Back to (After)School – Rethinking a School Book Club

Our school reading specialist and I decided to revisit our middle school student book club. We took a year off from it for several reasons, not the least of which was lack of interest by students and us. It had been run like a traditional book club, everyone reads the same book and meets twice a month after school to discuss the book. Our problem was that our after school clubs meet for an hour and a half, and that time was too long to just discuss a book and choose the next one. We tried having everyone read a book by the same author to give more choice. We found a similar, disinterested reaction. Our students were happy to talk about the book for about half an hour, but wanted the rest of the time for social chat. We tried coming up with some related crafts to fill the time. Everyone painted one of the standard ceiling tiles with a reading theme or based on a book. This was a hit and made for a colorful library ceiling, but that only covered two meetings. We tried to make the book club available 24/7 through an Edmodo group to develop stronger relationships with our students, and get everyone to share what they were reading.The students found it to be just an extension of what some of their classes were already doing – it was too much like school. Our attendance dropped off, resulting in no book club for the last school year. We needed to regroup and rethink what a book club looks like for middle school students.

In the meantime, the library has had some spontaneous, pop-up or “lunch bunch” book clubs. Groups of four to six students create their own book club by reading the same book and meeting during lunch to read and discuss it. These clubs may read only one book and disband or choose to read several throughout the school year. Lunch bunches are not formal and are student led. Usually, student visitors will notice a lunch bunch eating and meeting in the library and then form their own with their friends. We just monitor to make sure the noise level is appropriate and suggest books when the club is stuck for ideas. It is very hands off for adult participation. A way to inspire students to create their own lunch bunch is to create a display of books that have multiple copies for a lunch bunch club. We hope our lunch bunches will meet again this year.

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Back to (After) School: Community Service for Preteens

More and more these days, teens and preteens are expected to participate in community service for their school requirements. This is a great opportunity for teens and preteens to give back to their community and learn skills that are helpful in their lives, education, and career. For a library, it can often be difficult to accommodate the vast number of teens and preteens who wish to participate. It is also difficult dealing with different ages and abilities.

In my library system, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, we have a program for older teens, ages 14 – 18, that they apply to, are interviewed for, and dedicate their time for a semester. Because of the responsibilities that are given to these teens, it would be difficult to accommodate those that are younger. This is why our system developed the Community Service Project for Preteens program(s).

The Community Service Project for Preteens is a great way for youths, aged 11 – 14, to earn their community service requirements, but they are also given tasks that are more appropriate for their age. These preteens are not required to apply, as if for a job, they simply have to register to come and complete the given task. By having preteens register for the program, staff are able to control the number of participants, but it also teaches preteens the responsibility of signing-up on time. These programs often fill up fairly quickly, and we do not allow a waiting list due to the quantity of the materials, etc. By meeting the deadline for registration, preteens are gaining responsibility for themselves. 

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Back to (After) School: Programming with Food in an After-School Club

As many library staff members have noticed, the library is a great place for teens to go after school. Whether it be for studying, working on projects, or a safe place to wait for a parent, teens are visible in the library after school.  At my branch, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library at University City, we have a group of teens that come after taking early college classes at our local university down the road. Library staff have noticed that the teens come into the branch around two o’clock, and stay until their parents get off work; often, this is not until around five o’clock. That aspect got teen library staff thinking. What can we do to provide teens snacks, but in a fun, educational way? And thus, Cuisine Corner was born.

Cuisine Corner is a club that teen library staff developed to help high school students learn to cook simple things during after school hours. This program provides them with a fun snack, but also teaches them ways to cook for themselves. This is a great skill for high school students to take with them to college. Not only are library staff teaching teens a life skill, but, often, the teens are teaching each other things to cook. The club also coincides with The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action. The shared idea, for the envisioned future, is that teens are “learning a skill of personal, work, or academic interest.”

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Speak up for Teens this August

District Days offer the perfect opportunity for legislative advocacy. District Days are a period of time in which Congress is out of session and members of Congress are back in their hometowns. This year, District Days begin on August 1st and end on September 5th. This would be an excellent time for library staff to show elected officials how important libraries are and even get them to visit your library. Members of Congress are always busy in Washington and don’t get many opportunities to visit their local library and really see and understand all the services that libraries provide. It is important that they know this so that they can promote legislation that is beneficial to libraries and teens. If legislators actually see and experience all that libraries do they will be more likely to take action on behalf of libraries and teens. District Days offer library staff and teen patrons the chance to inform members of Congress of their constituents’ needs and help educate them on an issue that they might not know too much about. It can also help forge a relationship with elected officials that would be instrumental in bringing the needs of libraries to the minds of members of Congress, helping them make legislative changes that can only aid teens and libraries.

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Rethinking YALSA: Virtual Town Hall on Monday!

Don’t forget to login on Monday, June 13, 2016, from 2 – 3 pm Eastern for a Town Hall Discussion!

The Town Hall will be about the Organizational Plan that the Board just approved.  See President Candice Mack’s recent blog post for more information.

