Here is a write-up from the 7th annual Massachusetts Library System Teen Summit

Thank you to Catherine Halpin, Youth Technology Librarian, Teen Central of the Boston Public Library for her help with the post.

For seven years the Massachusetts Library System has offered a wonderful daylong conference opportunity, the Teen Summit for youth services and teen services librarians in the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  The theme this year was Connect the Dots, connected learning.

Crystle Martin, postdoctoral research scholar at the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at the University of California, Irvine was the keynote speaker and spoke about her research in connected learning.  Youth learn beyond the classroom yet many struggle to connect the unique and valuable experiences outside of school with more traditional learning pathways.  Libraries and library staff are uniquely situated to support bridging this gap; helping to create personally connected learning environments.  We can meet learners where they are and tap the power of peer to peer learning, seek recognition in the wider world.  What are some ways to see connected learning in action? By using youth expertise, relying on teen mentorship and we can help youth connect their interest with academic and future pathways.
Crystle - Copy

Jessi Snow, the Teen Services Team Leader at the Boston Public Library's Central Library, spoke about what went into the design of the newly renovated Teen Central  space, including selecting software and hardware, program development, identifying partners, and, most especially, working with teens to help the design the space.

The new space for teens in grades 6-12 opened in February 2015. When creating Teen Central, BPL staff and administration looked at teen spaces across the country, gathered pictures of teen rooms, and got input from teens on what they wanted to see in their space.  HOMAGO is the focus of the new room: hanging out, messing around, and geeking out. The digital makerspace, the Lab, offers creative software including Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop, In Design, Flash, Illustrator, and more), 3D software like Autodesk and Sculptris, and the 3D Makerbot printer. Teens can attend programs in the Lab to learn more about the software, or they can use and experiment with the technology on their own whenever Teen Central is open. Teen Central also houses a Media Lounge complete with PS4, Wii U, and Xbox 1 with two 80 inch screen monitors for teens to use.


Shannon Lake, Teen Educator/Librarian, Providence Public Library and Kate Wells, Rhode Island Collection Librarian, Providence Public Library presented on their program, Teen Tech Squad.   Teens met weekly over the course of 9 weeks to work together on their projects. Teens worked directly with historical documents from the Rhode Island Collection that related to their neighborhood of interest.  Cross department collaboration (Special Collections, Teen Services, IT Department) community partner collaboration (Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence Preservation Society, and Brown University Center for Public Humanities).  Applied connected Learning strategies that was teen focused by having teens choose a local neighborhood of interest to them to explore further.  Teens were connected to mentors at the library as well as through staff at partner organizations.  Teens were able to tap into technology tools and new skills as they photographed and edited video on iPads and added content to the project website.

The project allowed them to make, create, and produce for greater understanding of their community. The final project website will aid others in their research of historical Providence and provides increased access to the libraries Special Collections.

The project culminated in a website that highlights the digital neighborhood profiles teens researched and was celebrated at an open house where teens were able to present and share their work in a gallery setting.  The program has continued in new iterations focusing on music and theater venues, and locations around downtown Providence.


If you didn't know by now that the City of Roses (Portland, OR) has been named best city in the world for street food, now you do. However, these options will strictly focus on the non-food truck options. That being said, if the street food is good, the eateries without wheels have to be off the hook! Of course they are! Here's a smorgasbord of eats and drinks one can indulge during the #yalsa15 Symposium:

La Panza Cafe is good for breakfast/brunch and dinner, but this option should be reserved for when time can be spared because of possible long waits. According to our peer reviews, this is definitely a spot to experience for “True New Mexico Cuisine”.  The Waffle Window is an option if you are looking for your waffle fix.  The Darkest Desire, The Bee Sting, or The Whole Farm, but if those don’t convince you, then maybe a peanut butter chocolate dipped waffle will.

Considering a lunch pick-up? Call, email or drop by Elephants Delicatessen to pick a sack or box lunch. Add a little swankiness to your dinner and try Bamboo Sushi, because according to Willamette Week, it’s the best sushi in Portland! Or veg out at Veggie Grill. The dining choices in Portland are varied and the options nearly endless.

It’s been noted that Portland is known as Best Beer City in the world. They have a booming craft beer scene with many local breweries and brewpubs.  Not a fan of beer? Then have no fear, because there are plenty of other poisons to choose from. Here are a few mentionable watering holes--one is even referred to as a library: Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library, also known as “whiskey dreamland in beervana” is a great choice.  They even have a Friends of the (Whiskey) Library membership! If you’re thirsty for creative mixology, the Teardrop Lounge should not disappoint you.

There is another thing Portland is well known for: coffee!  Coffee and I go way back, hopefully besties for life. If you have the same connection, try these for your caffeine boost.  If you haven't registered yet for the YA Services Symposium, there's still time!

--Annie Snell, YA Services Symposium Marketing and Planning Task Force

P.S. Can't attend this year?  Then mark your calendar for the next YA Services Symposium, which will be Nov. 4 - 6, 2016, in Pittsburgh, PA!


