No Teen Tech Week at My Library

Confession: I have a graveyard of programs that did not work at my library. I am an enthusiastic programmer, and with no quantitative data on what teen programs worked at my library in the decade before I arrived, I have enjoyed free rein in attempting a vast variety of programs. Unfortunately, any great number of these programs have fallen flat, especially technology-related teen programs.

So with all apologies to Teen Tech Week, I’m declaring that technology-related programming does not work at my library. Continue reading

To Err is Human

To Err is Human. It is also human to look for a scape goat, make excuses and wrap denial around ourselves like a cloak of invisibility. Alina Tugend, author of Better by Mistake, summarizes the process in her book. However, I think we can all recognize the steps we take to distance ourselves from mistakes.’  For example…

In December, I had a holiday party for our library’s anime club. The teens had been asking me for an anime trivia game, and I kept putting it off because I thought it would suck.’  I figured that I would do trivia at the Holiday Party. It would be like a special treat. I was delusional.’  I spent days coming up with trivia questions. I sat in my living room watching anime taking notes. I consulted the listserves. I read and reread fan sites and Wikipedia. I took online anime trivia tests. I drove myself mad writing questions.’  I stood in front of them with my list of questions, and they answered me with blank stares. There were 14 kids. They got 1/10 questions I wrote down. My more outspoken teens gave it to me straight. “Those series are old, I don’t know what you are talking about.” I kept my head on right. I started making up new questions on the spot, but I also started making excuses. Internally I was passing blame to the teens. “They should have told me what series they wanted me to draw from” and “I’m not a thirteen year old girl, I’ve never read Chibi vampire.”
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The Reason for the Season

With Thanksgiving over, winter break is fast approaching, and for most of us, that means an influx of teen patrons and their younger siblings. ‘ So, what’s a librarian to do with all these kids and teens? Frequently, winter wonderland story times and activities that are geared toward younger siblings are much too childish to interest our teen patrons, and holiday crafting programs that would interest teens are far too complicated for their younger brothers and sisters. Here are some fun activities that will have both your teen patrons and their younger siblings coming back for more. Continue reading

Research Roundup

I’m back with another month’s worth of interesting research and writing on scholarly and popular topics related to teen culture, literacy, and library services. I’ve decided to expand from just summarizing research to also linking you to fascinating articles, blog posts, or other more easily-accessed tidbits that might spark meaningful conversation, programming, or reference/advisory transactions. As always, if you have a topic you’d like to know about, or if there’s a journal you miss having access to, comment here and I’ll do some digging for you.

  • The Lilith blog, an online supplement to the Jewish feminist magazine, reports on a “freedom ride” in Jerusalem protesting the ultra-Orthodox custom of requiring women to board and sit in the rear of the public bus only. Sound familiar? If you’re looking for a way to allow your diverse patrons to connect with each other, try bringing this up as a topic and talking about the similarities with the freedom rides in the American South.
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    Planning Programs that are Age-Appropriate for Teens

    Last Thursday, I finished the fabulous two-part webinar offered by ALA Editions called “Collaborating with Teens to Build Better Library Programs”. The presenter, Jennifer Velásquez, is the Coordinator of Teen Services for the San Antonio Public Library System. The bulk of the webinar was about working with teens to build programs they really want, and it was great. Multiple blog posts could be written about that, and I left inspired and excited.

    However, one of the most intriguing parts of the webinar came up in a question asked by a participant in the chat. She asked, “What do you do when younger kids want to come to your teen programs?” This is something I’ve had to deal with before, as I’m sure many teen librarians have, and I’m never sure of the answer. Jennifer’s answer was great—she said she’s tasked with serving teens ages 13-18, and that’s the audience that can come to programs. It’s the audience she’s committed to. Continue reading

    30 Days of How-to #22: Teen Read Week: Picture It Programming

    Every librarian has experienced it.’  The heady rush of the weeks leading up to Teen Read Week where you promote the theme to patrons and staff, excitedly pull items for display, unleash your creative genius with promotion, and plan well-attended programming.’  Wait.’  Programming?

    *Record needle screech*

    Actually programming seems to be an aspect many librarians say does not come as easily as other aspects of the job, possibly because when it comes time to put people in the seats, putting ourselves on the line with the money or time investment in a program can be downright intimidating.

    The first law of programming is Know Your Audience.’  YALSA and other librarians can give seven thousand great suggestions, but you are the one best equipped to determine what is going to fly in your library.’  You could read about an amazing anime tie-in to the Teen Read Week theme of Picture It @ Your Library, but if your patron group doesn’t know anime from animals and are all NASCAR fans, this is not going to work and, even worse, you’ve lost their trust because now they believe you have no idea what they like.’  Not good.

    But those same patrons might be enthralled with a technology tutorial on Photoshop Elements where they “Picture It” by creating the car design for their favorite driver, right?’  Now you are a technology god or goddess who can name the top ten drivers and who even encourages them to send a copy of their design in a fan email to their hero.’  You know your audience and you have their respect and trust.’  Congratulations.

    With your font of wisdom bubbling behind you, you may wish to consider these ideas as possible options for your fabulous audience.

