Bringing the BFYA Teen Feedback Session to Kansas City

For any YALSA member, the Teen Feedback Session of Best Fiction for Young Adults is a highlight of attending ALA’s Annual Conference or Midwinter Meeting. It isn’t just getting the feedback on what titles teens liked from this year’s publishing cycle…but seeing teens up at the mic, sharing their thoughts with marketers, editors, agents and library staff. It’s empowering and reminds us why we do what we do. After experiencing the Midwinter 2017 BFYA Teen Feedback Session, we began to think about how we could get our teens to the conference at Annual.

Chicago and Denver are the closest ALA’s conference ever comes to Kansas City (although KC is a large city, we don’t have the conference facilities to host ALA)  That means our teens will never have the chance to experience and reap the benefits of  the BFYA Teen Feedback Session. They will never have the awesome power of addressing the committee and a room of library staff and publishers. And on a late spring day in Kansas City…we decided to change that.

Three YALSA members from two library systems – Amanda Barnhart from Kansas City Public Library (MO), and Peggy Hendershot and Kate McNair from Johnson County Library (KS) – came together to talk about the BFYA Teen Feedback Session. Our grand idea was to figure out a way to take teens to Chicago and get them on the mic…but soon learned that there are ample teens in Chicago waiting their turn and we wouldn’t steal their moment to speak up. We still wanted to empower our teens and give them the opportunity to speak out and be heard, so we went back to the drawing table and came up with an idea that would impact more teens than we could have fit into a van on a roadtrip to Chicago…

Talk Book To Me was born. In line with YALSA’s Futures Report goal of designing programs with teens’ passions and interests at the heart that are strongly connected to academic and career achievement, we identified four goals for the program. 1) Give teens the tools to analyze a book and express their thoughts in the form of a review. 2) Amplify their voices to BFYA committee members, editors, agents and library staff. 3) Unlock opportunities for teens to build a portfolio of accomplishments.

Continue reading

Teen Translator Interns @ the Sacramento Public Library

I am in charge of teen volunteers at the Arcade library and had noted that, of our approximately two dozen volunteers, many of them spoke languages other than English. At the same time, the Arcade library was seeing a large influx of new patrons who spoke said languages from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Syria; teens were also regularly asking about finding paid work in our area. I wanted to create an opportunity for the volunteers to use their linguistic skills and develop new ones related to professional working environments. It was also important to me that they be paid for their efforts.

I then came across a YALSA grant designed to monetarily support interns at one’s library and applied. I was informed that my program had been selected for one of the grants in early 2017. The amount of the grant totaled $1,000, all of which I paid directly to the interns.

The first thing I did after getting the grant was solidify the job description for the interns. I made the schedule flexible and the requirements loose – at minimum, applicants had to be at least 13 years old and be able to get to the library reliably. I highlighted the fact that teens who spoke Arabic, Persian/Dari, and/or Pashto would be given priority and that they would be paid. I also determined that, ideally, I would hire two interns – one who spoke Arabic, and one who spoke Persian/Dari, as those were the languages most often appearing in the community and that no library staff spoke. The description specified that interns were to email me with an answer to the question of why it was important for their community to have access to information.

Once this was finished, I sent the posting to teachers, administrators, and other community contacts in the Arcade area. When performing outreach, I talked about the opportunity to classes, especially those with adult ESL students, once the posting was translated into Pashto, Arabic, and Persian.

Continue reading

Teens Successfully Fighting for their First Amendment Freedoms

By: Julie Stivers, Chair YALSA Presidential Taskforce

Banned Books Week is a powerful platform to highlight how libraries advocate for teens’ rights. As library staff working with and for teens, we can also find inspiration in the work that youth engage in themselves to protect and fight for their First Amendment freedoms.

Youth civic engagement is not new. Many of the cases detailed on ALA’s Notable First Amendment Court Cases page feature the civic efforts of teens. Two of the most famous—Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (ICSD) and Island Trees Board of Education v. Pico—resulted in rulings with language that can galvanize library staff and teens today.

  • In Tinker v. Des Moines ICSD, the Supreme Court stated that “students ‘do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate’ and that the First Amendment protects public school students’ rights to express political and social views.”
  • In Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico, the Supreme Court upheld the rights of students to challenge school boards’ removal of library titles. The ruling states that “local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.”

Read more on these cases and many others at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorship/courtcases.

