Celebrate Pride Through Advocacy and Awareness @ Your Library

Every year, LGBTQIA communities host amazing parades, marches, and events to celebrate their pride. Whether we are members of this community, family members, or allies, these events have been joyous celebrations of love, appreciation, and acceptance.  However, as youth advocates, we must also remember that Pride celebrations are in remembrance of the Stonewall Uprising on June 27, 1969 in New York City. Not only did these series of events expose the New York City Police Department’s intolerance of the LGBTQIA community, it spurred an entire community to demand equal rights, which turned into a movement that is alive and well.

After the Stonewall Uprising, libraries have played a significant part in providing the LGBTQIA community not just access to information, but created the “Task Force on Gay Liberation  that sought to provide the LGBTQIA community with greater representation in libraries and the community. While libraries have been providing programs and services to the LGBTQIA community for forty seven years, the current political and social climate has seen a resurgence of hate and intolerance towards LGBTQIA people. However, as teen library staff, we can support our LFBTQIA teens by giving them access to knowledge and opportunities to help them advocate for themselves.

In order to implement programs and services, we need to ensure that our libraries are safe places where teens do not have to fear prejudice or intimidation. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Hate Crimes Statistics report (2016):

There were 5,818 single-bias incidents involving 7,121 victims. Of those victims, 59.2 percent were targeted because of a race/ethnicity/ancestry bias; 19.7 percent because of a religious bias; 17.7 percent because of a sexual orientation bias; 1.7 percent because of a gender identity bias; 1.2 percent because of a disability bias; and 0.4 percent because of a gender bias.

As unsettling as these numbers are, libraries can do a number of things to support LGBTQIA youth.  One action we can take is to check all of our policies, specifically behavior and collection polices. By re-visiting our behavior policies, we can check to see if there are statements that specifically state what behavior will not be tolerated.  By updating, or revising, this policy, we inform the public that there are rules that must be maintained to provide a safe environment for everyone who steps through the door. We can inform the public in a variety including handouts or signage the welcomes everyone regardless of their ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, and identity.  Another policy we need to review is collection development policies. By reviewing the language and the timeliness of these guidelines, we can support teens’ right to read even when members of the community who wish to have specific materials removed based on their personal and private opinions. According to the Library Bill of Rights (in regards to minors):

“Article V of the Library Bill of Rights states, “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” The “right to use a library” includes free access to, and unrestricted use of, all the services, materials, and facilities the library has to offer. Every restriction on access to, and use of, library resources, based solely on the chronological age, educational level, literacy skills, or legal emancipation of users violates Article V.

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YALS – Libraries and Learning: A Resource Guide for “Make, Do, Share”

cover of spring yalsYou should have already or will soon be receiving your Spring 2016 edition of YALS. The topic of the issue is Libraries and Learning. All the articles are excellent but the one that stood out to me was the featured interview with Shannon Peterson, the Youth Services Manager for the Kitsap (WA) Regional Library (KRL). The library received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for their program Make, Do, Share: Sustainable STEM Leadership in a Box.

One of the great things about this interview is that not only did we learn the context of this project (it began with a project called BiblioTEC, sponsored through the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation) but also heard about how Shannon and her staff frame the work they are doing. Many times in public libraries, we are so focused on helping our community, we don’t think about the reasoning behind our behaviors. These behaviors and the programming we create can be influenced by the theory we read and the theory we believe grounds our work as librarians. Shannon’s interview was full of all the things she and KRL was thinking of as they created the Make, Do, Share programming.
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Coming soon to a library near you: Digital Learning Day 2016

Digital Learning Day is right around the corner (Wednesday, February 17th to be exact). I’m sure there are already some librarians primed and ready for this day while others are reading this post wondering…

“What is Digital Learning Day?”

Digital learning, more generally, is about utilizing digital tools to help teach and strengthen a student’s learning experience. In a time when digital learning (and various digital tools) seems to be a popular trend, it’s important that the people who are using this technology are sharing their experiences with others.

Equity_RafranzThis day is also tied into the idea of digital equity. We keep working towards providing digital opportunities for every student and perhaps these are days when we can reflect on who we reach and keep thinking about how we can reach even more.

The day was started in 2012 to allow conversations to happen between teachers, educators, professionals, and librarians about the digital learning they are doing in their communities. It’s about showcasing innovations, sharing stories, and helping everyone see the impacts digital learning can have.

Digital Learning Day is sponsored through the Alliance for Excellent Education. At the Digital Learning Day website, they have a resource page, blog posts by educators using technology with their students, and graphics you could use to promote the day in your community!

