With our youth patrons returning to school, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your community’s demographics and set goals to “Get Away” and connect with those underserved populations. As you consider where to start, the first step may seem daunting, but tackle the unknown in a way that is most comfortable for you. We’ll be sharing our ideas about setting goals during our Teen Read Week Twitter chat Setting Goals to Reach Underserved Teens onFriday, September 11 at 2 pm EST. If numbers and statistics read like a first language, you’ll probably have your own plan of action in which to gather information and compile results into charts and graphs. However, many of us need a different approach in order to ease our way into such unfamiliar territory and we offer a few ideas here.

Demographics from an insider view

Consider your teen patrons’ habits as a diving board into better knowing your community. For instance, if your teens often ask library staff for change to spare for food, comment about not eating breakfast, or are eager to attend library programs especially for the free snacks, you may want to further explore this trend. Start by investigating the nearby school’s stats on free and reduced lunches, the city’s poverty percentages, or the state’s caseload counter for food stamp families. The location of these resources will also provide other relevant data that may offer a more detailed view into the issue. Once you have a baseline of data, connect with local food pantries and other social service providers and start a conversation. You may discover any number of ways to partner with these organizations from creating a bookmark for the public listing the location of these services to facilitating meal programs.

Demographics from a bird’s eye perspective

Map the government, parks, nonprofit, and other community agencies within your library’s service area. If a particular trend in services exists, investigate its related statistical topics and connect with those organizations. Also, the types of businesses in your service may offer a starting point into better understanding your community. If you notice an unusual number of liquor stores in your area, you may check the location of rehabilitation centers or AA groups and connect with them. Another way to address your map of agencies, is to first connect with the organizations located nearest to your library, as those service are directly targeting your immediate area.

Take action with us in better understanding your community by joining the Teen Read Week Twitter chat on Friday, September 11 at 2 pm EST. Come ready to share your goals and gain new ideas and resources from your peers. When joining the Twitter chat, be sure to use #TRW15. See you there!

Amanda Barnhart is the current chair for YALSA’s Teen Read Week committee, an MLIS student, and a Young Adult Associate for the Trails West branch of The Kansas City (Mo) Public Library.

 

At many public library locations, the after school rush means an influx of teens that happens with clockwork precision and presents unique opportunities as well as challenges.

Teen services staff may smile when 45 teens (who have been cooped up for eight hours in school listening to adults talk at them….) burst into the library. But, if librarians and library workers start acting like security guards and security guards start acting like bouncers… bad things can happen. The after school atmosphere can become rule-driven and the focus may shift to customer control instead of customer service. And while certainly there are situations that warrant “control” and “rules” – staff should primarily be concerned with making the after school library experience of teens a positive one.  Anyone needing help with managing teen behavior can check out multiple resources from YALSA found on the wiki.

The after school rush is not a surprise. Ideally, there are positive patterns and routines established with library staff: these positive routines mean that during the after school rush staff does not disappear for off-desk time, break or dinner and teen activities take place. Staff is welcoming and not sending the vibe that they are bracing for an onslaught.

Learn the rush.
A library, like a retail location, experiences discernible traffic patterns of customer visits. Teen services staff should be observant and become aware of the teen traffic patterns after school at the library. First, is there an after school rush? Are there days of the week when teen traffic is heaviest? If there is an after school rush, when does it begin and when does it die down? Do teens tend to get picked-up when parents get out of work? Or leave to get home for dinner? Or linger until the library closes?

Scheduling programming/activities during the after school rush can seem daunting. Be vigilant about the excuse: “(I/we/you) can’t do a teen activity after school because there are too many teens in the library.” The after school rush may be the best time to begin offering activities—because teens are already there.  Talk to them to find out why they're there and what activities may interest them or support their needs.

Know what time school dismissal occurs and talk to your manager about how this is not the time to schedule off desk time and dinner breaks. Staffing and after school activities for teens should be scheduled to meet the needs of customers (teens) not the convenience of the staff. Think of it in retail terms: shops schedule more staff during peak shopping hours to provide adequate customer service – (and because they want to make sales) - libraries can’t afford to be any different.