Teens today are successfully fighting for their rights in varied and dynamic ways. A recent victory powered by teens occurred in Arizona where students and their parents had been fighting against the removal of Mexican-American Studies curriculum from their schools. In late August, Judge A. Wallace Tashima wrote that the First Amendment rights of Tucson students had been violated as they were denied the “right to receive information and ideas.” Furthermore, the court concluded that the students had proven their First Amendment claim “because both enactment and enforcement were motivated by racial animus.” [Washington Post, August 23, 2017]

This powerful triumph is a victory for culturally sustaining pedagogy, diverse and reflective resources, and First Amendment rights. Impressively, it is a victory not only beneficial for teens, but also powered by teens. They organized rallies, created community groups—including U.N.I.D.O.S., United Non-Discriminatory Individuals Demanding Our Studies, coordinated peaceful protests, and even gathered support from teens in other states. [The Daily Wildcat, June 28, 2017]

Our libraries—public, school, academic—can serve as crucial incubators for youth activism and social justice. In addition to sharing these stories with our teens—what else are we doing in our libraries today to support our teens’ activism and fight for justice?

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

Youth Activism Through Community Engagement—Presidential Task Force

 

After the horrors of Charlottesville unfolded, we saw powerful and moving responses via social media, petitions, and public demonstrations. Recently, YALSA President Sandra Hughes-Hassell wrote a blog post about what library staff can do to help. The 2017-2018 YALSA Presidential Year theme of Youth Activism through Community Engagement is an appropriate call to action for library staff to support teens in developing the necessary skills and confidence to engage in their communities.

Advocacy and civic engagement are not activities solely for adults but have been taken up by youth across the world. Age is not a barrier for participation but an opportunity for teens to learn more about what they believe and how they can make an impact. More and more teens are organizing for social change and demonstrating a compassion for those in need. As library staff, we can encourage this excitement by sharing resources, offering a brave and welcoming space, providing opportunities for leadership, promoting thoughtful and #ownvoices reading, and facilitating teen engagement in their communities.

Wethe Presidential Advisory Task Forcehave collected a sampling of resources to help further support youth activism in your library, in addition to including resources that can help foster conversations with teens about Charlottesville,  race, institutionalized racism, and systemic oppression.

 

Teen Activism

Youth Activism Project

Teen Vogue: 20 Small Acts of Resistance to Make Your Voice Heard Over the Next 4 Years

10 Trans and Gender-Nonconforming Youth Activists of Color Making a Huge Difference

The Forefront of Resistance

Medium: A Nervous Wreck’s Disabled Guide to Stepping Up

Life Hacker: 30 Young Adult Books for Activists in Training

Continue reading

Teen Summer Learning Intern or Old Bridge Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

The Old Bridge Public Library’s usage increases exponentially during the summer months while our staffing stays the same.  This makes it difficult to offer the summer learning programs that would benefit our community, but thanks to the YALSA Dollar General Grant, we were able to acquire a teen volunteer to host a myriad of STEM classes centered on the “Build a Better World” theme. 

We have a thriving year round teen volunteer program with over 100 active teens and during the summer months this number increases.  So when we advertised for our summer learning intern position, we knew we would get a huge number of applicants.  Close to a hundred teens applied for the intern position.  We knew more than half of them had the tech skills and open schedule that we needed, but would they have the social skills to make this program successful?  In order to find that out, we held interviews to see if they would be able to interact with all ages, including leading a group of their own peers.

We chose Ariana, or “A” as our summer learning intern for many reasons.  Since A was a teen volunteer for 4 years working in all aspects of the library, and went to a technology high school, she already had the necessary library and technology skill set that we were looking for.  There was no need to train her on those sections.   The Teen Librarian and I gave her a brief talk on the ages that she would be serving and explained their developmental stages.  Because of this, depending on the people attending the program, she was able to alter her robotics programs to ensure that everyone was getting a valuable experience out her STEM classes.    

LED circuit droid

Our summer intern was an essential part in our summer learning programs.  Since we believe in empowering teens, A’s role was not only to act as support in librarian run programs, but to also create her own. One of the first agenda items that we went over with A was to make a list of goals and program ideas to give her some guidance on how the summer would run.

