When to ditch the script, move outta the way, and let the magic that needs to happen, do so

pink poodle Jeremy Scott’s Pink Poodle Shoes aren’t something I see too often. But they were worn by a teen at the library who was a member of our radio program. The two canines had their own story, of course, and it turns out they had a lot to do with bullying.

I was prepared to co-lead this session of my library’s Turn it Up Teen Radio program. It’s a podcast that’s also a partnership of a local ‘ NPR affiliate, WFAE. I came with an agenda. A plan.’ The curriculum dictated that this day was for research. Participants were scheduled to identify topics and resources pertaining to the segment on the topic of bullying. They would record next month.

I started the session off with a warm-up activity, selecting several short (4-7 minute) public radio segments, mostly on the topic of bullying. I divided the teens into teams and asked them to identify the research that informed the story, then come back in 15 minutes and share with the group.

When we came back together, I sat at the front of the group and asked them who wanted to go first. I noticed they were directing their feedback to me, when I really wanted it to presented the group. I asked them to take the stage, so to speak. They did, sharing topics and research pieces and then T., with the awesome pink poodle shoes, took the stage and said he had a story to share. Continue reading

Teen Read Week: An Opportunity for Outreach

This has been a rough week in my school. In our county, four teenagers have committed suicide in the space of a week, apparently unrelated in any way to one another. Yesterday, our school, which has thankfully been untouched aside from having students who were friends with some of the victims, had an assembly where we delivered the message of the resources the school had available, a brief religious message (we are a private independent school), and then sent our students into small advisor groups for discussion. Coincidentally, the entire U.S. Army engaged in suicide prevention education as well, having experienced in 2012 some of the highest suicide rates in its history.

When I heard of the army’s situation, the first thought which occurred to me was that the military is full of adolescents, the age group to whom I provide library services. Many members of the military are new recruits 18 or 19 years of age, placing them firmly in the age range of adolescent development. For Americans between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. Since the YALSA mission statement clearly states that its “mission is to expand and strengthen library services for teens, aged 12-18,” this at risk age group is our target demographic.

I guess the fact that I was thinking about suicide while also pondering the upcoming programming for Banned Books Week and Teen Read Week made me wonder how these two disparate ideas could be linked. But while intellectual freedom programming or celebrating recreational reading don’t seem to have much impact on preventing suicide, in a small way they do. In fact it relates to my personal mission as a librarian, which includes the statement.

There is no such thing as too many caring adults in a student’s life.

Hopefully our programming, no matter how fluffy or serious it may be, includes a plan to reach out to a variety of interests and personality types in our target group. My “It Came from the Library” brainstorming will include my Library Advisory Board (LAB), a group of students specifically chosen for their friendly personalities and variety of activities and interests. By constructing a board which possesses multiple layers of diversity, their guidance and ideas automatically assists me in reaching different groups of students. Add to that their goal of developing themed programming which includes as many students as possible, and I’m putting their brainpower to work making the library as inclusive as it can be.

So I’m turning to my TRW Manual and my LAB for ideas that will make my library a fun sanctuary for everyone in the hope that my efforts will be not only informative and enjoyable, but help every student who enters this space realize that he or she is deeply cared about. Caring can come from the library, too.

Courtney L. Lewis, Director of Libraries, Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School, Kingston, PA.

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