Transforming Teen Services: Making in the Library While Learning to Fail

Makerspaces, making, and the maker movement have become frequent conversation topics among librarians. We’ve encouraged making in the library through programming focused on writing, drawing, designing, building, coding, and more. As informal learning and gathering spaces, libraries are by nature situated to invite collaboration and discovery. In many cases, making has been associated with makerspaces — independent spaces that provide tools, materials, and support to youth and adults with an interest in creating (Educause, 2013). Sometimes makerspaces are flexible, subscription-based environments, sometimes they are hosts to structured programs and classes with an attached fee. Some have a technology prominence with 3D printers and laser cutters, while others lend an artistic attention  by supplying sewing machines and design software (Moorefield-Lang, 2015). No two makerspaces are the same, just as no two makers are the same.

Source: http://www.clubcyberia.org/

I first became interested in library makerspaces while touring Chicago Public Library’s not yet open to the public Maker Lab and its already thriving YOU Media during ALA Annual 2013. I love the playful atmosphere of learning and opportunity for exploration that these spaces offer teens. Then I dug into some publications. There is a significant amount of research about how youth learn as a result of participation in making and makerspaces (Sheridan et al., 2014; Slatter & Howard, 2013). Likewise, there is a wealth of blog posts, magazine articles, social media blurbs, TED talks, etc. on makerspaces, STEM learning programs, and the maker mindset (Fallows, 2016; Teusch, 2013). It can be difficult to separate the hype from the substance, but there’s still much to explore, discuss, and figure out.

There are many positive aspects of youth involvement with making such as fostering inventiveness, introducing STEAM learning outside of the classroom, and promoting learning as play. But in this post, I will focus on (what I think are) two major benefits of youth making in libraries that may not be quite as obvious: cultivating a capacity to create and learning to fail.

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What does Radical Change Mean for YALSA and Teen Services?

51QgigiDImL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Right before Midwinter, I attended the Association of Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) conference. This year’s the theme, Radical Change, was in honor of Dr. Eliza Dresang who passed away a little over a year ago. Along with being the Beverly Cleary Professor in Children and Young Service at the University of Washington’s Information School, Dr. Dresang also served as former faculty at Florida State University’s School of Information (my current home). Her work has had an impact on many youth services researchers (including myself) and serves as framework for evaluating youth literature, both online and offline.

In 1999, Dr. Dresang published the innovative book Radical Change: Books for Youth in a Digital Age, a book that is still inspiring LIS researchers and librarians today. Radical Change refers to the way in which print books are changing in positive ways along with the evolving digital world. This book in not intended solely for academics, but also for librarians and teachers who learn how to spot and appreciate great books for children and young adults that move beyond the traditional print format.

During the conference, I sat in on several youth services and non-youth services sessions that demonstrated how Radical Change is being incorporated into a range of research areas. To me, these presentations show how youth services are transforming to better meet the needs of young adults. It also shows how LIS faculty (at least some) are recognizing this transformation and incorporating it into their research and MLIS coursework. As always, the ALISE conference turned out to be an excellent lead into my experiences at Midwinter. Along with Radical Change, a supportive theme for the ALISE conference was transformation, inclusion, and innovation. These strongly reflect the theme of this year’s Midwinter, Transform Libraries. Together, these themes show how libraries are in constantly flux, changing and shifting to improve services to patrons and impact their communities.

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Libraries Transform: An Interview with ALA President Sari Feldman

Please tell the YALSA members about your program Libraries Transform.

I have the great good fortune to be able to introduce Libraries Transform, but this is intended to be a three to five year public awareness program. Libraries Transform is an American Libraries Association program, it is not a President’s initiative. It is ALA’s new program for America’s libraries. It is a public awareness program that is intended to increase awareness of and support for the transforming library; to shift perceptions from the library as obsolete and nice, to have to essential; and to energize library professionals, build external advocates, and influence local, state, and national decision makers.

Most of our YALSA members do not work in management and have limited decision making authority within their library.  What are some ways that you envision this type of library staff person could participate in the campaign?

Well, certainly I think of YALSA members as some of the most facile in using social media and I think that is a tremendous opportunity to be both the messaging from the campaign through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, whatever tools people are using, the campaign’s graphic look really lends itself to social media, but also to communicate that libraries are less about what they have for people and more about what we do for people. So YALSA members are especially positioned to demonstrate to our communities and decision makers how libraries are changing the way young people learn.

Other than the 10 ways to get involved that are listed on the Libraries Transform web site, how else might library staff participate or be empowered to speak up for libraries?