Continue reading

Teen Summer Interns @ Benzie Shores Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

We’ve had a children’s librarian vacancy for almost 2 years now and I’ve been filling in as our youth services coordinator. Finding skilled help in a rural area has proven difficult, but that’s a blog post for another time. With the vacancy, I’ve been extremely grateful for the interns we’ve had this summer, made possible from a grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

The best part of having interns was the fluidity they brought to our programs. Having extra hands around to keep energetic and mobile toddlers from running amok at programs was certainly helpful. During busy times, we were able to set up a separate Summer Reading Program registration table that was manned by the interns. The first day of summer reading is usually a chaotic nightmare (in a good way…) and this year we managed the crowds with no problems, even with the record number of children and teens signing up.

At one point during the summer, I told the interns “your task today is to play Lego with a group of 1st and 2nd graders. Are you ok with that?” It was a joy watching the interns interact with our younger patrons.

Last summer, I spent countless hours maintaining our summer reading program registration spreadsheet. Our interns were able to complete this task with hardly any training. I was amazed at the little amount of oversight they required.

We had a few challenges, but all were to be expected. Teens are busy people and their schedules can change at short notice. They also have family obligations that they don’t always have control over. We had 3 interns and tried to schedule them so that we always had 2 on the schedule in case one of them couldn’t make it. Our interns were bookworms, so at times it was like monitoring kids in a candy store. Overall, they were respectful of their “library” time and stayed on task.

The intern program was so successful that I cannot imagine going through a summer without them.

 

Stacy Pasche has an MLS from Indiana University at Indianapolis and has been fortunate enough to work for the Allen County Public Library (Indiana) and the Pewaukee Public Library (Wisconsin). She is currently the Assistant Director of the Benzie Shores District Library, a small library in beautiful Frankfort, MI. As a small and rural public librarian she works with all ages and all aspects of public library services, from Teen services to cleaning the occasional bathroom. Her heart belongs to her beloved Chiweenie- and her family.

Summer Teen Programming @ S.W. Smith Memorial Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

Teen Programming at the S.W. Smith Memorial Public Library was able to expand based on the generosity of the YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Grant.  Using the funds from this grant our library was able to offer more programs for our teen population. The programs were diverse as to reach teens with many different interests. 

Obviously, we want to encourage reading in our teens, therefore, a Teen Book Club was offered once a month.  We only had 2 students attend, but they were friends which made it nice for discussion.  They were comfortable with one another and shared their thoughts and feelings freely.  The third meeting will occur after this document is submitted, but the two girls plan to attend and actually picked the book for the month.

Our Summer Reading Program focused on the “Build a Better World” theme.  Our young patrons learned about conservation, maintaining a healthy water shed, recycling, forestry, and ways to keep the environment healthy.  For our Summer Reading end of the year event we had a “Dance Party” with a DJ, pizza, snacks and crafts.  We were hoping the DJ would be a draw for the teens and it was.  They enjoyed listening to the music, dancing and eating pizza.  This was the most successful event we had with teen attendance.

Our library owns an Xbox 360.   Using the grant funds I was able to purchase an extra controller, a variety of games, and offered a “Teen Game Day”.  Board games and card games were also made available.  We had teens attend who are not library attendees, which was great, we reached a new population!  The teens enjoyed time socializing playing games and eating pizza.

Science Tellers is an educational science program that uses science to tell a story.  During the program chemical reactions as well as other scientific concepts are demonstrated using hands on audience participation, bringing the story to life.  Our teens enjoyed being chosen as volunteers for science experiments!

The Solar Eclipse presentation educated attendees on solar and lunar eclipses.  Attendees learned differences in these eclipses as well as the history of them.  Future eclipse dates were also discussed.  Viewing glasses were provided so the eclipse could be viewed safely.

Koozie Crochet taught patrons simple crochet stitches and allowed them to make a popsicle holder.  Teens learned a valuable life skill and left with their own creation!

I also was able to purchase a variety of STEM materials with the Dollar General Grant funds.  I hope to have an event for teens where they can use these materials and will visit the library knowing they are available for them to use. 

My name is Diane Finn, I have been the Youth Services Librarian at the S.W. Smith Library in Port Allegany, PA since January 2016.  When I was hired the children’s programs were minimal and had low attendance.  I have since increased the number of programs offered, developed the programs to be more interactive and engaging for children as well as educational.  With these changes attendance has increased and I have received positive feedback from the community.  However, the teen programming has not been as successful.  Using the YALSA/Dollar General Literacy Grant we were able to improve our teen programming.

