What Are We Scared Of?

The other day I had a conversation with library school students on the topic of fear.’  It came up when I realized that several of the students said they needed to be careful about what they put on their teen library shelves because of the community in which they worked. The concept was, people in my community don’t want that. I know my community and that won’t meet their needs.

As I kept hearing this comment I thought about how some librarians use “I know my community” as an excuse for not purchasing controversial materials for the collection. For example, if I say that my community doesn’t want these materials for teens on the shelves then it’s OK that I don’t buy them. Continue reading

Letter to Congress

I tried to reply to Linda’s post, but my comment was “invalid!” so here it is:

OMG.

I didn’t check my email all day. See, bad things happen when you are offline!

I did compose a note to my Congressman, in the hopes he and his aides read their email in the AM.

Dear Congressman,

I am writing to implore you to vote AGAINST the Deleting Online Predators Act as it is currently written. The Internet today is a interactive and dynamic one, where ANY website that allows you to sign in and interact with other users is a social software website including online department stores like Amazon.com, WebCT (used for online courses), news sites like Digg.com and Instant Messaging services used by over 75% of teens! An educational exception can be applied to each and EVERY use of blogs, wikis, and social software – I learn something new every time I log on to a social software website, where I read, discuss, analyze, create, think critically, search, hypothesize, and prove. I cannot echo Beth Yoke, Executive Director of YALSA, enough: EDUCATION, NOT LAWS BLOCKING ACCESS, IS THE KEY TO SAFE USE OF THE INTERNET.

By largest concern is for students themselves. According to the Search Institute (url), there are forty developmental assets that teens need to grow up into healthy, contributing members of our society. Things like support in the form of adult mentors who are not blood relatives (i.e. an aspiring teen writer talking to an author in an online chat or via MySpace), clear boundaries (i.e. by following rules set by individual libraries and communities), being viewed as resources (i.e. valued for their fan fiction and web building and video game modding) and socialization (i.e. journalling, sharing photos, and creating films), to name a few. Access to these asset-building social softwares are KEY to teens emotional and psychological and physical and spiritual growth! How would banning collaborative web applications stunt that growth?

My next concern is that librarians, who are on the forefront of this Internet safety issue (and ethical use of the Internet, I might add!) were NOT included in the committee, although this legislation affects those that get E-rates. Why were no librarians included, when such legislation would have such a major impact? We are working so hard to DECREASE the digital divide by provided access to those who cannot get it at home – people in impoverished areas of the country, often people who are minorities.

My final concern is that this piece of legislation takes power AWAY from parents, and I simply do not believe it is the job of the government to be a parenting institution.

Although I understand schools act in loco parentis, and that students may be distracted at school by games, instant messaging, blogging, etc, drill and practice is boring for kids who have grown up playing video games. They need a sense of engagement to think more deeply. Perhaps, assignments should integrate social software web applications to meet the needs of today’s students. It’s a whole new literacy out there! Let’s prepare kids for it – not censor it.

Kind regards,

Beth Gallaway, MLS
Library trainer/consultant
Hampton NH

Volunteer Tips

As we move into spring, librarians around the country are starting to think about using teen volunteers over the summer. Talk about YOUTH PARTICIPATION! I had the privilege of working with over 100 teens in the six years that I supervised a computer signup program. Teens to manage Internet signups for up to 26 computers and assist users with non reference transactions such as attaching files, printing, typing in a URL or setting up an email account. Even if you have software that manages your computer signups, consider using technology savvy teens to assist users with computer tasks.

It was a great program that met the needs of the library, gave teens community service credit, and built the following developmental assets as defined by the Search Institute:

Other Adult Relationships: Working with library staff and developing a relationship with YA librarian.

Caring Neighbors: Librarians were like caring neighbors – they grew to like kids and become concerned about their success and well-being.

Community Values Youth: The program itself demonstrated that we appreciated teens who provided this useful service. Volunteers were also invited to suggest web site links.

Youth as Resources: Teens brought computer expertise of their own to the job.

Service to Others: Teens earned community service hours for work.

[Library] Provides Clear Rules and Consequences: We gave volunteers the library rules and volunteer tips in writing and explained them in person; teens were held accountable in evaluations each semester as well as through supervision during their shift.

[Library] Monitors Behavior: Teens were supervised and expected to follow library rules and set a good example for peers.

High Expectations: Every teen who wanted to try being a TCC volunteer was allowed to get trained and try it. We expected a 20-hour commitment, and got parent buy-in – parents had to sign the volunteer form. I did train teens who dropped out after 4 or 10 hours. I also had one boy perform over 200 hours! He is a college senior now – and we’re still in touch.

Caring: Volunteers often came to work for us to help people.

Honesty: Teens had to treat all customers the same and be truthful and accurate about who was on what computer at which time; also, I didn’t work every shift and they had to accurately track their hours of service.

Responsibility: Managing 26 machines was a LOT of work! Just showing up was a responsible act.

Planning and Decision Making: Determining who to put on which computer, how to let someone know their time was up and learning when to get a librarian for help involved problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Interpersonal Competence: People skills were very important in this job, more than the computer skills.