Certainly, I think any opportunity to talk about the ways libraries are transforming is good. It is so important to not only be talking to ourselves, not to only be talking to other librarians or to library supporters, friends of libraries, etc. But, I think YALSA members also have an opportunity to not only have the messaging resonating with young adults, but to take this message into schools, because I know a big part of the YALSA membership is involved with the school community as well as the public community. So with the schools especially, we have an opportunity to not only communicate with young people but to expand that to communicate with teachers, administrators, and parents, who may be less aware of the changing library environment and the changing impact. One of the things about the campaign which is so important is that it is about all libraries, because we believe we are more alike than we are different. That libraries are creating individual opportunity and community progress. So whether that community is a college or university or public community or school community, it is about changing that community, being at the center of that community life. So there are so many ways that just communication and talking to audiences, talking to friends and family, that YALSA members can really be amplifying this message on behalf of Libraries Transform.

How do you see Libraries Transform relating to YALSA report, “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: a Call to Action”?

So certainly I see it inparticular about the changing way that YALSA members are talking about their work and certainly that one comes to mind immediately is about connected learning and concepts related to that, and the importance of learning that is more active. That has been a big part of the messaging of Libraries Transform, that although we are less about what we have for people, we still have things, we are not saying that we are not going to have collections in the future, but we are more about what we do for and with people. So certainly in the YALSA view, how young people learn, is that they learn collaboratively. The YALSA view is that learning is more flexible, learning is more self-directed, learning is more creative, with more of an opportunity to create content, not just use content. I think that just in the nature of viewing library work in that larger learning environment, whether it is a school or a public environment, is very close to the messaging of the campaign.

How do you think Libraries Transform and the YALSA report can inform each other to improve the future of libraries?

I hope that as YALSA members are building out a plan, a more tactical plan, either for their libraries or for YALSA as an association itself, that the messaging from Libraries Transform can be built into that. We can be thinking about not only how we tactically do the work but how we communicated the work to make supporters into active advocates, to be sure that funders are increasingly aware of the role that libraries are playing, and to be sure that policy makers and decision makers are conscious of the role that  libraries are playing in the learning of young people. I think that we can see in the results of the education bill that the lobbying effort was really strongly aligned with messages about the ways that libraries are embedded in the school environment. We need to elevate that messaging into all environments where we touch young people around learning. And I think that there is so much alignment but where it can be most valuable, is as we align when talking about public awareness and advocacy.

What are the key outcomes you and ALA are hoping to achieve with this campaign and how will ALA measure those?

So at this point, ALA is bringing on a staff member to lead this project. He will be introduced to the library community at MidWinter. But, I mentioned the broad objectives, which are listed on the website librariestransform.org , but ALA is really hoping that we will see ultimately increased funding for libraries, and much more engagement with policy makers and community stakeholders.

Is there anything else about the program that you would like to share with the YALSA community?

The Libraries Transform campaign will only be as successful as the activity level of the members of ALA. I see that social media will be one of the strongest opportunities to get the message out about the campaign. It really calls on the YALSA members to use the tools that they have to ensure that the message is heard. Once again, much of our work is focused internally, focused on learning new skills to advance our programmatic opportunities, bringing new technology into our field, designing programs and curriculum that better serve our audiences, in this case young adults, but it is very important that we tell this story more broadly and we tell this story to the less aware or less informed about the work of libraries, and how impactful around creating this learning environment that ultimately results in individual opportunity and community progress. I don’t know if your members know, but I started my professional career as a young adult librarian, so I have tremendous affection and loyalty to the work of YALSA members and I know that it is such an incredible opportunity to really ensure that a person stays engaged in learning, that kind of connected learning, active participation, the creative aspects that have been brought into learning as we think of it in the library environment, it is just so exciting to me. We need to make sure that we tell the story of transformation and that people understand the value of community investment in libraries, whether school libraries, public libraries, or college and university libraries.

Strategic Planning Update: Wicked Exciting Happenings in Boston!

Last Thursday, the YALSA Board held its monthly informal call, and we were joined by Eric Meade from the Whole Mind Strategy Group. Whole Mind is helping us create a three-year organizational plan that includes intended impact statements, theories of change, outcomes, and an implementation strategy.  YALSA’s Board of Directors, staff, and some YALSA members worked with Eric in Portland on Nov. 8-9, after the YA Services Symposium.  This month’s discussion was the first time that the entire YALSA board talked to Eric and it was an exciting experience!  The goal of our call was to set the organizational planning agenda for our meeting next month.  We are all looking forward to engaging and thought-provoking conversations in Boston.