Teen Summer Intern @ Rebecca M. Arthurs Memorial Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

The internship at our library was the first job I have ever applied for, because it was really the only job that would help with my future job, which I hope to be either working with elementary, high school, or college level students teaching History. I definitely learned how to interact with children much better than I knew how to before, and I know how to help them with things they needed, like help reading directions on the projects we would have them doing. I also got to meet quite a few unforgettable children, and I have pictures they have drawn for me to thank me for little things, which was really sweet. I watched nearly all of these children open up and their personalities really came through so much more than they had at the start. Things like these around the community are wonderful for young children, I think, and it shows them how to be compassionate, helpful adults later in their lives. I also learned a lot from this internship too, not just with the children. I learn important time management skills, faster organization skills, and it’s a bit easier for me to plan out things, like to help with setting up what we did with the classes, which a few we had to do last minute because of changed plans, but everything worked out wonderfully, and most times we even had fun with it as well.

I also had a wonderful opportunity to meet a teen author through this, which was really interesting for me because it’s always been a slight dream of mine to write my own books some day. I bought two of his books, and also won the competition that he had to win an advanced copy of his third book. I also learned basic skills around the library, like shelving, checking in, library card applications, and I brushed up on the Dewey Decimal system too. I also met a really cool girl my age, who I believe will be a friend of mine even after the internship is over. We hit it off right away and we related on quite a few interests too, and when we got to work together it was nonstop laughing and joking while we did what was needed. I was really happy to hear that it was someone I didn’t know, because I love meeting new people.

Amanda, who led the sessions with the children, was also nice and wonderful, and her children were there all day with us, which was awesome, as they were some of the sweetest and coolest children I’ve met. They’ve drawn me bunches of pictures and they seemed to really like me, which helped me interact with them a little easier. Amanda was super nice and caring, which helped any nervousness I had about the internship previously go right out the door, she was super friendly and really easy to get along with, and it was comfortable interactions too, we got quite a few laughs in while we worked on everything. Overall, I’m very glad I applied and I was really thankful for everything I got out of this job, as well.

My name is Hannah Stephens, I am from Brookville Pennsylvania, and I will be 17 in December! The library job was my first ever job, and I applied would be able to get to know how kids behave better than I understood them before, and to save money for a trip to Germany next summer, which will help with the World History teaching career I’d like to pursue. A few interesting fact about me would be I have a three year old shih tzu named Paisley, I collect and play the ukulele, and I currently have four of them! 

Teen Summer Interns @ Addison Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

When our library first began hiring teen summer interns, it was our goal to provide a first job experience and job skills training to at-risk and low-income young adults. We knew we would have to teach our kids the basics: filling out an application, showing up on time, and communicating with coworkers. We wanted them to go through the same orientation process as any other new staff member, including all the paperwork.  It was through this process that we uncovered barriers and knowledge gaps among our kids that we had not prepared for.

Many librarians are already familiar with the concept of “Summer Melt.” Up to 40 percent of low-income and first generation students that are accepted to college do not show up for their first day of class. Sometimes they face an unexpected crisis at home. For many others, though, the barrier is something relatively small. They haven’t filled out paperwork correctly. They aren’t sure how to pay for books. They forgot to turn something in on time. These are problems that could be solved, but students don’t know always where to get help.

By taking our interns through the standard orientation, we uncovered many of the same roadblocks. Of the thirteen interns we have hired in the last three years, five could not produce two forms of ID. Only two knew their social security number. At least four experienced a period of housing insecurity. One intern did not know what to do with a check. Our kids needed much more than just job training.

We also saw an opportunity to talk about topics that are usually too dull or distant to interest teens. Interns asked what we meant by “benefits.” They wanted to understand retirement savings. They had questions about paying taxes. Although many libraries have found success with programs on “life hacks” or “adulting,” it remains extremely rare to engage young adults in these more difficult subjects.

Any library considering a teen internship program should prepare to provide this kind of support. You need to know how to apply for a copy of a birth certificate in your county. You need to have a good contact at your local social services agency. Those of us that work in low-income communities consider ourselves well-versed in these services, but even we can be caught off-guard. Teens don’t always recognize that they are missing important documents and their brains aren’t wired to think about retirement, so these issues rarely come up.

The internship program creates a unique space where teens are motivated to tackle difficult, “real world” problems, but it reaches a very small percentage of our community. Our experience opened our eyes to an important role we can play in the lives of young adults, whether they are college-bound or not. The challenge for us now is to find a way to bring these services to more teens in our community.

What is your library doing to get kids ready for adulthood? What partnerships have you built in the community to reach these teens?

Elizabeth Lynch is the Teen Services Coordinator at Addison Public Library in Addison, IL.