National Library Legislative Day 2018

Colleagues-

Last week, Beth Yoke and I traveled to Washington DC to participate in National Library Legislative Day – a twoday advocacy event that brings hundreds of librarians, library supporters, and patrons to Washington, D.C. to meet with their members of Congress and to rally support for library issues and policies. This year, the ALA Washington Office asked NLLD attendees to focus conversations with their Congressional representatives and their staffs on three key issues:

  1. Reauthorization of the Museum and Library Services Act
  2. Full funding for the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL),for FY 2019
  3. Inviting representatives and their staff to visit their local libraries to see broadband access in action.

On Monday, after a full day of advocacy training, Beth and I attended a reception on Capitol Hill. Among the speakers were four teens who had been selected as the 2017 North Carolina Library Association Student Ambassadors. The teens spoke powerfully about how libraries have impacted their lives:

Libraries have personally impacted me in so many ways, including the opportunity to meet new people, learn new things and gain service and leadership skills. Alizdair Sebastien Ray

 

The library is a place where you can forget about reality and be present in the moment, where you can meet new people and develop new interests through the diverse programs it offers. Angelina Bayrak

 

It’s the perfect place to contemplate how we should handle our situations. Christina Haley Williams

One of the teens, Sam Kostiuk, created a video to share his experiences with libraries. Click here to view it.

In addition to attending ALA events, on Tuesday and Wednesday Beth and I met with representatives from the Department of Education (with AASL & ALSC), IMLS, the Afterschool Alliance, and the American Youth Policy Forum. Beth also met with the National Center for Cultural Competence.  These meetings were productive and Beth has already begun to follow up on our conversations.

Thanks to all of the YALSA members who participated in NLLD either in person, virtually, or by coordinating events in their communities.  Your advocacy efforts make a difference!

While participating in NLLD is important, we know that for libraries to be successful in our efforts to ensure federal funds and support for libraries, we need sustained, year round advocacy efforts. Read these 10+ ways you can take action and take a deep dive into all of the free advocacy tools and resources YALSA has on the web site.

Make sure to also reach out to your members of Congress during District Days – the time when they are back in their home districts. Invite them to come for a visit to the library and show them how you serve teens. Schedule a meeting with them at their local office to strengthen relations. YALSA has all sorts of free resources and tips to help you with this on the wiki.

Consider involving teens in your advocacy efforts like the NC Library Association did!  Visit the Youth Activism through Community Engagement wiki page for resources to help you and the teens you work with engage with their communities and advocate for issues like funding for libraries.

By stepping up our advocacy efforts we can help make the world a better place for all teens!

-Sandra Hughes-Hassell
YALSA President 2017-2018

Getting Started with Youth Activism at Your Library – From Stay Woke to Out @ Library

An interview with Jenifer Phillips by Izabel Gronski

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

Most of my networking and professional development happens on social media. There are excellent conversations happening about librarianship on Twitter and Facebook. One group in particular that I enjoy watching for collaboration and idea curation is Teen Librarians. That is where I “met” Jenifer Phillips, the Teen Program Coordinator at the Haverford Township Free Library in Haverford, PA. There was a great conversation going about teen activism programs in the weeks leading up to the student-led walkouts on gun violence, so I popped in to promote the Youth Activism through Community Engagement wiki that this Presidential Advisory Taskforce has been working on. Jenifer commented a little bit later about her Stay Woke program and I knew we had to touch base and asked her to share her knowledge in a blog post. Her insights are especially helpful for those of us who just don’t know where to to start, but feel the need that our teens have for activism based programming. Hopefully, Jenifer will inspire you to take the leap as well!
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Connecting TABs with Community Partners

An interview with Jackie Lockwood by Trent McLees

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

Jackie Lockwood is a Teen Services Librarian for the King County Library System, outside Seattle. She has been with KCLS for seven years, and has been in her current role at the Newcastle Library branch for over two years. Through collaboration and community partnering, Jackie’s work provides a meaningful example of one way we as librarians can support teen leadership and self-direction, both in the library and beyond its walls. By supporting the ideas of Teen Advisory Boards, and connecting with community partners to help teens’ make their ideas and goals a reality, Jackie’s work is focused explicitly on empowering teen voices.

