Dystopians … Ah, Freedom!

by author Jonathan Friesen

I awoke from my nap to this sight: My son, eight-years old, standing on the deck. I saw him through my bedroom window, and watched as he stared up at the sky.

He began to conduct. With large flourishes, that kid swept his arms to and fro, and the rain fell, soft at first and then harder and harder as he gestured with more drama. He was soaked, and he was in his glory. Finally, the rain slowed, and the wind died. He held his hands above his head for a good half minute, silencing the last drop. My son turned, paused and turned back, waving at the clouds, thanking the One who for five minutes gave him control of the sky.

He has absolutely no interest in dystopians.

My eight-year old stares with eyes of wonder at the everyday of life. Sudden storms, the new kittens, the old oak. He shrugs off the hundreds of controls placed on his very regulated existence: get up at seven, gather the chicken eggs, don a fresh shirt, etc. The rules and regulations that order his young world don’t bother him in the least. Continue reading Dystopians … Ah, Freedom!

Amplified: Advocating with Your Co-Workers

In talking about advocating for teen services, we often emphasize advocating with your library’s administration, or with elected officials, or the public. But there’s a great–and often untapped–pool of people that can really help you spread the word about teen services: your library colleagues, from fellow librarians and library assistants to clerks and pages.’ If you get these people on board with your message, they will carry a lot of the load of getting the message out to others.

Think about it: who are the people in the library that the public has the most contact with? Yes, it’s the front-line staff, the folks who spend hours a day at the service points or in the stacks. These are the staffers that members of the public are most likely to know by name, or at least by face. In many public libraries, in fact, it is the clerks and pages who are most likely to be truly local–people who live and work in the community that the library serves.

So how can they help you advocate for teens? Well, they can’t, unless they understand why they should and how they can go about it. Your first step is to inform and energize them. Keep in mind that many adults don’t really understand teenagers and sometimes they’re even a little afraid of them. Your job may be simply to demystify teens and help others understand why they do what they do.

  • Offer to do a short session at a library staff meeting and/or new employee orientation on teen developmental needs.
  • When you are chatting with co-workers in the break room, share interesting stories about teens and the value of teen services.
  • Come up with a joint project in which you can work with children’s or adult services librarians to serve both teens and children or adults.
  • Make a note when you see a positive interaction between another staff member and a teen, and follow up by complimenting your colleague, either verbally or with a quick note.
  • Find out which of your colleagues have teenagers at home, or work with teens in some other part of the community–at church, at a volunteer organization, as a coach, etc.
  • Find opportunities to remind your colleagues that helping teens grow into strong and capable adults is good for the whole community.
  • Share your own enthusiasm for teen services at every opportunity–others will be swept up in your wake.
  • Find out if you can take another staff member along with you when you speak at schools or at community events.

When teen services and teens are seen in a more positive light, advocacy becomes the next step. To help your colleagues advocate, you will need to continue to provide them with the necessary information. Continue reading Amplified: Advocating with Your Co-Workers

Teen Read Week: Focus on Dollar Store Grant Winner, Cathy Andronik

In honor of Teen Read Week and all the creative ideas librarians are busy planning and implementing this time of year, the Teen Read Week committee decided that we would post interviews with some of the winners of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s Teen Read Week grant. Ten librarians won $1,000 to implement their idea for Teen Read Week within their communities, but why only list their names in the official press release? We know you want to know what their grant-winning idea was, so this week and next week, be sure to check the YALSA blog as we pepper you with the interviews where we give you all the details.

The lovely Cathy Andronik
The lovely Cathy Andronik

First up, is Cathy Andronik from Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, CT. The two high schools in this urban area about an hour north of New York City each serve around 1700 students and the librarians frequently share good ideas, including their lunchtime book clubs. This could very well be because they used to work in the same school, as Cathy explains. “Until about three years ago, there were two librarians at each high school; then budget cuts forced a staff reduction to one per high school.’  Seniority enters the picture, and my wonderful colleague ended up at our crosstown rival.’  She and I had run a lunchtime book club together for several years already, sometimes through a YALSA grant, other times scrounging money wherever we could find it.’  We worked so well together, we promised each other that somehow we would find a way to combine our two clubs.”

