It was a full day yesterday at the YALSA Midwinter Institute. The theme of the day was Building Teen Communities Online. Speakers included Audra Caplan (Director Harford County Public Library) on building administrative support for teens and teen technology. Me, with an overview of social networking technologies in the library. Kathy Lussier and Vickie Beane Beavers (of the Southeast MA Regional Library System (SEMLS) on My Own Cafe. And, a panel on gaming as a community building to/for/with teens. The panel included Beth Gallaway (Consultant, Metrowest MA Regional Library System), Andy Fletcher (Upper Deck Entertainment), Jean Gardner (Topeka Shawnee County Public Library), and Jami Schwarzwelder (blogger/Second Live trainer)

Here’s some of what was covered:

Audra polled people about barriers and successes in gaining support for teen technology and her list of responses brought out some key topics related to serving teens effectively in a library. Challenges that have been around forever including time, space, and staffing levels came up. So did challenges related to bandwith and the tech. education of staff and administration. It was clear from Audra’s presentation that teen librarians are not alone in their challenges and successes as they relate to technology integration. But, it was also clear that teen librarians can make it work with their colleagues and administration. These librarians just need to make sure to use specific strategies in order to move forward successfully.

As I presented it struck me how far teen librarians have come. As I talked about the what, why, and how of social networking with teens it was clear that many of the participants were aware of the technologies and were honestly (and sometimes successfully) figuring out how to bring the technologies to teens. One of my messages was don’t think you know what technologies your teens are using or want just from talking to the teens who are in the library every day. Make sure to think about the teens who aren’t coming in. The community building tools available to teens provides great opportunities for connecting to the non-library users and making them a part of a library community – even if they don’t ever step inside the doors of the physical building.

In listening to the My Own Cafe presentation it was really clear how much time, effort, and energy SEMLS used in order to make sure their “product” was successful with teens. Teens were included in every step of the planning and development process. It was also clear how librarians who give teens the chance to produce, communicate, and work together provide teens with opportunities for making good decisions about online community building and behaviors. The My Own Cafe presenters listed numerous instances in which teens rose to challenges related to safety and privacy on the My Own Cafe web site. They highlighted how the teen managers of the site made smart decisions about how to manage the site successfully and helped to make sure their peers were safe online.

The panel on gaming and teen community had an amazing number of useful things to say about how gaming helps build teen community. The theme of the panel ended up being listen to the teens that you serve. If librarians want to build teen community through gaming then ask the teens how to do that and really pay attention to what they have to say. It was clear from this panel that the community that exists related to the games that teens play is really strong. Teens don’t play games in a vacuum. They connect with others as they play in order to improve their play and understand their play.

All in all a very productive day! Some of the links discussed during the presentations are available at a page setup for the Institute.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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