A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

On page 8 of YALSA's The Future of Library Services for and with Teens it says, "... in many communities, opportunities for teens to connect to libraries is primarily limited to school-related work and activities. They use school and public libraries for homework and school-related research, but prospects for engagement beyond that are often lacking. This lack of engagement results in fewer opportunities for teens to connect to resources that support their personal independent growth—resources that allow them to explore their passions, connect with others who share their interests, and turn their learning into 'academic achievement, career possibilities, or civic engagement.'”

After a week-long celebration of the freedom to read, it is sobering to think that in many libraries around the country library services for teens is reduced to school-related research, and the freedom to explore interests and have FUN is seen as a burden on staff and library resources. This is often a very real reality for vulnerable teens in communities were access to the internet, technology, and creative space is very limited. WE must keep in mind that we are advocates for teens, and that although school-realted research is important, so is FUN!!! We must continue to be champions for young adults and facilitate spaces that are engaging, inspiring, and serve as incubators for connected learning. How are you facilitating fun in your library? Here are a few of the best examples on Instagram of libraries having pure unadulterated FUN this week! Enjoy!

The American Library Association (ALA) defines outreach as providing library services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented populations; populations such as new and non-readers, LBGT teens, teens of color, poor and homeless teens, and teens who are incarcerated. As these populations are often marginalized and underserved, it is crucial for libraries to recognize these populations and provide services and programs to them where they are.

The President of YALSA, Candice Mack, is focusing her year as President with an initiative, "3-2-1 Impact: Inclusive and Impactful Teen Services," which will focus on building the capacity of libraries to plan, deliver and evaluate programs and services for and with underserved teen populations.  Visit YALSA's wiki to find and share information about serving diverse teens and building cultural competence.

Each month I will profile a teen librarian or staff working in teen services providing outreach services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented teens. The purpose is for us to learn, connect, network and share with each other the crucial work we are doing in this area.

Peggy Simmons is a Library Assistant for the Oakland Public Library at the Elmhurst Branch. The following comes from a phone call with her in August, 2015.

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According to the 2013-2014 Core Values for the Teen Services Profession, developed by the Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA) Professional Values Task Force, there are “nine core values that define professionalism for those who work for and with teens through libraries. 1” One of the nine core values is “Compassion,” where librarians who work with teens “strive to identify with others’ experiences. Shows concern, empathy, and consideration for the needs and values of others. Within this value, librarians will demonstrate the following:

  • Communicates effectively, both verbally and non-verbally, with others, taking into consideration individual differences in learning styles, language, and cognitive abilities, etc.
  • Builds and maintains knowledge of teens’ social, emotional, mental, and physical development and how they shape the teen experience
  • Strives to understand teens' lives from their perspective in order to create genuine connections
  • Places the needs of teens above one’s own
  • Provides services for and with underserved and underrepresented teen populations

After reading through this report, the one core value that speaks the loudest to me is compassion. If we, as teen librarians, were to prioritize these values, compassion needs to be the number one value that we need to act upon; not only is compassion the key to solidifying honest relationships with teen patrons, these connections provide us with the information and insight to support many facets of teen services including connected learning. According to The Future of Library Services For and With Teens: A Call to Action: “To support their learning—personal, work-related, and academic—library staff must connect with teens as individuals. As one participant noted: “Many teens don’t have relationships with non-supervisory adults…teens need more adults who are not “in charge of charge” of them” (2014, p.10). By showing compassion, we are conveying to teens that we are genuinely interested in their opinions and thoughts, which is why we develop teen advisory boards and similar programs. These programs allow us to build rapport with teen patrons because we are providing a dedicated forum for teens that tell them that we do value their input. If we are unable to create these kinds of avenues, we need to get up from behind the reference desk and actually talk to teens when they walk into the library. What exactly do we talk about? Talk about anything and everything! Read More →

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between September 25 and October 1 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

Last week I attended a Literacy Summit at the Mid-South Book Festival in Memphis, Tennessee. I was inspired by speakers like Jeff Edmondson of Strive Together and David C. Banks, the founding principal of the Eagle Academy. I learned that 73% of students in local Shelby County Schools were reading below grade level. That statistic might be specific to my area, but similar numbers can be found elsewhere. (The KIDS COUNT Data Book has extensive information broken down by state.)

I learned that there are ways we can change this unfortunate trend. I sat in an auditorium surrounded by teachers and tutors who were specifically told “You can do THIS.” And I looked around, wondering where the other librarians were.

Librarians might not have as much, nor as consistent, access to students as teachers do. Librarians certainly don’t have the one-on-one access that tutors do. But librarians can help improve reading levels in their own ways.

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YALSA identifies 9 Core Professional Values in the Teen Services Profession;  accountability, collaboration, compassion, excellence, inclusion, innovation, integrity, professional duty and social responsibility.  

These core values were developed in 2013-2014 by the Professional Values Task Force of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Members of the task force were Sarah Debraski, Meg Finney, Gretchen Kolderup, Amanda Murphy, Lalitha Nataraj (chair) and Vivian Wynn. YALSA’s Board of Directors adopted the guidelines on June 27, 2015.

