YALS Takes on Community Engagement

winter 16 YALS coverYALSA friends, I have just finished reading the winter 2016 issue and I am excited. New features, new directions for YALSA, inspiration, and plenty of practical information abound.  The theme of the issue is Community Engagement and I love what President Candice Mack says about that-it might be quicker to do something on our own, but it’s short-sighted. Community engagement leads to collaboration, long term relationships, and ultimately an increased capacity to reach more teens. (Thanks, Candice for sharing a site where we can input our zipcodes to find out other youth serving organizations!)  The interview with Karen Pittman, a co-founder of the Forum for Youth Investment, is an in-depth look at what collective impact is and how libraries can be a part of it.  While I read that feature as a “big picture” look at community engagement, I read Community Experts Mentor Teens and New Adults by Laurie Bartz and saw some concrete things many of us could implement. She describes a program that is teen driven, part of the community, and supporting 21st century skills, including leadership and technology. Basically, it’s got it all!
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My Problem with Hour of Code

code.org public domain logoI’ve been a proponent for many years of the idea that coding is something that all youth should learn. I firmly believe that, through coding, youth gain a variety of 21st century, college and career readiness, and STEM skills. But, when I hear people talk about Hour of Code, and in December when I saw all the Tweets and Facebook posts and so on about the events being sponsored by libraries, schools, and out of school-time-institutions in honor of Hour of Code, I have to admit, I cringed a bit. Here’s why. It seemed to me that for many of the institutions that I was reading about, the work was being done as a one-time event. And, I don’t believe we can help youth gain the skills that coding activities lead to in an isolated once-a-year program. Hour of Code is a great way to celebrate what learning to code can bring to youth, but it should be the start or middle or end of something bigger. It should not be a one-and-done experience.

This idea is highlighted on the Code.org website on the page titled, What’s the Impact of the Hour of Code. One point really stood out to me on that page when thinking about my “problem” with Hour of Code (bolding and caps added by me): Continue reading

YALSA Board @ Midwinter: Nominating Committees

Have you considered running for YALSA governance? Do you know someone who would be great on the board? or would you like to nominate someone to be on the Printz, Nonfiction, or Edwards committee?

If so, take a look at the names listed below.  They are on the 2017 Nominating Committees for Governance or Awards. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 1 2016, the Governance & Award Nominating Committees will be seeking and vetting candidates for the following positions: President-Elect, Fiscal Officer, Board Member-at-large, Edwards Award Committee member, Nonfiction Award Committee member, and Printz Award committee member.  It is their responsibility to recruit, vet, and select candidates for the slate. When building the slate, they seek out the most qualified individuals as well as provide for broad representation, including but not limited to representation of the membership by diverse background, type of library, special interest, and geographic location.

Please contact the chairs of the committees if you have any questions about serving or would like to nominate someone.

Governance Nominating: Chair Paula Brehm-Heeger (paula.brehm-heeger @ cincinnatilibrary.org), Abigail Phillips, Shannon Peterson, Christopher Shoemaker, Sarah Sogigian

Awards Nominating: Chair Franklin Escobedo (adrithian @ yahoo.com), Amber Creger, Valerie Davis, Barbara Moon, Elizabeth Schneider

My ALA Midwinter 2016 Experience

I just attended my first ALA conference and it was awesome.

I have heard many things about what to expect. Wear comfortable shoes, they said. Bring business cards, they said. Most of the meetings will be closed door, they said. Some of the things they said were right (seriously…who wants to walk around for 8 hours in cute new shoes that pinch the sides of your feet!..), but nothing prepared me for the magic that is Midwinter.

Like most Midwinter neophytes, I didn’t know what to expect, so I arrived bright and bushy tailed to the hotel at 7:30am sharp. I could not check into my room, so I left my bags with the hotel staff, and ubered my way over to the Boston Convention and Conference Center. (For those of you who cabbed your way around Boston, I would highly suggest you invest in the free Uber app. Most of my rides around the city did not cost me more than $6, some as little as $3.)

I arrived at the Conference Center to find that the exhibits were still being put together, and that I was late to all of the lectures that started at 8am. In hindsight, I could have just sat in, but I didn’t know if I needed a ticket. Is it okay to walk in late? Would I embarrass myself in front of my peers? Would I be asked to leave? Instead of tackling these hard questions straight on I decided on the very safe, unintrusive, and foodie-pleasing decision to register, find a coffee shop, and read the Midwinter guide over a hot cup of Joe and a cheese danish.

