The set up

At the end of November, seven librarians were asked to participate in YALSA’s first resource retreat. The mission of the retreat was to create a literacies toolkit, expanding on the discussion that began in the 2014 report: “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action”. We were asked to create a document that was user friendly and accessible to both librarians and library staff who work directly for and with teens. The rest was really up to us, which was both exciting and a little daunting.

The retreat was scheduled for the Friday of Midwinter. Since this was YALSA’s first time trying a resource retreat, everything new to us was also new to YALSA. We were given a stipend to help defray travel and lodging costs and were asked to attend one phone conference before Midwinter to plan out a few logistical elements. In the phone call, we realized we needed a Google doc to keep our ideas in one place. This document proved to be a crucial element of our success during the retreat. We were glad we had done some leg work ahead of time to make the actual day of writing go a tad smoother.

On the day of the retreat, we all met each other, got some coffee, and jumped into the toolkit. We spent several hours just talking over ideas, showing off articles we had found particularly moving, and trying to figure out how to frame this toolkit. During our virtual Google doc discussion, fake news was mentioned as having potential for our central metaphor. However, as our conversation evolved and grew on that Friday in Atlanta, we realized making a toolkit solely about fake news prevented our work from having any sort of longevity. We all know that fake news is big right now but eventually the energy and vigor for discussing it will fade. Instead, we decided to focus on two core ideas:

  1. Cultural context and helping teens understand the experience and knowledge they carry with them
  2. Teen’s social media environment in which they consume and produce information

From these ideas, we then took a step back and provided some best practice ideas when trying to create programs for teens that encompass multiple literacies. We included some examples as well, of libraries, schools, and other cultural institutions using multiple literacies in the programming they create and use. By the time we had written most of these sections and gathered our various sources, our time was just about up.

My perspective

I really enjoyed the opportunity to work on this toolkit. It allowed me to meet other librarians thinking about literacy with the same passion as me. Some of my favorite memories from the day were from the morning when we were all sitting around in a circle, not quite knowing each other, but putting forth all these ideas, theories, and practical insight from our experiences with various literacies. These conversations really helped us to see each other’s strengths and who might be better prepared to write certain sections of the toolkit. Once the afternoon arrived and we were deep into writing (so quickly that Google didn’t know how to notify us about all the changes being made to our document), it was great to have every one there to bounce ideas off of. Many of us, myself included, would write for several minutes and once we had a question, would look up, ask the question, and then let the natural conversation that came from the question guide us. We worked well working by ourselves and then coming together collectively, which was really nice (not all group projects turn out that way, we know).

I’m especially interested in this toolkit because as a current academic reference librarian, I’m interested in how those working with teens in a public or school setting are thinking about literacies. In my position, I work with many undergraduates, some who are still teens. I’m ready and excited to have these conversations about cultural context and ask questions to students about how they see themselves in their social media environments.

Want to know more?

So jazzed about this upcoming toolkit you want to get a head start? Check out a few of our essential readings that influenced and framed our toolkit:

About Hailley Fargo

Hi, I'm a new professional working as the Student Engagement Librarian at Penn State University, University Park campus. As someone who provides reference to undergraduate students and teach information literacy to primarily freshman, I'm curious about the intersections of the work of YALSA and academic libraries (and how we can collaborate and work together to help our teens). In my spare time, I like to bike, read memoirs, watch TV shows, and consider myself an oatmeal connoisseur.

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