I had an incredibly edifying and enjoyable conversation with Jackie, and if there is one huge takeaway I had from our chat it’s this: the best thing we can do to advocate for our teens is talk. Community partnerships can only happen if the community knows about the teens we serve and their needs, and the best way to let the community know what we know is to get out there and talk, talk, talk! When I asked her what she’d want to have librarians know about doing Teen Advisory Board work, she had this to say: “The biggest thing I’d want to tell another librarian is just to not get discouraged. Doing this kind of work, in what I’ve observed so far, takes a lot of stepping out on a  limb, entering into uncharted waters basically…There may be a certain amount of risk, and you may feel nervous about it, but as long as you’ve done your research and you know the reason why the program is important and will be valuable to the community, you can stand by that, you can get the support of your management and go for it, because it’s really important work.”

Read on for an abbreviated transcript of my conversation with Jackie, and be sure to check out her article detailing some of the work happening at King County Library System from the June 2017 issue of VOYA!
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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.
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Supporting our Teens Working for Gun Reform

Written By Chris Tuttell

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

When the #EnoughisEnough movement began, many of our first thoughts may have been: how can I help? How can I support these courageous teens? As librarians, we are uniquely situated to support teens as they engage with social justice through our comfort with both the power of story and the importance of information literacy.

My journey to passionately advocating for the students calling for gun reform began because I believe that every student deserves to feel safe in their home, neighborhood, and school. I have been following @WhyWakeWalks—a local group of high school students in Raleigh, NC—as they have worked to gain awareness for the rally they are single-handedly organizing on April 20.

In an effort to raise awareness, gain district support,  and elevate the voices of these students, I interviewed the Why Wake Walks leaders on my podcast. The podcast, In Their Best Interest, is dedicated to elevating student voices and centering teens in education and advocacy conversations. This was a natural fit.

The teens in our #WhyWakeWalks podcast [spreaker.com/episode/14541745] powerfully articulate their platform and reference research and data. As librarians, we can help amplify teen voices in our communities—through social media, through the use of our library recording spaces and resources, through help with research, and most importantly, through lending our time to their causes.

Please consider ways in which you can support teens in your area as they advocate for safety in their schools and communities.

Visit the Youth Activism through Community Engagement wiki page for resources to help you and the teens you work with start conversations in your community.

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Chris Tuttell is a Librarian and Instructional Tech Facilitator in Wake County, NC. For the past 18 years, she has been an elementary school teacher, librarian, and instructional technology facilitator working with kindergarten through fifth grade students. Even though she works solely with elementary-aged students, she was so inspired by the teens advocating for safety from gun violence—both nationally and locally—she sought out teens in her district to support. Follow her at @ChrisTuttell.

Empowering Teens, One Conversation at a Time

Written by: Nicholas DellaVecchia, Laila Key, Timmy Lawrence, and Ali Shabazz, Teen Patrons of the Philadelphia City Institute Branch, Free Library of Philadelphia

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

At the Philadelphia City Institute Library, we have a weekly Teen Reading Lounge (TRL) program where teens come in to talk about current events and problems in society in a safe space. This program helps us find things that are really interesting to us and express our real concerns. We find topics we can argue and talk about, and learn how to make points on things we care about.

We’ve read books on topics ranging from teenagers who were sentenced to the death penalty to the lives of transgender teens. These intricate and personal stories are stories we don’t think we would have learned in school. That’s the beauty of this program. It fills the gaps between the narratives of real life people and what school teaches.

At TRL, we allow ourselves to broaden our minds about issues concerning immigration and people of other cultures. We have become more open minded and also more aware of concerns in the LGBTQ community. Not only are the books we read insightful, but the workshops introduce new topics in a fun way and help us see things from different points of view.
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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.