The guide was very helpful. It was delightfully color coordinated, included start and end times of lectures, events, and meetings, and provided a legend that had information on whether events were ticketed, closed, or open to registrants. I highlighted everything that looked of interest to me – which was half the book, so I marked it up to a fairly unrecognizable degree. And then I discovered there is an app.

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February Is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Valentine’s Day is big business; between the candy and flower sales and Hamilton-themed cards, V-Day spending nationwide may top $13 billion. Libraries cater to their patrons with Valentines-themed programs including concerts, crafts and even anti-Valentine’s parties.

Rarely seen in public is anything calling attention to dating’s darker side, though February is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. According to a 2013 CDC survey, 1 in 10 teens reported being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past 12 months; additionally 1 in 10 reported being kissed, touched, or physically forced into sexual intercourse against their will by someone they were dating.

During meetings and training, like the recent in-service at my library, staff may discuss how to handle many different difficult situations. Abusive romantic relationships should be a part of the discussion. What warning signs can library staff look out for?

Here are a few types of dating violence from loveisrespect.org:

  • Physical: scratching, punching, throwing things, pushing and pulling
  • Emotional/Verbal: put-downs, yelling, blaming, threatening
  • Sexual: unwanted touching, pressuring, sexual insults
  • Financial: preventing from going to work, on-the-job harassment, giving presents with strings attached
  • Digital: pressure to send explicit messages, stealing passwords
  • Stalking: showing up unannounced, sending unwanted messages

Here are a few behaviors that victims of dating violence may exhibit:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Tobacco, drug and alcohol use
  • Antisocial behaviors
  • Thoughts about suicide

Teen staff can foster supportive library spaces, and make patrons aware that abuse is not tolerated. We can offer programs and materials on the differences between healthy and unhealthy dating relationships. If we witness abuse, we can report it to the police. If we encounter someone who may need help, we can refer them to local family services, as well as national hotlines such as RAINN.

For more information about Teen Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Rape check out the book list on The Hub.


It’s Time to Tweak your YALSA Volunteer Form!

It’s time to volunteer for YALSA committees again! During the Spring, we’ll be appointing YALSA members to serve on virtual strategic committees.  To find out more about the committees, juries, and advisory task forces, click on this link. To learn more about the responsibilities of committee members, check out the Committee FAQ  and visit YALSA’s Handbook. If you decide that you have the necessary time to devote to an appointed group and want to use your skills to give back to the organization, consider filling out a Volunteer Form.

The volunteer form consists of the following parts:

  1. Number of Years You Have Been a YALSA Member
  2. Professional Experience (List previous positions and locations, most recent first)
  3. Special Skills (e.g. accounting, PR/marketing, fiscal planning, research, refereeing, editing, etc.)
  4. Selection Committee Qualifications (e.g., relevant coursework, materials evaluation experience, book reviews, articles and research published, previous selection committee experience, etc.)
  5. Current Professional Commitments in ALA/YALSA (please indicate volunteer activities, elected positions, committee work, etc.)
  6. Current Professional Commitments at State/Regional Level or Other Associations (please indicate volunteer activities, elected positions, committee work, etc.)
  7. Have you communicated with the current committee chair or committee members of the group you are interested in joining to find out what their responsibilities are? Yes or No?
  8. Have you ever attended a YALSA selection committee meeting? Yes or no?
  9. If appointed, can you attend each Midwinter and Annual Conference held during your 18-month-appointment, as is required of all selection committee members? Yes or no?
  10. At this time, do you have your supervisor’s support to serve on a YALSA selection committee? Yes or No or Not Applicable?

Notice that 4 bold questions on the volunteer form are for selection and award committees only, so no need to complete those right now!

In Fall 2015, I read hundreds of volunteer forms (you should see my spreadsheets!), and I felt like I should share some advice. Here’s how to make your volunteer form stand out and get noticed!

