Teens have an amazing variety of programs at their fingertips ranging from college prep, crafts, gaming, pop trivia, anime, and much more.  What if there was a way to combine many of these elements into one activity that is not only fun, but will have amazing health benefits as well? I bet you are thinking the same thing I am: dancing. Before I go any further, some of you may think I am crazy because there is no way teens would voluntarily dance in public, especially amongst their peers. Well, I am very excited to tell you that there is actually a way to get them to dance and have fun, but it requires us to lead by example. In other words, we got to shake our money makers so teens can see just how fun it really is.

Before I go any further, I would like to discuss some rather disturbing facts. According to the American Heart Association:

“About one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese. The prevalence of obesity in children more than tripled from 1971 to 2011. With good reason, childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also states:

“The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.”

Clearly, obesity is on the rise and it is something that we should address in our programs and services. For example, are we sponsoring programs, or partnering with organizations, to prevent drug and alcohol abuse? If we are, are we addressing obesity as well? If not, it’s time that we do because teens are living in a world where body shaming and weight-related bullying is rampant. Furthermore, teens literally live in a digital age where video games are much more popular than physical exercise.  If we care encouraging teens to exercise their minds with books, why can’t we encourage them to exercise their bodies as well?

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When the Teen Tech Week grant was written, it was hoped that we could get teens interested in more library programs. Teens will show up to use the computers to chat with friends and watch internet videos, but mention digital literacy or STEM/STEAM and they’ll look at you like you’re an alien. Don’t get me wrong; our schools are hardworking, Title I schools that strive to teach students what they can. But a rural area of Lafourche Parish is not really at the top of the list for the fast paced information technology industry.

Like any library in the country, we know we have to get them young or we lose them until they’re adults. And without many options they’re not going to stay in this area. The public library still has that stereotypical “the library is where the losers hang out” view to contend with among the teens. Our programming has to be unusual to get them in. We all know video games are always a popular draw. I’ve used free programs like Scratch and Kodu with them before. But the funds and resources to host a large scale video game design program were simply beyond our scope before now.

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In this second blog post on creating inclusive libraries, we examine the need to identify and remove barriers, and have an expanded definition of ‘the library as a safe space’.

Identifying and Removing Barriers

Paramount to our goal of creating inclusive libraries is removing barriers that prevent diverse youth from feeling welcome. In her research, Kafi Kumasi (2012) found that many youth of color feel like outsiders in library spaces, describing the school library as the sole “property” of the librarian. Kumasi argues that “these feelings of disconnect and exclusion should be attended to by school librarians, if they want to make all of their students feel welcome.”

Physical barriers can be easy to spot and can include, for example, detectors and late fees. Consider the unwelcoming message that detectors—particularly those with a ‘push’ gate—can send about libraries, especially for teens who may regularly be followed in department stores. We must recognize that these kinds of microaggressions are daily experiences for many youth, especially male youth of color, and must be mindful not to replicate them in our libraries. We must also realize that late fees represent a financial burden for some teens and their families causing teens to forego visiting the library, and ask ourselves, what other strategies might we use? Finally, our libraries must be physically and intellectually accessible for teens with disabilities (and, of course, stocked with literature that reflects their lived experiences). Project ENABLE provides free training to help librarians create more inclusive libraries that address the needs of youth with disabilities.

Other barriers are more difficult to unpack, but include library policies or procedures that inhibit teens from visiting or participating. For public libraries, this could manifest as an address requirement for receiving a library card. Teens experiencing homelessness would be unable to fulfill this requirement and thus be denied access to essential public library resources including computer time and material checkouts. For school libraries, perhaps a strict atmosphere of ‘shhh-ing’ is excluding teens from joining in library activities. Janice Hale (2001) reminds us, for example, that African American youth “participate in a culture that is highly dynamic. They thrive in settings that use multimedia and multimodal teaching strategies. And they favor instruction that is variable, energetic, vigorous, and captivating.” Do our libraries support this?

Barriers can also exist in programming. Are we scheduling programs at times that allow teen participation? Are we taking into consideration the public transportation schedules? Are we offering programs at locations in the community, rather than expecting teens to always come to the library? Are we coordinating our teen programs with our programs for children so that teens who are responsible for taking care of siblings can attend? Breaking Barriers: Libraries and Socially Excluded Communities explores ideas related to this topic specific to public libraries.

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This is a guest blog post by Wick Thomas about the Save MO Libraries rally.

I was the primary organizer of our Save MO Libraries rally in Jefferson City on Wednesday. The Governor is currently withholding 6 million dollars in appropriated funds from the libraries statewide and has recommended the same cuts next year. We decided to get some of our amazing teens together and take them to the Capitol to meet with their legislators to talk about why libraries are so important in their communities. We all had a great day until we got the Governor's office where his staff had us thrown out and threatened us with state troopers...

We had almost 100 teenagers take off from Kansas City for the Save MO Libraries Rally bright and early at 8 a.m. with a great media send off. It is Kansas City Public Schools spring break so we had an especially good turnout!

We arrived at the Missouri River Regional Library at 11:00 a.m. for pizza, to make posters, and to have an orientation for the day. (The Missouri River Regional Library staff is amazing!) Then we headed over to the South Steps of the State Capitol for the rally at 1:00.

We started a few minutes early because it began to rain and we were worried about the sound equipment. The teens decided that the rally should happen regardless of the rain, though. We had library systems from all over Missouri join us! I got to introduce some great speakers: our Library Director Crosby Kemper, noted civil rights activist Alvin Sykes, Camden County Library Director Michael Davis, State Librarian Barbara Reading, and teens from Kansas City Academy, Southwest High, Truman, East High, Northeast High and Van Horn. It was a spirited rally and the teens were especially great.

