Kristin Phelps, School Librarian at the Whittier Middle School in Norman, Oklahoma, is preparing to pitch an ambitious idea for the YALSA President’s Program Monday, June 29 from 10:30 a.m. to Noon. She will advocate for ” Make YOUR Library Space”  in front of a panel of librarians and business leaders for the chance to win cash and technology prizes provided by YALSA,, Makey Makey, and 3D Systems.

We wanted to catch up with Kristin before she heads to San Francisco for ALA’s Annual Conference.

JS:Tell us about the project you submitted to the Shark Bowl
KP: Whittier Middle School is dreaming of a Makerspace including high-tech and low-tech materials. To be successful in the 21st century, students need to develop the ability to think and problem solve effectively. The library should be the center of that learning. Teens are naturally curious. I want to cultivate that curiosity to allow them to combine both information and experience.

JS: How is your community involved in the project?
KPWhen the IT store at our local university offered to bring over their products for our students to explore, all skepticism I had about putting a Makerspace into practice disappeared.  Seeing the enthusiasm on the students’ faces made me realize there was a lot more to this concept- particularly when one declared that if school was like this “I would actually get up in the morning.”  Living in Norman provides us access to a world of experts through the University of Oklahoma.  As the space unfolds, I would love to bring in experts in areas that students naturally become interested in to provide them with a richer learning experience.

JS:In what ways are teens involved in the project?
KP: My relationship with the teens in my school is my number one priority as a teacher librarian.  Compared to other types of libraries, I have the advantage of seeing these students and building strong connections to the library daily. Due to open access and a positive atmosphere, my teens are constantly providing input on what they like and any new ideas they have. After Shark Bowl, I will gather their input about which tools they are most interested in and incorporate as many of them as possible. I am also looking to create a Teen Advisory Board for many of the ideas I hope to implement this year and to gather their ideas and perspectives.

JS: What are you updating/changing as you get ready for the Shark Bowl at Annual Conference?
KP: As I get ready for the Shark Bowl, I am trying to adequately articulate the need our students have for experiences to promote critical thinking, collaboration, and deep engagement. It is crucial for them to be given an opportunity to explore, make mistakes, and problem solve. I am also thinking about the ways I want to include teachers in the planning of the space to connect to their curriculum and objectives.

JS: What are you most excited about in getting ready for Shark Bowl?
KP:I am most excited to see everyone else’s wonderful ideas! There is always more I could do to improve!

JS: Anything else you want to tell us?
KP: Honestly, we don’t know what the world will be like when our teens become adults. They will encounter new ideas and technologies that we can’t conceive of yet. The purpose of the project is to inspire students to become citizens full of curiosity, innovation, and creativity for the moment when they must confront the unknown.

Learn more about YALSA Shark Bowl and don’t forget to attend the YALSA President’s Program on June 29th from 10:30 to Noon to see the sharks and the pitches live.

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