  • Spell out abbreviations.  I don’t know what all those initials mean for your state and regional library groups.
  • No need to explain why you weren’t a member in 2003–just give us your best guess for how many years you’ve been in YALSA or contact Letitia to find the exact number.
  • Be concise.  Adjectives aren’t important. Lists are awesome!
  • List everything you’ve done for YALSA, ALA, and other ALA division groups–that information isn’t automatically uploaded into the forms.
  • Be specific and only volunteer for what you really want to be on. It shows that you’ve thought about it.  If you apply for everything, it makes me think you’re not sure where your strengths lie.
  • Take a look at your volunteer form. There are character limits to the boxes–if you have words cut off, shorten it.
  • Be active in other organizations and tell us about it.
  • Let us know if you have experience working with younger or older teens, if applicable.
  • Make sure it’s clear that we can tell if you work in an academic, school, public, or some other type of institution.
  • We want diverse members on all committees–age, gender, ethnicity, urban/rural, library type, etc.
  • Let us know that you’re familiar with online tools like Google Hangouts, Skype, conference calls, etc.

You can also look over the Committee FAQ to get more advice.

You can gain valuable YALSA and professional development experience by volunteering to be on a YALSA strategic committee, task force, or jury. The online volunteer form opened Dec. 7, 2015. The work of most of these strategic groups is done virtually–no conference attendance required! The deadline for strategic committee applications is March 1, 2016, and I will be making those appointments in the spring.

As always, if you have any questions, please contact me at gsarahthelibrarian @ gmail.com.

Teen Programming and Healthy Relationships

Teen librarians and library workers don’t shy away from the tough topics. We’ll learn coding and computer science alongside teens, or dive into K-pop or Doctor Who even if it’s not our personal favorite just to connect with the teens we serve and learn more about their interests. We reach out to homeless teens, we advocate for LGBTQ+ teens, and we educate ourselves on the mental illnesses that teens experience. No subject should be out of our comfort zone or off limits if it is relevant to the information needs of the teens we work for and with.

Not even sex.

The Need for Information on Healthy Relationships and Consent

Sexual assault and rape—sexual activity without consent—occurs at an alarming rate, especially on college campuses. Studies on the way college students conceptualize consent indicate that many find aggressive behavior or deception an acceptable way to obtain sexual consent (Jozkowski and Peterson, 2013). As many as one in five female students experience a sexual assault while in college according to a recent study that surveyed 150,000 students on college campuses across the United States commissioned by the Association of American Universities.

Most sexual education in schools is focused on preventing unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, while healthy sexual relationships and consent are not generally a part of the conversation. “Although sexual education programs are often offered in schools, they rarely address social factors, such as adherence to traditional gender roles and sexual scripts, that are empirically linked to negative sexual health outcomes.” (Grabe, et al., 2014, p. 742).

Of course, we’d hope that parents and guardians should be talking about sex with their teens. We’d never want to cross a professional boundary when connecting teens with information. But unfortunately, there’s a lack of education for teens on healthy relationships and sexual consent, which undoubtedly contributes to rape and sexual assault. Teen librarians can—and should—fill that gap by offering programs and collections to support the education of young adults with regards to healthy, consensual relationships.

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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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Instagram of the Week – January 25

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

As Winter Storm Jonas made its way along the East Coast, libraries took to Instagram to reach out to their patrons. Many posts were designed to notify patrons about changes in library hours or closures, remind everyone of the library resources that can be accessed 24/7 from home, and poke fun at how much time we’d have to catch up on the books we’ve been meaning to read. Book and media displays soon looked as bare as supermarket shelves as patrons flooded in to stock up on library essentials!

Jonas highlighted how communities are prioritizing libraries as a step in their storm preparations while also shedding light on the connections developing between libraries and library staff on this social media platform. In scrolling through post comments, sentiments of “Be safe!” and “Warm wishes!” can be seen from libraries across the nation and as far away as Australia. The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report discusses how important it is that all library staff, stakeholders, and community members communicate, advocate for their library, and keep up to date on current research and best practices. It seems that Instagram is becoming a platform for us to toot our horns for a job well done and learn of the successes of other libraries. When scrolling through images, it’s easy to find ideas that might be fun to try or come across a picture of a full house and click around to see which program was held. The images can also provide subtle clues on how set-up was handled, necessary supplies, and how the program was publicized. Best of all, if staff members in different departments (Youth Services, Adult Services, Circulation, etc.) all contribute to your library’s Instagram account, images from other organizations can both educate your coworkers on trends in teen services as well as inspire them to get involved.  Continue reading