Real World Work Experience @ Spencer County Public Library

We were lucky to be chosen for the Dollar General Internship at the Spencer County Public Library.  Dollar General paid 5 interns to work 25 hours during June, our busiest month.   Our time flew by with all of the interns learning and improving.  The program didn’t start out as I planned but we adapted and everyone got what they needed. 

The candidates for internship attended four classes to help them be prepared to search for, apply to and keep a job.   Some of the teens didn’t want to put forth the effort to do well in the class.  A few of them said they were too tired to learn how to make a flyer or at another class they claimed to have made a resume in school, didn’t know where it was but did not feel compelled to make a new one.  Others took notes and paid attention, asking great questions to get better prepared. 

One of the main points I stressed during the classes and in all the advertising for the internship was the hours they would be required to work.  I planned their hours to coincide with our busiest times of the week.  A few teens came to me asking if they could work different hours.   At the time I had lots of applicants and maybe too much confidence in their dedication so I told them the times were required, causing a few good candidates to drop out of the program.  After we hired our five interns they each came to me with request about their schedules.   One forgot that she had summer camp one week, another summer school; two had transportation difficulties and the last doctor appointments.  We worked around their schedules, the work got done and I stressed that if this was in the “real world” they may be fired if they couldn’t work their schedule.    

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Field Trip for Literacy! Dollar General Grant Winner

Thanks to YALSA and The General Dollar Literacy Foundation English, fifty students were able to increase their ability to read, develop an interest in books, and become more comfortable using school library services. As a high school librarian and the recipient of a Summer Learning Resources Grant, I created a summer program that would provide funds for students to select books THEY WANTED to read as part of a field trip experience to the local bookstore.  Looking online or through catalogs to select a book does not get the student as involved as actually seeing, touching, smelling and perusing thousands of books—that is a much more engaging experience for developing booklovers! Also, witnessing other bibliophiles outside the school in the real world provides students with a new and refreshing perspective on reading, the love of books, information and the freedom to choose. 

Our school is fortunate to have a store within walking distance of our school, and the field trip took place on a beautiful, sunny day which only increased the pleasure and privilege of the experience for the students. Participants are English Language Learners (ELL) who come from families facing language and socio-economic challenges. Many do not have the resources or family support to purchase books for reading other than what is provided by the school. As grant facilitator, I was able to build relationships with the students, and draw them into the library, building their confidence in not only reading, but utilizing the library space and resources as a beneficial support system for future academic success.  Collaboration with ELL teachers provided additional supervision, support and enthusiasm for the project, as well as encouraged future use of library services for their students. Since the students reviewed and donated their book back to the library, it increased the library collection with high-interest student selected books. Additionally, the grant provided funds to purchase culturally relevant lit circle books for reading and discussion that the students look forward to reading next.  Here is a simplified project itinerary: Continue reading

Teen Summer Interns @ Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

At Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, we have a year-round VolunTeen program that gives teens the opportunity to volunteer at any of our 20 branches to gain workforce development skills, while also earning community service hours.  Part of our process involves applying and interviewing to become a volunteer each term because we want to better prepare teens for the real world.  Our teens assist with various duties such as shelving, program prep and delivery, in addition to more specialized opportunities like being a reading buddy or a teen tutor.  This year, we were also able to offer three paid internship positions this summer thanks to YALSA and Dollar General.

Upon receiving the Teen Summer Intern grant, we were able to work with three fantastic teens who took their VolunTeen position to the next level.  As we require our interns to have previously volunteered with the library, they come in with a basic skill set that we can then build upon over the summer.  This gives our teen interns a more focused approach, and also instills qualities that help them to become stronger leaders.  We use our grant funds to invest in our teens by providing our interns with a stipend for their service over the summer.  Not only do they serve as a VolunTeen at their home library branch alongside their peers, but they also intern at Main Library and ImaginOn for a more concentrated project.    

This year, we had an intern working in Idea Box, which is our makerspace at Main Library.  In addition to learning new equipment such as laser cutters and 3D printers, she also helped to brainstorm programming ideas about how we can develop community service programs for teens using Idea Box.  During downtime, she also helped to create booklists and work on special projects when she was able because: “I enjoy being productive and trying out new things.”  We also had a teen working on admin duties related to our Summer Break program at Main Library, which is our online summer learning program for all ages.  Whether it was entering statistics, creating spreadsheets, or even reorganizing the collection, our intern was ready to help.  Lastly, we had an intern in our Outreach Services department at ImaginOn assisting with checking-in our Storytime to Go kits, labeling and organizing program materials, and preparing literacy-based extension activities. 

From the library’s perspective, we were able to have reliable, creative, and eager interns to assist us during a busy and hectic time of year.  More importantly, we were able to help those teens develop essential skills and knowledge that they can continue to use and build upon as they grow.  One of our interns said: “It’s really fun because I get to learn more about what the library does for different parts of the community and be a part of it!”  All around, our interns are able to get a well-rounded experience that empowers them to be their best selves thanks to this grant.  Participating in this program has been a wonderful experience for everyone involved and has positively contributed to our mission of improving lives and building a stronger community.