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Socializing to Social Justice: WTF—Woke Teen Forum—at the Hartford Public Library

An interview with Gabbie Barnes by Izabel Gronski

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

The YALSA Presidential Advisory Taskforce was recently brainstorming librarians that were out there in the trenches, working hard to support youth activism through community engagement. Immediately, I thought back to a presentation at the 2016 YALSA Symposium by Gabbie Barnes and Tricia George from Hartford, CT. Their presentation was called From Socializing to Social Justice: Connecting teens to community through social narratives. They tackle youth activism head on in numerous ways, but the Woke Teen Forum in particular was truly inspiring. Their passion for teens and youth activism was evident throughout their presentation and interviewing Gabbie Barnes over a year after their presentation shows that their programs are still going strong. Tap into their passion and find some inspiration for ways to promote youth activism at your library.

Izabel: Tell us about the youth activism programs that you have started at YOUmedia Hartford.

Gabbie: YOUmedia Hartford at the Hartford Public Library is a digital learning and makerspace for teens ages 13-19. We are only open to teens during our service hours, which makes our operations work a little bit different than traditional libraries without dedicated teen spaces. We also average upwards of 85 youth per day, which, as you can imagine, makes 1:1 connections slightly more challenging. To engage as many youth as possible, we use multiple entry points for program development. As a result, youth activism at the library happens in many different ways.

  1. We have structured programs, called “intensives”—these require youth to participate on a regular basis and invest in a desire learning outcome. Those include:
  • Woke Teens Forum (which spawned the youth-led Unconference)
  • YOUmedia Advisory Council
  • Strong Girls Camp
  • Short-term internships for youth to build proposals around issues they’re passionate about.

2) We have unstructured expressive outlets, which are drop-in and require limited commitment on the part of the youth other than showing up. Those include:

  • open mic nights
  • community conversations around controversial and “sticky” subjects
  • artistic workshops focused on messages of liberation.

We also work with a lot of community partners. I’m lucky to be friends with organizers in the community who want to engage youth, specifically. There is a vetting process for who does and does not work with our youth, but ultimately we create space for folks to work with the teens at the library if it’s mutually beneficial. Right now, we have an organizer who does one-on-ones with youth to find out what they’re passionate about and then organically offers gathering times to meet other teens who are similarly passionate. The end goal is a campaign, but the groundwork is starting with each conversation.

There is also a lot of grassroots work happening that I don’t know about–relationships being formed, meetings being had, and events being planned.

I: What inspired you to start the Woke Teen Forum, specifically?

G: We were in one of the most verbally abusive political campaign years of my adult life. The teens were always buzzing about it, and it felt like every day there was some new, horrible thing that they needed to unpack when they came to the library. As someone who stitched together a lot of what I know about systemic oppression in this country through self-guided learning, I felt like I could build a crash course for young people. My goal was to provide an entry point into what is—by design—a much more complex and complicated web than many of us realize. We talked about the intersections of race with housing, education, incarceration, voting, gender, food, and drug reform.

I: What is the most challenging part of pursuing these programs?

G: Scheduling. Even the most engaged teens struggled to make it to every meeting. Young folks are stretched so thin trying to build their resumes for college, be involved in their communities, and still maintain very active social lives. Finding a schedule that worked for everyone was just impossible. To boot, many of the teens I speak to wish that the library was open during their more “alert hours” which for many is in the middle of the night, but it made me ask myself just how effective we can be when we’re competing with after-school extracurriculars, sports, homework? In a perfect world, the public library would be open 24-hours to accommodate all of the schedules in our communities.

I: What was the reaction from your library administration?

G: We’re lucky to have an administration that is supportive of our ideas and believes that we were hired because we embed ourselves in what our community wants. I was most concerned about the acronym, but that was an easier sell than I expected.

I: And your teens?

G: Teens were on board from the beginning. They helped me determine what the topics were going to be; I didn’t want to build something for them without their input. After we finished the curriculum, two of the teens ended up organizing a youth-led design-thinking conference on educational equity. It was one of the most inspiring and awe-inducing moments of my career.

