Teens, Libraries, and Assets

Yesterday I had the chance to participate in a Teen Summit sponsored by the Nassau Library System. Approximately 53 teens, 19 librarians, and associated library professionals attended. The Summit was planned to give teens in the County the opportunity to meet each other, think about their role in the community and the library, and come up with creative ways that their libraries could better serve them.

The facilitator for the day was one of the Search Institute trainers, Sue Allen. From the very start she got the teens involved in the program. Within a very short period of time the teens, and librarians, felt comfortable talking about the world, teens and adults, and libraries.

At one point Sue had the teens and librarians (separately) develop lists of stereotypes and expectations. As a part of this the teens (in small groups) wrote down lists of how they want to be perceived by adults. These lists were pretty powerful to ponder and included:

  • Awesome
  • Determined
  • Not Lazy
  • Eager

On these lists teens also wrote that they wanted to be respected by adults and that they wanted to be judged correctly.”

Shouldn’t all library staff, in all departments, be able to see teens in these ways and give them what they need/want?

After discussing the 40 Developmental Assets, teens and librarians again broke out into small separate groups and came up with ways that libraries could support teens. What was interesting about this list was that the teens weren’t really able to think outside of the library box that they already knew. The ideas were good but they weren’t so different than what libraries already do for teens. It seems to me a next step is to get teens and librarians talking together again about how the ideas need to be implemented, what the barriers are to implementation, and to perhaps come up with more forward-thinking programs and services.

It really was a great day and it’s a testament to the commitment of the librarians who attended that each came with at least one teen from their community. (Some librarians had 5 or 6 teens at the Summit.)

BTW, YALSA Serving the Underserved (SUS) trainers are well equipped to work with libraries to integrate the developmental assets and youth participation into their programs and services. If you are looking for a trainer you might check out the SUS list.

What is Youth Participation?

Over the past several weeks I’ve been working on a few projects that have given me a chance to consider once again what we mean in libraries when we talk about youth participation. To be honest, over the past several years I’ve been pretty frustrated with teen youth participation in libraries. What I usually find is that most librarians focus on activities that are at the lowest levels of the ladder of particiption. In other words real teen participation is really pretty minimal.

Yesterday, I was able to hear part of a presentation from community agencies in New York City that manage to “do” real participation. (YMCA, Studio Museum Harlem, The Door) Unfortunately, I missed everything but the question and answer portion of the presentation, but what I did hear was truly inspiring, particularly from a youth participation perspective. Panelists mentioned the importance of:

  • Listening to what teens have to say
  • Not making assumptions
  • Not judging
  • Being who you really are – not trying to be cool when you are not
  • Talking with teens about sometimes difficult topics
  • Building relationships

This tied in with other thinking and work I’ve been doing. Recently, I’ve been reminded how important it is for librarians and teens to focus on project-based youth participation. Many teen librarians talk to me about how hard it is to keep teens coming to TAB/TAG meetings and how much work it takes on the librarians part to keep a TAB/TAG going. But, think about this. If the participation is project-based:

  • Each project has a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Different teens in the community work on different projects.
  • More teens will want to participate and be motivated because they are involved in a specific project that is of interest to them.
  • You have the chance of meeting the needs and bringing in more teens because of the short-term nature of the participation. (It’s not a life-time committment.

It’s likely that a higher level of participation is also possible when it comes to project-based youth participation. Teens have more opportunity to come up with projects that are meaningful to them, the library, and community. Some examples of project-based participation include:

  • Space planning – a group of teens who are interested in figuring how to work with the library’s space get together and plan and implement a rearrangement or renovation of the space.
  • Gaming – teens who are interested in gaming get together to talk about how to bring gaming into the library. They talk about policies, hardware and software, and plan programs.
  • Collection building – teens who are interested in different parts of the library collection get together to help determine what to add, and weed. A group of music loving teens might work on the music collection. A group of manga loving teens might work on the manga collection. Etc.

None of these projects has to be long-term. The group might get together for several weeks, disband, and then reconstitute themselves in some way at a later date. The group only lasts as long as the project on which they are working.

And, of course, don’t forget that teens involved in a particular project could meet virtually just as well as f2f.

It would be great to learn about librarians who are using a project-based approach to youth participation already. Anyone?

Blog It!

Posted by Meg Canada
I plan to submit Blog It, the summer program I offered at the Hennepin County Library to Get Connected: 50 Tech Programs for Teens, but the fabulous Linda Braun has also posted the handouts we used to share with you. The class uses Blogger.com to create their own blogs. This is a great opportunity to discuss safety, ethics, and appropriateness online. Kudos to YALSA member Christy Mulligan who originally put this together. I have now offered a train-the-trainer class to an additional twenty-seven HCL staffers to offer during Teen Read Month (yes, we celebrate the whole month) or Teen Technology Week. If you have any questions feel free to drop me a line.

