I’m back! After a month off for vertigo and another month of innovating, I’m glad to be resuming this column, even though it probably needs a new title, since it’s as much about innovation and general cool-stuff-is-happening-all-over-the-place-and-you-should-apply-it-to-your-library-work as it is about research. That said, here is some of the fresh new ideas coming out of the woodwork and being published or publicized this month.

  • After I’ve waited for what seems like forever (but is really just since I joined Twitter and started following Levar Burton), the website RRKidz is finally live and going somewhere! This 21st century incarnation of “Reading Rainbow” promises access to the classic episodes that I know I adored as a kid as well as new content for today’s media devices, those ubiquitous tablets and genius phones, curated by Burton himself. My first recommendation is for you just to get excited. But also consider that some of your patrons may still remember the original show, and my guess is that even if they claim to be non-readers, they’ll have some great memories of it. “Reading Rainbow” may be for younger children, but you can get your teen volunteers excited about it by mimicking the show’s popular “You don’t have to take my word for it” section, in which real kids recommended their favorite books to others. What a great way to get teens to sit in on storytime, or to volunteer in your children’s section, and they can just as easily create videos on library computers to share their favorite YA stories with fellow teens, along with your help.
  • The New York Times magazine recently held a contest for the best essay answering the question “Why is it ethical to eat meat?” The contest subject and its judges (all white men, mostly already known for championing animal rights and being vegetarians or vegans) immediately prompted outrage, interest, and annoyance, and all of the comments and criticism are well worth reading. But it also prompted a lot of discourse, and that’s always a good thing. Teens may not always be interested in debate or writing, but food and vegetarianism tends to be an area in which they are already developing strong opinions. Consider hosting your own essay contest, debate, roundtable, or poster display of the various standpoints on dietary choices.
  • The recent outrage surrounding a derogatory Chronicle of Higher Education blog post about black studies programs at universities has got me thinking–about a lot of stuff, but also something really simple. I had never heard of this publication until the end of college, and while I don’t read it regularly, I find it covers a lot of bases and topics relevant not only to professors and administrators, but also to students. I imagine it would have been helpful and informative to read some of the blog posts and articles when I was in high school applying to college. So. Are you subscribing to CHE? Do you provide online access? And are you telling your teen patrons about it and providing it along with your other resources on college readiness and education?
  • “It could be argued that our role as educators is to allow students to encounter a variety of images and texts, as well as to promote reflection and analysis, so that they have robust as well as pleasurable learning experiences,” says Jon Callow. In his article on visual literacy in the coming issue of Screen Education, he describes the various ways teachers use illustrations, photographs, and advertisements as “texts,” both as supplements to literature being studied and as focal points for study in their own right. In an academic collection of children’s literature that I visited recently, I saw poster displays that education students had made of the themes and issues they had studied in various books, and I would love to see something similar in public and high school libraries. Since we all know it’s our job to reach non-readers as well, why not take a look at Callow’s article, in which he argues that literacy can also come out of looking at media that’s not made out of the printed word, and encourage your teen patrons to do a little analysis and reflection on various images? Pull out some magazine discards, or pick up cheap coffee table books and magazines from thrift stores, and encourage them to rip out the images that say something to them, and then to create a display board from them. It could be all images that tell the story of someone’s life, a couple images plus text about what they mean to the teen, or a series of thematically linked photographs (according to the teen, not the magazine) with big keywords inspired by them. The possibilities are endless, and this sort of activity can invite readers and non-readers, artists and non-artists, to either work together or at least work in the same space.
    Callow, Jon. “The Rules Of Visual Engagement.” Screen Education 65 (2012): 74-79.
  • Last month, I wrote about innovation with Etsy, but I didn’t really touch on what you could do with youth. Aside from being a great place to pick up housewarming gifts and one-of-a-kind clothing, it’s also a place where young people can learn about running a business within a structure that allows them to learn on a curve in a somewhat safer environment. While any teen who seeks to start selling on Etsy needs their parent or guardian’s permission, not yours, you can do a lot to foster the growth, innovation, and confidence a teen will need to broach the subject with her parents and to actually turn a profit. Start by making sure you pull out books in your collection (or order some new ones) like Start It Up by Kenrya Rankin, Young Guns by Robert Tuchman, or one of the huge number of books about selling on Etsy that already exist. Other ways you can bring entrepreneurship and the business world into your library? Host a screening of an episode of “Mad Men” (check the episode carefully and provide a disclaimer, since “Mad Men” contains sex and partial nudity), follow it with a discussion on workplace politics of class and gender, and don’t let people file out of the room without info on how to find their first job, internship, or volunteer position. And take a look at the insane amount of categories on Etsy’s site to prompt events and clubs dedicated to things like sewing, eco-friendly beauty products, furniture making, and more. Just about anything you find lends itself well to critical discussion, innovative crafting, and use of your already existing collection of cookbooks and other how-to and DIY guides.
  • If you look through my iPod, you’ll find more than twenty dedicated playlists, with titles like “tired tears for sad days” (I don’t like capital letters), “dancing in my underwear,” and “making pictures.” Poke around my apartment and you’ll find a notebook with working lists of playlists-in-progress. The curator in me loves to highlight certain songs, especially when they’re singles for which I don’t have entire albums (and thus otherwise would not often listen to), and put them into easily accessible playlists that I can pick based on my mood. I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this. But in case you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, consider the new book Your Playlist Can Change Your Life by Galina Mindlin, Don DuRousseau, and Joseph Cardillo, a psychiatrist, CEO, and psychologist, respectively. The book argues that understanding your moods and listening to music that soothes, inspires, or pumps you up can have a beneficial effect on your brain and body. Invite a local DJ or radio producer to come speak, and get your patrons to gather together to create collaborative and individual playlists, as well as to talk about what music means to them. Print out some of your group playlists, post them around your teen room, and link them to your CD collection and library Freegal access for more incentive.
  • Have you ever heard the term “twice exceptional?” I certainly haven’t, but after reading this article on giftedness and learning disabilities, it strikes me that this is not an area many people consider when they’re working directly with people or choosing how to collect resources or materials. Take a look at the article and its suggested resources–it should provide anyone with a well-needed reminder of what happens when we assume, and how teachers, parents, and others (like librarians!) can approach helping, working with, or responding to students who exhibit learning disabilities in some areas and giftedness in others. (You’ll also find that, apparently, I’m not the first person to write a column with this title.)
    Horowitz, Sheldon. “Giftedness and Learning Disabilities.” National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2006.
  • Have you read anything that needs to be covered here? Have you taken any of the suggestions and created your own dynamic programming, services, or collections? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. See you next month!


About Hannah Gómez

School librarian in Northern California. MA children's literature, MS library and information science (Simmons College). Sometime scholar, sometime reviewer, sometime creative writer, always media-obsessed.

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