Cultural Competence: Our busy city library allowed teens to interact with people for a variety of backgrounds, ages and situations.

High Self-Esteem: There were many opportunities to feel good about volunteering.

Sense of Purpose: For that 2 hour shift, that volunteer felt both expert and needed. We thanked teens for working at the end of every shift, praised them when they did well, and let them make mistakes to learn from. Most years we had a gathering of some kind, and teens were invited to the annual volunteer luncheon. I wrote many letters of recommendation for job and college applications.)

These were my volunteer tips when I ran a volunteer program. In an initial 45 minute training session, teens got an introduction to the reference staff, a quick library tour, and we went over the Internet policy, the behavior policy, the job description (they were computer volunteers) and computer signup procedures. I showed them lots of things in the volunteer manual and explained it was a resource, but I went over each of these tips in detail.

VOLUNTEER TIPS

Sign in/Sign Out. A sign-in sheet for each volunteer is located in this manual. Please keep track of your hours and check for notes from your supervisor on your page. (I totaled hours and did certificates for 20 hours, then at the end of each fiscal year; the number of teens and number of hours was counted in the annual report.)

Wear your volunteer pin. Pins are located on the desk. Pins let the staff know you are authorized to do signups and let patrons know to see you for help. (everyone hated the pins. Hats or t-shirts would have been nice. The pins didn’t have names unless the kids wanted to write them in – just s logo and the word volunteer. They always forgot to take them off. I lost a lot of pins.)

Introduce yourself. Make sure you greet the staff you are working with and remind them who you are. (this was important for helping me do evaluations. Also, staff members always thanked the teens for working – good for teen esteem – and allowed the staff to see teens in a positive light.)

Be friendly, polite and professional. This is a customer service job. You might be the only library person a patron talks to, so smile and speak clearly. (I reminded kids not to say WHAT? but to ask patrons to spell their names or write their own names, to make eye contact, etc).

Treat volunteering like a job. If you are scheduled to be here, be here on time ready to work. If you cannot make your shift, please call the library so we know not to expect you. (I told teens they didn’t need to ask permission to miss a shift, it was simply a courtesy.)

Users first. Get in the habit of looking around every 5 minutes to see if people left or sat down without signing up. When a patron comes over to you, STOP whatever you are doing. Smile and make eye contact THEN ask how you can help them. (This was just a reminder not to get completely engrossed in your own computer when volunteering.)

Ask for help when you need it. Don’t be shy! If you have a question you can’t answer or a computer you can’t fix, get a librarian right away. (I showed teens where to find answers to questions like how do I attach a file, but reiterated they could ask the same question every day and we would patiently show them/give the answer.)

Know when to get a librarian. It is not the duty of the volunteer to monitor peers for appropriate use, enforce rules, or discipline those who break the rules. See “When to get a Librarian” on the next page. (This was VERY important – I also encouraged teens to get an adult ANYTIME someone made them feel uncomfortable.)

Keep visitors to a minimum. It is okay to greet people you know, but please be brief. Friends and family should not pull up a chair and hang out, or even use a computer next to yours. Get a librarian to gently remind friends that you are working. (This was a question I treated with a little humor “You’ll see lots of people you know, but no one should pull up a chair and hang out like I am doing right now. If your friends are a distraction, let a staff member know and WE can be the bad guy and explain that you are working.)

Volunteering counts as your Internet time. Please do not sign up before your shift. If you need more time after your shift, you may sign up for an hour. (Teens who volunteered were guaranteed a computer while they were working. We had a 1 hour time limit, so getting the computer for 2-4 hours was a nice perk.)

Remember you represent the library. Please dress neatly — whatever you can wear to school you may wear here — and take care of personal hygiene. (Teens usually laughed at this one, but I addressed issues like low-cut blouses and short-shorts here – we did have an instance of an adult hitting on a teen volunteer who looked older with her dress and makeup. I encouraged them to carefully consider the messages they sent with the clothing they chose, and sometimes it could result in unwelcome attention. Again, reminded them to get an adult ANYTIME someone made them feel uncomfortable.)

Headphones are not allowed when volunteering. They are distracting and make patrons think you are unapproachable. (we sold headphones for a $1 at the desk for patrons.)

Thank you for not eating and drinking in public areas. Drinks and snacks may be left in the Reference Office. (Teens could get up anytime to get a drink or snack from the office.)

If you work 4 hours, you get a 20-minute break. This is MANDATORY. See a staff member to get to the staff room. You may, of course, use the lavatory or water fountain whenever you need to. (The break is a state law – anything that applies to working teens applies to volunteering teens, including hours they can work. We asked that if teen would be gone for more than 5 minutes, s/he let a staff member know so the area could be monitored.)

Talk to your supervisor. If you are unhappy or have questions or problems, please contact Beth Gallaway at the library, on AIM, or via e-mail. (Contact info followed.)

I am happy to send the volunteer manual as an attachment to anyone who would like a copy – many of the procedures may be out of date, and the library has gone to an automated sign up system. E-mail informationgoddess29@gmail.com for a copy.

~posted by Beth Gallaway