Reflections on the Future of Library Services for & with Teens Session at the ALA Annual Conference

by Adrienne L. Strock & Sandra Hughes-Hassell

The YALSA Future of Teens and Libraries taskforce led an interactive panel discussion at the ALA Annual Conference where we reflected on The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action report. The session was hosted and moderated by Adrienne Strock, taskforce Chair. Taskforce panelists included Sandra Hughes-Hassell, report co-author; Jack Martin, K-Fai Steele, and Margaret Sullivan. Special guest Traci Slater-Rigaud, Director of the National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Awards kicked off the session by encouraging libraries to get involved in the awards and noted the similarities in our work, particularly the focus on youth development.

As a way to collectively reflect on the report’s significance, the panel highlighted specific content from the report in the areas of demographic shifts, technology, and connected learning. The panel began by examining the demographic shifts presented in the report as well as observable shifts in our library communities. We discussed the importance of engaging non-dominant youth in library settings and debated the library’s role in learning and closing the growing achievement gap. We then considered the importance of technology as a tool, the way in which technology is changing how society interacts and learns, HOMAGO (hanging out, messing around, and geeking out) as a model for engagement, and the need for librarians to continue to keep up with technology as it relates to teen interests and needs. Lastly, we talked about the importance of connected learning, describing what it looks like, noting why it is so powerful and important in library spaces, and reflecting on how partnerships can leverage the strengths of connected learning for more powerful and meaningful growth opportunities for teens.

The main themes from the report that emerged in our conversation included the call for a paradigm shift in services to teens, the growing need for partnerships, and the importance of librarians embracing a facilitator, non-expert role in their work with teens. One specific aspect of the paradigm shift brought up by an attendee was shifting customer and staff expectations about noise. Panelists and audience participants shared excellent feedback that encouraged cultural shifts though catchy signage and designated noise times, educating staff and customers on new expectations while shifting their mindset about noise in the library, and getting staff and customers excited about the activities being introduced to teens by demoing them for staff and customers with opportunities for adults to partake in the fun and engaging learning opportunities.

Slides can be found on the taskforce’s ALA Connect page, and those unable to attend can still get involved!

  • If you haven’t already, check out the report!
  • Reflect, share, and talk to each other using #act4teens via Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, and your favorite social networks.
  • Dive into the actionable sections of the report. Start by following the recommendations (p. 25). Then dig into the questions and guide to local assessment and planning (p. 31) section.

Lastly, the taskforce would love to know what you think! Reflect by commenting on this post. Tell us what excites and frightens you about the report. Share what areas of the report you find the easiest and most challenging to implement locally. Let us know what tools and resources you would like YALSA to provide.

Adventures in Korea

As I was sitting in the Philadelphia airport, waiting to fly home from Midwinter 2014, I checked my email to find something rather startling: an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a symposium on library services for children and teens sponsored by the National Library for Children and Young Adults (NLCY) in South Korea. According to the email, my book Young Adults Deserve the Best: YALSA’s Competencies in Action had been translated into Korean and distributed to libraries in Korea, and they wanted me to come to the symposium and share my “experience and expertise in youth library services”—all expenses paid!  Continue reading

Little Space, Big Potential: Teen Services in a Rural Library

Belgrade Community Library Teen Zone

Belgrade Community Library Teen Zone

In 2005, my community constructed a much needed 5,500 square foot library addition. The floor plan included space for materials, a community room, and storage, but it lacked something very important–an area for teens. Young adults browsed the collection, checked out items, then zipped right out the front door. As we turned our attention to youth programming, we realized the room was not helping our efforts. We wanted to encourage teens to linger, to come to the library because it was a safe, comfortable place. It was time for a Teen Zone.

With very little money and very little floor space, the library created a comfortable area that is frequently used by local middle and high school students to read, socialize, study, play computer games and craft. Here is how we did it: Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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