2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Teens Leading Teens – The Power of Empowering Interns

This summer, The Bill Memorial Library of Groton, CT was fortunate to employ two teen interns through funds provided by the YALSA Teen Intern Program and Dollar General.  Over the course of the summer, our two interns were given a number of tasks that enriched our summer learning program for participants under age 10. These tasks included helping our youngest patrons with crafts, playing our summer learning game with younger students, and crafting a Cultural Banquet from beginning to end.  While we fully expected this intern program to be enriching for our summer learning participants and are interns alike, we didn’t foresee the greatest benefit of the program – the chance for our teen interns to lead other teen volunteers and gather important skills as future leaders.

Each year, we have a number of teens ask to volunteer during our summer learning project.  As any teen services coordinator knows, young volunteers can be a blessing and a curse. Volunteers are just as likely to be eager and passionate about helping the library as they are likely to be reluctant or forced by a parent to help out in their spare time.  We have certainly encountered this in past summers at the Bill Memorial Library. This year, however, was different. This year, we had teen interns that we tasked with overseeing these volunteers. And the result was both unexpected and rewarding.

As soon as we placed these younger, sometimes reluctant, volunteers in the charge of our older, passionate teen interns, we saw an immediate change in their engagement level.  Our young volunteers were suddenly eager to assist and began to see the benefit in assisting the library. The task of “volunteering at the library” was no longer a burden for these teen volunteers.  Suddenly, it was a worthwhile project that gave them a purpose and direction in the doldrums of summer. The older teen interns sparked a fire in these young volunteers that we as adults and authority figures could not start ourselves.  It was as if these young teens saw their older peers taking ownership of their newfound responsibility and said, “I want that too.” What we as staff witnessed was the growth of our young volunteers under the tutelage of their older peers, and what this meant for us was that we were watching a new generation of impassioned teen interns sprout up right before our eyes.  We also watched as our teen interns gained a level of confidence in empowering their peers and honed important leadership skills that will serve them later in life.

Bill Memorial Library interns Sam and Anika sit on the front steps.

Bill Memorial Library interns Sam and Anika.

Perhaps the greatest piece of knowledge we gleaned from our time with our teen interns was this: the ability for teens to empower their peers is invaluable and should be fostered whenever possible.  Our teen interns will be the next generation of leaders, and it is our hope that those teen volunteers will be the next generation of teen interns. The continuation of this cycle will ensure the ongoing enrichment of our summer learning program, our library, and our community, and this realization would not have been possible without the YALSA Teen Intern program.

 

Kate Bengston is a Teen Programming Coordinator at Bill Memorial Library.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Teen Literacy Kit Outreach Program

Our goal for the Teen Literacy Kit Outreach program was two-fold.  We wanted to encourage teens from high poverty and homeless families to continue building their reading and writing skills over the summer.  We also wanted to bring our library-based programs to the teens in our area who didn’t have transportation to the library during our regularly scheduled programs.  To accomplish these goals, we contacted our local Dollar General store and asked them to let us block off part of their parking lot and turn it into a Teen Program space once a month during the June/July summer break.  They enthusiastically agreed, and we got to work.  

Step 1:  Create Literacy Kits

Teen literacy kit contents.

Our concern centered on the large number of teens that are enrolled in the local middle and high schools who don’t have a consistent place to call home, much less a space to store books and journals.  My Children’s Librarian and I (Library Manager) wanted to find a way to give those teens portable reading and writing materials, so we came up with the idea of literacy kits: drawstring bags with a book, unlined note book, bookmark, pen, toy, writing prompts and word games, and a Frequent Readers card donated by our local Dairy Queen.  We also decided on an Honor Library so that the teens could take books and not worry about returning them.

Step 2:  Design Teen Programming for a Parking Lot

A tent is set up in a parking lot with library kits on display.

This was the most challenging aspect of the program.  Whatever we planned to do, we would have to bring everything from tables and tents to craft supplies.  We decided to go with science experiments that could be done individually or as a team and didn’t need a lot of supplies to complete.  Each experiment had goals that would allow the teens to earn points towards a prize: a coupon for a free dilly bar at Dairy Queen. We had planned to run the program like one of our library programs with a set beginning and end time, and we advertised it that way, but we found that teens trickled in throughout the program time and could only spend an average of 15 minutes with us.  We modified the book talk to make it a quick introduction to the book and got the kids started on the experiments to keep them with us as long as possible. We passed out literacy kits to any teen who stopped by the tent and even a few that we chased down leaving the store. We only had 17 teens come to the first program and 12 teens come to the second program.