Think about this day as not only a celebration of digital learning, but more importantly as a day and time to make connections and think about collaborations for future projects. If you are going to have an activity on the day, make sure to register your event! And if you’re not hosting an event, make sure to check out the resources or follow the hashtag #DLDay for updates and activities.

Is anyone participating in the day and if so, what are you doing?

February Is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Valentine’s Day is big business; between the candy and flower sales and Hamilton-themed cards, V-Day spending nationwide may top $13 billion. Libraries cater to their patrons with Valentines-themed programs including concerts, crafts and even anti-Valentine’s parties.

Rarely seen in public is anything calling attention to dating’s darker side, though February is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. According to a 2013 CDC survey, 1 in 10 teens reported being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past 12 months; additionally 1 in 10 reported being kissed, touched, or physically forced into sexual intercourse against their will by someone they were dating.

During meetings and training, like the recent in-service at my library, staff may discuss how to handle many different difficult situations. Abusive romantic relationships should be a part of the discussion. What warning signs can library staff look out for?

Here are a few types of dating violence from loveisrespect.org:

  • Physical: scratching, punching, throwing things, pushing and pulling
  • Emotional/Verbal: put-downs, yelling, blaming, threatening
  • Sexual: unwanted touching, pressuring, sexual insults
  • Financial: preventing from going to work, on-the-job harassment, giving presents with strings attached
  • Digital: pressure to send explicit messages, stealing passwords
  • Stalking: showing up unannounced, sending unwanted messages

Here are a few behaviors that victims of dating violence may exhibit:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Tobacco, drug and alcohol use
  • Antisocial behaviors
  • Thoughts about suicide

Teen staff can foster supportive library spaces, and make patrons aware that abuse is not tolerated. We can offer programs and materials on the differences between healthy and unhealthy dating relationships. If we witness abuse, we can report it to the police. If we encounter someone who may need help, we can refer them to local family services, as well as national hotlines such as RAINN.

For more information about Teen Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Rape check out the book list on The Hub.

 

Impact on teen friendships in an age of technology

It’s hard to go through a day without seeing a teen using some piece of technology. Sometimes it seems like they are glued to their phones (similar to their adult counterparts), even when they are walking. Or you’ll see many of them together, snapping and Instagraming their afternoon at the local coffeeshop.

How does all this technology impact teen friendships? As a teenager, friendships are crucial. Your friends become your sounding board, provide advice and support you in times of need, and become a pseudo family as you head towards adulthood. The Pew Research Center was curious about this and in 2014-2015 conducted a nation-wide survey of teens aged 13-17. The report, Teens, Technology, and Friendships, was published in August 2015 and I think it sheds some light on teens’ communication style.

From the report, I pulled three main ideas. The report is jammed packed with interesting statistics and worth a look through. But for a condensed version…

Making friends online

According to the teens surveyed, 57% reported that they had made a friend online at some point. However, it was less likely that these online friends turned into people teens met in person (only 20%). When you break up the 57% of teens who have made at least one friend online, it was more likely these teens were older (15-17 years old).

Boys were more likely to have made online friends through video games (the networked component that allows you to play with other people online playing the same game) while girls were more likely to make friends through social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram).

The so what: As I was reading this section of the report, I thought back to growing up and writing pen pal letters to students either in the United States or across the world. Could something like this be replicated through video games or social media platforms by the library? Perhaps if a library has a video game system for teens to use, they could pair up with another library who has the same video game so their teens could play against and with each other? Or the teens could “take over” a social media platform that the library uses to communicate with teens and talk to another teen department at another library?

Keeping in touch with friends

Regardless if the friend was made online or is an in-person friend, texting is the popular means to communicate with them. Teens reported that 49% used texting as their main form of communication with friends. Other forms of communication included instant messaging, social media platforms (and direct messaging), email, video chat, phone calls, video games, and other messaging apps (Kik or WhatsApp). Many teens said that the medium to communicate was based on the type of friendship they had with the other person. Only the closest friends would be eligible for a phone call, while newer friends were easier to text or talk to in another messaging app. It was interesting that 85% of teens said they had called their friends at some point (analog is not dead!).

The so what: Teens have created a system for building trust in friendships seen through how they communicate with each other. They have rules for how to communicate with each other and these look different than how we might be use to communicating with friends. By seeing that this sample of teens is more likely to use written word to communicate can better help us understand the teens we serve (and what sort of programs could happen with this framework in mind).

