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.
Continue reading

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.

 

Connected Learning at a High-Tech High School

The YALSA Programming Guidelines help YA library staff plan, create, and evaluate teen programs. In this month’s blog, Michele Rivera, Digital Learning Specialist (aka Librarian) at Sheridan Technical High School in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, explains how she designs “interest-based, developmentally appropriate programs that support connected learning.”

Blogger: Michele, I know that Sheridan Tech is a public magnet high school, what else do we need to know?

Rivera: Like our two “sister” schools in Broward County, Atlantic Tech and McFatter Tech, students who wish to enroll in our school must meet certain academic criteria and enrollment is limited to 600 students. But Sheridan Tech is unique because it was founded on the commitment to a blended learning environment – combining face-to-face instruction with online curriculum, support, and resources. Every student is issued their own laptop. In their first two years, students attend their academic classes full-time on campus, with all their lessons and support available online. In their junior and senior years, they are enrolled half-time in academic classes, and half-time in their chosen technical program. Sheridan Tech offers over twenty different technical career choices, ranging from Automotive Service Technology to Practical Nursing. Students can graduate with a college-ready diploma, articulated college credit, as well as industry certification in their technical field. It is definitely not the old model most people think of as a “vocational school.”

Sheridan Tech Innovative Learning Center

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

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.

Gimme a C (For Collaboration!): Coding, Collaboration & Community

Earlier this year, the Westerville Public Library was awarded a LSTA Summer Library Program Grant through the State Library of Ohio that allowed us to purchase robots (Kibo, Dash & Dot, and Sphero SPRK+) to extend our already popular in-house technology programs. But we also wanted to reach children who might never make it to the public library. During June and July of 2017, we collaborated with the Westerville City Schools Summer Intervention program to visit 3rd and 4th graders–many of whom had never been to a public library– to introduce students to basic coding with our new robot partners.

Experience

The intrinsic appeal of learning with robots instantly captured students’ attention. We met one of the main goals–increasing interest in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math)–right away, as most students had no prior hands-on experiences with robotics. We emphasized basic coding concepts and the engineering design process: ask, imagine, plan, create, test and improve, then share results. We encouraged children to practice problem solving skills, discussing what worked and what didn’t, and making changes if time allowed.

We introduced the concept of coding by having students program adults to complete a familiar task: making a jelly sandwich. This classic demonstration of following step-by-step instructions was very effective, if occasionally a bit messy. The activity also reinforced the idea that the children are in control. They are the programmers; capable and smarter than the robot, which can only do what they instruct it to do — no more, no less.

Tips 

Allow time for free play. Robots are exciting! It’s natural for kids to want to play, so allow time for non-directed experimentation.

Social exchange — learning to take turns, ask questions, and try another person’s ideas —  IS learning.

Repeat sessions with the same group allows for deeper learning. We had to balance repetition with keeping classes small  to allow for hands-on experience. Repeat classes allow you to go beyond the initial playful period to more directed tasks and deeper understanding.

Expect the unexpected. Be prepared by experimenting ahead of time, but accept that children will try different things . . . and this is okay. You don’t have to know all the answers! Ask how they got to this point, and have them ask each other for ideas. It’s all part of the learning process.

End each class with a summary. Save time to gather together and share their thoughts if at all possible. Some children didn’t think they were learning because they were having fun! All were eager to demonstrate something they had programmed on the robot.

What if you don’t have robots? We began our coding instruction using the free resources on the Hour of Code website. Many “unplugged” activities can also be used to teach basic coding concepts. Our variant of Simon Says– “The Programmer Says”–was so popular it was requested by children in subsequent programs. Don’t be afraid to dive into coding!

Robin L. Gibson is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Joint Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation and Assistant Coordinator of Youth Services at the Fairfield County District Library in Lancaster, Ohio.

Photo Credit: Robin L. Gibson

“Unleash Your Story” by Serving the Individual

Each year I approach Teen Read Week with the same thought in mind: every location will do the same thing to save me time, cost, and energy. (Side note, I am the teen librarian for the Defiance County Public Library System. We serve three locations.) It was just this past year when I realized that in order to better serve the teen population, I need to look at each individual library and the teens that each library serves. I need to establish strong relationships, discover their passions, listen to their requests, and introduce them to new challenges.

Defiance County teens are truly individuals with a variety of interests, ambitions, and backgrounds. The teenagers who frequent the library and attend events are non-readers, gamers, avid YouTube watchers, and socializers who use the library as a meeting place. Each teen has their own story to share. While the teens at Defiance discuss Steven Universe and cart around their Magic: the Gathering decks, the teens in Sherwood want to socialize and perform whole group activities, and the teens in Hicksville will do anything that involves video games, anime, or scavenger hunts.  

Understanding that many of the teens are non-readers, non-writers, and need a break from schoolwork, it was essential to incorporate the concept of connected learning. How can these teens “unleash their story” without having to write it down on paper? Problem solved, thanks to my co-worker who is an avid gamer and holds a stop-motion animation degree.

At Johnson Memorial Library, the teens will create a machinima, an animated film using Minecraft. At Sherwood Branch Library, the teens will film a pixilation, a stop-motion animation using people.  At Defiance Public Library, the teens will play tabletop RPGs while filming their gameplay.

In addition, there will be one event that all locations will host: the Teen Read-In. The Teen Read-In is designed as an open house, and the intention is to bring in new faces to each of the library locations. We will be showcasing our libraries’ resources, our spaces, and our love. We want local teens to know that they can come to the library to read, relax, find information, and meet new people who share the same interests.  

We are also blessed to host a Skype visit with debut author Chelsea Bobulski (The Wood), at Sherwood Branch Library and Johnson Memorial Library. At Defiance Public Library, we will Skype with Romina Russell, author of the Zodiac series. Those who attend the Skype visits will receive a copy of the authors’ respective book.

I am extremely honored, and yes, a bit nervous, to have received a Teen Read Week grant. I just hope that these events will truly show that our library system desires to treat our teens as individuals and further encourage their ideas and passions.

Pamela Rellstab is the Teen Librarian of the Defiance Public Library System in Defiance, Ohio.

Building a Better Library for and with Teens: Dollar General Teen Summer Intern Grant

The Teen Summer Intern Program funded through the generosity of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YALSA provides libraries with a unique opportunity to implement the practice of building programs and services around the concept of for and with teens. Hedberg Public Library’s teen volunteer program and Teen Advisory Board (TAB) have given teens the opportunity to offer ideas, creativity and service to the library and its customers for many years. The Dollar General Teen Summer Internship Grant awarded to our library has magnified and expanded the many positives of the teen volunteer and TAB programs and has more fully demonstrated the value of providing rewarding experiences and support for teens in useful leadership roles with the goal of increasing teen engagement. Teens have reached further by mentoring their peers and by planning and carrying out activities in their own space at our library for the first time.

To get started, intern position descriptions were posted on the library’s teen web and Facebook pages and were announced during TAB meetings and Teen Volunteer Training sessions. Posters were positioned in the teen area at the library and were distributed to high school librarians. Our main local radio station broadcast an interview with library staff promoting the positions and the opportunity for teens to gain paid work experience. Applications were posted and in-person interviews were held with the Young Adult Librarian and Head of Youth Services. TAB participation or library volunteer experience was preferred for the positions but was not required. Two teens were hired to work an average of four hours per week during the summer learning program. Payments were made through two stipends paid over the summer.

Teens gained important career and workforce development skills through the application, interview and training process. Interns took part in the summer learning and summer lunch program intern/volunteer training sessions conducted by librarians and library workers. Additional training for interns covered basic library policies and procedures, safety and emergency guidelines, a full tour of the library and detailed instructions for the teen summer learning program. Following training, interns assisted teens as they registered and completed check in for the teen summer learning program at iPad kiosks in our teen area using an online tracking system. They also distributed prizes and mentored peer volunteers working with the baby/toddler and school-age programs in the children’s area.

Teen interns held a Kahoot! practice session for a middle school team preparing for our library system’s Battle of the Books competition. They guided participants as they chose a team name and team captain and helped facilitate the design of Sharpie Tie-Dye T-shirts. Senior Moments Tech Day brought teens, seniors and families together to showcase some of the cool gadgets used by teens like robots, 3D printer and more.

Continue reading

Summer Teen Programming @ S.W. Smith Memorial Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

Teen Programming at the S.W. Smith Memorial Public Library was able to expand based on the generosity of the YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Grant.  Using the funds from this grant our library was able to offer more programs for our teen population. The programs were diverse as to reach teens with many different interests. 

Obviously, we want to encourage reading in our teens, therefore, a Teen Book Club was offered once a month.  We only had 2 students attend, but they were friends which made it nice for discussion.  They were comfortable with one another and shared their thoughts and feelings freely.  The third meeting will occur after this document is submitted, but the two girls plan to attend and actually picked the book for the month.

Our Summer Reading Program focused on the “Build a Better World” theme.  Our young patrons learned about conservation, maintaining a healthy water shed, recycling, forestry, and ways to keep the environment healthy.  For our Summer Reading end of the year event we had a “Dance Party” with a DJ, pizza, snacks and crafts.  We were hoping the DJ would be a draw for the teens and it was.  They enjoyed listening to the music, dancing and eating pizza.  This was the most successful event we had with teen attendance.

Our library owns an Xbox 360.   Using the grant funds I was able to purchase an extra controller, a variety of games, and offered a “Teen Game Day”.  Board games and card games were also made available.  We had teens attend who are not library attendees, which was great, we reached a new population!  The teens enjoyed time socializing playing games and eating pizza.

Science Tellers is an educational science program that uses science to tell a story.  During the program chemical reactions as well as other scientific concepts are demonstrated using hands on audience participation, bringing the story to life.  Our teens enjoyed being chosen as volunteers for science experiments!

The Solar Eclipse presentation educated attendees on solar and lunar eclipses.  Attendees learned differences in these eclipses as well as the history of them.  Future eclipse dates were also discussed.  Viewing glasses were provided so the eclipse could be viewed safely.

Koozie Crochet taught patrons simple crochet stitches and allowed them to make a popsicle holder.  Teens learned a valuable life skill and left with their own creation!

I also was able to purchase a variety of STEM materials with the Dollar General Grant funds.  I hope to have an event for teens where they can use these materials and will visit the library knowing they are available for them to use. 

My name is Diane Finn, I have been the Youth Services Librarian at the S.W. Smith Library in Port Allegany, PA since January 2016.  When I was hired the children’s programs were minimal and had low attendance.  I have since increased the number of programs offered, developed the programs to be more interactive and engaging for children as well as educational.  With these changes attendance has increased and I have received positive feedback from the community.  However, the teen programming has not been as successful.  Using the YALSA/Dollar General Literacy Grant we were able to improve our teen programming.