The Town Hall will be led by Candice and me, and we’ll be joined by many board members, too. The agenda is as follows:

2:00 – 2:15 pm:  Overview of the Organizational Plan & Steps Already Taken

2:15 – 2:45 pm:  Discussion with Participants about Involvement & Engagement Activities

Question to Ponder: What YALSA member engagement activities have you found most meaningful?

2:45 – 3 pm: Q&A and Wrap-Up

If you can’t make it to the virtual town hall, but you’re attending ALA Annual in Orlando, we’d love to see you at the session What’s New in YALSA and How You Can Be a Part of It! The session will be on Saturday, June 25th, from 8:30-10 am at the Rosen Centre, Room Salon 03/04. It will be similar to the virtual town hall, and YALSA’s strategic guru Eric Meade will join the discussion. You can find out more about the Whole Mind Strategy Group in this interview with YALSA Board member Kate McNair.

We’ll be using a format that the Board has been using to meet virtually– Zoom. You don’t have to use video, but it does make conversation easier. And we always love when cute animals accidentally walk in front of the screen!

Email the YALSA Office soon to receive the login information: yalsa@ala.org

The Calm Before the Storm: How Teens and Libraries Can Fight Mental Illness

If you haven’t had a chance to read YALSA’s 2016-2018 Organization Plan, I highly recommend that you do because it rocks! Not only is this the plan that most of us have been waiting for, it is a sign that our work as teen library staff has shifted to focus on the needs of our teens and how YALSA can support us1:

Mission: Our mission is to support library staff in alleviating the challenges teens face, and in putting all teens ‒ especially those with the greatest needs ‒ on the path to successful and fulfilling lives.

Vision: Our vision is that all teens have access to quality library programs and services ‒ no matter where they occur ‒ that link them to resources, connected learning opportunities, coaching, and mentoring that are tailored to the unique circumstances of the community and that create new opportunities for all teens’ personal growth, academic success, and career development.

With this plan, we now have the opportunity to tackle difficult issues that our teens are experiencing such as mental illness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “that 1 in 5 children, ages 13-18, have or will have serious mental illness where symptoms arise at the age of 14 and will eventually manifest by the time they are 24 years old.2” In other words, if we have 20 teens who regularly attend our programs, that means 4 of them are predisposed or have a serious mental illness. Furthermore, 90% of death by suicide occurred among teens with mental illness. With the current efforts that are being made to de-stigmatize mental illness and portray it as a disease that can be managed, libraries can raise awareness and join this much-needed conversation.

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Rethinking YALSA: What’s New in YALSA and How You Can Be a Part of It!

The YALSA Board has been hard at work throughout this year and last year looking at YALSA’s Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action report, association capacity and sustainability, and incorporating member and stakeholder feedback to re-envision the organization’s Strategic Plan to create an association that is more nimble, more modern and more reflective of the needs of teens and our members both today and into the future.

The result is YALSA’s new Organizational Plan!

Please check it out: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/aboutyalsa/strategicplan

You can also find YALSA’s new Mission, Vision, and Impact Statements (http://www.ala.org/yalsa/aboutyalsa/mission%26vision/yalsamission) and the Implementation Plan (http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/ImplementationPlan.pdf)

Mission: Our mission is to support library staff in alleviating the challenges teens face, and in putting all teens ‒ especially those with the greatest needs ‒ on the path to successful and fulfilling lives.

Vision: Our vision is that all teens have access to quality library programs and services ‒ no matter where they occur ‒ that link them to resources, connected learning opportunities, coaching, and mentoring that are tailored to the unique circumstances of the community and that create new opportunities for all teens’ personal growth, academic success, and career development

Intended Impact Statement: To meaningfully address the challenges teens face today and to put more teens on the path to a successful and fulfilling life, YALSA will support library staff who work for and with teens in the transformation of teen library services so that:

  • Libraries reach out to and serve ALL teens in the community no matter what their backgrounds, interests, needs, or abilities, and whether or not they frequent the library space.
  • The library “space” is at once both physical and virtual. It connects teens to other people, printed materials, technology, and digital content, not limiting teens to a designated teen area but rather inviting them into the full scope of the library’s assets and offerings.
  • Teens co-create, co-evaluate, and co-evolve library programs and activities with library staff and skilled volunteers (including mentors and coaches) based on their passions and interests. These programs and activities are connected to teens’ personal, work, or academic interests across multiple literacies; generate measurable outcomes for teens’ skills and knowledge; and are tailored to the unique circumstances of the community.

To achieve this impact, the YALSA Board identified the following priority areas:

  • Leading the transformation of teen library services (including a cultural competency component)
  • Advocacy to policy makers at all levels to increase support for teen library services
  • Funder and partner development

We’re really excited about the new plan and our #TeensFirst focus and we want to know what your thoughts and/or questions are!