Continue reading Teen Read Week: Focus on Dollar Store Grant Winner, Cathy Andronik

Teen Read Week: Using Pinterest to Plan Terrific Programming

One of the best things about using Pinterest for me is that I never know when inspiration for library programming is going to strike. Whether it happens when I’m actually surfing through my feed of pins from boards I follow (and following a diversity of interests is key here) or when I’m combing through my RSS feed in the morning, I invariably find ideas that would make great programs. But how do you use Pinterest when you are actively trying to plan specific programs, particularly with Teen Read Week in mind?

Curating Information

The first use for Pinterest is as a visual board to present pre-curated ideas, one I use quite frequently with my Library Advisory Board when we are discussing possible ideas for special events. When we planned our Night of Writing Dangerously last year (an evening where kids came to do nothing but eat and write in a fun environment), I first projected my Writing Tips & Tricks Board as inspiration for their thoughts. Not only did my students have fun picking out the t-shirts and mugs that would become our prizes, but the infographics and tips had them asking if volunteer teachers could be “grammar police” someone could flag down with a question, or if we could use one of our glass walls to chart the rise and fall of a short story. My Hunger Games Library Programming Ideas Board absolutely made our party when the first movie came out (over half our school came to it) since it enabled students to plan Capitol hair and make up stations, Wii archery tournaments, and a Facebook Profile picture corner with life-size cardboard cutouts of the actors – and I owe it all to Pinterest.

Adding students or other faculty (or librarians) to a collaborative board is a terrific way of putting the power of idea generation in their hands. YALSA traditionally adds members of the Teen Read Week committee to the Teen Read Week 2013 Board and you can see the theme of “Seek the Unknown” played out largely in the areas of science fiction and mystery-related pins, the two pieces the majority of librarians identify as their intended focus for next week. Many minds are usually superior to a measly single mind, so collaborative boards often build off each other, and you can set your account to notify you by email when someone else pins to the board in question. There have been many instances that I see what someone pinned in an email notification and it makes me think of a whole new search term to try, a fact which brings us to our next (and most crucial) point regarding Pinterest. Continue reading Teen Read Week: Using Pinterest to Plan Terrific Programming

Beyond College: Keys to the Future

Blogger Natalie K., a high school junior from Colorado, will be sharing some of the issues teens today face with YALSAblog readers…if you’re a young person who would like to write for the YALSAblog,‘ let us know!

As a junior in high school, I am constantly hearing college jargon: “scholarships”, “accepted”, “declined”, “in-state”, “out-of-state”. Say any one of these words to someone in my grade, and they will instantly have loads to say.

But ask my peers about a path after high school separate from college, and their lips will go still. A large part of society today views college as the one and only option. It is as if it is the solitary key to unlocking a bright future.

What society fails to realize is that there are other keys. There’s the jagged, brass vocational key. ‘ There’s the shiny, silver military key. There’s the bronzed apprenticeship key. And there’s even the sharp, copper job key.

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Realizing that there are other options out there besides college will be a large step in moving away from America’s steep descent into debt. Youth aged 18-23 can make a contribution to society, rather than spiraling downward with college debt with expensive loans and a degree they can’t put to practical use after four years.

There is a common misconception that a college degree will equal a better life, but this doesn’t always prove true anymore. College students are graduating now with a hole in their pocket and a hole in their resume where a more worthwhile degree or more practical experience could be. Meanwhile, many pupils that chose a track separate from college often end up, four years later, with more money than they left high school with…

Ultimately, the door to the future fits all kinds of keys: Jagged, silver. Copper, bronze. Expensive, inexpensive. In-state, out-of-state.

The real question for teens is: what will your key be?

YA Programming Behind the Scenes: Digital Camera Scavenger Hunt

Our annual digital camera scavenger hunt is among the easiest of programs to run. It basically works like a promotional street team: the teens leave the library, work with people in the town to cross off items on the list (and, in the meantime, spread the word about the library program), and then the teens come back with the evidence on their phones and cameras.