Step 3:  Get Your Local Schools Involved

 

Since the parking lot programs didn’t reach our target of 50 teens, we reached out to the middle school up the road from the Dollar General store.  They provide washers/dryers for homeless families in our area, and they also have a food pantry and used clothing rack. The school let us set up outside and pass out the literacy kits and honor books to teens during their laundry hours in July.  We were able to pass out the remaining 21 kits and 14 of the honor books to the teens that we had hoped to reach. Success!

A librarian is smiling in a tent full of books for teens.

 

Melissa Clark is the Library Manager at Millersville Public Library of Sumner County.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Creating Community: Teen Programming in an Urban Library

Located in Slavic Village, the Fleet Branch is one of 27 branches of the Cleveland Public Library. Fleet is one of the library’s busiest branches and serves a diverse population of patrons, from infants to seniors.

As a Children’s and Youth Services Librarian, I work with infants through teens. The library provides many programs, inside and outside the library, for our youth. Connecting with our younger patrons has always been easy. Connecting with our teens is much more challenging.

When I applied for the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant, I wanted to design a program that would engage and excite our teens. I wanted the program to be an opportunity for our teens to bond with each other and with the library staff. On most days, teens come to the library, use the computers, and leave. They have little interaction with anyone and it can be nearly impossible to get them off the computers.

My library branch is located in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood. The teens I serve deal with toxic stress every day and are not as apt to participate in programs. We try to entice them with food, movies, and music but are often unsuccessful. When teens do come to programs, they tend to keep to themselves and not interact with each other. I wanted to host a program that lent itself towards interaction and would be fun and engaging.

To do this, I purchased BreakoutEDU for our “Teen Agents: Mysteries Unraveled” program. BreakoutEDU is an escape room-esque program where teens are trying to solve clues and decipher codes to break in to a lock box. BreakoutEDU includes an interactive platform and a kit with lock boxes, locks, invisible ink pens, and other detective tools. BreakoutEDU supports collaboration. To solve each mystery, the teens have to communicate and work together.

Three teens stand in front of a dry erase board at Cleveland Public Library.

We had three teens register for the program and two of them showed up. On the first day of the program, we were able to get additional teens to join us. From the start, I could see the teens were having fun. We gave them their clues and told them to solve their first mystery. There was some initial hesitation, but they soon started talking and got to work. As the teens became acquainted with one another, they started to discuss other topics besides the mysteries they were working on. It was nice to see them begin to build relationships with each other.

Besides interacting with each other, the program also allowed the teens to interact with the youth staff. Myself and the branch’s library assistant facilitated the program. Although we were familiar with the teens who attended the program, we did not know them well. Throughout the program, the teens turned to us for guidance, which led to conversations and an increased rapport. Since the program’s conclusion, we have seen all of the teens in the library and had conversations with them. One of the teens even shared her writing with myself and the library assistant. The teens also told us they are excited to attend the program when we host it again.

Three teens gather around a table at Cleveland Public Library.

Even though we had small numbers for our program, I consider it a success. The program enabled our teens to meet new people and begin to establish relationships with the youth staff. I am looking forward to hosting more programs this fall!

 

Tracie Forfia is a Children’s & Youth Services Librarian at Cleveland Public Library.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Rising 6th Graders Bridges to Books

School library media specialists are under considerable pressure to demonstrate our absolute value within our schools. As a fourth-year media specialist, I have seen and read about the numerous cuts to school libraries so very early in my career. Being a career changer going into the library media profession, I never anticipated I would worry daily about my job being eliminated and libraries being managed by un-certified staff. Most recently, I read a social media post about a school librarian who returned to her library over the summer to find library books thrown in the middle of the floor, as two classrooms were being constructed from half of the library space. This story, among several others, has left me in search of the answer to the following questions. Why have school libraries become so disconnected and irrelevant to student learning? Why is the school librarian not viewed upon as an instructional leader and partner?

After much reflection, it was decided I couldn’t keep asking the questions, and instead, I had to create and share the why for our library profession. I made it a mission to step up and participate in any leadership opportunity made available to me as a school library media specialist, and in my reflection, all programs would be based on the student voice of my middle school students. While attending Teacher Leader Academy in a library media specialist cohort at my school district this past year, we were asked to develop a legacy project. My goal was to link the library with reading literacy and create a school culture of readers. Often, library media specialists (and library resources) are overlooked when developing initiatives for increasing student achievement because it is difficult to provide data. I wanted to change this, and I wanted the school library to be a partner in increasing students’ reading scores. Through my legacy project, I worked with a team of 24 teachers and my principal to create a school-wide independent reading program called, Griffin Reads 30. It was a strong collaborative process which now provides our students with 30 minutes of independent, choice reading during each school day. However, the legacy needed to continue beyond our school.

