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.

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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.

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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.

Summer Learning @ South Sioux City Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

We were blessed to receive the Summer Learning Resources Grant through YALSA and Dollar General.  This grant provided us the luxury of purchasing books along with their audiobook companions, a listening table, CD/MP3 player and chairs. We were able to set this up in our computer room for youth in Middle School and High School students to use on a daily basis.

Our town is a minority/majority town and with this listening center it will help with ELL students learning and hearing the English language. We were able to meet our goals of having 1) the students hear how the words on a page can come alive in an expressive manner, 2) helping the students hear the sounds of the words without interruption and create a more fluid reading, and 3) having the audio books help the students master the skill of listening.

During our past Summer Reading Programs some of our ELL students and newly emigrated students struggled to meet the goals set for others their same age. With being able to include books in audio format, they were able and excitedly joined our program with no concerns of being left behind or feeling left out. We encouraged collaboration with the ELL staff at the High School to bring the youth into our Public Library on a field trip, where they met with me, talked with me, were made to feel comfortable in the library atmosphere and learn what we can offer to them. Throughout the summer I was able to meet back up with those students who I watched grown in their confidence of using the library, to enjoying the listening center and then finding the graphic novels! It was a huge success.

My name is Odessa Meyer. I’ve been the Youth Services Librarian at the South Sioux City Public Library in South Sioux City, NE since 2009. I never knew I wanted to be a librarian. I went to college for Computer Programming, worked in many different fields and eventually made my way into a school system in NE. When I decided it was time to go back to my hometown, I applied for the position at the library, was granted the opportunity to accept the job and fell in love. I had no idea how perfect this position was for me and how perfect I was for this job.

Summer Learning @ Charles Ralph Holland Memorial Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

Thanks to the 2017 Summer Learning Resource Grant the teens at the Charles Ralph Holland Memorial Library had a FANTASTIC time this year – and so did the staff!!!

The grant provided by YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation  made it possible for a small staff of three to offer our teens a variety of activities.  They got to experience how videogames work with Makey Makeys, assembling and coding a Robolink drone, connecting servos and programming  a Arduino nano board, & plenty more.  Our teens had a summer full of fun activities with tools most had never seen or played with before.

Every Thursday evening the library offered a new program that implemented STEAM learning in a fun and interactive way.  The first program had teen constructing cardboard armor with duct tape, scissors, and craft supplies to withstand a water balloon battle.  Each teen could research different methods and designs to craft their armor using the library’s public computers. The teens had a blast in covering their armor in tape, crafting tall helmets, armbands, and leg braces.  The teens split into two teams and tested their armors durability and strength. Some were winners, some not so much, but all had a fun time. The next summer program had teens weaving recycled t-shirt rugs for our local Friends of Animal groups fundraiser.   Each chose colors from materials donated to weave together.  The teens utilized small hula hoops as their base to weave. Almost all of the teens then gave their creations to the Friends of Animals, Fixin’s For Fixin’ Fundraiser, but each also learned how to care and weave a mat for their own pets at home. 

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STEM Kits @ Alcona County Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

Summer 2017 has been wonderful at the branches of the Alcona County Library (ACL).  Located in the Northeastern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, Alcona County has a population of just over 10,000 along the scenic shores of Lake Huron. Alcona is comprised of  695 square miles, including 36 miles of Lake Huron coastline. While 70% of our land is forested, 1/3 includes Huron-Manistee National Forest land. ACL has four branches in Harrisville, Hubbard Lake, Lincoln, and Mikado, Michigan, and has a staff of 15 of which three are full time staff members.

This year the Summer Reading theme was “Build a Better World.” ACL used YALSA and Dollar General Literacy Foundation grant funding to purchase STEM kits to rotate among the branches. There are seven kits: of the seven, two rotate to three of the branches and one to the remaining branch every other week.  The kits include: snap circuits, Laser Maze, Circuit Maze, Strawbees with Quirkbots, Q ba Maze, MagFormers, and MakeBlock. Concepts in these kits are marble mazes, robotic kits, electrical kits, and magnetic building kits.

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