613 Teen Scavenger Hunt

First, the rules:

1. Someone from the team must be in the photo. In group photos, everyone has to be in the photo.

2. All team members must be aged 12-19 (2-4 team members per team)

3. All team members must start at the library together (hunt begins at 2:05 pm) and arrive at the library by 3:45 pm with their camera. For every minute you are late, 5 items are disqualified

4. All items must be visible in a photo

5. All team members must act respectfully at all times—this includes asking permission for taking anyone’s photo

6. Once arriving at the library, a team member must describe each photo to a library staff member.

7. All photos must be on the same camera, but multiple items can be in one photo Continue reading YA Programming Behind the Scenes: Digital Camera Scavenger Hunt

Trendspotting: Know Your Weaknesses

1966 ... rec room party

Image Courtesy of James Vaughan

There is a famous line from the Lethal Weapon movies spoken by Roger Murtaugh: “I’m getting too old for this . . . .” It can be easy to feel this way when working with teens, who are constantly changing their minds. Something is hot one minute and cold the next, sometimes trends are equally hot and cold (ask a group of teens about Justin Bieber or One Direction and pay close attention to the split). It can be hard enough to keep up with what teens are into, but sometimes an age difference of a few years can seem like decades to a teen. Trust me, that divide seems just as vast to librarians. In music alone we have to keep up with J-Biebs and 1D, while deciding whether to give attention to flashes in the pan, such as Baauer. Will Taylor Swift continue to be relevant to teens, or as she matures as an artist will teens lose touch with her material? There are so many what-ifs in pop culture, and how teens relate to pop culture, that it would be so much easier to echo Murtaugh’s refrain and throw in the towel.

Continue reading Trendspotting: Know Your Weaknesses

YALSA Seeks Leaders for Summit on Teens & Libraries

As part of its year-long National Forum on Libraries and Teens project, YALSA will host a Teens & Libraries Summit Jan. 23-24, 2013, in Seattle.’  The Summit will feature speakers, panels and small group discussion to examine the current state of library services for and with young adults, and to explore how library services may need to evolve to meet the needs of 21st century adolescents.’  Funds provided by IMLS will be used to cover the cost of travel and related expenses for 15 applicants who wish to participate in the Summit.’  Key stakeholders from the areas of libraries, education, technology, adolescent development and the for-profit and nonprofit sectors are encouraged to apply (.doc) by Nov. 1, 2012.’  The 15 accepted applicants will join with approximately 35 other stakeholders at the face-to-face Summit.’  At the conclusion of the year-long Forum, YALSA will produce a white paper which will provide direction on how library services for and with teens needs to adapt and potentially change to better meet the needs of 21st century teens.’  To learn more about the National Forum, read the initial press release.

August Eureka Moments

Is this what they call the dog days? Not for me! This is my first summer living in Boston instead of Tucson, and I’m soaking up the beautiful high-80s temps they call “hot” around here and spending as much time outside as possible. But I did manage to go inside and find a few interesting tidbits for your personal interest and professional usefulness.

  • Have you ever tried to explain to someone why their offhand comment that “that’s gay” offends you? Or been annoyed when you offer to help carry something heavy and you’re refused because you’re female? Maybe someone made a rude joke about Middle Easterners not knowing you are of Saudi descent? These are called “microaggressions,” and the Microaggressions Project, a collective blog made up of submissions from anyone who wants to share an experience of feeling belittled, ignored, or just frustrated, whether because of their religious beliefs, gender identity, race, victim status, or a variety of other factors. Without resorting to hate speech or angry tirades (and no specific names, locations, or other identifying information is in any of the submissions), this blog would not only be a great resource for teens who feel like their voices aren’t being heard, but you could talk with your advisory group and possibly start your own project, with something as easy as index cards and a locked jar or box. Continue reading August Eureka Moments

Summer Volunteers

Throughout the year, teens in my branch come in, check out their things, and leave. Not many hang out in our teen area, maybe because our other branch has a way cooler teen room. Our stats show that they like our collection, but programming-wise, the numbers are never there. This is why I love summer. We see more teens during the summer than at any other time, and they all want to volunteer. Continue reading Summer Volunteers