YALSA to sponsor 2 members for Emerging Leaders

Attention student members and members who are new librarians! YALSA will sponsor two members to take part in ALA’s Emerging Leaders Innitiative. If selected, you will receive free training and funds to travel to the 2007 ALA Midwinter Meeting and Annual Conference. Click here to learn more or to get an application. The deadline to apply is Sept. 15th.
-Beth Yoke

Toolbars are back

For quite awhile I was on a kick talking to everyone I could about creating library browser toolbars. I had this vision that everyone in a community would install the toolbar in their browser and that way the library would always be in people’s minds via the browser. I’m not sure why but I lost the momentum on the toolbar front and gave up the soapbox.

However, the other day I read about MIT creating a new Firefox toolbar for their users. You can downlod the toolbar, install it, and then have quick and easy access to MIT catalogs and databases. It’s really a great idea and I don’t know why more libraries haven’t started doing it.

Imagine if every teen in your community had a library toolbar in their browser. Teens wouldn’t have to go to the library site to find materials. You could add links to favorites, reviews, renewals, etc. on the toolbar.

You can see some other examples of library toolbars:

I think I have to get back on the toolbar bandwagon. Stay tuned.

Teen responds to using Wikipedia

After Wikipedia banned Stephen Colbert from editing or adding comments to their site because he was making erroneous additions, CNET teen intern writes about some of the pitfalls of Wikipedia. What do others think? Do you try to steer library users away from Wikipedia or find the opportunity for a ‘teaching moment’?

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

MySpace for Parents

In a May 2006 interview on DOPA and MySpace with Henry Jenkins and danah boyd, Jenkins states that, “Parents face serious challenges in helping their children negotiate through these new online environments. They receive very little advice about how to build a constructive relationship with media within their families or how to help their offspring make ethical choices as participants in these online worlds.”
At my library, my colleagues are offering a ‘MySpace for Parents‘ class where they teach parents how to set up their own MySpace account, and what to look for when their teens set up their own page. They also include resources in the workshop for further reading and information on other social networking sites the library uses.

What are other libraries doing to help parents help their teens ‘negotiate these online environments’? Or any ideas of what else we could be doing? Even if DOPA passes, parents will still need to know this information.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

Tell YALSA about your tech programs

If you have recently hosted a successful technology-oriented program for the teens in your community, and would like to have information about it published in YALSA’s upcoming book Get Connected: 50 Tech Programs for Teens, please fill out and return this survey by no later than Sept. 30. Please send your responses via email to the book’s editor, RoseMary Honnold, at rhonnold@yahoo.com. Be sure to put “Teen Tech Program” in the subject heading. The goal is to publish the book in 2007 as part of YALSA’s 50th anniversary celebration. We’re looking for teen programs that center around cutting edge technologies. The programs can be ones for recreation or education, and can be a one time event, or an on-going initiative. Thank you! -Beth Yoke

15 Years

I meant to blog about the web turning 15 a couple of days ago and forgot. Mostly, I wanted to point out that if the web is 15 years old, there are many teens who are younger than the web and therefore have grown up not knowing a world without the web

For me, I remember my first time seeing Mosaic and the web when I went with a school librarian friend, Ellen Berne, to MIT to see this thing called the web. We looked at the dead sea scrolls and were totally amazed.

Now, seeing primary source materials on the web doesn’t amaze me in quite the same way. Think about the teens and pre-teens you know. What makes technology amazing to them?

BTW, the BBC posted a great timeline of the past 15 years on the web on their site.


I’m curious in what ways librarians relax and why. Sometimes I think it is important to talk about who we are and what we do when we’re not librarians, gamers, fighting/educating about DOPA, promoting literacy, TABs, going to meetings, etc. Yeah, right. I’m not one to speak. My coworkers might get emails at midnight. They might get them at 6am and ask me, what in the world? I grew up with a father who was his job first (a policeman) and father secondary-maybe that’s where I get some of my work ethic from (not always admirable).

When Michael Stephens presented last week at my library, he asked the audience if they are able to play at work. How many are able to? Maybe I’m looking for answers. I don’t think I can ever stop loving what I do and feel my work is finished.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I’m volunteering 11 hours at a local literary festival. Nikki Giovanni, Omar Tyree and over eighty other authors will be there. Teen volunteers and other colleagues will be helping me to promote the library. Part of me feels where else do I want to be? The other part-I found an outdoor labyrinth to walk in the town that I live. The first one I ever walked was in was San Francisco. That’s where I’ll be after the festival. I know I’ll be smiling.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki