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.
  • Do you do any prevention programs in your library regarding tobacco, alcohol, or substance abuse? Not that you aren’t doing a good job, but you might want to think about asking teens themselves to develop an engaging, innovative program. In a paper published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers found that teenagers were most receptive to anti-smoking ads when they were delivered by peers, not adults, and they were more interested in those ads that stressed the lifelong effects of smoking, particularly the negative ones like money spent on packs per week. Maybe sometimes negativity isn’t such a bad thing.
    Latimer, A.E., et al. (2012). Targeted smoking cessation messages for adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 50(1): 47-53.
  • I hope it isn’t wishful thinking when I propose this next topic for your thousands of patrons who will be coming in in the next few weeks before heading off to college, maybe to return one last pile of books and DVDs or just to say goodbye and thanks to you, their ally. Make sure your collegebound patrons (as well as those who will be entering the workforce or alternative programs) know that reading doesn’t stop after high school. While the publishing industry makes up its mind on whether or not New Adult is a viable new category, plenty of bloggers are gathering resources for writers and readers who want to graduate from YA but not jump straight into books about 40something divorce(e)s. And the Book Report Network, a set of linked book review sites, recently launched 20Something Reads, a special branch dedicated to that same group. Slowly but surely, books are trickling out that deal with post-high school confusion to post-college drama.
  • Weeding a bunch of old magazines? Before tossing them in the recycling bin, check out Ben Heine’s Pencil Vs. Camera Project. First, be wowed. Look up and count how many hours you’ve been at your computer. Then consider tearing out interesting pictures from magazines, printing out or Pinning some of your favorites of Heine’s, and encouraging your patrons to do the same. As someone whose stance on fine art is to enjoy but never partake, I recall a similar assignment in fifth grade art class, and I’m so proud of my drawing of deer that I still have it, more than a decade later. There’s something about this that leaves so much room for creativity and yet offers you the crutch of an existing picture that makes such artistry fun and intriguing for artists and non-sketchers alike.
  • It turns out your friends are contagious. Especially if they’re your Facebook friends. Researchers have conducted a longterm study and found that, since adolescence is a time of formulating one’s identity and ideas about the world, teens are likely to consider ideal or appropriate body sizes and shapes as similar to the bodies of those in their social networks. In fact, young adults had a 57% chance of being obese if a close friend in their social group was obese during their formative years. This “contagious” factor of overweight has researchers encouraging policymakers and educators to encourage healthy lifestyles and habits during childhood and adolescence to curb the prevalence of overweight and obesity. What can you, in your library do? I’m curious about your ideas. But certainly make sure your collection has up-to-date (remember, the Food Pyramid is dead) and across-the-board (government diet guidelines as well as science research and books with a political edge that seek to uncover the less-than-healthy coercions and slippery slides that exist in food lobbying and policy) resources, and consider partnering with a local RD (registered dietician) and personal trainer for programming. What with the Olympics underway, it’s the perfect time for teens to start thinking about what they can do to live and look a little more like Misti May, Michael Phelps, Lolo Jones, or whoever their favorite athlete is.
    Ali, M.M., et al. (2012). Adolescent weight gain and social networks: is there a contagion effect? Applied Economics, 44(23): 2969-2983.
  • Youth political engagement and voting statistics are always talked about, and the statistics always seem to be jumping. But this close to an election, it’s important that teens and college students feel like they’re a part of the political process, even if they’re too young to vote, and that they understand what voting and activism accomplish, aside from naming someone the Leader of the Free World. Today, most experts agree that young people have lower than ever participation in civic activities and organizations. Experiences like these are important not just for the democratic process, but researchers also stress that they allow young people the chance to experience different ideological positions and establish and act on their own newly formed or reinforced beliefs and interests. So, enter service learning. Below, I’ve posted citations for a number of articles on the great outcomes of teens and college students involved in community service and social justice projects. But how can we bring this into the library? That’s where you need to respond. Is it the library’s place to teach service, or is it where that service should be acted out? Do your patrons of different socioeconomic status have the same views on working for no pay, volunteering for a political or social cause, or publicly displaying or announcing their beliefs and convictions? What are some innovative ways that libraries and librarians can participate in this process? Offer a reduction of fines for participating in a neighborhood cleanup? Make the theme of the book club one that has to do with social justice? Collaborate with local schools and offer service internships to high schoolers? I’d love to know how you’d like to be involved, and what amazing things you’re doing already.
    Cousens, B. (2012). Making meaning: Emerging adults and service. The Journal of Jewish Communal Service, posted online.
    Seider, S.C., et al. (2012). The Impact of Community Service Learning Upon the Expected Political Voice of Participating College Students. Journal of Adolescent Research, 27(1): 44-77.
    Siegel, S.S., et al. (2012). Personal connections as a foundation of service work: Social networking that makes a difference. The Journal of Jewish Communal Service, posted online.


Stay cool. See you in September!

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.

4 Thoughts on “August Eureka Moments

  1. “What with the Olympics underway, it’s the perfect time for teens to start thinking about what they can do to live and look a little more like Misti May, Michael Phelps, Lolo Jones, or whoever their favorite athlete is.”
    Hmmm, my favorite Olympian is Sarah Robles. Somehow I feel like, judging from your tone, you’re not going to be recommending teens try to look like her. Why don’t we focus on health and not appearance in these matters? It comes across much better than scare tactics that are just going to encourage teens to avoid and belittle their “obese” peers, now out of fear of contagion on top of everything else.

  2. I was trying to remember Sarah Robles’ name! I haven’t seen her events, but I’ve been reading a lot about it. What is it about my tone that you object to? I was really trying to stress the “live like” part, since athletes tend to be dedicated to healthy lifestyle choices like enough sleep, good food, and daily exercise, but if I come across as someone who thinks all bodies should be the same (in which case I already lose), I’d like to fix that.

  3. Ah, nah, I’m sure your intentions were good, the “look like” comment just rubbed me the wrong way, given all the flack the female Olympians have received lately for being fat. Please, people, they are at the Olympics, you don’t get there by laying around and eating cheetos! I think we (as a society) need to focus less on who looks healthy, according to our somewhat ridiculous standards, and more on objective measures of health.

  4. Oh, I think the same thing. That’s why I thought this article was so interesting. I’m going to add it to the database where I work, I think. And incidentally, if this is something you ARE interested in, I definitely suggest that you check us (The Center for Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital) out: #endpersonalplug

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