To that end, we’ve put together an Organizational Plan FAQ: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/organizational-plan-faq-2016-2018

YALSA President-Elect Sarah Hill and I are also hosting a virtual video townhall on Monday, June 13th, from 2-3 p.m. Eastern via Zoom.  Please contact the YALSA Office at yalsa@ala.org for the access information.

And, if you’re attending ALA Annual in Orlando next month, we will also be hosting a face to face session on YALSA’s new Organizational Plan on Saturday, June 25th, from 8:30-10 a.m. at the Rosen Centre, Room Salon 03/04, called What’s New in YALSA and How You Can Be a Part of It!

If you have any other questions, comments, concerns and/or compliments, feel free to email me at candice. YALSA [at] gmail.com or reach me via Twitter @tinylibrarian! Hope to see you online and/or in person at our Townhall and at ALA Annual!

Instagram of the Week – April 4

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

We’ve flipped our calendars to April and the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month has arrived! Established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, National Poetry Month is the largest literary celebration worldwide. The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report discusses the importance of engaging teens in library programming that helps develop multiple literacies and skills for future college and career success. Poetry month lends itself to a variety of active and passive programs, and libraries are taking to Instagram to share programming opportunities with their communities. Sharing a poem a day on social media, placing boards with magnetic words around the library, and providing the materials necessary for poetry contest entries allows teens to explore poetry at their leisure. On the other hand, holding a poetry slam, blackout poetry art program, or hosting a poet to lead a workshop and reading can foster a more collaborative environment for teens. Spine poetry and poetry contents that require photographs, online submissions, or sharing content on social media provide an opportunity for teens to enhance technology skills. Putting together a book display? Why not ask teens to assist in searching the catalog for materials to include? Don’t forget to pull a few novels in verse and popular fiction titles that include works of poetry.

Need a little inspiration for programs? Visit the National Poetry Month website where you can find a list of 30 ways to celebratetips for librarians, and a form to request a free poster with this year’s design by Debbie Millman. Don’t forget that Poem in Your Pocket Day is coming up on Thursday, April 21!

This week’s Instagram images not only highlight what libraries are doing for Poetry Month, but also how they celebrated April Fools’ Day on April 1. Want to share your poetry program plans or tell us a fun April Fools’ prank your library pulled? Use the comments section below!

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STEM vs. STEAM

I just wrote a curriculum of STEM programs for a rural library to hold for special education high school students. I was initially intimidated by the concept because I am a liberal arts major, a creative writing fellow, a librarian for the love of books. Thankfully I found tons of research and ideas for STEM programs online, especially on the YALSA wiki.

The program ideas I came up with on my own, on the other hand, seemed more…artsy. Given my background, that’s not a huge surprise, but I felt defeated when I’d come up with what I thought was a great idea just to realize it’s too artsy.

That’s when I discovered STEAM. The programs I wrote are strictly STEM, and I respect that and stuck to it. But there is a debate about STEM vs. STEAM, and as someone who has only become familiar with these concepts in the last couple of years, I’m fascinated.  

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Looking for Programming for TTW? Check out Twist Fate

Still looking for programming for Teen Tech Week? Check out the Twist Fate Competition, an art and writing competition for 13 to 17 year olds . This is a great match for the Create It At Your Library Teen Tech Week theme. The challenge will run from March 6 through April 6 and is hosted by DeviantArt, the world’s largest community for visual art, and by Wattpad, the world’s largest community of readers and writers.

“The Twist Fate challenge provides libraries and classrooms across the globe an opportunity to link connected learning, creativity and technology and gives students a chance to improve their skills and get to know supportive, social communities that can help connect them as mentors, fellow artists, and friends,” YALSA President Candice Mack said.

Youth are invited to submit entries on the website of either DeviantArt or Wattpad. The best stories, comic panels, illustrations or other creations will be chosen as finalists that will be reviewed by a panel of editors who will decide which ones to publish in a book. And, the book will be made available to the public in libraries across the country.

The editors are: writers Sara Ryan (author of “Bad Houses,” “The Rules for Hearts” and “Empress of the World”) and Lauren Kate  (author of “Fallen,” Torment,” “Passion,” “Rapture,” “Fallen in Love” and “The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove”), Walt Disney Animation Studios story artist Brian Kesinger and Antero Garcia, assistant professor of English at Colorado State University.

Twist Fate is being sponsored by the Connected Learning Alliance (CLA), National Writing Project (NWP) and Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Connectedlearning.tv has a series of videos giving more details on the challenge.

“Wattpad and DeviantArt are home to some of the most active and inspiring creative youth communities on the net. They offer a rich and motivating context for young people to connect, learn, and get feedback from others who share their interests and passions,” said Mimi Ito, co-founder of the Connected Learning Alliance and UC Irvine cultural anthropologist who specializes in learning. “This challenge is an opportunity for more educators and youth to tap into this creative energy and experience how social online platforms can fuel learning and engagement in the arts.”

Encourage youth at your library to participate!

For more information, visit DeviantArt.com/TwistFate or Wattpad.com/TwistFateChallenge.