Last month, I started an anime club at my branch library because anime is still, and always will be, popular. In fact, we had six teens show up to the very first meeting and, needless to say, they are super excited to be a part of this program. During our first meeting, I asked the teens what they want to see in anime club and the first thing they asked me was: “Can we do more than just watch anime? I literally screamed “YES!” because I have every intention of diversifying this program and I will definitely need the teens’ help in making this club thrive.

During our discussion about the club, the teens asked for a variety of programs that would include a cosplay event, a history of manga presentation, a Japanese food program, an anime inspired craft workshop, and other programs that celebrate the Japanese culture. Not only are these ingenious ideas, these will transform an already popular program into something else even more awesome. By taking a different approach to anime club, and asking teens what they want from a program, we, as teen services librarians, are demonstrating what it is to be innovative. According to the Core Professional Values for the Teen Services Profession, innovation “approaches projects and challenges with a creative, innovative mindset. 1” By changing the concept of anime club (aka. sitting around and watching anime), we are adding elements that have the potential to not only bring in more teens, but help us re-evaluate our approach to programming in general. For example, when starting a new service or program, it is absolutely essential to consult our teens; by going straight to the source, we establish the outcomes we want to reach, which will shape how we plan and implement a successful program. Once we get a consensus of what teens want from programs and services, we need to figure out the best ways to get teens into the library, which is why we need to get innovative with our outreach.

Although many of us use social media and other marketing methods, the one method that we can always rely on is reaching out to our community. Whether it’s a concert venue, a teen center, a school event, or even a college fair, we need to meet teens face-to-face and tell them what services are available. If we don’t have the means, or the opportunities to go out into the community, we can easily apply that idea to every teen that walks into our library. In other words, we need to be vigilant in making sure that every teen is welcome and that we are available to serve them to the best of our ability. Furthermore, we need to do everything in our power to establish some sort of contact with them, which can easily start with “Hi! I am the Teen Services Librarian. What’s your name?” By initiating, and creating an ongoing dialogue with teens, they will realize that there are actual adults who are dedicated to serving them, which is not only great for us, but incredibly beneficial for those who need a safe environment to be who they are and for those who feel the need to be a part of something. With this new anime club, my hope is to not only involve the teens in the planning process, but give them the chance to be involved in the implementation. Whether it’s passing out flyers, using their massive social network to promote the program, or setting up the program, teens will experience all the necessary steps to finish what they started. Anything is possible with teens so let’s give them the chance to show the community their passion and dedication to providing something unique and fun!

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cover_fall_15As a new member of the YALS Editorial Advisory Board I’m excited about the direction of the journal and how it supports the future of teens and libraries.  I’ve just finished reading the fall issue and I can tell you that there are great, inspiring pieces you won’t want to miss. You’ll see the hashtag #act4teens throughout, and that is the focus of this issue.  How can libraries and library staff work with community organizations in new ways to support and promote youth? What I appreciated about each #act4teens feature is that while each is about a fairly large-scale program, they can all be adapted to libraries and communities of different sizes.

As a public radio fan I was really interested in the piece about RadioActive, an amazing program out of Seattle’s NPR radio station which teaches teens how to create radio stories.  The article clearly outlines how you can implement similar workshops and programs in your own library.  It’s a modern take on connecting people to stories and each other.

The article about Sociedad Latina is a great example of reaching out to cultural communities. It is co-written by a teen involved in the organization, yet another example of how the group promotes teen voices. The third community organization highlighted is LA Commons, a public art project, which also reaches out to cultural communities. Youth are engaged in seeking out stories from the community and conducting interviews. And speaking of cultural connections, be sure to read the update from the Cultural Competence Task Force. This new YALSA taskforce has been hard at work for the past year and the results are outlined here, including links to resources.

Have you ever wanted to be a published author? Or had a great library experience you wanted to share with others? 50 Tips for Writing and Publishing with YALSA has everything you need to know to make that happen.

And, finally,  don’t skip YALSA President Candice Mack’s message about shaking up the status quo in libraries.  Her message is both motivational and practical.  There are new ways to reach out to our communities and connect with youth.  You can make that happen and the fall issue of YALS is there to get you started. 