The next step to the legacy project had to expand to our feeder elementary schools to include rising 6th graders entering the middle school in the fall. Before attending middle school, these pre-teens needed the opportunity to visit their soon-to-be middle school, meet me, and learn about our library and our literacy program so that they felt empowered as new middle schoolers. Our library is the heart of the school, and true student voice and leadership are practiced in all areas including the purchase of new books, makerspace programs, and reading promotions and contests. The library is also filled with technology resources and rich databases for student academics. The second part of my legacy project was building “Bridges to Books” for our new students. 

This summer, the “Bridges to Books” program was facilitated in July, two weeks prior to the start of the new school year. All rising 6th graders were invited to attend, and the final attendance reached over one hundred students. As part of a community partnership to introduce our students to their library, collaboration was done with our public library and librarians to share the Cobb Library Pass. This free resource connects students with hundreds of digital books and several research databases. Students are also able to use their school student number to check books out from the public library. This partnership creates a strong presence of the importance of libraries, both school and public, for supporting student achievement and providing access to reading and research materials. 

Through the YALSA Dollar General Summer Reading Grant, paperback books were purchased, along with bookmarks, and a button maker which we use to create badges for reading achievement. Students also completed a makerspace project during the summer program and a scavenger hunt to locate books in their favorite genres and practiced checking out library books through the self-checkout system. 

Bridges to Books was a success, and when the students started school almost two weeks ago, students who attended were eager to say hello to me and began checking books out immediately during the first week of school. The library continues to be the heart of the school, and through this sustainable summer reading program, students will build a sense of pride for the library prior to beginning of each school year. It supports the transition into becoming a teen in the middle school by providing a safe environment, along with friendly and familiar faces. An additional bonus is the ability to showcase the importance of school libraries and certified school librarians as key educators in the academic and social emotional success of students. Through the summer reading program, I feel empowered to positively impact students before they begin a new school, so they will utilize library resources throughout their middle school years. 

 

Lori Quintana is a Library Media Specialist at Griffin Middle School in the Cobb County School District.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Jaffrey Public Library

Jaffrey Public Library’s teen staff and participants in our teen book club, Book Buzz, indicated a need for more accessible, highly engaging books for reluctant readers, as well as an expanded virtual outlet for sharing their thoughts about what they read and other topics of interest. In response, we used our funds from the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant to purchase titles from ALA’s “2018 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers” list, as well as an iPad with an Apple pencil for teens to create book trailers of new teen titles and other digital content. The plan was to feature this content on a new page for our website, JPL Teen Magazine.

The Jaffrey Public Library serves the middle and high school population of the Jaffrey-Rindge school district. 2018 saw the loss of separate middle and high school libraries, as the School Board recently voted to combine the two schools. The loss of school resources put more focus on the public library for our teen students, and we have seen a rise in library attendance of this population, particularly among teens who are struggling academically and looking for a safe place. 

Two teens sit at a table in the Jaffrey Public Library.

The primary goal of our project was to address the risk factors for these teens, by increasing engagement with library activities, resources, and staff that provide support. They have indicated boredom and a lack of interest in school, but many have shown a high level of engagement with library STEAM and literacy programming. Through content creation activities and online engagement with JPL Teen Magazine, we intended to impact teens’ textual, visual, and digital literacy skills while also promoting the most accessible parts of our collection.

In addition to inviting Book Buzz participants to create content, we marketed the formation of a new Teen Advisory Board to meet biweekly during the summer. We also included “Make a book trailer using our new iPad” and “Check out a book from the Summer Learning display” on our teen Summer Learning bingo cards. Overall, Summer Learning turned out to be a phenomenal success. Registration by middle and high schoolers in the Summer Learning Program went up 70% over the previous two years, and engagement went up by 50%. We played the book trailers that were completed on our big screen during various programs, and those titles received increased interest from teens. (See one of our most-viewed book trailers here.

Two teens stand in front of bookshelves at Jaffrey Public Library.

The success was not, however, driven by engagement with the Teen Advisory Board, as initially anticipated. What we discovered was that even teens who attended more than one meeting and expressed interest in more solid commitment during the school year found it difficult to commit to regular commitments during the summer. The greatest engagement from teens came from the at-will aspects of our Summer Learning Program. As a result, not enough content was generated to launch JPL Teen Magazine during the summer months. Staff anticipate renewed engagement during the school year as schedules become more regular, and we look forward to both a vibrant Teen Advisory Board and JPL Teen Magazine in the months to come.

