Gamification of Summer Reading

Home Screen of Teen Summer Challenge

Games often provide an opportunity to have fun, learn new things, simulate real life, and explore things only dreamed of before. Whether playing a board game, role playing game, or a video game, players are challenged to overcome obstacles and use strategy to solve problems and meet goals. In classrooms teachers are using game elements more and more to encourage practice, assess mastery, or explore new concepts with students, while keeping lessons interactive and engaging.

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Children’s Rights in the Digital Age or, How UNICEF is Like Your Library

When I was eight, I won our school’s “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” throw down. I scoured the neighborhood for hours, wheedling coins and Snickers bars out of polite neighbors and adding them to my little orange box. By the end of the night, the hoard of pennies and nickels had broken the box at the seams, and I presented it to my teacher wrapped in a sustaining nest of duct tape.

The reward for all of this was a trip to UNICEF headquarters. Somewhere in my parent’s house there sits a billfold stuffed full of pictures of the wall art, the cafeteria, the library– all of the things that as a child I found interesting. At eight, I understood that UNICEF were the good guys, that they fought AIDS and built wells, and that they were kind of like the non-mouse version of the Rescue Aid Society.

But beyond saving Penny from Madame Medusa, UNICEF strives to help children and mothers in all aspects of their lives, including the digital.

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Teen Services in a Rural Library

Picture of Teen Zone

Belgrade Community Library Teen Zone in rural Montana.

Working in a rural library often means a small space, a small budget, and a small staff. Despite all the hurdles to overcome, teen library services are very important in rural communities where other facilities for teens may not exist. In my community, the need for productive teen activities has popped up in both community and library needs assessments. With just over 10,000 people in our service area, the library is one of the few places in the community open to young adults outside of school hours. We have an important role to play in providing a safe and enriching space for teens, but this can seem like a daunting task when your official job description ranges from baby story time to technical services.

I work directly with teens every day, but my job involves a wide range of other tasks. Like many other rural librarians, I sometimes start my work day singing with toddlers and finish it with offering assistance to older adults on the computer, but teens deserve to have services tailored just for them, even in the smallest public library.  YALSA’s Public Library Evaluation Tool provides examples of basic to distinguished public library practices as they pertain to teens. One element of this tool that stands out to me is “equitable funding and staffing levels.” Step back for a moment and think about whether or not your institution is providing equitable resources and time toward teen services. Between fixing the printer, collection development, and desk schedules, we must find the time to offer quality services and programs to teens. Continue reading

Teen Tech Week: Self-Directed Contests

I am completely in love with self-directed contests. Also known as passive programming (which always leads my superiors to think that there is NO thought or work involved at all, which is not true), these self-directed contests get teens involved because they are:

  • drawn into the library by the contest itself
  • ask the staff questions about the contest and about the items in the contest
  • use math and logic skills to figure out the answer
  • promote the contest to their friends

Even better, while they do take imagination and ground work, like all self-directed programming once they’re put together and set-up they take little or no staff watching, aside from the interaction with teens! My contests run on average for 2 weeks (some less) and generate on average between 25 and 40 entries. Continue reading

Maker March: I Craft, Therefore I Make

If a self-proclaimed Crafter (no I am not talking about Minecraft here) and a self-proclaimed Maker were put opposite each other in a cage fight, who would win? Are they equals? The same thing? What makes them different? Either way, they would certainly have the coolest wrestling masks ever! But I digress. Crafting and making are the essentially the same thing. They share the same basic DIY tenet, as well as the sharing ideas and how to’s, reusing, “up-cycling” or repurposing anything and everything. And both are made all the better if you can create using low cost, free or scavenged materials. Continue reading

TTW: Start with What You’ve Got

Feel less than tech savvy? Concerned that you are not techie enough to pull off a Teen Tech week program? Well, don’t be! While it is fantastic to have the double bonus of offering coding or robotics during Teen Tech Week (March 9-15) the reality is that many of us do not have the skills, budgets, the time or the passion to learn them.  Remember the foundation of Teen Tech Week is to promote our library’s digital offerings. Additionally it is more than likely that you have more digital skills than you give yourself credit for. And if you don’t have those skills you can probably get a teen to help you work out some of the kinks.   Continue reading

Maker March: Are You Already Making @ Your Library?

Everyone is talking about Makerspaces. When I say “Makerspace” do you immediately think of a room filled with laser cutters, 3D printers, and teens creating giant programmable robots capable of restacking meeting room chairs? Probably, although the robots may just be me.

The reality for most libraries is that we don’t have a dedicated space in which to make stuff. But we do have the capability to encourage making at our libraries. Making means learning through trial and error, through practical application, and through hands-on experience. Making means giving access to communities to grow and create something better. Continue reading

Virtual Road Trip: Florida

Florida and the Future

From Pensacola to Key West, teens are finding the doors are wide open in Public Libraries. Teen groups are creating opportunities, not only to learn, but also to enjoy the company of old and new friends. So let’s take a tour, shall we?florida

Miami-Dade Public Library System, after facing a major financial challenge, still finds opportunities for teens with gaming, photography classes, and creative programs such as Sound Art and specialty Open Mic events. Continue reading

Virtual Road Trip: New Jersey

Making a Difference in the Garden State

The Teen Advisory Board (TAB) of the Montclair Public Library has come a long way since its inception. This group of teens has sought to create a welcoming environment, not merely for themselves but for children and adults as well. new-jerseyThey have implemented successful programs such as a Wii & Board Games day and Minecraft; during which they invite people of all ages to interact and play together. TAB is also a strong advocate of literacy, especially at an early age; so much so, that they host various events such as a Fairy Tale pajama story time, Star Wars Reads Day, as well as a book buddies program in celebration of Read Across America. In addition, TAB has created and maintained their very own bi-monthly newsletter called, The TAB Chronicle. This has proven to be a great outlet for the group to share their thoughts and talents through their poetry, artwork, and opinion pieces. Continue reading