornerstones of Waldorf education, the more inspired I became to apply the principles to our regular storytimes and school-aged programming. Additionally, the partnership motivated me to reevaluate the ways public library staff teach technology to middle grade and high school students, and has prompted me to incorporate more elements of Waldorf education into library programming.

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Year-End Activities for Library Staff

Recently there was a discussion on the listserv for the Association of Rural and Small Libraries about what activities are good to undertake at the end of the year.  It seemed like a good topic for the YALSAblog, too, so I’ve adapted my answers to make them more focused on serving youth:

Reflecting on this year

  • Send thank you notes to volunteers, supporters, and anyone who gave a helping hand or moral support.
  • Do a post-mortem of your overall efforts to serve teens in 2017. What was successful? What failed and why?  What will you do differently next year?  For more about taking the time to reflect, read this article, Time to Reflect: why does it matter in the workplace?
  • Conduct a review library policies and procedures to see if they need updating. Some useful information is on the ALA site and YALSA’s wiki.
  • Conduct a review the teen pages on your school or library’s web site and social media sites to see what needs updating or improving. Check out ASCLA’s web accessibility resources.  Review content and style for inclusive language, professional content versus personal beliefs, and potential sexist, discriminatory, or similarly insensitive language or images.  Ensure graphics do not show people in stereotypical roles.

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Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Creating a Winning Team

During my first years as a school librarian, I worked at a junior high with a group of dynamite classroom teachers.  “Collaboration” was a word that we used in discussions and also put into practice. One English teacher and I had the idea of working more closely with the public library and coordinating a summer reading program with our students.  Although we did not receive the funding we requested, we pursued the partnership. Over the next five years, we successfully collaborated with the public library on a variety of projects.

We soon realized the necessity of developing a “winning team” to establish our collaborative relationship with the public library, involving stakeholders from both institutions. As we progressed we also realized the importance of celebrating our successes.

A winning collaborative team typically includes a school librarian and children’s or youth services librarian from the public library. Once everyone agrees to work together, all stakeholders should meet to discuss ways the two organizations could work together. Many creative ideas and great discussions develop over a cup of coffee.

Establishing a winning team through partnerships with other organizations is not always an inherent skill. Students in MLS and pre-service library education programs should be exposed to this concept during their studies. The students need to experience collaboration.

Last summer, Emporia State University students enrolled in a Resources and Services for Early Learners class developed collaborative program plans to be implemented at both school and public libraries. One of the plan’s first steps was to identify other organizations as collaborative partners, and other information professionals who could become part of a winning team. The two ideas listed below illustrate possible projects that involve the public librarian and the school librarian.

–Have a Summer Drive-in program where children create their own cars with cardboard to “drive” to the events.  This collaboration was with the school, Public Library Summer Reading program and the local drive-in.  (Ashely Green)

–The Arbor Day Extravaganza helped the children learn about the environment and how they can protect and nurture it. The public librarian and the school librarian will help the children plant trees or shrubs into plastic containers that can then be taken home. (Heather Green)

These two ideas are examples of creative thought through collaboration; a final ingredient celebrating the success of collaborative winning teams.

As a young school librarian working with a classroom teacher to establish a collaborative event with the public library, my colleague and I neglected to establish a team involving professionals from each organization. Today, developing a winning team will establish more productive and successful collaborations.

Jody K. Howard is an adjunct professor at Emporia State University and is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

Photo Credit: Jody Howard

Ipods in the library

As schools and libraries look at new technology and decide how they want to design programming, some decide to implement a “Bring Your Own Device” policy (BYOD) instead of buying a series of devices. In other situations, school and libraries decide to invest in various devices. In our district, we decided to think outside the box and invest in a class set of iPods.

Bring Your Own Device

In our district, we have a class set of iPods that are used in addition to Chromebooks, laptops, and the computer lab. Our teachers love using Kahoot, but sometimes it’s frustrating when the kids use their own devices and you can see the snapchat notifications popping up at the top of their screen. In addition, it makes the digital divide very clear on who has devices and who doesn’t. Our teachers will do team activities to minimize that, but they love that they can send an email to the library and say, “can I borrow a few iPods?”

In addition, some teachers may be working on a project or activity that requires a few basic searches to complete the assignment. They feel guilty filling up the lab for a small chunk of a project, but they know that an iPod functions like a smartphone and the kids can use it for simple searches. This also allows teachers to model using a cell phone as a tool. Adults and teens use their phones to help them get through the day, it’s great to be able to practice on an iPod and teachers can model good cell phone etiquette and help students expand those skills (Neilsen, 2013).

During presentations, several teachers enjoy using Nearpod as a way to gather data, engage students with VR, and present their lesson. We’ve learned that if we use the iPods, there’s less distraction from social media notifications, and there’s a smaller chance of them getting kicked off the wifi. As public libraries work to develop programs, gathering data from teens can help library staff improve programming. Using Nearpod or Google Forms can put a survey in a teen’s hand, and they may be more likely to give feedback compared to a paper form.
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