 

Andrea Connolly is a Youth Services Librarian at Jaffrey Public Library.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Too Many Teens? A Summer Reading Volunteer Dilemma

At the Westminster Public Library, we strive to provide inclusive and high-quality programming with and for our community. The Summer Reading Program (SRP), albeit traditional in nature, is no exception. From young to young at heart, everyone in Westminster is encouraged to participate and demonstrate positive literacy habits in our community. Rather than toys and trinkets, youth participants earn new books to keep after completion of the first reading level. Thanks to the Dollar General Literacy Foundation grant, we were able to continue providing new and diverse titles to our youth. As a double whammy, this prize approach not only encourages reading for pleasure, it also provides a rewarding volunteer opportunity for teens.

Managing daily SRP submissions and distributing prizes is a tall order for a lean 2-branch library system. As such, we rely on the generosity and skills of our teen patrons. Given that many schools in our area require community service hours, this opportunity has become a volunteer magnet. In previous years, Westminster Public Library has accepted upwards of 100 teen volunteers per summer. Think this sounds too good to be true? Well, in a sense, you’re right. Quantity doesn’t guarantee quality, and this volunteer program is the perfect example.

One problem teen services librarians love to have, is too many teenagers. However, when said teens are the face of your library throughout the summer, our standards go up as their expectations go down. During previous summers at Westminster Public Library, teen volunteer issues have included, but are not limited to: not showing up for shifts, sleeping, fidgeting with phones, and a general unwillingness to help. Word on the street was that the library offered easy volunteer hours with air conditioning to boot. With the 2019 Summer Reading Program around the corner, we knew we needed to try something new.

If teens were not invested and library staff was working harder to keep them engaged and on task, the value of the opportunity was in question on both ends. That’s when we realized the library may be for everyone, but volunteer opportunities are not. In an attempt to remedy this dilemma, we implemented a selective SRP volunteer cycle. Beginning with a standard volunteer application, teens were expected to complete and submit this basic form to the city. All applicants progressed to an in-personal panel interview hosted by both teen services librarians and additional library staff. Teens who were accepted were then invited to orientation to establish expectations. Following their training, they used an online sign-up system to manage their own shifts. To close out the summer, teens submitted feedback in exchange for their signed statement of volunteer hours.

WPL Underground promotion featuring teens reading and volunteering.

Overall, this year’s SRP teen volunteer experience has been a tremendous success, and we have achieved more positive outcomes than expected. Most importantly, we recognize that the application and interview process created an organic weeding effect. As a result, our pool of highly-capable and committed teen volunteers provided valuable support to our staff with significantly less oversight. Additionally, teens gained real-world experience by completing administrative tasks, building customer service skills, and engaging directly with the community. In the end, we learned that we get out what we put in; our commitment to the process delivered 70 teens that were truly committed to the experience.

 

Kaela Delgado is the Teen Services Librarian at Westminster Public Library in Colorado.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: When a program doesn’t go the way you hoped

Arlington Public Library was generously awarded $1000 from Dollar General Literacy Foundation as part of their Summer Learning Resources grant. We decided to produce a chapbook from the work of English as a Second Language (ESL) teens in the Arlington, TX community. With the current political environment towards immigrants, the chapbook is an opportunity to provide stories and experiences that would connect with readers. We partnered with The Writer’s Garret, a local independent literary center that has done amazing work in the Dallas-Fort Worth community. Remaining funds were put towards collection development and content curation.

Two handmade brochures from the Arlington Public Library.

To promote this program, we shared it with our local ESL center for high school students. We posted it in our teen space at the main library and had flyers on the calendars of various branch libraries. During our Teen Zone times, we shared the program with teens we thought might be interested, especially our creative teens, and informed our teen creative writing group that they were welcome to participate. I told my volunteers about the chapbook series and they shared it with their friends. Our marketing team boosted it on social media several times during the summer and made a blog post on our library website. Information was also shared with our adult literacy team, who taught adult ESL classes in three of our libraries. Finally, we made sure to promote the program with any adult or teen asking about ESL programs over the summer.

Two teens read at Arlington Public Library.

Despite all the promotion we did, our turnout for the program was extremely low. We had only one consistent participant throughout the five weeks, two who we recruited during the program when they were browsing books in the area, and one who had been recommended to the program by staff. When participation remained low, we examined the program and looked for ways we could open it up to more teens. Instead of language stating that it was for ESL teens, we used “geared for ESL teens but open to any interested teens.” Participants could now come to one workshop instead of all five. We also removed the registration requirement, which could have deterred participants. Finally, we set out creative writing prompts for teens during our Teen Zone hours, but we received no submissions from that venue either. 

