YALSA sponsored a variety of programs and events at this year’s ALA Midwinter Conference held in snowy Chicago. On Saturday morning, the YALSA Past Presidents held their Trends Impacting YA Services session. This year’s program featured Dr. Mega Subramaniam, assistant professor at the College of Information Studies, University of Maryland. Dr. Subramaniam’s research focuses on participatory design and connected learning; in an ALA press release she states:
“Surveys, interviews, and forming a youth advisory council are no longer sufficient when designing programs for young adults. This paper calls for a substantial paradigm shift in how librarians are trained and how libraries can be used to serve diverse youth. It is time to involve the young adults themselves as co-designers.”
Mega’s presentation slides from the session can be found here. She discussed the transition from traditional, “in-situ” learning experiences (such as formal education) to a new landscape of “learning in the wild.” Librarians can bridge this transition, especially in a profession newly shaped by the Future of Library Services for and With Teens report. So, how do we design FOR teens, WITH teens?
Enter participatory design; Dr. Subramaniam shared seven methods that get teens directly involved with planning, other than the traditional “librarian asks what we should do next.” These methods include use of sticky notes to shape idea processes, “bags of stuff” where teens build and create with provided supplies to see what ideas bubble up, a big-paper approach to teen-led brainstorming, layered elaboration, fictional inquiry, “the cool wall,” and storytelling. At the end of the program Mega asked each table in the room to think about a current design process we use when working with youth and how we might reshape that in the lens of participatory design. I came away from the session with a whole new idea of how to work with my TAB as we plan future events.
On Sunday afternoon YALSA members gathered for the Moving YALSA Forward session. This program was planned in conjunction with the YALSA Board’s strategic planning process which was also taking place during the midwinter conference. The board’s strategic planning facilitator, Alan Brickman, also facilitated this member session. Instead of tacking the full strategic plan, Sunday’s discussion focused on the area of advocacy. While advocacy can mean many things, Brickman framed it for this purpose as “a direct effort to impact policy, impact public awareness, and build libraries’ capacity to further both these impacts.”
Attendees were divided into four groups, each with an advocacy area of either awareness or capacity building. The groups brainstormed what the optimal outcomes would be and what direct actions would lead to those outcomes. As we worked our way through the still relatively new idea of planning with outcomes as opposed to activities, several great ideas rose to the surface. After working together, each group posted their ideas on the wall and with sticky dots in hand attendees chose their five priorities. Brickman will be consolidating the results of this session and sharing with the YALSA Board as they continue their strategic planning process.
Both of these programs felt very much in line with YALSA’s current work of assisting members to redefine their teen programs and also be advocates for the valuable services we offer our communities. Check out YALSA’s page on advocacy to find useful resources, and the Future of Library Services for and with Teens report to see how connected learning can fit into your teen services.