Cultivating Teen Programming at the Library

When someone wants to start their own garden, there are a lot of things they have to think about–location, climate, soil, and maintenance to name a few. It is important to know what kind of soil you are dealing with before you start cultivating the ground. Determining the quality of your soil allows you to utilize the ground to produce the best crop possible.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”  -Audrey Hepburn

What does this have to do with having a teen presence and programming at the library? I have found the same principles and practices used in having a successful garden can be applied to cultivating a teen presence at your library.

I am the director of Bolivar-Hardeman County Library in Bolivar, Tennessee. We are a small and rural public library serving a diverse community. When I started nearly two years ago our teen attendance at our programs were at an all-time low—basically zero at our library. The demographic of our patrons is increasingly getting older. It was and is my passion to revitalize the library into a place where teens want to come. Shortly after I started, I became of a member of YALSA (Young Adult Library Service Association) and ARSL (Association for Rural and Small Libraries). You can become a member by going here for YALSA and here for ARSL. I was starting from ground zero on developing any type of teen programming at the library. YALSA and ARSL has and continues to provide invaluable information and resources regarding teens and young adults with little to no budgets. One example is the Future Ready with the Library grant I received to be a member of the second of cohort. Future Ready with the Library provides support for small, rural, and tribal library staff to build college and career readiness services for middle school youth. I highly encourage you to read more about Future Ready with the Library. The past several months I have been very busy with gathering information about my community, schools, and youth for the Future Ready with the Library project. Because of my recent research and community engagement it has given me a fresh perspective on Bolivar. One thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was the lack of teen involvement in the library.

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#neveragain – Students Demand Action

In the wake of the tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida this week, student survivors are demanding that adults take action to prevent tragedies like this from occurring. It is incumbent on all adults, including library staff, to support these youth as they speak out and call for change in their communities and in our country.

One way library staff can do this is by providing opportunities for teens to be positive agents of change in their communities. We can do this by offering a brave and welcoming space for them to discuss issues like gun control and mental health care, providing opportunities for leadership, helping them hone their skills in inquiry, evidence, and presentation, and facilitating engagement in their communities.

To assist library staff in their efforts, my Presidential Taskforce and I  have created the Youth Activism through Community Engagement wiki –  a resource designed to help library  staff build their knowledge and skills around youth activism and to help teens become youth activists. It contains research, toolkits, and  examples of youth activism in action.

Beginning this month and continuing through the end of my presidential year in June, the Taskforce will also be featuring examples of library staff supporting youth activism on the YALSA blog. Be on the look out for these blog posts and please contact me if you have stories about youth activists in your community that you would like to share.

I will admit that this is personal for me. I have a 15 year old son – he is a freshman in high school. As the young people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas have clearly and loudly stated, this is unacceptable! This must stop! I applaud their bravery in speaking out. It’s now time for us, the adults in the room, to step forward, to support them, and to amplify their voices.

 

Research on Competency Content Area 2: Interactions with Teens

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.

This post focuses on Content Area 2: Interactions with Teens, which is generally described as “Recognizes the importance of relationships and communication in the development and implementation of quality teen services, and implements techniques and strategies to support teens individually and in group experiences to develop self-concept, identity, coping mechanisms, and positive interactions with their peers and adults.” Bernier (2011) approached the notion of youth patron engagement by examining media representations of young adults.  The author argued that libraries, like most institutions, institute policies and assign resources for groups based on cultural assumptions, such as those established and reinforced by news media.  In his content analysis of news stories, Bernier found that teens are generally negatively portrayed, often as voiceless criminals, trouble-makers, and in need of adult rescue. Bernier encouraged libraries who serve young adults to deliberately consider their institutional approach to this group with regard to policies, resources, space, and relationships with teens.

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Catch Up With a Past Grant Winner — Part 2

Thinking of applying for a Dollar General summer grant? Hear firsthand from 2015 summer learning grant winner Emily Otis, in Q&A style, about her 2015 summer program for Anaheim Public Library in California and how receiving the grant helped her and her teen patrons. This is the second of a short series in which we catch up with previous grant winners.

1. Please tell us a little bit about your library and your 2015 summer reading program.

2015 was the first time in many years that the Teen SRP was run by a dedicated Teen Librarian. After budget cuts and layoffs about 5 years before, one librarian shared responsibility for adult and teen collections and services. I was hired as Teen Librarian in the fall of 2014, and saw right away that YA collection development and teen programs had languished (as would be expected). Our SRP numbers from the year before had been relatively low, and there had been no programming. The theme for 2015 was Read To the Rhythm, so I planned musically inspired programs, had teen volunteers create a musical mural to hang in the teen space, and went out to the high school to promote the program and drum up participation. See More

The summer learning grant applications are open now until January 1st, 2018. There are two types of grants available, valued at $1000 each, and 40 total grants will be awarded. Eligibility requirements apply. More information and applications can be found here.

