Teen Read Week at our school, Findlay High in Findlay, Ohio, has become a time when the library opens wide its doors and invites in a huge variety of people to come share themselves with the school. Last year this included culinary students one day and a menagerie of animals another day. This year we are bringing together the international students from a local university together with our high school students to explore language and culture in a variety of ways in our library.
The networking that comes about from coordinating these events is fantastic. I made contact with the Japanese Outreach Initiative Coordinator at the university. This contact has opened up the opportunity to involve Japanese exchange students to our programming events. The more the merrier! The JOI Coordinator also asked if we would be interested in having a Korean student do a bit of programming, and we were thrilled to welcome her, as well. Once we connect with the student organizations when they return to campus, we will include students from India, Saudi Arabia, and Nepal, as well.
As a high school with 82% of students identifying as White, in a city where 91% of the population in the 2010 census identified as white, there is not a lot of opportunity for students to talk to and learn from people who grew up in other countries and speak different languages. This experience will be good for our students, and I hope it will be enriching for our staff, as well.
The American Library Association (ALA) defines outreach as providing library services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented populations; populations such as new and non-readers, LBGT teens, teens of color, poor and homeless teens, and teens who are incarcerated. As these populations are often marginalized and underserved, it is crucial for libraries to recognize these populations and provide services and programs to them where they are.
The Futures Report calls out the importance of outreach to underserved populations and ways in which library staff can think about ways to work with targeted communities of teens (e.g. those who are incarcerated, homeless, in foster care, or in classrooms and other inschool locations) and where they are, rather than waiting for teens to find a way to get to the physical library space.
This month I spoke with Courtney Saldana, Youth Services Supervising Librarian at the Ovitt Family Community Library in Ontario, California. Courtney created the STeP program or Skills for Teen Parents, an innovative library services model aimed at connecting pregnant and parenting teens with the resources and services they need to succeed as adults and as parents. Teen parents face multiple, difficult challenges for which they are often woefully unprepared. STeP is making a difference for these teens and changing lives across the state. So far there have been 10 libraries selected throughout California to provide these programs. You may want to watch this Vimeo on a webinar presented on the STeP program
What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens?
In my experience, outreach is less about the service, and more about the fact that you’re present. . While we do try and highlight our major programs and services which would be of interest to teens, we are more likely to just be there. So, we are present at many things. Our most successful outreach tends to be those outside of the library. For instance, we recently started visiting a popular local restaurant within walking distance to our library. I believe, meeting them there, outside of the library, makes us “less” librarian, and more approachable.
This year I am extremely honored and thankful to be a YALSA Teen Read Week grant recipient. I took my time this year deciding what I would do for Teen Read Week. My past Teen Read Weeks had been small in scale. Last year I had teens write a short book review and enter it for a raffle prize (a set of books related to last year’s theme). What could I do this year to really encourage a wide variety of teens to participate, and get excited about reading? I decided to combine a reading program for the month with a fun incentive: Read 1 book for the month of October, get an invitation to our International Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre!!
This year’s theme is “Read for the fun of it”, encouraging multicultural reading and involvement. For the month of October, teens can sign up to be part of our online reading program where the goal is simple: Read 1 book for the month! I wanted an achievable goal, to encourage teens of all reading interests and levels to take part. Upon registering, they will receive a bookmark with suggested multicultural YA books. They won’t be required to read these books, as I really want all teens to be able to participate. I also wanted a non-reading related incentive, to encourage teens who wouldn’t normally read to do so, thus the murder mystery! I will probably give everyone an Applebee’s Ice Cream Coupon for finishing their book too, for those who aren’t into mysteries. I decided to extend Teen Read Week to a month long celebration, as many teens would find 1 week a daunting time constraint to read a book. Finally, I will be adding a Teen Foreign Language collection, as part of the grant, to encourage ESL students to become involved as well. I will be working with the school literacy coaches to spread the word and encourage as many students as I can to participate.
Once we have our ‘guests’ invited, it’s time to put on the show! Upon completion of 1 book read, teens will receive the highly coveted and illustrious invitation to the event of the year- An Assassin in Our Midst: An International Interactive Murder Mystery. Thanks to the grant, we will be able to serve a variety of foods from different cultures for our dinner. Guests will be given programs with their team number, a list of the suspects, space to write notes, and a tear out for their team’s murderer guess. Suspects will be played by members of the Teen Advisory Board, with whom I will have at least 2 practices ahead of time. The TAB members will receive character descriptions, and then they will improvise based on who their character is. Each team will get to speak with and question all of the suspects to determine who was involved in the assassination of an important diplomatic figure. Intrigue, fun, and suspense are sure to ensue!
Let’s face it, advocacy can be an intimidating charge. The thought of “taking legislative action” can conjure thoughts of putting on an interview-style suit, marching to the state capitol’s doors, and spouting as much legal jargon as possible. In reality, I’ve found that while library advocacy can involve sharp suits and capitol visits, it can also involve a tweet. Or a simple invitation to a library program. Or just introducing yourself to your local, state, or federal lawmaker. I promise this process is not as scary as it sounds.
That said, we’re library people, and our problem-solving skills typically involve some kind of book… right? So here are a couple of short, accessible reads to get an idea of why advocacy matters in our profession and how to get started with doing more of it!