    • The book to movie connection is a natural tie-in to Picture It programming, so what about a poll of the best adaptation?’  It can be either paper or posted on your library website using your blog software, a Google Docs form, or a service like Surveymonkey.’  The culmination can be a Saturday night viewing of the movie that won, with a discussion afterward about whether the film managed to convey the emotion of the book.
    • Poetry and writing groups can find inspiration in using images to inspire their work.’  Whether its encouraging them to bring in their own original artwork or photos, pulling those glossy color art books off the shelf, or using a cool service like PicLit, showing the connection between writing and images can get creative juices flowing.
    • Book trailers are another natural tie-in to this year’s TRW theme.’  Actually teaching movie making software is certainly an option, but using super easy sites like Animoto and Glogster are also great ways to showcase the teen vision of a specific book, with far more instant gratification.’  If there aren’t enough computers to go around for your patrons, what about just having a viewing of book trailers, maybe recent releases?’  A discussion about which elements make readers want to pick up the book in question could be a great jumping off point for understanding reader tastes in your library.
    • Book to Picture is a quick way to get your readers looking at themselves (younger audiences love this).’  Have readers pose with the favorite book and print or post the image in a collage near your library entrance. This is a popular programming idea for schools, particularly when faculty can be coaxed to pose with a recent read (even better if it’s actually a YA book).’  You’d be amazed at how many previously reticent students will run up to a teacher with the breathless comment, “You really read the Vampire Academy series?”
    • The now-defunct Borders bookstore used to have a promotion where they would “catch” you reading a book you hadn’t bought yet and give you a 10% off coupon.’  Genius!’  Make your own coupons for prizes, food or otherwise, or partner with your local movie theater for free concessions or ticket vouchers.’  Maybe your local art museum would offer a few free admission tickets when you tell them your theme?’  Just the food reward of a cookie for getting caught reading is enough to get someone to flip open a book or magazine and you’ve captured a moment as a librarian where you can talk to them about their likes and dislikes.’  It’s golden collection development time that no survey can extract.

    Even better than knowing your audience is asking them.’  Hopefully you have a great Library Advisory Board who can brainstorm ideas best suited for your library, but feel free to use some of these as a jumping off point for programming.’  And don’t forget to post your good ideas on the Teen Read Week wiki so others can benefit from them!’  Then we can all enjoy Picturing It @ Your Library.

    Many thanks to the Library Advisory Board of Wyoming Seminary’s Upper School for some of the great programming ideas in this article. To paraphrase author John Green, LAB members are full of awesome.

    App of the Week: Yours, Vincent

    Name: Yours, Vincent: The letters of Vincent Van Gogh
    Platform: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.
    (Requires iOS 3.0 or later)
    Cost: FREE!

    A while back I discovered that various museums have free apps, and since then I’ve been eagerly filling an iPhone folder with museum guides from around the world. While some, like the Explorer App for the American Museum of Natural History certainly informed my recent visit, others, like Your’s Vincent, make the actual visit icing on the cake.

    Pentimento’s Your’s Vincent app created by Antenna Audio for the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam uses Van Gogh’s own letters as a guide to his works. The app combines image, video, and sound into a personalized and detailed examination of the artist and his art.

    Organized’ chronologically, the museum website claims that Your’s Vincent “features many of Van Gogh’s sketches and paintings from the Van Gogh Museum collection, video interviews with the museum’s letters experts and new picture galleries that showcase his art.” ‘ Better yet, the app delivers on these claims. The app in engrossing and detailed and is able to stand alone from its exhibit. I have yet to visit Amsterdam or the Van Gogh museum, and this app gets me close to that possibility while still enticing me to actually visit (wistful sigh).’  Continue reading

    The Trouble with Tweens

    I love the tweens (10-12 year olds) who frequent our library after school. They are enthusiastic and generally well behaved, and I thoroughly enjoy some of the philosophical yet short attention span conversations I have with many of them.

    However, they are not yet teens and shouldn’t really be included in teen programs or allowed to hang out on the teen floor. Many of them are not mature enough to be part of the conversations that take place in our No Boys Allowed Club, watch PG 13 movies (that their parents often object to), or discuss novels of the Ellen Hopkins variety. We also have programs for school aged kids (6-12) in the children’s department. Of course, the tweens don’t want to attend those programs because they feel they are far too cool for them. But alternatively if they attend teen programs, the older teens (15-17) feel like their time has been taken over by little kids and it is no longer a teen program.

    So how do we solve this problem? I initially decided that they can only come to a teen program if they have a teen card, but that is problematic because of the 10 and 11 year olds whose parents have given consent for a teen card because their child has read EVERYTHING in the children’s section. Or perhaps because they want to sign out video games or graphic novels (which they can’t do with a children’s card).

    My new plan is to offer a tween club once a month with teen-ish activities (crafts, Wii, movies etc) and let 10-12 year olds attend. We have the first club scheduled for March 17, and this could potentially be a hit … but it may also fall flat on its face. I have a hunch that nine year olds may try to crash the party this time!

    Do many of you face tween troubles at your library as well and if so, do you have any great solutions?

    Dollars and Sense #23 : Your In-House Specialists

    Some of your best program leaders may already be attending your programs. They’re sitting there, watching you struggle to cut the snow flake from the recycled printer paper, thinking the whole time about the really awesome program they want to run. Yes, one way to enhance your programming during lean times is to involve your teens as workshops leaders.

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    Dollars and Sense #14: Fun Fundraiser

    The idea started last year in an eleventh grade classroom with a teacher joking that there should be a school version of the television show Dancing with the Stars. Some members of the class took the idea and ran with it. This fall, the seniors presented Dancing With the Staff.

    The basics: teachers were put into dancing pairs. The first week they danced ballroom. Three of the ten couples were eliminated, and the seven remaining danced freestyle the following week. Three teachers served as judges, serving up snarky commentary much like the judges on the show. Charging $5 a head, the senior class earned $3900.

    While it was a financially successful fundraiser, there were a number of other benefits as well.
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