Gimme a C (for Collaboration): Collaborate to Stop Summer Slide

As the school year wraps up and Summer Learning approaches, now is a perfect time to collaborate with your local school and public libraries. We all know how important it is for students to maintain literacies, math and other skills during summer vacation. It’s time to reach out and work together to give kids the best summer opportunities, especially those who need the most support.

For schools with summer reading expectations, providing summer reading lists to public libraries can help to ensure that they have listed books on hand for students. School library staff can help to facilitate the connection by reminding teachers to prepare and share lists in spring. Having reading lists early helps public libraries to purchase books before Youth Services Departments get too busy with summer programs.

Public library staff who serve youth can contact their local schools to promote summer learning opportunities. At the elementary level, visiting library classes to encourage students to participate in summer programs can get kids excited about the public library. They should have a flyer or brochure ready to send home with elementary students. Some libraries issue public library cards to students through school, and this can help kids take ownership of their library and strengthen the relationship between school and library.

Continue reading

Teen Services Competencies for Staff: Ensuring Equity of Access in Your Library

This spring, many students have walked out of class to call attention to the need for greater gun regulations in the wake of the Parkland shooting and on the 20th anniversary of the Columbine massacre. Seeing these teens’ bravery woke up many of my favorite memories of working with passionate and idealistic young people.


By rmackman [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

But this sort of activism shouldn’t been limited to those in positions of relative power. I know librarians around the country were embracing these walkouts as teachable moments and punctuating students’ rights to demonstrate.

Like the ability to protest, access to information is a constitutionally protected right. These protests dovetail well with one of YALSA’s identified Core Competencies for Library Staff, ensuring Equity of Access, defined broadly as “access to a wide variety of library resources, services, and activities for and with all teens, especially those facing challenges to access.”

Equity is one of the most critical roles that libraries play in the lives of young people, helping to level a playing field that increasingly seems to depend upon consumer buying power.

As with all of YALSA’s competencies, these can be viewed in terms of developing, practicing, and transforming the work of libraries working for and with young people. The progression of these skills begins with recognition of this critical role in the lives of young people, progresses to taking action to work with others in the community to ensure equitable access, then culminates in sharing your work so that others can learn from it.
Continue reading

Using ASCLA Toolkits for Autism Awareness Month

As the YALSA ALA Liaison, I communicate with many different groups whose member composition varies. One of the many benefits of working with so many diverse groups is being privy to the latest developed resources created by them that are also relevant for a library staff member serving teens. One such excellent resource I want to share with YALSA members comes from the Accessibility Assembly. The Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) heads the ALA Accessibility Assembly, which is comprised of many liaisons from other ALA divisions and round tables as well as ASCLA members.

Several months ago, ASLCA updated their online toolkits that target easy ways in which library staff can make their places and services more accessible to “populations that are underserved such as those with sensory, physical, health or behavioral conditions, those who are incarcerated and more.” There are fifteen toolkits in total and many of the recommendations are applicable to teen library services. As April is nationally recognized as Autism Awareness month, the Autism Spectrum Disorders toolkit might be a good place to start in improving library services to your community’s youth and better meet their needs.

Consider this resource share as an opportunity to improve your status and knowledge in Competency Area 1: Teen Growth and Development and move further through the stages of Developing-Practicing-Transforming.

Amanda Barnhart is a Teen Librarian for the Kansas City Public Library and the current YALSA ALA Liaison.

Celebrate Creativity during National Library Week

(Image courtesy of American Library Association)

This week (April 8th-14th) is National Library Week. Celebrating its 60th anniversary since its inaugural year in 1958 with the theme “Libraries Lead!”, libraries across the nation will be observing the week with activities, programs, and more. This week also celebrates National Library Workers Day (April 10), National Bookmobile Day (April 11), and Take Action for Libraries Day (April 12).

To lead the celebrations is Misty Copeland, author and American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer, who serves as the 2018 National Library Week Honorary Chair. As described on the American Library Association page about National Library Week, Misty Copeland, an advocate for “youth to pursue their dreams regardless of what challenges they may encounter”, invites everyone to “discover your passions and achieve your goals at the library.” (American Library Association).

(Image courtesy of American Library Association)


Continue reading

Research on Competency Content Area 7: Cultural Competency and Responsiveness

Authored by the YALSA Research Committee

This post is part of the YALSA Research Committee’s efforts to shed light on some current research related to the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff. Here, we’ll briefly review some scholarship that addresses competency content area number seven: cultural competency and responsiveness, described in the standards as “actively promot[ing] respect for cultural diversity and creat[ing] an inclusive, welcoming, and respectful library atmosphere that embraces diversity.”