After that we went to our scheduled meetings with almost all of the senators and representatives from the Kansas City library districts as well as the Secretary of State's office. We split into three smaller groups to be more manageable and so the teens could meet with their specific officials. All of the meetings went very well. Our kids asked good questions and most of the legislators greeted them warmly and thanked them for caring so deeply about this issue.

We then headed to the Governor's office. His staff told us he was currently out of state but knew that we were going to come to his office anyway to speak with them. We got many of the teens into the reception area and then started calmly and respectfully asking them questions. After one of our teen's questions we were told that since there were meetings going on we were being too loud and had to leave. (We have video that clearly shows we were not being loud.) We asked if their staff would come out into the hall with us and talk to us there so we wouldn't bother anyone and they denied that request. Mr. Kemper and myself tried to reason with the staff and were then told that they would have State Troopers escort us out if we didn't leave immediately. We complied and left his office. They then called up extra security to monitor us and had Governor Nixon escorted out with four police officers. (I guess he wasn't actually out of state!) Many of our teens then went up and watched the chamber from the visitor's gallery and then we boarded the buses back to Kansas City.

Needless to say, many of our teens are now especially fired up about this topic. I have never been so disrespected by a public official and am especially appalled they treated our kids that way and then blamed it on them. (When they had already met with a dozen other officials with no problems at all.)

What now?- This is just the start.

*   After the teens were treated so poorly, the hashtag #savemolibraries really took off.

*   The petition to the Governor has received over 300 signatures since yesterday. On it you will find contact information for the Governor and for the House/Senate budgetary committees. Please share it with everyone you know.

*   It is especially important that you contact the Senate budgetary committee members right now as they began their deliberations this week.

*   Follow @kclibraryteens on Twitter and Facebook. (Pics from the rally are there!)

*   Direct people to www.savemolibraries.org for updates on the campaign.

*   This link includes handouts and images you can use at your library!

*   Let me know if you want to get involved so we can make this a more unified statewide effort!

We are going to be meeting with the teens who attended and strategize on what to do next. They are especially fired up about this and want to help lead the charge!

Save MO Libraries!

 

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 March 20 and March 26 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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Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 24 through May 1, and to help you be an informed voter, we're sharing interviews with each of the 2015 YALSA Governance and 2017 Selection Committee candidates as well as the ALA President-Elect Candidates.

Today we'll hear from a candidate for the 2017 Nonfiction Award. Members on this committee serve a twelve month term. The committee consists of a chair, eight members, a Booklist consultant, and an administrative assistant if the Chair requests. The Chair and four members will be appointed by the President-Elect of YALSA. The remaining four members will be elected by the membership of YALSA.

The Nonfiction Award committee’s primary job is to select the best nonfiction title published for young adults between Nov. 1 and Oct. 31 of the current year. A full description of the committee’s duties and responsibilities can be found here.

Full biographical information on all of the candidates can be found on the sample ballot.

Today we have an interview with Ellen Spring.
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Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 24 through May 1, and to help you be an informed voter, we're sharing interviews with each of the 2015 YALSA Governance and 2017 Selection Committee candidates as well as the ALA President-Elect Candidates.

Today we'll hear from a candidate for the 2017 Printz Award. Members on this committee serve a twelve month term. The committee consists of nine members including a chair. Four members and the chair are appointed and the remaining four members will be elected by the membership of YALSA.

The Printz Award committee’s primary job is to select from the previous year’s publications the best young adult book. A full description of the committee’s duties and responsibilities can be found here.

Full biographical information on all of the candidates can be found on the sample ballot.

Today we have an interview with Katie Richert.
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Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 24 through May 1, and to help you be an informed voter, we're sharing interviews with each of the 2015 YALSA Governance and 2017 Selection Committee candidates as well as the ALA President-Elect Candidates.

Today we'll hear from a candidate for Board Director-at-large. YALSA Board members serve three-year terms, during which they jointly determine YALSA's policies, programs, and strategic direction, in accordance with YALSA's bylaws. They attend both virtual and in-person meetings and serve as liaisons to YALSA's committee chairs and members. A full description of Board duties and responsibilities can be found here.

Full biographical information on all of the candidates can be found on the sample ballot.

Today we have an interview with Kate McNair.
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Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 24 through May 1, and to help you be an informed voter, we're sharing interviews with each of the 2015 YALSA Governance and 2017 Selection Committee candidates as well as the ALA President-Elect Candidates.

Today we'll hear from a candidate for ALA President-Elect. The ALA President serves a one year term. The role of the ALA President is to be the Association's chief spokesperson and to work closely with the ALA's Executive Director in identifying and promoting library issues nationwide and internationally. A full description of ALA Presidential duties and responsibilities can be found here.

Full biographical information on all of the ALA candidates can be found on the ALA Election Information page.

Today we have an interview with Joseph Janes.
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Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 24 through May 1, and to help you be an informed voter, we're sharing interviews with each of the 2015 YALSA Governance and 2017 Selection Committee candidates as well as the ALA President-Elect Candidates.

Today we'll hear from a candidate for the 2017 Printz Award. Members on this committee serve a twelve month term. The committee consists of nine members including a chair. Four members and the chair are appointed and the remaining four members will be elected by the membership of YALSA.

The Printz Award committee’s primary job is to select from the previous year’s publications the best young adult book. A full description of the committee’s duties and responsibilities can be found here.

Full biographical information on all of the candidates can be found on the sample ballot.

Today we have an interview with Edwin Rodarte.
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