Stephanie Vance is pretty fantastic! She spoke at this year’s ALA Legislative Day in DC, and I was blown away by how concise, intelligent, and useful her message was. I used to work in the state capitol building, but even with some experience under my belt, I’ve found this book to be immensely useful. Like her public speaking, Vance’s book is practical and direct. Great stuff for librarians (and all citizens, really) to know about approaching legislators in a poised and prepared fashion.
Co-author Christian Zabriskie from the Queens Library is the Executive Director of Urban Librarians Unite. He has contributed to the Hub on the very topic of library/teen advocacy. I highly recommend this book for a number of reasons: firstly, I read it on a 2-hour plane flight; secondly, it leaves you with a number of practical ideas/takeaways; thirdly, it’s a fantastic introduction, especially if you have little-to-no legislative advocacy experience.
Welcome to the YALSAblog News of the Month. In this post we highlight a few news items from the past month that we think are of interest to staff working with teens in libraries, schools, and youth development organizations.
Libraries and schools have a longstanding partnership, working together to support kids and teens in a variety of ways. The most obvious way libraries have assisted schools is through simply loaning books, but many take this further by providing tutors, carrying special collections aligned with school reading lists, and conducting school visits and research assistance in the library. And as the title of this post hints, lots of libraries offer afterschool programs specifically aimed at taking over where the school day ends.
Before getting into the wealth of assistance libraries provide, let’s look at the existing need. A 2014 study found that more than 15 million students are on their own without supervision from 3 to 6 p.m., the window with the highest levels of youth crime and high-risk behavior, and largest percentage of crimes committed against children and teens. On the flip side, participation in afterschool programs is correlated with lower crime levels, safer overall behavior, greater school attendance and engagement, higher test scores, better self-esteem, and much more. These outcomes are found across all sectors, and are strongest for at-risk students – a fact that may seem counterintuitive to some.
In 2015 over one third of public libraries reported offering regular afterschool programs, which doesn’t include standalone or ad hoc programs. With the increasing surge of STEM programming in libraries and establishment of maker spaces and learning labs for patrons of all ages, this number has certainly grown. Take a look at your local library’s program calendar and you are sure to find an array of afterschool offerings. Yay, libraries are awesome, and they change lives in very real and important ways!
Developing collections that meet the specific needs of the teens in a local community is not an easy undertaking. It requires knowing who the teens are in your community – those teens that use the library already and those that are not library users, yet. It requires building relationships with the teens in the community to truly understand their needs and interests. It requires building relationships with others – librarians, educators, stakeholders, community members, and more. And, it requires ongoing work with and for teens and the community. This is not a one and done process.
This two-part piece looks at ways to manage large afterschool crowds in a library. To read about ways to build relationships and empathy, manage noise levels and energy, and work effectively with staff from other departments, see Part 1. This post discusses behavior and discipline.
To keep things fair, orderly, and predictable in a busy library, consistency is key. At Addison Public Library, Elizabeth Lynch has found great success using a system called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). She says, “The core of PBIS is…that kids really don’t know what appropriate behavior is, especially in a public setting. So the focus is to educate them on what expectations are and think about the systems we’re creating and whether that’s giving them the support they need in the space, or whether we’re making it impossible or difficult for them.”
PBIS is not only a philosophy, but also involves a set of clearly-defined rules, consequences, and instructions for staff. These are discussed in the sections below. Having clear and explicit rules helps teens learn what appropriate behavior is, and creates consistency in staff responses to troublemaking. It also reduces friction among staff, since everyone is operating under the same rules about what is appropriate and how to respond to infractions.
I initially got involved in ALA because of the Emerging Leader program. I was forwarded an email by an administrator talking about the program the year it started, and I applied and didn’t get in. The year after that I applied and was sponsored by YALSA, but had to withdraw at the last minute because of health issues. In 2009 I was again sponsored by YALSA and finally made it! During the three years before, however, I was becoming more and more involved in ALA, and particularly in YALSA. My desire to just get into the EL program inspired me to push myself to join committees and attend conferences. Since “graduating” I’ve been on several more committees and have chaired a few, most recently taking on chairing the YALSA Mentoring Taskforce this year. I was elected to two terms as an ALA Council member-at-large and I’ve served as a YALSA Board Fellow and At-large Board Director. I have taken on more of a leadership role in my state organization, and I am not afraid to branch out and get involved in other ALA divisions and round tables which has helped me to grow and develop new skills and meet people I wouldn’t normally meet. The Emerging Leader program really opened up a whole new aspect of being a librarian to me and helped me get involved on many different levels. It was a really great experience and one that I am glad I had the chance to experience.
The latest YALSA Snack Break is ready and waiting for you to take a look.
Along with including some great insights and ideas on how to support teen success, the video highlights YALSA’s September webinar. This webinar will be facilitated by a stellar group of people, Erica Compton (Program Manager, ID STEM Action Network), Audrey Hopkins (Teen Services Librarian at Rita & Truett Smith Public Library, Plano TX), and Shanna Miles (Library Media Specialist, South Atlanta (GA) High School) who are ready to talk about the topic and answer your questions. Continue reading