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

The week of Sunday, October 18 through Saturday, October 24 marked YALSA's 2015 Teen Read Week. With a "Get Away @ your library" theme, libraries were encouraged to showcase resources and activities to the teen community and support reading for fun. This year's theme was selected to "help teens escape from the day to day grind of school, homework, family responsibilities, part time jobs and so on by picking up something to read." Started in 1998, Teen Read Week is held every October to encourage teen reading and library use.

From author visits and in-house or social media contests to book giveaways and food, libraries spotlighted a number of creative ways to bring teens into the library. Maintaining connections with current teen library users and reaching out to new, potential users through both physical and digital library channels is important in light of comparisons provided in The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report. Whereas youth participation in libraries was previously a formal library-driven activity to gain feedback on collections or space, the envisioned future of youth participation is much more flexible and informal, with all teens in both the physical and digital library space receiving an opportunity to develop, implement, and evaluate programs and services. Encouraging teens to engage in the library events such as Teen Read Week may be the perfect way to gain insight from those hard to reach teens!

Did you celebrate Teen Read Week at your library? We want to hear from you! Share with us in the comments section below.

For more information on Teen Read Week, please visit the Teen Read Week website.

More information on the envisioned future of youth participation in libraries, please see The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report.

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Adapted books are texts that have been modified to make them more accessible for people with different abilities. Making books more physically accessible could mean using fluffers, which are foam stickers or Velcro squares added to the corners of stiff pages to make them easier to grab and turn. Any book can be adapted with these fluffers, but its important to make sure the books that are modified can also be independently read by patrons. Turning regular texts into adapted books will not only round out your librarys collection, but it can also be a great makerspace project!

There are several quality resources online for ready-made adapted books. The Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities at Rhode Island College has a great database and is constantly adding new books, as well as taking submissions! The books are available as Powerpoint slides, so they could be shown on a big screen during a program, but are also downloadable as PDFs that can be printed, bound, and added to the librarys collection. Most books that have already been adapted are picture books, but there are quite a few for different age levels. Middle grade novels like Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary and the Al Capone books by Gennifer Choldenko have been adapted. There are also some higher level books like Beowulf, or A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens.

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Recently this image has gone viral. It’s a photo from Sacramento Public Library that seems to have been first posted online in January. Many of my colleagues have been inspired to post a similar sign in their branches. This sign demonstrates a practical solution for providing assistance to teens who, for whatever reason, are reluctant to ask staff for help.

Many teens I find roaming in the library often do not want to engage with staff. I do things like wear fandom buttons on my lanyard, which has helped to start conversations, but when most staff offer to help  a teen find a book or show them how to use an e-source, they politely decline.

So how do you serve someone who doesn’t ask for help? Read More →

All of us know the following scenario very well: A teen walks in needing ten hours of community service by the end of the month and they want to volunteer. As much as I want to say “yes,” reality sets in and I can’t always accommodate those requests. Teens should be proactive when it comes to community service, but what if they have no idea who to contact? Well, this is where our super library powers come in and, with a little research, and a few phone calls, we can definitely refer our teen patrons to organizations that need their help.

The best way to point our teens to local organizations is to create a list of local nonprofits for ready reference. When I started researching organizations in my community, I was blown away with the number of organizations that need help other than the library! In fact, there is such a variety of organizations in my community that teens should not have any problems finding a suitable volunteer position. One excellent example is for teens to volunteer at their local humane society and animal shelter.

According to Animal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) “approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.1” There are many, many animals that need homes and, if they are unable to be placed in a loving home, they face the threat of being euthanized. For teens, this is the type of issue that will not only ignite a passion in them, but, as a volunteer for the humane society or shelter, they will put that passion to good use. The goals for these programs are to give teens the tools and knowledge to not only help communicate with the public about homeless pets, but promote the humane societies’ or shelters’ mission and objectives. When I was a teen, I thought that if I worked at an animal shelter, I would be cleaning kennels the entire time, which is why I ended up volunteering with the library. I was so wrong and, as much as I loved volunteering in the library, I really wished I worked at the local humane society.

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Which young people in your community could be most positively impacted by services that your institution currently provides or could provide?