The new organizational plan will be future-focused, and one that the Board hopes will bring about a paradigm shift initially described in the call to action in The Future of Library Services for and with Teens Report that was published in early 2014.  You can read the report online and you can even request free copies to be shared at professional development in your library or region.

In Boston, the Board will participate in discussions and activities that will lead to the development of draft documents, and ultimately an finalized organizational plan.  Board members will dive into a draft planning matrix (tentatively divided into the following areas: membership development, member engagement, organizational strengthening, advocacy, and transforming teen library services) and discuss tactics, intermediate impacts, and intended impacts.    Board meetings are always open to observers–please join us in BCEC 158 on Saturday (9 am to 5 pm), Sunday (4:30 pm – 5:30 pm), or Monday (1 pm – 2:30 pm). The Board meeting documents will be posted Dec. 23.  The Saturday meeting will focus on strategic planning.  The Sun. and Mon. meetings will be the Board’s regular business meeting.  If you’re not in Boston, follow @yalsa for live-Tweets from the Board meetings.

We would love to hear your thoughts! Please use this feedback form or contact Candice Mack or me to discuss the future of the organization. Also, look for regular strategic planning updates on the YALSAblog!

Instagram of the Week – December 7

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

Last week marked the end of Nanowrimo. In case you haven’t heard of Nanowrimo it is a writing challenge with a name comprised of the condensed words: National November Writing Month. This annual call to write has swelled to include more than 53,000 writers from 6 of 7 continents. This challenge attracts big named published authors like Rainbow Rowell and Carrie Ryan. Fangirl by Rowell is a Nanowrimo book. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan…that’s a Nanowrimo book too. Nanowrimo churns out a fair number of YA literature every year and attracts more and more young adults as participants each year. Since 2005, Nanowrimo has been hosting YWP – Young Writer’s Program – for students in grades K – 12. When users turn 18, they are directed to the main site, where the word requirements jump from 30,000 for the month to 50,000.

As we all know (and to the lament of Nanwrimo writers across the United States), with the end of November comes Thanksgiving and Black Friday. So in the midst of basting turkeys, Walmart brawls, football games and #ThanksgivingClapback dinner conversations, Nanowrimo writers continued to write – and guess what? Many of them actually finished, and then they did something even more awesome — they posted their experiences on Instagram! Nanowrimo writers posted quotes that inspired them, strategies for rising to the challenge, pictures of laptops, and furry writing buddies. There were lots and lots of pictures with coffee! Coffee with swirls, coffee in cute bookish mugs, coffee next to laptops, and then next to laptops and furry writing buddies… There were lots of pictures of food! My goodness, are Nanowrimo writers foodies or what!?

If you missed this year, get inspired for next year, or catch the motivation to start your own writing club. You could give your youth a monthly word challenge! Make it something fun with just a pinch of challenge! Empower your teens. Let them tell their stories, and maybe let them explore ways they can publish their work. Page 3 of the Future of Libraries for and with Teens report states:

“Now is the time for public and school libraries to determine how they can contribute to solving and alleviating the issues and problems that negatively impact teens. Cultural competence preparation for future and current school and public library and information professionals is one place where these issues can and should logically be addressed since many of the statistics cited above stem from structural issues such as institutional racism, classism, and sexism. However, research suggests that some LIS students feel ill-prepared to deliver this kind of culturally competent library service upon graduation. Cultural competence has to do with recognizing the significance of culture in one’s own life and in the lives of others; and to come to know and respect diverse cultural backgrounds and characteristics through interaction with individuals from diverse linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic groups; and to fully integrate the culture of diverse groups into services, work, and institutions in order to enhance the lives of both those being served by the library profession and those engaged in service.”

By empowering your teens to tell their own stories, to start something and see it through to the end. Teaching teens to navigate the process of editing and publishing their own written work fills the cultural competency void, but it also seeks to narrow the #WeNeedDiverseBooks gap. Nanowrimo writers posted memes about the healing power of writing in fighting suicidal ideation and depression. They posted happy face selfies – the seal of empowerment for having met their literary goals for the month against school/work demands, against #ThanksgivingClapback, and family/home obligations. Page 3 of the Future of Libraries for and with Teens report also states:

Accordingly, preparing young adults for the workforce is a major concern in the United States. In the last three decades, the skills required for young adults to succeed in the workforce have changed drastically, but the skills emphasized in schools have not kept up with these changes.34 This has led to a widespread concern that young adults lack the necessary skills for job success and are entering the workforce unprepared. Several recent studies, including Workforce Preparation in the Context of Youth Development Organization35 and Literacy Skills and Self-Views of Ability among First Year College Students,36 have documented this skills gap. Now is the time for school and public libraries to reimagine themselves as 21st-century learning spaces.

