2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Building Interest in Technology Programs for Teens

 The City of Warren is located in Southeast Michigan. In 2017, it was estimated that 31.4% of youth under the age of 18 in Warren live at less than 100% of the federal poverty level. Technological literacy is an important skill that can empower youth to have successful lives and careers. Youth who are affected by poverty are likely to fall behind their peer group in their ability to comprehend and manipulate technologies, limiting their future educational and career prospects.

The inside of a completed Google AIY kit.

The Warren Public Library was fortunate to receive a Summer Learning Resource Grant funded by YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. Our goal was to introduce teens to new kinds of technology, specifically virtual reality and artificial intelligence.  We used the grant money to purchase two Oculus Go headsets, four AIY kits by Google, and books about applied science.

Previous teen tech-based programs at the library have had low attendance. It is difficult to discern why this is the case, but we made a few decisions to help us try to raise teen attendance numbers throughout the summer. 

First, we decided that our technology programs would focus on “process” learning instead of “product” learning. Our goal was to familiarize teens with the technology tools, not to teach them to be experts. For this reason, we allowed them to experiment with the tools with very few specific goals in mind. This made the process more fun and lower pressure because the teens knew there was no right or wrong way to go about using the tools.

The Voice kit is on the left and the Vision kit is on the right.

Second, we brought the tools to programs that were not technology based. For example, the Oculus Go sets were available at our monthly Teen Spot program, Anime Club, and our summer learning closing lock-in. This allowed us to introduce them to a much wider audience. Specifically, it helped us to reach teens who would not have been interested in signing up for a “tech” program. 

Third, we did not focus on “educational” activities. Because our main goal was to interest young people in newer forms of technology, we felt that any use of the tools was educational. For example, while we did download Oculus Go apps that allowed users to “tour” the Anne Frank House, we also downloaded roller coaster simulations and adventure games. 

Finally, we asked our Friends of the Library to volunteer to assist with our teen programs this summer. While this was originally for practical purposes, it actually had an interesting effect. Many of the Friends are retirees who are not familiar with technology.  The teens’ greater comfort with technology led to collaboration and learning opportunities for everyone. 

The Oculus Go headset and control.

Although some programs still did not meet target attendance numbers, overall Warren Public Library had more successful teen programs than in previous summers. Perhaps most telling is our “Space Age Tech Day” which introduced both the Oculus Go sets and the AIY kits. While only six teens attended, it greatly improved over our previous technology event for teens, which had zero attendees.   

 

Julianne Novetsky is the Library Technician at Warren Civic Center Library.

 

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.

Jefferson County Public Library Summer Internship Process

Here at Jefferson County Public Library, we just finished our summer reading program, during which we had the opportunity to host a teen intern. I wanted to write about our process and also give some advice about what we learned, which I blog about below. I hope future grantees find this helpful, and if they are interested in further material from our program, can find it on the 2018 Teen Intern Grantee Space.

Marketing

To market our teen intern program, I first created a flyer on Canva:

We advertised on our Facebook page and also during an outreach program we do each semester at local junior and high schools called Lunch in the Library, where we provide pizza for lunch and the teens get to learn about library services and offer suggestions for programming, collection development, etc. The Facebook advertising got the most interest from parents, who messaged the library’s Facebook account asking for more information, however I found that not many of their children actually applied. The most effective way I found good candidates was asking the school librarians if they had any aides that they thought would be interested. These students all had library experience that was helpful if we needed to do tasks related to shelf reading, shifting, etc.

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Teen Summer Internship @ Laurel Public Library

We had a very successful Teen Summer Internship program last summer at the Laurel Public Library and when we received a grant through the generosity of the Dollar General literacy Foundation and YALSA we knew we would do a similar program again for our teens. We have a very strong teen volunteer program already in place so we knew this would be a great opportunity for our teens.

The process to be considered for an internship for the summer of 2018 started by requiring the teens to attend a mentoring program offered by a local community leader. The course was designed to run for eight weeks and during this time the teens learned many skills such as life skills, leadership skills, personal presentation, and public speaking. We initially started with eight teens, but regular attendance was an issue with the majority of the teens and we ended up with only three who completed the mentoring program and of those three, only two were selected for the internship. We also brought back one of last year’s interns, for a total of three for the summer.

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Summer Teen Intern grant allows three young patrons to build their first resumes

Our teen interns assisted us in a variety of ways! They ran our summer reading registration table (data entry, prize distribution/inventory), interacted with children (assisted with computers) and adults of all ages, assisted in weekly programs/activities (spray painted rocks, room set-up and tear down, created sample crafts), unpacked deliveries, pulled hold lists, etc.

Our goals for summer teen interns were:

  • Introduce them to being a part of a professional environment

o   Teamwork

o   Decision making

  • Independent thinking
  • Build confidence
  • Gain diverse experience working with their community
  • Build resume

We see all three of our teens feeling empowered as they succeed in their role as summer interns. We want them to leave with the confidence and knowledge that they are a vital part of our community!

