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

Support #eBooksForAll

America’s libraries are committed to promoting literacy and a love of reading with diverse collections, programs and services for all ages. In an increasingly digital world, libraries are investing more in eBooks and downloadable media, and thousands of people discover and explore new and favorite authors through both digital and print collections.

But now one publisher has decided to limit readers’ access to new eBook titles. Beginning November 1, 2019, Macmillan Publishers will allow libraries to purchase only one copy of each new eBook title for the first eight weeks after a book’s release.

Libraries and readers alike cannot stay silent! 

The American Library Association and libraries across the country are asking you to voice your opposition to Macmillan’s new policy by signing this petition and telling Macmillan CEO John Sargent that access to eBooks should not be delayed or denied. We must have #eBooksForAll!

Visit eBooksForAll.org to sign the petition and share the news widely.

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Rancho Cucamonga Public Library

Flyer for the Summer Teen Volunteer Internship

Thanks to the YALSA Teen Summer Intern Grant, the Rancho Cucamonga Public Library was able to offer two teens the opportunity to be volunteer interns. Advertising for the internship began on April 1, 2019. The marketing included flyers and posters in both library locations, as well as a social media posts on the Library’s social media platforms. Both paper and online applications were available from April 15 to May 1. However, due to needing a parent or guardian’s signature on the application, a paper application was required to be turned in. In order to be considered, the applicants had to follow three requirements: 

  1. Applicants had to be between the ages of 16-18 during the internship
  2. Teens had to commit to intern for the full ten weeks to receive their stipend
  3. Interns were required to work three specific dates during the Summer Reading Program.

The review process was determined by teen services staff. Twenty-seven applications were turned in. The applicants were screened by age and availability in terms of the three requirements listed above. They were then ranked based on their answers to the application questions such as volunteer experience, hobbies and interests, current use of the library, and overall professional demeanor. Based on the ranking system the top 8 were offered interviews. These interviews were held over two days in which teen services staff asked teens about their strengths and weakness, why the wished to intern at the Library, experience working with children and teens, etc.  Of the 27 applicants, teen services staff made two offers for the internships. 

At the start of their ten-week internship, Morea and Nayana were given a two-day orientation and tours of both Library facilities by teen services staff. Each week the interns focused their time with a division of the Library including Children’s Services, Technology Services, Second Story Services, Teen and Tween Services, and Circulation Services. This rotation between the divisions allowed the interns to work with different supervising styles and exposed them to various facets of the Library. They were also given opportunities to learn hard and soft skills including copier skills, Google Docs, using office equipment properly, working on communication skills, teamwork, collaboration, and trying new things. 

Two teens pose in front of a door.

Getting started was a struggle in terms of Human Resources and Risk Management. There have never been teen interns at the Library, and therefore no pre-existing structure for us to follow. Our process was delayed from our original plan due to some logistical matters with HR. This impacted what information was available for the orientation, as well as some steps the interns had to take later in their internship to receive their stipend. We also learned that it was best to market our internship as “Summer Volunteer Teen Internship” to satisfy what we wanted to come across as well as what HR needed. Overall, timing was the biggest factor to keep in mind, but once it was all set-in motion it was an enjoyable experience that we would do again. 

 

Brittany Garcia is the Young Adult Services Librarian and Janet Monterrosa is the Library Technician at Rancho Cucamonga Public Library. 

Podcasting the Possibilities: Norman North High School’s YALSA Digital Equipment Grant in Action

From passion projects to final assessments for units over psychology, human rights, and more, Norman North students have flocked to using the library makerspace’s audio equipment to record podcasts. Hundreds of students utilized the library during the last school year to showcase what they had learned in a unique way, as well as record podcasts with their friends about “whatever comes up in conversation at lunch.”

With the help of the YALSA and Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s Digital Equipment Grant, the Norman North Library was able to purchase additional podcasting equipment, as well as explore a topic yet to be discussed in our students’ podcasts — books! During the summer, North students that spent their summers volunteering with the public libraries were contacted about an opportunity to be the first to use the new equipment and record a podcast about any of the 2019 YALSA Teens’ Top Ten nominees. Before the school year began, several students came in record their podcast where they passionately discussed what their book was about, what they liked best, and what made it a “Teens’ Top Ten.” Many had never used the podcasting equipment before, so a quick crash course was given to each student so that they could use it independently afterward. Anchor was used to host the episodes of North’s Teens’ Top Ten podcast and each student was taught how to use Anchor to use in conjunction with the audio equipment.

As the school year began, more students who had read Teens’ Top Ten titles came in to record episodes. Library assistants were trained on how to use the equipment so that they could begin helping students as individual appointments began to come in from students interested in recording their own thoughts, feelings, and ideas about various topics. One assistant, Emma, a Senior and avid podcast listener, was amazed the library offered this. “I love podcasts and now I’m able to create my own and it’s amazing,” she said, after a training on how to use the equipment.

Because of the Digital Equipment grant, more of the 2400 Norman North students are now able to “podcast the possibilities” and a book podcast that the library will continue to record episodes for was born. Thank you to the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YALSA for this amazing opportunity.

Link to podcast: North’s Teens’ Top Ten

—Molly Dettmann, Teacher Librarian at the Norman North High School; currently reading Fullmetal Alchemist vol 1-3