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YALSA is seeking teen programming Content Experts for its upcoming web resource, Teen Programming HQ. The mission of the new site is to provide a one-stop-shop for finding and sharing information about programs of all kinds designed for and with teens. The site will promote best practices in programming by featuring user-submitted programs that align with YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines and Futures Report. The site will also enable dissemination of timely information about emerging and new practices for teen programming; raise awareness about appropriate YALSA tools to facilitate innovation in teen programming; and provide a means for members and others interested in teen programs to connect with one another to support and share their efforts to continuously improve their teen programs. The site is in beta testing now and will fully launch October 1st.

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Now that District Days are in full swing and you have hopefully reached out to your representative, we wanted to provide some resources for you that will help you in your planning! And if you haven’t reached out yet, there’s still time. We hope that these resources will provide some inspiration.

These handouts from YALSA are a great starting point when talk to your representative about libraries and teen services for libraries are not only important but necessary.

What public libraries do for teens..

Why teens need libraries

YALSA’s Legislative Advocacy Guide

LSTA fact sheets from ALA

Then take a look at YALSA’s wiki page on advocating for more links and resources.

Don’t forget to use one of your best resources that you have, your teens! If you have a Teen Advisory Board then talk to them and see if they have ideas.  

And just remember, you don’t have to do something big for District Days. The most important thing is that you reach out to your representative and #act4teens!

Staci Terrell is the Children's Services Manager at Anderson Public Library in Anderson, Indiana and is the current chair of the YALSA Legislation Committee.

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? Read More →

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

While the most popular of public library summer programs, Summer Reading/Learning is only one of many activities that benefits and serves teen communities. Tapping into the various motivations within your own teen community are crucial to creating and implementing a well-received passive or active teen program. Are there other creative and publicly available spaces in your community, or does your library provide the only opportunity for free creative exploration? Does your library serve teens who seek to advance themselves academically during the summer months? Is there an independent maker space in your town or city, or is the library the sole source of maker activities? Do the teens in your community attend magnet schools or schools with advanced tech programs? Do those schools offer opportunities for summer tech projects, or does the library have a unique opportunity to provide the space and tools for coding, movie-making, and more? Exploring what teens already have free access to (and use!) and identifying what service and material/supply vacuums exist in your wider community will teen services librarians create and implement effective programming.

What research do you do before implementing a new program or innovating an existing program? Do you research other offerings in your town/city to prevent overlap or identify potential collaborative opportunities? How does the summer closure of schools affect programming opportunities in your pulic library? Please discuss in the comments below!

For more information, please see the Summer Reading/Learning section of the YALSA wiki, as well as the YALSA Teen Programming Guidelines.

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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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Every library worker has gotten that request for a strange, old book which is still somehow required at some school somewhere. Betsy Bird did a terrific take-down of those outdated list earlier this summer, and an attempt to "update" the choices for teen appeal backfired in South Carolina and Florida.

Yes, assigned whole-class summer reading can be problematic. The number of titles (and the page lengths) required seems to have dwindled over decades, and other supposed innovations including "read any one book from the New York Times bestseller list" has led to a scramble for the shortest books.

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For years and years and years (I've worked in libraries for a long-time) I've talked about and heard about the importance of school and public library collaboration. And, over the years, I've talked about and heard about how hard it is to be successful in this area. It actually seems to me that the challenges and barriers that I've been talking about and hearing about for a couple of decades haven't really changed. And, they certainly haven't gone away.

image by George Couros on the best ways for leaders to use technologyThe fact that conversations remain the same over a long period of time, got me thinking - Maybe we are going about this the wrong way. Maybe, instead of the focus being on what we regularly call school and public library collaboration (the thing we do), what we really need to focus on is what is required in order to have positive lasting outcomes/impacts for students and teachers (what we want to achieve). This was brought home to me this week when I read the post Building Relationships Through the Use of Technology by George Couros. The ideas embedded in the image he included in that post (shown on the left) really resonated with me.
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