Kristine Swanson is the outreach librarian for the Public Libraries of Saginaw. She has the privilege of taking the library to underserved groups of people in her community including the juvenile detention center, assisted living communities and memory care units. She feels blessed every day to be doing what she is doing!

Girls Who Code @ Russell Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

In the summer of 2017 the Russell Library in Middletown Connecticut, was accepted to participate in the national non-profit Girls Who Code©. Girls Who Code (GWC) partners with other groups, such as libraries, to prepare students for careers in technology fields by introducing computer programming. Starting in September 2017 the Russell Library offered its first GWC course for 20 weeks to a full class of 12 students and a waiting list! The popularity and the community’s positive response suggested that the library should offer the course again.

As a Teen Librarian with a MLS and no official Computer Science background, after the first session I realized I needed reinforcements. The YALSA/ Dollar General Grant fit the perfect spot to be able to offer the program again.  (*Side Note- GWC suggests a CS Degree or CS experience is not necessary; that anyone can run a GWC program with the tools and resources they provide.)

The initial impetus in searching for a grant was our robust teen volunteer program, which offers important job preparation skills to the teens of Middletown. Teens volunteer at the library all year long, with the majority of the hours in the summer. During the brainstorming process, the concept transformed from volunteers assisting in all Youth and Family Learning Summer Learning Programs to two interns for a specific program, GWC.

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Summer Learning @ Octavia Fellin Public Library

The Octavia Fellin Public Library (OFPL) in Gallup, NM used the funds from the Summer Learning Resource Grant to purchase equipment to begin a Youth Media Lab where tweens and teens would have access to film and audio equipment as well as editing software. At the end of May OFPL was approached by the Miss Navajo Council, Inc. seeking help for creating a multimedia project to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of 1868, which allowed the Navajo Tribe to return to their ancestral homelands after being deported to the Bosque Redondo Reservation. We partnered with the organization utilizing our new equipment and community members to create an intergenerational reading of the Treaty accessible to a modern audience.

The resulting project involved 14 community participants (youth and adult) from the community, and historical photographs from the Library of Congress and National Archives. It was shown at 3 commemoration events in Flagstaff, Arizona; Farmington, New Mexico; and Gallup, New Mexico. OFPL also hosted an exhibit detailing the importance of the treaty and its lasting impacts.

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Dollar General Grant Winner: Camp Fun to Read

The Keene Public Library in Keene, N.H., just finished a very successful Camp Fun to Read program. What made our program so successful was the opportunity to provide three paid teen internships which we were awarded through the generosity of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YALSA. The interns served as reading and writing mentors or buddies to younger children who are beginning or struggling readers in our Camp Fun to Read Summer Reading Program.  The goal of this program was to boost confidence and encourage young children who will be entering 1st through 3rd grades to take ownership of their own reading adventures. Camp Fun to Read took place at the library from August 6 – 17, Monday – Friday from 1-3 pm.

Our intern Macy and one of our Camp Fun to Read participants

We began the process of recruiting the interns while school was still in session when we contacted the school librarians, counselors, and teachers for referrals. A job description was created and approved by the City of Keene.  A team of youth and teen librarians interviewed six candidates and three teens were selected. Two weeks before the start of the camp, teens attended a paid orientation program to acquaint them with the library and the goals of the camp. Interns then worked 4 hours each day from 12 – 4 for two weeks.

Teens worked with librarians and peers to develop and carry out activities designed to inspire young readers to explore their own reading and writing interests. Teens read to younger children and encouraged their independent and group reading activities. Interns assisted book selection, preparation of craft activities, set up and tore down for each session. Interns gained experience working with young children by engaging with them in a variety of activities involving reading, crafts, drama, and technology.

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YALSA Summer Intern Grant for Wake County Public Libraries

This summer Wake County Public Libraries (WCPL), located in Raleigh, North Carolina, started a new teen internship program for older teens (grades 11-12) to assist in providing fun engaging learning opportunities for participants at selective USDA funded Summer Food Sites in partnership with Wake County Parks and Recreation . The funding from the YALSA Summer Learning Grant that is funded by Dollar General helped offset the costs of this program.

In our grant application, our initial goal was to hire two interns. However, once we started to review the program and interview candidates we decided to increase this number to five interns. All five interns were selected from WCPL’s Teen Leadership Corps that served the areas of some of our most vulnerable communities.

The teens were interviewed and hired in May. In early June, they received training, participated in leadership building skills and worked with four of our librarians to design the program they would deliver to the food site participants from mid-June to early August. The interns provided programs Monday through Thursday with oversight from our librarians and staff from the parks serving as food sites. On Fridays, members of the local Boys and Girls Club worked at the sites while our teens participated in debriefing meetings with the librarians, as well as skills building and enrichment opportunities to enhance their experience.

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