Writing is a critical skill quickly being eroded in the age of text, tweets, and emoticons. Nanowrimo is a way for young adults to express themselves in a connected learning environment where they are able to say what they want to say in their own voice. Which brings us to our next point that can be found on page 8 of the Future of Library Services for and with Teens report:

At the heart of connected learning is the idea that young people learn best when that learning is connected to their passions, desires, and interests. This focus correlates strongly with the learning ecosystem and learning needs of the teen of 2020 that Rainie described in his summit presentation. As noted in the CLRN report: The connected learning model posits that by focusing educational attention on the links between different spheres of learning—peer culture, interests and academic subjects—we can better support interest-driven and meaningful learning in ways that take advantage of the democratizing potential of digital networks and online resources.

Having said that, enjoy this homage to the final week of Nanowrimo, and if your library participated in youth writer’s circles and posted on Instagram, maybe you’ll see yourself and hopefully you’ll be inspired to participate next year.

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Strategic Planning Update: It’s So Exciting!

A little less than two years ago YALSA published the “Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action” report. (Often referred to as the Futures Report.) At that time YALSA also started talking about how to help library staff working for and with teens to develop programs and services that align with the recommendations in that report. Some of the projects YALSA launched to support that work include futures-focused webinars on topics related to the recommendations made in the report, the Programming Guidelines and Programming HQ, and a wide-array materials for library staff to use to better understand and advocate for the library services discussed in the document.

Now, YALSA is taking the next step in supporting the future-focused ideas of the report and in helping library staff support the lives and needs of teens in 2015, 2016, and beyond. That next step is in the development of an up-to-date vision and plan for YALSA (the current strategic plan runs through the end of this year). It’s a great opportunity to think about all that YALSA does and make sure that the programs and services provided to members are those that will best help them support teens today.  And in this latest round of planning, we’re doing much more than updating a document.  We’re looking broadly at where YALSA is and where we want and need to go.  That’s exciting because:

  • There is a teens first focus. That means that YALSA is keying in on a strategic plan that makes sure the work the association does supports the needs of today’s teens as they prepare for college, careers, and life. Continue reading

YALSA Executive Committee Meeting: General Overview

Last week YALSA’s Executive Committee had its fall meeting, and as President of YALSA, I chair this committee.

In years past, this had been held in Chicago, but this year the group decided it would be more beneficial to hold it along side YALSA’s YA Services Symposium. The meeting agenda and documents can be found in the Governance section of YALSA’s website. Since the Board of Directors is the decision-making body of YALSA, the Executive Committee’s meeting was focused on general discussions meant to help keep the Board functioning smoothly, including exploring some possible proposals for the Board to consider at their Midwinter Meeting in January.

Linda Braun, the Fiscal Officer, will be bringing a 2016 fundraising plan forward to the Board for their feedback and approval in January, and the Board Standing Committee on Capacity Building will be making a recommendation to the Board about the YALSA dues structure and method for determining the rates for the different member categories. The Committee recommended further refinements and changes to these documents before they go to the full Board.

This fall meeting is also a chance to explore YALSA’s connection with ALA, and the group talked a little about how to have a stronger voice in ALA Council and the need to encourage YALSA members to participate on ALA level committees.

The draft meeting minutes can help members understand the meeting outcomes, so please be sure to read them.

The major portion of the Executive Committee’s meeting, though, was to undertake some strategic planning exercises and discussions, which I discussed in my blog post last week.

If you have any questions about the Executive Committee’s meeting or about the strategic planning process, please contact me at candice [dot] yalsa [at] gmail [dot] com. I am also holding a Member Town Hall via Twitter on November 30th from 7:00 – 8:00pm, Eastern, where I’ll provide an update on the process and answer any questions. Please join in with the #yalsachat hashtag.

I’m grateful for all of the work that the Executive Committee members put into this meeting and the strategic planning discussions, and I’m excited about the great things that 2016 will bring for YALSA!

Stay tuned for more posts about the Executive Committee’s meeting in the coming days and weeks that my colleagues will be writing!

Strategic Planning Update

As many of you are aware, YALSA’s current Strategic Plan and its companion document—the Action Plan—run through 2015.

