2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Marion County Library System

Graphic reading "TEEN TECH" with media equipment in background.

Some Background Info
Our Teen Tech program had six scheduled meeting times, each lasting one hour. Originally, we had intended to make a short documentary-style video telling the stories of our small community and of its strength and resilience following two major flooding events. In doing so, we hoped to provide teens with the opportunity to work with technology they may not have access to without the assistance of the library. Through this, we hoped they would gain problem solving skills and become reacquainted with the offerings of the library.

Getting Started
Before our program, we contacted another library system –experienced in doing videography with teens—to gather information on which equipment we would need. We also collaborated with our city’s municipal government, and met with the city administrators on several occasions, discussing possible ways they could help with our summer programs. At times, we felt like we may have been asking for too much, but the city’s administration was more than happy to grant any and all requests we had of them. Through trial and error, we discovered that some of the equipment we had ordered needed add-ons to function as intended. The municipal government supplemented the equipment we had purchased with grant funds. The city administrators truly exceeded our expectations!

The Best Laid Plans…
Our plan was to divide the teens into teams and alternate times recording interviews of local people and editing the footage, so we would always have someone using the camera and learning the software. The first day, we had enough teens show up that this would have been possible. The next week, however, only two teens showed up. With the small number of attendees, we gauged that it would not be feasible to proceed as originally planned.  Instead, we decided to make a movie trailer-style promotional video for our library.

Because we only had two consistent attendees, every week we feared that nobody would show up and our program would be a complete failure.  To our surprise, we learned that low attendance does not necessarily indicate the program is doomed. Additionally, we learned that even though we are in a very economically disadvantaged location, some of the schools have camera equipment, so the teens had already been exposed to professional videography tools. Because of this, the teens were able to work collaboratively and give each other insight on angles, lighting, and video editing.

In Conclusion
Although only a couple of teens saw the project through to the end, they worked diligently to ensure their project got completed. (I must admit, though, we underestimated the amount of time it would take to edit the footage and condense it into a cohesive video. We wound up asking the teens to come back on unscheduled days to work with us on the project, to ensure it would be completed.) The teens and their families were excited to see their project in its final form. Once we uploaded the video to YouTube and posted it to Facebook, we saw that many of the family members and community members shared it and there was a positive buzz in the community.

This project has reaffirmed in my soul that we should never underestimate our power as a small community. We had a small turnout, but we accomplished big things. Though our small, rural community is poor, we are all willing to work together and pool resources to ensure that our children are learning and growing, in spite of hardship. In this way, we told the story of our community’s strength and resilience.

 

Ashley Hall is the new Youth Services Librarian at Marion County Library System in Marion, South Carolina.

October Eureka Moments

Thoroughly in the swing of things now? Already bored with what’s going on? Happy but ready to add more programming and interest to your services? Whatever the case, maybe some of these innovations, research publications, and other cool tidbits will inspire you.

  • You know your patrons like games. And you may already know of some of the social justice gaming websites and programs out there, like Games for Change or Spent. Now it might interest you to know that there’s a new game out there designed specifically to target your ethics, not just to make you live in someone else’s shoes or support a cause. Quandary is its name, and it was designed by The Learning Network, a collaboration between MIT and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Take a look at the game here, and then consider if your gaming club might attract new members with an interest in social justice, or if your volunteer group might like to try some gaming. Now that so many teens are so savvy at programming, you might be able to get a group together to create a game that tackles a local issue that they find important.
  • Continue reading

    July Eureka Moments

    School’s out, I’m no longer sick, and the blog is no longer down! In honor of the evolving focus of this column, I’ve changed its title and broadened my scope. But don’t worry; I’ll still be trolling the various databases for hard-hitting research, too. The first month of summer is usually the busy one, in which students are still finishing school, are already in summer school, or have begun to embark on busy summer adventures, like camp and travel. So the ideas I’m offering you are a bit more low-key or focused on the librarian, rather than the patron, since I gather that your patrons are not exactly in the mood yet for anything that requires a lot of commitment.

  • Last weekend, PostSecret put up a (trigger warning) postcard from someone who dislikes being labeled intolerant for saying that certain types of people are, maybe, hypocritical about oppression. That made me think of a tumblr I found once upon a time called Oppressed Brown Girls Doing Things, whose tagline, “Because we’re still oppressed,” is awesomely readable in a multitude of ways. You might just find this fun to read when there’s a lull in your day, but I know I’d love to see some of these posts find their way into a collage on a library wall, a bookmarks list on a library computer, or into the meeting of any group that meets in your teen room. While the content ranges from NSFW language to sarcastic gifs, the blog also brings up a lot of pertinent points about what it means to be a woman of color. Continue reading
  • May Research Roundup

    I’m back! After a month off for vertigo and another month of innovating, I’m glad to be resuming this column, even though it probably needs a new title, since it’s as much about innovation and general cool-stuff-is-happening-all-over-the-place-and-you-should-apply-it-to-your-library-work as it is about research. That said, here is some of the fresh new ideas coming out of the woodwork and being published or publicized this month.

    • After I’ve waited for what seems like forever (but is really just since I joined Twitter and started following Levar Burton), the website RRKidz is finally live and going somewhere! This 21st century incarnation of “Reading Rainbow” promises access to the classic episodes that I know I adored as a kid as well as new content for today’s media devices, those ubiquitous tablets and genius phones, curated by Burton himself. My first recommendation is for you just to get excited. But also consider that some of your patrons may still remember the original show, and my guess is that even if they claim to be non-readers, they’ll have some great memories of it. “Reading Rainbow” may be for younger children, but you can get your teen volunteers excited about it by mimicking the show’s popular “You don’t have to take my word for it” section, in which real kids recommended their favorite books to others. What a great way to get teens to sit in on storytime, or to volunteer in your children’s section, and they can just as easily create videos on library computers to share their favorite YA stories with fellow teens, along with your help.
    • The New York Times magazine recently held a contest for the best essay answering the question “Why is it ethical to eat meat?” The contest subject and its judges (all white men, mostly already known for championing animal rights and being vegetarians or vegans) immediately prompted outrage, interest, and annoyance, and all of the comments and criticism are well worth reading. Continue reading

    30 Days of Innovation #30: Start Vlogging

    You know how, no matter how many hundred channels you have, there is nothing on TV? More and more, people are turning to webseries and vlogs for fresher kinds of humor and entertainment. So why not start a vlog series for your library website, or get a bunch of teens together to write a script for an original series? You could also take advantage of the short format of these videos and host a “festival” of screenings of the best series and vlogs out there. Now that so many computers come fully equipped with a basic webcam and editing software, this is an inexpensive way to get creative and to learn more about technology.

    Here are some great vlogs and webisodes that should provide you with inspiration as they entertain you.

    • The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: This relatively new series transfers Jane Austen’s novel to the life of a grad student recording her angst. It’s funny and a great way to make classic literature applicable to our current times. If your patrons are having trouble getting ready for their AP English exam, use this to take off the stress. Continue reading

    Photography: Capturing teens in a new light

    Close your eyes for a moment and imagine this photo as approximately 18X24 in the teen space at your library.The photo is framed and hanging on a wall. Okay, you can open your eyes now. It’s a bit hard to describe because the size influences the effect it can have and posting it on a blog doesn’t necessarily do it justice. If I had to describe it in one word, I might choose the word ‘radiant’. As librarians, we’re constantly existing in worlds that might not seem all that real to others, so I’m confident that you’re quite on board with this and we’ll keep moving on. Continue reading