30 Days of Teen Programming: How do you Know What’s Needed?

teens in front of a graffitti muralThe first item in YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines states, “Create programming that reflects the needs and identities of all teens in the community.” And the overview of this guideline goes on to say:

In order to ensure that library programming meets the needs of all members of the community and does not duplicate services provided elsewhere, library staff should have a thorough understanding of the communities they serve. Library staff must continually analyze their communities so that they have current knowledge about who the teens in their community are. They must also develop relationships with community organizations already working with youth. Library staff play a crucial role in connecting teens to the community agencies and individuals that can best meet their needs.

The part of the overview that I think sometimes is difficult for library staff working with teens is the “continually analyze their communities so that they have current knowledge….” Continue reading

Thoughts on ALA Mid-Winter from a Librarian-in-Training

Since ALA Mid-Winter was conveniently located in Chicago this January, I decided to make the trip and attend the conference on Saturday. I had been to professional conferences before, but all for writing centers, not libraries. My first thought upon walking into the conference center was the same familiar feeling I got in writing center conferences: a bunch of people who are all passionate about one thing: libraries. I always love the energy at conferences; the energy that helps renew your passions and reminds you why you do what you do day in and day out.

My focus at Mid-Winter was seeing how ALA and the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation worked together to promote libraries to work with their communities to affect social change. They believe that public libraries should use their position in a community to help facilitate conversations that could lead to effective change. This is all under the ALA umbrella of Transforming Libraries. I was interested in these sessions because during my first semester in graduate school, I found myself drawn to and working with communities (both talking about community ideas in class and then working with a community for my assistantship). I’m currently taking a community engagement class and was interested to see Harwood’s spin on engagement.

After some freight congestion, I was able to attend two out of the four sessions: intentionality and sustaining yourself. Intentionality focused on the three As: authenticity, authority, and accountability. They wanted to make sure you deeply knew the community you were working with and followed through on promises. The final session, on sustaining yourself, focused on knowing personally what keeps you going (ways to destress and relax) and who you can talk to about frustrations and triumphs. Both sessions stressed small group discussion, which gave me the opportunity to meet other librarians (in all variety of roles). There was good discussion all afternoon however I left wishing I could have heard more from the pilot libraries who were coached by Harwood. Two different libraries gave short intros to start the sessions, but in five minutes, you can’t learn much about all the successes (and also the roadblocks).

In some ways, I felt out of my element at ALA. I was simply a student, one who didn’t have any long term experience in libraries. I could listen to conversations but sometimes felt I had nothing to add. However, at the same time, I got this great sneak peak into the professional world I’m preparing to jump with two feet into. Public libraries and communities are a big deal right now and if I can present a resume with experience in working with and for communities, then I help to separate myself from the rest of my peers competing for the job opening. What ALA and Harwood are picking up on isn’t a new concept — public libraries have been working with communities since they first began. These sessions serve as reminders that we as librarians are serving our community and should be an open, safe place to have tough conversations and conversations that begin to work towards social change.

Amplified! Speaking the Language of Management

YALSA President Shannon Peterson and I have been talking about her presidential theme of Amplified: Speaking Up for Teens and Libraries, and we were discussing the effort to build strong ties between YALSA and our members and library administrators. In May and June, I wrote a six-part series for this blog on how to work with library managers and administrators. Those posts were based partly on a survey that YALSA conducted of members who identified as supervisors and managers. One of the things we asked was what were some of the buzz words, lingo, and hot topics that made managers prick up their ears and listen. So here are some of those terms and ways you might incorporate them into your conversations with your managers:

ROI. This is manager-speak for “return on investment.” It’s really pretty straightforward. Managers want to know that if the library invests time, money, personnel, and equipment on a service, program, or collection, there will be some return on that investment. What kind of return? Maybe you can demonstrate that the effort you invested in putting on a dynamite program resulted in increased circulation in a particular area or from a particular demographic. Maybe adding a service, like homework help, resulted in reaching a previously under-served segment of the community. The more you can collect data (track circulation before and after the program; keep count of the number of new cards that were issued to participants in a new program or service, etc.), the easier it will be for you to show your managers how much return you got from your investment. Continue reading

What Your Manager Wishes You Knew – Part 2

Do you sometimes wonder what you could do to get more administrative support for teen services in your library? There are some relatively simple steps you can take to win friends and influence managers! This is a six-part series that shares some tips from managers that you can integrate into your work life and maybe make some positive changes in your library.

Last week I talked about presenting yourself as a professional. This week, the topic is:

Speaking the Language

When YA librarians talk about teen services they often–naturally enough–focus on the teens. They are likely to describe programs and activities in terms of the benefits to teens. Talking about how much fun a program or service will be, or how it’s the latest rage may be what’s on the top of your mind, or that of your teens, but it’s not necessarily what your library’s director thinks is important. Generally, upper-level managers are more interested in big-picture issues. In YALSA’s recent survey of members who are identified as supervisors or managers, several of the respondents commented that the upper-level administrators at their libraries want to hear about programs in terms of issues like community engagement, community health, collaboration, purpose, sustainability, partnerships, and return on investment (ROI). Continue reading