In mid-2014, YALSA’s Board began discussing the need for a new strategic plan, put together a Strategic Planning Taskforce and conducted a membership-wide survey. However, since the publication of the report, “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: a Call to Action,” called for significant changes in teen services, YALSA’s Board agreed that the traditional approach to strategic planning was no longer a good fit for YALSA and its needs.

The Board felt that it was necessary to take a step back and rethink the organization’s purpose, focus and structure in order to enable YALSA to be well-positioned to help its members adopt the recommendations in the report and transform library services for and with teens. Most importantly, the Board agreed to use the Futures Report as its guide for the strategic planning process. As a part of this, a ‘teens first’ message has been the broad focus throughout this process. All of us are passionate about helping teens succeed in school and prepare for college, careers and life. Keeping this foremost in our minds throughout strategic planning discussions is what we have striven to do.

In the past, YALSA’s Board did not have a call-to-action or vision document of this type from which to base its strategic planning efforts. In this sense, the Board felt it was starting a new round of strategic planning with an advantage over past rounds. However, in late 2014 and early 2015 the strategic planning process stalled while the Board struggled to find a consultant who could help lead YALSA through a new, and nontraditional organizational planning process. So, an RFP was put together in the spring in order to find what YALSA needed. Then, over the summer, YALSA’s leaders reviewed proposals from potential consultants and in August signed a contract with the Whole Mind Strategy Group.

The plan is for the Board have in-depth, generative discussions now through the Board’s meeting at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. A first step was for YALSA’s Executive Committee to meet this past weekend, where the committee did a “scouting expedition”/environmental scan in order to identify what external and internal factors were impacting teen services in libraries.

Next, the Board will get together in January to discuss this scan and develop a vision for how YALSA can make the recommendations in the Futures Report a reality. The goal is to have a new plan in place by the end of February.

This new document will be different from the past strategic plan format in a few key ways. First, it will be a three year plan, not a five year one. Additionally, the plan will have new components including an intended impact statement, a theory of change statement, organizational outcomes, and a learning plan. To learn more about these new components, visit Bridgespan Group’s website. Traditional elements, such as goals and objectives and an action plan will also be included.

I and other YALSA Board members will post updates about the process on the YALSAblog and share news in the weekly YALSA e-News. I am also holding a Member Town Hall via Twitter on November 30th from 7:00 – 8:00pm, Eastern, where I’ll provide an update on the process and answer any questions. Please join in with the #yalsachat hashtag.

If you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via candice.yalsa [at] gmail.com.

YALSA’s Board is very excited about the possibilities that a new strategic plan will open up for YALSA and its members, and we hope you are, too!

Together we can work to put teens first and ensure that all of the nation’s teens have a chance at a brighter future.

Engaging the Futures Report: discussions with library staff Part 1

The first time I read The Future of Library Services for and with Teens, I was inspired. The second time I read the report, I was overwhelmed. The third time I read the report, I was determined. As I looked at the findings in the report, and the steps YALSA calls out to ready our libraries to serve teens into the future, I felt like I was drowning. How could I implement all of these changes? And then I remembered that I was not alone, I was surrounded by amazing library staff who could, actually they should, come on this journey with me. So I started a discussion centered on the findings in the report and it has been one of the most professionally satisfying experiences of my career. If you feel a little overwhelmed, or want to build support for the actions outlined in the support with your colleagues, I highly suggest starting a discussion group.

First, the report looks deceptively long, don’t let that scare you or your colleagues from diving in. The real meat of the report, that provides the best fodder for discussion is only 33 pages long, that is achievably short, even for the time poor. We broke our discussion up, planning to cover the whole report in three discussions of 30 minutes each (about 10 pages per meeting).

We started small, with a look at the executive summary and the introduction to the report. This generated more discussion than we could cover in 30 minutes (I might recommend at least an hour) but I would rather get the conversation started and have it continue in the staff room, at the desk, and over coffee breaks. I knew we should allow for thoughts of dissent, one of the things I love about my colleagues is our ability to challenge assumptions. We want to really break things down so we can understand them better. You will notice a lot of questions that allow for the voice of dissent.

Introduction

  • How do recent cuts in school librarian jobs change our role as public librarians serving teens?
  • Does the Library play a role in closing the achievement gap? Are we succeeded at that? What could we be doing better? Is that what our community needs? Is our community defined merely by our serving district, or does it expand beyond city/county/state borders?
  • What are the negative influences on our teens that we can help alleviate or solve?
  • Do you feel prepared to deliver culturally competent library service?
  • What is our role in preparing teens for the workforce and making sure they have 21st century skills and technological literacy?

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