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“What’s reference? And other library related questions”

My current job in graduate school is a library supervisor for a residence hall library. Our residence hall library system is unique here at the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign which gives us the opportunity to interact with undergraduates in their residence halls. Our collection consists of the latest fiction, nonfiction, movies, TV shows, CDs, and magazines. Essentially a public library-like collection in an academic setting. It’s awesome, to be so close and helpful, and students don’t even have to leave their residence hall!

My co-workers and I have tried to provide reference support in the libraries. This past semester I spent eight hours a week doing “Office Hours.” Essentially, come visit me, ask your reference questions. Then, during finals, one of my co-workers did a “Roving Reference” table throughout several residence halls. At a recent staff meeting he shared that when he was roving many undergraduates asked him, “What’s reference?”

This may hurt us as library staff. We hope (and perhaps sometimes assume) that what we take as implicit knowledge (e.g., what reference is) is also implicit to the people we work with.

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Teens and How They Use Technology – What’s Our Role?

This semester I’m enrolled in a Collaborations in Feminism and Technology class. It parallels the larger organization, FemTechNet. During our most recent class, our discussion turned to a frequently talked about: children/teens and technology. What sort of access to technology should they have and how will they use it?

Part of our class veered towards the idea of technocentrism (technology is the center of our world and it controls us. See Seymour Papert’s paper to read more) or technological determinism (essentially get on board with technology’s pace or forever be left behind). We discussed just giving kids and teens technology and counting on them to “just know” how to use it. We discussed restricting access because they aren’t old enough to really know how to use technology. And we discussed that teens simply don’t understand the permanence of putting something online.

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Day Five and Recap of the Week — Teens have valuable opinions (but we already knew that)

In the craziness of finishing up a week of camp (both for the teens and the younger campers who came in the morning) and heading back to Champaign-Urbana, I didn’t get a chance to write a Friday blog post. However, I’m here for a day five recap and a brief reflection on the week as a whole.

On Friday, we gave the teens more design time on their projects and also, gave them a chance to put their ideas together into a final presentation. A few of the teens made a PowerPoint presentation, giving an overview of their week and how they arrived at their design projects. It was a nice way to summarize the week and reflect back on what they had done.

After a brief dress rehearsal, it was showtime! The director of the Peoria Heights Public Library was there, some 4H staff members (the camp was sponsored through 4H and the University of Illinois Extension), and some of the parents of the teens. Their presentations were both informational and a celebration of their hard work.

And boy, did the teens have some great ideas. Each project showcased the teen’s strengths and their insight. The projects focused on how to make the teen space in the library more inviting for teens. Some focused on the physical space, others on what was in the collection, and others about how to bridge generation gaps between teens and older adults, using the library as the setting. The library director was intrigued by many of the ideas. I was reminded that we need teen perspectives because they have valuable opinions. I would be curious to return to the Peoria Heights Public Library in a few months and see what input was considered and put to use.

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Teen Design Lab Day Four — Time to Design!

Another good day at the Teen Design Lab. We had a pretty free form day, complete with some inspiration, project time, and stickers.

What we did:

  • Watched some library related humor videos (such as Check It Out made by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library — what a great job they did incorporating Taylor Swift into EVERYTHING). These videos served as inspiration and a potential design project. We wanted to give teens the option of making a video parody to promote the library.
  • Then it was design time. This is the neat part of the camp. We just let the teens be, serving really only as sounding boards and offering words of encouragement. We provide laptops, paper, pens, and other design supplies (such as clay, building blocks, felt, etc) so they can create a prototype of some sort. It was neat to see the teens find their element — some needed to make something with their hands while others made detailed dream plans and steps to success charts. The design process also the teens to showcase their talents and strengths, which is awesome. At the same time, we are aligning with library and community priorities — giving suggestions on how to make the teens feel welcome or participate in their community and or library.
  • The day ended with a sticker workshop. Again, this pulls from Makerspace and Fab Lab ideas and equipment (check out the Maker & DIY Programs YALSA Wiki page for more information about this sort of programming). It was an easy setup — laptops running Silhouette software, Silhouette vinyl cutters, and vinyl for the stickers. It’s another workshop where the teens really have free reign over what they want to do. Our only suggestion was using a silhouette image for the cleanest cut. The teens really took off on this project, most printing multiple sets of vinyl. They picked up on it pretty quickly (and a few had done this before). It was a nice way to end the workshop.

The teens will be back tomorrow, continuing to work on their designs and then give a brief presentation to their peers and community members we’ve invited to come so the teens’ opinions can be heard!