Teen Creative Writing & Art Contest for Teen Tech Week

As part of Teen Tech Week, YALSA is teaming up with the Connected Learning Alliance, Deviant Art, the National Writing Project, and Wattpad for the Twist Fate challenge.

The challenge is to get young people (ages 13-17) telling stories about what happens when a hero becomes a villain, or a villain a hero (through writing, video, digital art, animation, etc.) and sharing them across the Deviant Art and Wattpad platforms. It’s happening March 6-April 6th, and to ramp up for it there will be a series of free webinars with guests including Mimi ito, Christina Cantrill, Candice Mack, Josh Wattles from DeviantArt, and Jing Jing Tan from Wattpad:

Connecting the Creative Sparks of Young Makers to Supportive Communities of Practice Feb. 11, 7pm EST

Storytelling and Making Redefined: Get to Know the Wattpad Community Feb. 18, 7pm EST

Meet the “Deviants”: Networked Artists and Makers of DeviantArt Feb. 25, 7pm EST

Impact on teen friendships in an age of technology

It’s hard to go through a day without seeing a teen using some piece of technology. Sometimes it seems like they are glued to their phones (similar to their adult counterparts), even when they are walking. Or you’ll see many of them together, snapping and Instagraming their afternoon at the local coffeeshop.

How does all this technology impact teen friendships? As a teenager, friendships are crucial. Your friends become your sounding board, provide advice and support you in times of need, and become a pseudo family as you head towards adulthood. The Pew Research Center was curious about this and in 2014-2015 conducted a nation-wide survey of teens aged 13-17. The report, Teens, Technology, and Friendships, was published in August 2015 and I think it sheds some light on teens’ communication style.

From the report, I pulled three main ideas. The report is jammed packed with interesting statistics and worth a look through. But for a condensed version…

Making friends online

According to the teens surveyed, 57% reported that they had made a friend online at some point. However, it was less likely that these online friends turned into people teens met in person (only 20%). When you break up the 57% of teens who have made at least one friend online, it was more likely these teens were older (15-17 years old).

Boys were more likely to have made online friends through video games (the networked component that allows you to play with other people online playing the same game) while girls were more likely to make friends through social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram).

The so what: As I was reading this section of the report, I thought back to growing up and writing pen pal letters to students either in the United States or across the world. Could something like this be replicated through video games or social media platforms by the library? Perhaps if a library has a video game system for teens to use, they could pair up with another library who has the same video game so their teens could play against and with each other? Or the teens could “take over” a social media platform that the library uses to communicate with teens and talk to another teen department at another library?

Keeping in touch with friends

Regardless if the friend was made online or is an in-person friend, texting is the popular means to communicate with them. Teens reported that 49% used texting as their main form of communication with friends. Other forms of communication included instant messaging, social media platforms (and direct messaging), email, video chat, phone calls, video games, and other messaging apps (Kik or WhatsApp). Many teens said that the medium to communicate was based on the type of friendship they had with the other person. Only the closest friends would be eligible for a phone call, while newer friends were easier to text or talk to in another messaging app. It was interesting that 85% of teens said they had called their friends at some point (analog is not dead!).

The so what: Teens have created a system for building trust in friendships seen through how they communicate with each other. They have rules for how to communicate with each other and these look different than how we might be use to communicating with friends. By seeing that this sample of teens is more likely to use written word to communicate can better help us understand the teens we serve (and what sort of programs could happen with this framework in mind).

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How Food, Music, Gaming, and Volunteering Can Transcend Fear and Intolerance

Recently, teens have been bombarded with rhetoric and actions that do not support their development or provide a safe environment for them to thrive. Unfortunately, there are far too many recent examples of young people being bullied or harassed by their peers or adults. For example, a report from the Council on Islamic American Relations of California indicated that more than half of Muslim students ages 11 to 18 report having been bullied because of their religion. As teen library staff, we should address this atmosphere of fear and social injustice and work with teens to turn it into something positive by promoting the intrinsic values of tolerance, equality, and acceptance. And we should do this regardless of whether or not our communities include a large population of people from diverse backgrounds. In order to be successful, well-adjusted adults, we need to help all of our teens learn how to understand, accept and work with others, regardless of their background.

Recent discussions at a national level about immigrants and Muslim-Americans point to the need to help young people separate fact from fiction. Regardless of whether or not your community is hosting immigrant families or has a large Muslim community, now is great opportunity to convey to our teens the importance of compassion and inclusion for people of all backgrounds. One tool that I found incredibly helpful is the YALSA’s Cultural Competence Task Force1. This task force has compiled an extensive list of resources that not only provides general information and training information in regards to cultural competence, there is a great section of resources that we can use to help our teens develop cultural competencies through youth involvement. One article, entitled Engaging Youth to Create Positive Change: Parent Support Network of Rhode Island published by National Center for Cultural Competence, Center for Child and Human Development, and Georgetown University, states the following:

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YALSAblog Tweets of the Week – November 13, 2015

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between November 13 and November 19 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.
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Anime Club 2.0: How Teens Can Do More Than Watch Anime

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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Check Out Your New Issue of YALS!

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. 

Instagram of the Week – October 26

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 for Teens With Disabilities

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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Teens, Help Yourself

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? Continue reading

Working with Animals: A Unique Volunteer Opportunity for Teens

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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