Continue reading

Research on Competency Content Area 6: Community and Family Engagement

Authored by the YALSA Research Committee

Throughout the current term, the YALSA Research Committee will be looking at YALSA’s new Competencies for Teen Librarians through the lens of research.  Through our posts, we will attempt to provide a brief snapshot of how scholarship currently addresses some of the issues put forth through the standards.

March 14 will never be the same for thousands of young adults who, in response to the high number of recent school shootings, found their voice in the streets of America during the National School Walkout, demanding adults and public officials pay attention to their call for gun control. So my question to our YALSA members “For those that are directly serving our YA population…How were you serving them on March 14 and how did you serve them during the March for Our Lives on March 24?” or “What skills have you helped the young adults in your community develop over time to assist them for this kind of action?”  How are our YALSA members committing to competency #6: “Community and Family Engagement: Builds respectful, reciprocal relationships with community organizations and families to promote optimal development for teens and to enhance the quality of library services”?

The research committee zeroed on three relevant recent studies describing how YA library staff in the field develop or need improvement with developing Community and Family Engagement for and with their teen populations by Harlan (2016), Hughes-Hassell and Stivers (2015), and Froggatt (2015).

Continue reading

Reel Time – Community Discussions About Difficult Topics

This post is part of the YALSA Presidential Theme: Youth Activism through Community Engagement

“We are wondering whether we can show documentary films and have discussions at the library.”  That’s how it all started in 2013.

Events at the national level and at school were having an emotional impact on the teens and stimulating them to start conversations among themselves.  Two of my Teen Advisory Board (TAB) members wanted to do more.  They wanted to educate their peers about issues affecting teens, the community, and the world.  They also wanted to bring the community into the conversations.  And so began Reel Time – Community Discussions About Difficult Topics.

Initially, the discussions were adult-led. The teens generated the topics. The library planned and hosted the documentary viewings, including inviting experts—people working with folks impacted by the issues addressed in the films—to provide information and answer questions. For example, for a discussion about hunger following a viewing of A Place at the Table, we invited representatives from Teen Feed, a local organization that supports homeless youth, to share their experiences. The community events, at this point, were a product of the teens’ ideas, but not really owned by them. However, as I learned to step back, the teens began to step up.

Over time, the teens began to not only generate the topics, but to create the context for the documentary viewings, including the format of the discussions. As a first step, the TAB members co-facilitated the discussions with another adult. Ultimately, the teens began to organize and facilitate discussions on their own.

Continue reading

Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff Webinar: Teen Growth and Development

cover of the teen services competencies for library staffEach month, through December, YALSA is sponsoring free webinars (for members and non-members) on topics related to the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff.

The March webinar kicked-off the series (the full video recording is available after the break). Led by Jutta Dotterweich, the Director of Training and Technical Assistance, ACT for Youth Project at Cornell University. This session focused on positive youth development with particular attention to how adolescent’s brains develop and how youth engagement can be and is an important aspect of positive youth development.

YALSA will host a follow-up Twitter chat on youth development on Thursday, March 22, at 7PM Eastern. Use the hashtag #yalsace to participate.
Continue reading

Research on Competency Content Area 5: Youth Engagement and Leadership

Authored by the YALSA Research Committee

Throughout the current term, the YALSA Research Committee will be looking at Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff through the lens of research.  Through our posts, we will attempt to provide a brief snapshot of how scholarship currently addresses some of the issues put forth through the standards.

I heard a teacher recount a story the other day on National Public Radio. He was trying a new way to inspire his high school students on a very old and seemingly abstract physics concept. His new teaching method was introducing a physics concept utilizing an innovative and tactical approach. He reported that he couldn’t keep up with the students. The student’s gathered in groups, they collaborated all on their own, the teacher reported that the students reached farther and faster than his old lectures and it finally hit him…get out of their way & watch them soar! Engaging our young adult patrons and watching them soar is what librarians need to discover and share. 

Demonstrating to young adults how leadership can be accomplished in the public library sphere is not like school for they are not our “students” and not like home because they are not our “children”. Library staff are here to serve their population…as YALSA members and library staff, we need to find a way to successfully serve youth.  YALSA has worked very hard to create documents and share that information with their members.  Engaging young adults, and providing leadership should be the goal of every library worker’s effort when planning young adult programs, outreach and services and this is one of the goals of YALSA’s New Teen Services Competencies for library Staff. Our topic for this month’s competency #5 Youth Engagement and Leadership, which is defined as: Responds to all teens’ interests and needs, and acts in partnership with teens to create and implement teen activities and to foster teen leadership.

Continue reading

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.
Continue reading