Holly Summers-Gil is the Teen Services Coordinator for Charlotte Mecklenburg Library where she has worked for the last 9 years.  Her passion for serving teens still drives and inspires her work every day. 

Teen Summer Intern @ Algona Public Library

When I started thinking about posting about out summer intern experience, I began thinking about why we hire a summer intern.  The obvious reason is that an intern fills the gaps for summer staff during our busiest time of the year.  But, the summer intern experience is not really for us, the staff.  We certainly benefit from having a teen here for the summer, but the summer intern experience is really meant for the teen.

So, how do we avoid just putting our teen to work, and instead give them an experience that could influence and direct their future?  That’s not a question that I have a clear-cut answer for.  While I’m sure that our summer intern spent lots of time just being put to work, I also know that our intern had a summer that shaped some of the choices that she will make for her future.

The range of activities that our summer intern participated in varied from checking books in and out, shelving, recording summer reading stats, helping with summer reading programs, creating summer reading craft projects, and developing promotional materials.  All of those activities met our needs as a library during the busy summer reading program, and they helped shape the overall experience of our summer intern.

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YALSA @ ALA Annual 2017: Youth Development through Community Engagement

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend ALA Annual 2017 in Chicago last month, where YALSA-sponsored panels and sessions focused on everything from how to run a tech/makerspace to creative ways to engage teens inside the library and out. Regardless of what the specific topic of each panel was, I began noticing a common theme running throughout: the future of teen services lies squarely within the realm of community and civil engagement. Presenters kept returning to this theme of team-based and service driven learning; that teen development is tied to meaningful contributions to both peers and adults, empowering a positive self-image, and fostering a capacity to creatively problem solve. All of this sounds great, but what does this mean for your library, exactly?

Whether your library has a strong history of offering services and program to teens, or is struggling to get teens into your physical space, community engagement is the key to creating lasting meaningful experiences that teens need to develop and become successful adults. YALSA’s Teens First infographic pinpoints areas where library staff can focus their efforts no matter where your community’s teens are to be found. Are there teens in your library space? Utilize their presence to provide volunteer opportunities that impact social or environmental issues close to your teens’ hearts. Teen Advisory Groups are a gold mine of youth development opportunities, as you can harness the creativity and interests of these teens to plan programs that meet a specific community need. Teens will not only be invested in developing the program itself, but will take responsibility for its success and outcomes. In the meantime, teens develop self-worth, a sense of belonging, and ownership as they contribute to the group’s efforts, as well as learning how to effectively communicate their ideas to a larger group of peers. Are you like many libraries where teens are scarce? Team up with your local schools or community organizations to bring opportunities to teens where they are.

Last year, my coworker and I teamed up with the local school library staff to raise awareness about bullying during Anti-Bullying month in October. Teens brainstormed ways to promote a healthy self-image and came up with a riff on the Six Word Memoir. Each student wrote a simple messages about themselves on mini whiteboards and posted the selfies to their various social media profiles. Teens were able to promote a positive message about themselves and get other teens to think about why they were important and worthwhile, too. We encouraged them to tag both their school and the library as a way to demonstrate our involvement with the project. This simple partnership allowed the community’s youth to have a voice about a serious issue by sharing authentic content that they created; it also gave them the opportunity to use their social media platforms to positively impact their peers.

YALSA’s new President, Sandra Hughes-Hassell has also recognized community engagement as the key to bringing teens and youth into successful adulthood. In her recent announcement on the YALSAblog she stated that, as President, her goal is to support library staff to address the unique challenges of their community’s youth by “building teen leadership skills and amplifying their voices.” Over the coming year, she wants to promote YALSA events that aim to encourage and address youth development through community engagement, including One Book, One Community, Teen Tech Week, and more. Keep an eye out for opportunities to get involved with this campaign as the year progresses. In the meantime, If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out YALSA’s recent set of case studies that highlight how various libraries have already begun to think about programming in this way. Remember that this new paradigm shift doesn’t have to mean reinventing the programming/services wheel. Any program can be tweaked to highlight youth development, even if it doesn’t directly include a partnership or whether it takes place inside or out of your own library’s space. It’s just about putting teens first.

Presidential Theme for 2017-2018

I am excited to begin my presidential year and to continue the work begun by past-president Sarah Hill!

Youth Activism through Community Engagement is the theme for my 2017-2018 YALSA Presidential year. I selected this theme for several reasons. The theme reflects a number of the paradigm shifts identified in YALSA’s Future’s Report and promotes teen involvement in their communities, thus building teens’ leadership skills and amplifying their voices. The theme strongly aligns with YALSA’s vision, mission, and impact statements by supporting library staff in working with teens to address the unique challenges they face in their communities and creating opportunities for teens’ personal growth, academic success, and career development.  The theme also demonstrates YALSA’s commitment to an asset-based and youth-centered approach to the transformation of libraries and teen services, and will help library staff focus on developing many of the teen outcomes described in the Reimagined Library Services for and with Teens infographic.