Catch Up With a Past Summer Grant Winner

Want to hear firsthand the benefits of applying for a Dollar General summer grant? 2015 summer learning grant winner Bill Stea, in a Q&A style spoke about his summer program for Walford West Library in Maryland and how receiving the grant helped him and his teen patrons. This is the first of a short series in which we catch up with previous grant winners.

  1. Please tell us a little bit about your library and your 2015 summer reading program

Waldorf West Library is the largest and newest of the four branches in the Charles County Public Library system in Southern Maryland. Our library serves the citizens and community of Charles County, a suburban county below the Washington, DC beltway. According to the 2013 US Census American Community Survey, 8,818 county residents are currently enrolled in Grades 9 through 12 in public school and 8,475 of teens in that age range have library cards. See more.

The summer learning grant applications are open now until January 1st, 2018. There are two types of grants available, valued at $1000 each, and 40 total grants will be awarded. Eligibility requirements apply. More information and applications can be found here.

What I Learned From My First Summer Learning Program

My goal for this summer was to create a teen summer learning program at the library, because we didn’t have a dedicated teen services librarian before.

My first lesson was easy: I tried too much. I’m still trying to connect with the teens so there were usually multiple events a week in July.

I am a department of one, with the children’s department happy to assist when they are also not busy. Next year, I need to take a look at the broader theme of the summer, plan a few special events, and a few more low-key events that I can manage on my own. There were some truly large events that I have to re-examine for next year, and some smaller ones that I’ll consider not doing again. By the end of July, I had run myself ragged, and I still had most of a month of programming left to do.

But looking back at what I did accomplish, there is a lot that worked for my teens and my area. Taking some ideas from “Adopting a Summer Learning Approach” by Beth Yoke, I had created a space in my library where teens could learn in a safe, fun environment over the summer.

I spent six months crafting my STEAMPower Camp, a week-long program whose purpose was to encourage young women in middle school to try different STEM activities. We had women in STEM fields come in, physically or virtually, every day to talk about different STEM career paths, and plenty of experiments to keep them busy.

The girls, who already knew each other from school, were quick to join in teamwork to surpass my challenges. There were girls who had a little more trouble than others working in teams, but I could set one of my older teen volunteers with them to smooth things over. They learned to work in teams, and to experiment and see how many different fields of science they could go into.

However, it took a lot out of me. And the most important thing I learned was to plan for breaks in the summer. Just a day when I didn’t have a program or something to plan, and that I could take a breath and do the other parts of a one-person department like read review journals and order books, or catalog them.

Regular life has to go on during the summer, and no matter how excited I was for it, there was the regular part of librarianship that had to go on while I was doing bigger and better programs. Next summer, I’ll have a cataloging assistant, which will certainly help, and I’ll know better than to plan 20 programs in one month.

How’d your summer programs go?

 

How You Can Save Federal Funding for Libraries & Help Teens

The White House budget that was released March 16 calls for eliminating the Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS), the only federal agency charged with providing support to the nation’s hundreds of thousands of libraries and museums. Now it’s up to Congress to decide whether or not they want to change that.  ALA and YALSA need your help to ensure that IMLS is saved, because without libraries teens will not have the resources and support they need to succeed in school and prepare for college, careers, and life.  Here’s what you can do right now:

  1. Connect with your members of Congress when they’re in their home districts July 29 – Sept. 4.  Schedule a meeting at their local office, and/or invite them to your library.  YALSA has free resources and tips to make this an easy task!
  2. Adapt this sample letter to the editor and send it to your local paper
  3. Use the sample messages in this document to contact the offices of your members of Congress
  4. Share your photo or story via this form of how support from IMLS has enabled you and your library to help the teens in your community.  YALSA will use this information to advocate against the elimination of IMLS
  5. Sign up via this web page to receive updates on the #SaveIMLS effort
  6. Join YALSA, or make a donation, because together we’re stronger.  YALSA’s the only organization that supports and advocates for teen services. Dues start at $61 per year.  Your support will build our capacity to advocate for teens and libraries
  7. Add this #SaveIMLS Twibbon to your social media graphics & put a similar message in your email signature
  8. Make plans to connect with your Senators when they’re in their home districts Oct. 7 – 15.  Or connect with your Rep in the House Oct. 16 – 22, when they’re home in their district.  Schedule a meeting at their local office, and/or invite them to your library.  YALSA has free resources and tips to make this an easy task!
  9. Encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to do the above as well
  10. Are you a daughter or son of Donald Trump? Then please ask him to rescind his proposal to eliminate IMLS and all federal funds earmarked for libraries. Many thanks!