What does social responsibility  look like?

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY is defined as-promotes the mutual trust between the profession and the larger public.  Responds to societal needs as they relate to  teens and libraries

A person practicing this value;

  • Can articulate the teen perspective when friction arises between adults (patrons or staff) and teens in the library

You are able to capture the potential issue between teens and adults (patrons or staff).  You do this by being an advocate for teens and helping to sometimes be the conduit between teens and adults.  You have the ear of teens because you listen, respect and communicate directly with them and can be the teen voice when needed.

  • Seeks opportunities both inside and outside the library to speak up and act for teen services rather than waiting to be asked to do so

Do you share teen services, programming and teen successes with your staff regularly?  You may do this in meetings with staff from other departments, maybe through your library’s online or paper newsletter that is shared through your library/system.  Communicating with your staff what is happening with and for teens helps staff know what is going on programatically/services but also makes teens and teen services more relevant and understood to them and can in turn create additional advocates for teens and teen services.

  • Advocates for the educational, developmental, and recreational needs of teens, especially as they relate to library services

You do this by thinking about the 40 developmental assets and incorporating those outcomes with the programs and services you provide.  You think about the YALSA Futures Report and incorporate those outcomes into your programs and services.  And you share these reports, outcomes, assets and more with the staffs you work with. 

Read More →


Road Trip by Geneva Vanderzeil (CC BY 2.0)

This year Teen Read Week is Oct. 18 - 24 and the theme is Get Away @ Your Library. There are endless ways teens from all backgrounds could interpret this positive reading message. For some, it may suggest finding a quiet spot in the sunshine to reread a favorite book, letting the everyday pressure of school, friends, or family slip to the background for awhile. For others, it might mean reading the newest sci fi hit and blasting into space, leaving this universe for another. Reading true tales of escape may help some young people feel less isolated in their emotions and feelings. Whatever teens select to read, we know that getting away with books can be a rewarding part of teens’ lives. For resources to help you reach out to underserved teens this TRW, visit YALSA's wiki.

In our small, rural community in the southwestern corner of Virginia, many students do not have the opportunity to travel the world. Our young readers venture to the far reaches of the globe through the beauty of language. Great novels transport them out of their seats and into the Egyptian pyramids, stormy seas, or dank trenches they may never see in person.


Globes by Sam Howzit (CC BY 2.0)

Our library’s Teen Read Week plans are modest, yet thoughtful and engaging. Old suitcases will display favorite reads and titles with traveling themes such as Walk Two Moons or A Wrinkle in Time. Travel brochures and maps will be strewn about for perusal, and hanging globe lights will set the mood. Morning announcements will suggest titles, and an online poll will invite students to nominate favorite reads.



DIY Party- Wishing Travel Map 3 (1) by Geneva Vanderzeil (CC BY 2.0)

Students will challenge their imaginations by creating book-inspired travel memes. Displayed around the building, these will serve as reminders about the joys of reading for pleasure. Students will share book scenes and sites they would love to visit, and express these future travel dreams by pinning manilla luggage tags to our travel wishing map. We will also craft travel journals in an after school workshop. Here students can write and draw notes from journeys, whether by road, bike, plane, or mind. These activities combine library, English, geography, and math tie-ins, creating a week of cross-curricular fun.


DIY Travel Journal by Geneva Vanderzeil (CC BY 2.0)

Our Pinterest Board has links to all of these ideas and is a great resource for planning and inspiration. Teen Read Week is the perfect opportunity to remind teens of not only the significance of reading, but its magnificence as well. Be sure to join the Twitter conversation at #TRW15 for the latest resources and news. Visit the Teen Read Week site for checklists, publicity tools, and discussion forums, and check out YALSA's Teen Programming Guidelines for information about what makes a good program. Happy planning!
Aimee Haslam is a middle school English teacher in Abingdon, Virginia and a library science graduate student at Old Dominion University.

A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

Libraries are all about literacy and following the pattern of time, media literacy is now on the forefront. How do we, as librarians from many different backgrounds, educations, and communities make sure that we are doing the most we can with media literacy? How do you steer them with social, print, or any other kind of media literacy? You can start with using the devices your teens already have. As shocking as it may seem, there are always things they can learn on their devices. Play and Learn. Are you a system that has devices that you can use in a program and let them use in a petting zoo fashion? Allow teens to experience new technology if your system has access. If your library doesn't have the means, take a look at teaching a class about how to analyse messages. We know all too often we misinterpret messages and this is a good way to steer them in a direction of thinking in a different manner. Don't let the word "media" scare you. There's an aspect that we all can dabble in. Media literacy is also in print fashion, so look into research and paper writing. Also try a workshop where teens look at their social media and see if some of their past posts could have had multiple interpretations. These are just a few of the ways that media literacy can be a part of your library. More steps and tips are outlined in The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action How do you use media literacy in your library? Comment below.