But, perhaps most importantly, I selected Youth Activism through Community Engagement as my theme because teens are experts on the issues facing them and their communities because they are living the issues. This is especially true for youth who are experiencing marginalization due to racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism, or other forms of oppression. Teens want to make a difference in their communities but often lack the skills to take action. I believe library staff have the ability and the responsibility to help teens develop the skills they need to become agents of positive change in their schools and communities.

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YALSA Board @ #alaac17: Membership Meeting & President’s Program

If you’re attending Annual, I hope you can join us Monday, June 26, from 10:30-noon, in the Convention Center, room W184bc, for the Annual YALSA Membership Meeting and President’s Program!

During the membership meeting, you’ll meet the current YALSA Board of Directors, as well as next year’s Board.  We’ll recognize grant and award winners, as well as donors.  I’ll give a brief update of board actions over the past year, and the incoming president-elect, Sandra Hughes-Hassell, will discuss her initiative for next year.

Directly after the membership meeting, my presidential program task force chair, Valerie Davis, will lead a panel discussion on the theme of “Real Teens, Real Ready” about college/career readiness and adulting.  She had great help finding these speakers–her task force members were Lisa Borten, Lisa Dettling, Jeremy Dunn, Katie Guzan, and Ellen Popit.

Panelists include:

  • Tiffany Boeglen and Britni Cherrington-Stoddart, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library – Non-Traditional Career Paths
  • Laurel Johnson, Skokie Public Library – Neutral Zone/Peer Guided Conversations
  • Lisa Borten, Brooklyn Public Library – Youth Council/Urban Art Jamm
  • Jennifer Steele, Chicago Public Library – (PRO)jectUS, creative workforce development/partnerships
  • Emmanuel Pratt, Sweet Water Foundation, Chicago – Neighborhood Development for Youth

The presentations are going to be awesome, so be prepared to find ideas that you can implement in your community!  See you there!

I Need You, You Need Me: A Report About Bringing Ages Together

Generations United and The Eisner Foundation have come out with a new report, I Need You, You Need Me: The Young, The Old, and What we Can Achieve Together, about “examples of pioneers reuniting the generations and making their communities better place to live in.” Through a survey, the report shows why it is important for generations to come together. People of all ages typically spend most of their day around people their same age, for instance, young people in school, adults at work. By taking the time to be around others from a different generation, people can learn from each other, and spread joy.

In a recent survey by Generations United and The Eisner Foundation, 53 percent of people stated that “aside from family members, few of the people they regularly spend time with are much older or much younger than they are.” Ages being separated like this has not always been the case. In the late 19th century, Americans began to realize that children and elderly needed certain types of protection. This was when child labor was banned and retirement because more standard during later life. Although these groups began to prosper, they were also separated out from other people of different ages, which causes issues. As the report states: “protection should not equal isolation.”

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YALS Spring 2017 Resources – CYPHER as Youth Advocacy

In the Spring 2017 issue of YALS, (digital edition available now
to members & subscribers via the Members Only section of the YALSA website) Rica G shares her experience of teaching Hip Hop as a way of life and a means to empower youth. Her article includes references and resources that shouldn’t be missed. The full list of those resources follows:

Clark, Trent. “The 15 Best Snap Music Songs Of All-Time.” Hip-Hop Wired. Hip-Hop Wired, 29 Nov.Web. 13 Feb. 2017. http://hiphopwired.com/483408/15-best-snap-music-songs-of-all-time/

Kelly, Lauren Leigh. “Hip-Hop Literature: The Politics, Poetics, and Power of Hip-Hop in the English Classroom.” The English Journal 102.5 (2013): 51-56. National Council of Teachers of English. Web. http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/EJ/1025-may2013/EJ1025Hip.pdf

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Transforming Teen Services: Getting Teens Passionate about Civics (It Can Happen!)

 

As democratic strongholds, libraries are open to all, serving as a space for community engagement, open discussion, and intellectual development. Not only does the library space serve as a civic forum and information hub, libraries are community conversation initiators and civic guides (Gutsche, 2012; Kranich, 2012). Often when discussing civic engagement, the focus is on adult participation. However, teens should be brought into the discussion as young citizens with powerful voices that can effect change on local, state, and national levels. Libraries provide teens with “genuine and meaningful opportunities to work with each other and with policymakers to impact issues of importance” (Center for the Study of Social Policy, 2011, pg. 2). Civic engagement is tied to healthy youth development, introducing opportunities for teens to become comfortable expressing themselves, learn to think critically, and hone empathy and compassion skills.

Teens must develop the skills necessary to fully participate as engaged and informed citizens. Librarians can, and frequently do, help by providing youth programming that supports the development of 21st century skills. YALSA’s report, The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action, highlights the essential literacies that youth need to acquire to be work, college, and life ready. Through knowledge and skill accumulation, teens are more confident entering a world where sometimes opportunities for personal and professional development are few and far between. Additionally, within the safe space of a library, teens feel liberated to share their opinions, thoughts, and concerns with willing, involved, and engaged peers and adults. Growing up in a small rural town in Georgia, my library became one of the few places where I could learn about cultures, belief systems, and opinions that were far removed from my tiny hometown. These experiences have had a deep impact on how I serve my local community, country, and profession.

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