I: How about the community at large?

G: The community was so supportive. I had a few folks from various community organizations reach out to see if I wanted them to host one of the sessions related to their organization’s mission or personal area of expertise. Ultimately, I ended up leading all of the workshops, because of scheduling, but I’m going to try to make partnerships happen in WTF 2.0!

Youth are already doing activism work whether you know it or not. Rather than try to make something for them, figure out how to support what they’re already doing. Have conversations, create space, offer resources, make connections.

 

I: If you could share one piece of advice for librarians seeking to promote youth activism at their library, what would it be?

G: Youth are already doing activism work whether you know it or not. Rather than try to make something for them, figure out how to support what they’re already doing. Have conversations, create space, offer resources, make connections. Leverage your “power” as an adult to provide opportunities for youth to have a seat at the table in spaces they otherwise would not be included.

 

Activism is grounded in history, pain, and hard work. Many people have been doing this work long before it became a library buzzword, and many will continue to do the work long after it fizzles out.

 

I: Do you have any final words for our readers?

G: I fear that when we talk about activism and social justice in libraries that we’re buzzing in the way that we did with 3D printing and maker spaces—or whatever the next hot trend is. Activism is grounded in history, pain, and hard work. Many people have been doing this work long before it became a library buzzword, and many will continue to do the work long after it fizzles out.

Of course, too, I have to shout out my library elders: Spencer Shaw for promoting multiculturalism in libraries and their services and paving the way for black librarians in Hartford; Audre Lorde for being a womanist, anti-racist advocate, writer, and best of all, librarian; Margaret Edwards for advocating for youth and teens in the public library; EJ Josey for founding the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, and Ruth Brown for standing up for racial equality at the expense of her career.

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Gabbie Barnes is a Black, multicultural-dreamer living, working, surviving, and thriving in the Hartbeat: Hartford, CT. She is an auntie, soul sister, daughter, cat mother, mentor, librarian, consultant, mentee, and cinefile. She offers spiritual advising, tarot readings, and essential oil advice. Gabbie received her MLIS during a short, 4-year stint exploring life as a Pacific Northwesterner. She has institutional experience in academic, special, and public libraries. Find her on LinkedIn @hartfordlibraryninja or send her an email gbarnes@hplct.org.

Izabel Gronski is the young adult librarian at the Oak Lawn Public Library. She has experience founding and leading multicultural student groups at Northwestern University, including the International Students Association and the Polish American Student Alliance. She is passionate about expanding teens’ horizons by offering intercultural experiences and opportunities for community engagement. Follow her on twitter @izag or send her an email at igronski@olpl.org.

Teen Activist Board: Shifting the “A” in TAB

By: Megan Burton

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

No one expected a conversation about national news to spark a call to action in a small town library’s Teen Advisory Board (TAB). It all began in June 2016 in the days following a tragic event that took place three-thousand miles away. Despite the physical distance, the violence felt close to home.

School was out for the summer. The sun was bright well into the evening and the added time off brought more teens to the library. We opened the room at 5pm and the 25 or so teens began to socialize before the program began. But the tone was different than a usual Wednesday Teen night. They were quiet.

We started our meeting with the welcome circle—a way to build community and prioritize youth voice. By summer 2016, we had spent a year co-creating these practices and norms. The teens themselves had crafted this protocol to be inclusive and give time for everyone to share their name, preferred gender pronoun (PGP), and age as part of their introduction. They also created a question of the week that we all would answer.  They set a tone of equity and an expectation of respect. After our introduction time, I opened the discussion by acknowledging a mass shooting had occurred in Orlando at the Pulse Nightclub and, without identifying them, I explained that a there were a few people in the group who wanted to discuss the tragedy. With caution, I urged them to think about this event in a personal way, to reflect on the fact that our physical distance to traumatic events does not keep us from feeling real empathy for those directly affected by trauma. And last, I encouraged them to actively listen.
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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.
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