Lately, there has been a big push to give teens agency, a voice, and opportunities for action through our library services. The theme of last year’s YALSA Symposium was “Empowering Teens,” and YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines devote an entire section (number 3.0) to the imperative to “Facilitate teen-led programs.”
The most traditional way to do this is through a Teen Advisory Board. But as a Middle School Services Librarian, I had my doubts about handing any real responsibility over to a bunch of 11-to-14-year-olds. So it was with some trepidation that I took on an advisory board for middle schoolers, which we call Library Squad.
Library Squad has blossomed into a tight-knit community of library-loving middle schoolers whose opinions, ideas, and help form the foundation of all my programming. Library Squad meets on the second Wednesday of every month from 5-6 p.m., but its members are a significant presence in almost all programs.
In the spring YALSA began its second year of the three year Future Ready with the Library project. The focus of this IMLS funded work that is a partnership between YALSA and the Association of Rural and Small Libraries is to provide staff in small, rural, and tribal libraries the opportunity to build college career readiness services for middle school youth and their families. YALSA’s first cohort in this endeavor got to work in January of this year and now it’s time for those wanting to participate in the project to apply to be a part of the second cohort.
You can learn about the project and how to apply in this recording of an information session held last week.
Last Monday, I talked about the benefits of a middle school collection in a public library, and how we chose a name, chose a collection size, and gathered feedback for my Library’s new Middle Ground. Our next steps were to get into the specifics of what exactly belonged in the Middle Ground versus the Juvenile and Young Adult Collections.
As I said in my last post, the way you structure and build your collection is going to depend on your community. I’m providing an account of how I did it as an example, to give you some things to think about while creating your own collection. For more guidance, check out YALSA’s Collections and Content Curation wiki page.
We learned through surveying that many of our middle school patrons were interested in nonfiction and graphic novels. Nonfiction and graphic titles tend to appeal to a wider age range of readers than fiction. In Middle Ground Fiction we were collecting books that spoke directly to middle schoolers, but such books are few in nonfiction and graphic novels. We wanted to include these collections in the Middle Ground, but chose to tweak the rules a bit for them.
A year and a half ago, I was tasked with creating a collection of reading materials aimed at middle schoolers for my public library. These types of collections—sometimes called junior high or tween collections—are becoming more popular in response to growing demand from patrons, but creating them poses some unique challenges. In my next two blog posts, I’ll share some information on my Library’s process: we did, why we did it, what we learned, what, and how you might begin your own process of creating such a collection. This can only serve as a guideline. You will need to develop your own methods to build a collection that meets the specific needs of your community.
In this post, I will discuss reasons for having a middle school collection in the public library and first steps to creating one. The next post will be about selection guidelines for the collection, and how to use those selection guidelines.
I will use the term “middle school collection” to refer to any collection designed to serve readers in the range of ages 10-14.
This is my library’s Middle Ground collection as it currently appears. We are working on expanding it to some additional shelving.
It wasn’t all that long ago that adolescence was first recognized as a distinct stage of life. But anyone who works with teens can tell you that a twelve-year-old’s adolescence looks a lot different from an eighteen-year-old’s. Over the teen years, the brain undergoes dramatic growth and change. The Office of Head Start and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (part 1 and part 2) point out significant differences in the mental, physical, and emotional development of younger teens versus older ones. One way for libraries to meet this variety of needs, and perhaps to better serve our patrons, is to offer services for tweens and young teens that are separate from those for older teens.
Special services for pre-teens and young teens are a growing trend, and they come under many different names: tween services, middle school services, junior high services, in-betweens. School Library Journal recently created a monthly e-mail newsletter called Be Tween, for “those kids who are not little children anymore—but not quite young adults, either.” Members of a large library system in my state just started a tween services group for staff serving these patrons to network and share ideas. Continue reading
…the level of academic achievement that students attain by eighth grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school. This report also reveals that students’ academic readiness for college and career can be improved when students develop behaviors in the upper elementary grades and in middle school that are known to contribute to successful academic performance. The implication is clear: if we want not merely to improve but to maximize the college and career readiness of U.S. students, we need to intervene not only during high school but before high school, in the upper elementary grades and in middle school.”