Are there foster youth, homeless teens, teen parents, teens from military families, incarcerated youth, disabled teens, LGBTQ teens, immigrant teens, teen English Language Learners, or teens from various cultural, ethnic, racial or socioeconomic backgrounds in your communities who could really use the library’s help to succeed?

What would that assistance or those services look like?

My YALSA presidential initiative, “3-2-1 IMPACT! Inclusive and Impactful Teen Library Services,” focuses on building the capacity of libraries to plan, deliver and evaluate programs and services for and with underserved teen populations. It is a call to action to all of our members to take a close look at our communities, identify service gaps and address needs by using or contributing to YALSA resources like the Future of Library Services for and with Teens report, Teen Programming Guidelines, our new Teen Programming HQ and more.

Visit YALSA's wiki to find and share information about serving diverse teens and building cultural competence. For a list of selected resources relating to building inclusive services for and with teens, check out this flyer (.pdf).

Other activities that we hope to work on this year include collecting stories from members who are reaching out to underserved teen populations and sharing best practices and/or advocacy messages, creating spaces or pathways for members who are focusing on the same teen population to connect with one another, providing continuing education to help members reach out to specific populations and also gain leadership and cultural competence skills/knowledge, and compile existing and/or create new resources to help members serve various underserved teen populations.

As YALSA President, I’m excited about harnessing the passion, energy and activism among all of our members to help create positive, inclusive, impactful change for and with the teens that we serve in our communities. I’m looking forward to working with all of you and to the amazing work that we are all going to do together this year.

In the craziness of finishing up a week of camp (both for the teens and the younger campers who came in the morning) and heading back to Champaign-Urbana, I didn’t get a chance to write a Friday blog post. However, I’m here for a day five recap and a brief reflection on the week as a whole.

On Friday, we gave the teens more design time on their projects and also, gave them a chance to put their ideas together into a final presentation. A few of the teens made a PowerPoint presentation, giving an overview of their week and how they arrived at their design projects. It was a nice way to summarize the week and reflect back on what they had done.

After a brief dress rehearsal, it was showtime! The director of the Peoria Heights Public Library was there, some 4H staff members (the camp was sponsored through 4H and the University of Illinois Extension), and some of the parents of the teens. Their presentations were both informational and a celebration of their hard work.

And boy, did the teens have some great ideas. Each project showcased the teen’s strengths and their insight. The projects focused on how to make the teen space in the library more inviting for teens. Some focused on the physical space, others on what was in the collection, and others about how to bridge generation gaps between teens and older adults, using the library as the setting. The library director was intrigued by many of the ideas. I was reminded that we need teen perspectives because they have valuable opinions. I would be curious to return to the Peoria Heights Public Library in a few months and see what input was considered and put to use.

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Another good day at the Teen Design Lab. We had a pretty free form day, complete with some inspiration, project time, and stickers.

What we did:

  • Watched some library related humor videos (such as Check It Out made by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library — what a great job they did incorporating Taylor Swift into EVERYTHING). These videos served as inspiration and a potential design project. We wanted to give teens the option of making a video parody to promote the library.
  • Then it was design time. This is the neat part of the camp. We just let the teens be, serving really only as sounding boards and offering words of encouragement. We provide laptops, paper, pens, and other design supplies (such as clay, building blocks, felt, etc) so they can create a prototype of some sort. It was neat to see the teens find their element — some needed to make something with their hands while others made detailed dream plans and steps to success charts. The design process also the teens to showcase their talents and strengths, which is awesome. At the same time, we are aligning with library and community priorities — giving suggestions on how to make the teens feel welcome or participate in their community and or library.
  • The day ended with a sticker workshop. Again, this pulls from Makerspace and Fab Lab ideas and equipment (check out the Maker & DIY Programs YALSA Wiki page for more information about this sort of programming). It was an easy setup — laptops running Silhouette software, Silhouette vinyl cutters, and vinyl for the stickers. It’s another workshop where the teens really have free reign over what they want to do. Our only suggestion was using a silhouette image for the cleanest cut. The teens really took off on this project, most printing multiple sets of vinyl. They picked up on it pretty quickly (and a few had done this before). It was a nice way to end the workshop.

The teens will be back tomorrow, continuing to work on their designs and then give a brief presentation to their peers and community members we’ve invited to come so the teens’ opinions can be heard!