Using Technology to Help At-Risk Teens

Public libraries are, as ALA President Courtney Young said in a July 2014 Comcast Newsmaker interview, “digital learning centers.”’  We are able to provide access to computers, wireless capabilities, and also a space to learn. Access to technology becomes even more important to our “at-risk” teens; the library becomes a safe spot to use these resources. The question becomes how do we help them use this technology and learn from it? Earlier this month, the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) published a report titled “Using Technology to Support At-Risk Students’ Learning.” This brief defines “at-risk” students as high schoolers with personal and academic factors that would could cause them to fail classes or drop out of school all together. They give three variables for success, real-life examples to why these variables work, and then recommend policies to help achieve these variables. While the article was geared towards schools, these variables are important to keep in mind as we work with the teens in our libraries.

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New Blogger, YALSA’s New Research Agenda

Hello! I’m Hannah Gómez, a new blogger and new member of YALSA, thanks in part to the Spectrum Scholarship. I’ll be blogging regularly about research and other topics, but today I wanted to start by telling you who I am, what I do, and why I’m here. Also, I’ll let you know why I find YALSA’s new research agenda so interesting, and why you should as well.

First things first. I’m a Tucson, Arizona, native who went to the University of Arizona for undergrad, studying creative writing, music, and Spanish. A few months ago, an airplane I was on touched down in Boston, the last flight to be allowed into the closed airport before Hurricane Irene hit. I’ve just started graduate school here at Simmons College, where I’m enrolled in their dual degree program, which will leave me with an MA in children’s literature and an MLS with a focus on youth services.

The future in library science just hit me one day. I had been answering people’s “So what will you do with your Bachelor’s?” with a general “Dunno. Go to grad school” for so long and all of a sudden I just blurted out “Be a librarian.” But it made since. In high school I never had to work at the mall or the car wash–I was lucky enough to get a job in social services, and though I held a variety of different jobs and internships over high school and college, most of them were related to the world of non-profits and at-risk youth. My favorite job was when I got promoted to community service project leader, supervising 8-14-year-olds who had been arrested and had court-ordered service hours to perform. I, at 19, was deemed responsible enough to oversee their work, keep them on task, and, I hoped, help them see something meaningful in what they were doing, whether it was painting in a community art project or picking up trash at a neighborhood park. I got to be a big sister type to the kids I worked with, and while doing our work we would also talk about the books, music, and movies they liked. So it seems to make sense. I love teenagers, especially middle schoolers, and I am a huge nerd who is always trying to find the right book for someone. I’m also the child of two teachers and the sister of a teacher, so I know how much, especially in these times, both teachers and students need the help of librarians, and both school and library settings are essential to developing youths. Compound that with my interest in social justice and non-profits, and voila! I want to be something like all of you.

So why the extra degree? Why the crit classes where you read as much Freud and Barthes as you do Virginia Hamilton and nursery rhymes? Well, Continue reading

74% of Americans believe that providing services for teens should be a high priority for libraries

More ammunition for advocating for the need to serve young adults in our communities via the public library, forwarded today, July 20, 2006 to the YSCON listserv from Jim Rosinia, Youth Services Consultant at the State Library of North Carolina:

“Last Tuesday, the Americans for Libraries Council, a nonprofit library advocacy group, released “Long Overdue: A Fresh Look at Public Attitudes About Libraries in the 21st Century.” It reports the results of a national study of the general public as well as interviews with national and local civic leaders. The study was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted by Public Agenda (a nonprofit, nonpartisan opinion research organization).

Quote from the press release, Americans Say Public Libraries Are Essential to 21st Century Communities:

“Four areas of opportunity resonated most with the public and leaders alike:
(1) providing stronger services for teens;
(2) helping address illiteracy and poor reading skills among adults
(3) providing ready access to information about government services, including making public documents and forms readily available and
(4) providing even greater access to computers for all.”

“The public is very concerned about teenagers and feel that providing safe and productive activities for teens should be a high priority (72%) for their communities. This is also an area where the public potentially holds their local governments accountable as they believe local government both can and should do more for teens. In the public’s reckoning, libraries can potentially fill the gap: 3 out of 4 Americans (74%) believe providing services for teens should be a high priority for libraries.”

Jim cited two resources:

Learning in Motion: A Sampling of Teen Library Programs
This Americans for Libraries Fact Sheet highlights three model programs and advocates for more of the same.

“Long Overdue: A Fresh Look at Public Attitudes About Libraries in the 21st Century.”

This full report includes a two-page summary, and “5 Things Civic Leaders Should Know About Libraries and the Public.”

Jim noted that of the “Five Things Civic Leaders Should Know About Library,” the fifth lists the “four specific opportunities for public libraries to integrate themselves more fully into the life of their communities” — the first of which is “a safe and engaging place for teens.”

For discussion: Providing stronger services for teens was NUMBER ONE on the list. If teens are such a high priority for our communities, why aren’t libraries earmarking more funding for teen spaces, collections, staff, and programs? Should young adults get the same amount of space as children in the library? An equal program budget? How about, proportional? If young adults make up 12% of the town’s population, does young adult services receive 15% of the library staff, materials, and programming budgets? 15% of the floor and shelf space? 15% of the webpage?

~posted by Beth Gallaway