While a successful program would have been ideal, experiences like this are unfortunately a challenge of librarianship. A program with low attendance does not mean that it lacks the potential to be a good program. It is an opportunity to identify changes to make it a better fit for the target audience. This program was one that we really believed would be successful because it served a need we saw in the community (lack of ESL programs for teens). Perhaps changing the time of the program or focusing on oral skills would have been better. By using the lessons we learned from this experience, we will continue to build our ESL programs and services for teens.  

 

Loretta Zhang is the Community Programming Librarian at Arlington Public Library.

Happy TeenTober!

TeenTober LogoHappy TeenTober! If you haven’t already, download the logo and social media graphics to help you promote your programs. If you’re celebrating, don’t forget to share your photos and programs with us on Twitter by tweeting @yalsa and using #TeenTober.

Thank you to everyone for your patience during this inaugural, soft launch. We can’t wait to see and read about all the great programs taking place this month!

A huge shout-out also goes out to our Teen Read Week/Teen Tech Week Taskforce members: Kelsey Socha (chair), Tegan Beese, Meaghan Darling, Megan Edwards, Shelley Ann Mastalerz, Jodi Silverman, and Kimberly Vasquez for all the time and work they put into planning this new celebration!

2020 YALSA Election Slate

YALSA’s Board Development Committee has assembled the following slate for the 2020 YALSA Election:

President-Elect
Franklin Escobedo
Kelly Czarnecki

Fiscal Officer
Kate Denier

Directors at Large
Susannah Goldstein
Dawn McMillan
Joel Shoemaker

To run on the slate as a petition candidate, members can submit a petition form between now and Nov. 4, 2019, via the eForm available in YALSA’s Handbook. Please note that you must first log into your ALA account in order to access the form. Find out more at Election FAQ. Learn more at www.ala.org/yalsa/workingwithyalsa/election. Please direct any questions to the Board Development Committee chair, Sandra Hughes-Hassell.

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Gadsden Public Library

Teens at the Gadsden Public Library made slime with the help of staff, a teen intern, and volunteer.

Teens at the Gadsden Public Library made slime with the help of staff, a teen intern, and volunteer.

The interview and Hiring Process
The GPL chose 3 interns to work for us this summer ( two of which were paid from the YALSA/ Dollar General grant, the other was paid with money from fundraising). These young adults were chosen after filling out an application and also being interviewed. The process allowed us to choose teens that would gain the most experience from working at the library, but also mesh well with the YA department. There were around 15 applicants, and the ones we chose were the applicants that interviewed the best.

Considerations:

Teen intern leads a discussion on flying drones.

Teen intern leads a discussion on flying drones.

  • Prior experience was not necessary
  • They had to go to school within the county district
  • They had to have multiple references.

Interview Questions included: 

  • Why are you interested in this internship?
  •  What do you want to do / where do you want to be in 5 years? 
  • What is one of your favorite books? 
  •  What are your strengths/weaknesses? 

The interview process allowed us our first glimpse of the interns’ personalities. We found out what classes they enjoyed, what books they loved, and what their interests pertain to.  This insight helped staff when determining to schedule the teens.

  • One intern loved flying a drone and also had experience with telescope.  He was scheduled to help with STEM/ Tech programs and space programs.
  • Another intern loved social media. She was scheduled to take photos and videos of event and come up with captions for the visuals.
  • The other intern wanted to help with children’s programs and we adjusted her schedule to spend some time in that department. We were happy to provide an opportunity for her to learn, especially because she is interested in education.
Two teen interns pose before the annual Harry Potter Birthday Program held by the Gadsden Public Library

Two teen interns pose before the annual Harry Potter Birthday Program held by the Gadsden Public Library.

Training Teen Interns
The interns were required to participate in a training day to gain a better understanding of what it is like to work in a library. The interns and volunteer toured all areas of the library, including closed stacks, met staffers, observed programs, learned basic policies and learned about professionalism.

  •  Their training involved talking about the importance of the library (more than just books!), knowledge of other departments, as well as shelving time.
  • The teens also had to learn the programming schedule because they were required to assist Teen Zone staff during programs. Because our library has teenagers in the library all day long, the GPL provides passive programs which keep all teens busy and active no matter what time of day they arrive.  The GPL also provided free lunches and snacks on the weekdays. Then there were also ‘big’ programs every day which included altruism, art, STEM, gaming, and more. The interns had to engage with the other teenagers during the programs and also assist staff with setting up and cleaning up of materials. 
  • The interns were scheduled for 5 hours a week; two 2.5 hour shifts, and scheduled during our busiest time of the day.

Continue reading