Don’t know much about IMLS?  Here’s a quick overview: through IMLS, every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories receive funding to support their state’s libraries and museums.  In FY14 the total funding IMLS distributed to states and territories was $154,800,000.  In addition, IMLS offers competitive grant opportunities that individual libraries and museums can apply for.  In FY14 they awarded 594 grants (from 1,299 applications) totaling more than $54,700,000.  Visit the IMLS site to see how much funding your state receives from them.

Want to take further action to support teens and libraries?  We salute you!  Check out the free online resources we have to make speaking up for teens and libraries easy.

30 Days of Social Justice: Students and School Culture

YouthTruth, a national nonprofit, that “harnesses student perceptions to help educators accelerate improvements in their K-12 schools and classrooms,” recently conducted a survey about school culture that answers the question: “How do students feel about the culture of their schools?” YouthTruth surveyed 80,000 students, grades five through 12 from 2013 – 2016; this was an anonymous survey across 24 states in a partnership with public schools. The results of the survey brought four major elements to light, but library staff can also use these results to make their library spaces more culturally positive.

The first alarming  fact is that only one in every three students would say their school is culturally positive. Only 30 percent of high school students believe their school is culturally positive, while 37 percent of middle school students believe this. There are many ways the library can make their spaces  culturally positive, especially if your library is located in a diverse community. Library staff can provide information, displays, book lists, and programs about cultures. Periodically, my branch offers a program to teen and adult customers called Discover Another Culture. For this, a volunteer from a specific country comes in to share about their culture. In November, the library held a program about Japan; library customers not only learned about Japan, but learned how to make origami too. There are a wealth of possibilities the library can utilize to make their spaces culturally positive to help fill in the gap that some schools are lacking.

The second fact found may not be alarming to too many. It states that students know they are less respectful to adults than adults are to them. From my experience, I would agree with this fact. Local high school teacher, Catherine Baker states:

“[Teens] think we are there to work for them, so it’s our job to be respectful and as helpful as we can possibly be to them. It’s our job to get them to pass, not the other way around.”

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30 Days of Social Justice: Working with the Harry Potter Alliance

Currently, there are many social issues that are happening not only in the United States, but across the globe. In this time, teens may look through school, or outside their school, for ways that they can help those in need during these trying times. One great way for teens to do this is to start a campaign, and one organization that has many fun, interesting campaigns is the Harry Potter Alliance.photo

The Harry Potter Alliance is a non-profit group that works on campaigns to bring social change and donations to those in need. Their motto is that “The Harry Potter Alliance turns fans into heroes,” and their campaigns allow their participants to live up to this idea. The vision of the group is to make a “creative and collaborative culture that solves the world’s problems.” 

There are many different chapters to join or start. There are chapters that are affiliated with schools, communities, libraries, etc. There are chapters all over the world, working together to help those in needs. Being a part of the HPA is a great way to get teens active in their community. Starting a library chapter is a great way for teens to work together to make social changes, and give back to their community. It is also a great way for teens to meet other teens in their community, and is a positive outside school activity.

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YALS Fall 2016: Lessons Learned from a New Teen Space

fall 2016 YALSA coverTeen Services Coordinator, Jennifer Velasquez, took a different approach when the San Antonio Public Library Teen Library @ Central wanted to redesigning the library. By talking about what teens wanted to do in the library, versus furniture and colors, staff was able to truly understand what teens need and want in their library. Velasquez mentions that it is not only important to understand what needs want and need in a library, but why the use the library.

Based on focus groups with teen participants, teens expressed that they wanted quiet spaces, active spaces, and social places. Today’s libraries are now incorporating much of these aspects, and are important to remember when designing a new teen library or space. Velasquez’ model for the perfect teen library includes three spaces: participation, contemplation, and engagement. A participation space allows for “group work and activities.” A contemplation space allows for independent work, which would include, homework, studying, reading, etc. Lastly, an engagement space allows for comfortable seating for socializing, displays, technology–a fun, and safe place for teens to socialize. Although space can be limited in some libraries, and not all these spaces can be coordinated, many of these spaces can be made into programs.
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