In July, State Library Agencies (SLAs) were invited by YALSA to apply for the pilot cohort of the Transforming Teen Services: A Train the Trainer Approach (now known as T3) IMLS grant funded initiative. A joint project from YALSA and the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, T3 continues the work of the 2018 National Forum on Transforming Teen Services Through Continuing Education by training SLA staff and public library staff to facilitate workshops on implementing coding and computational thinking programming through the lens of connected learning.
Danielle Margarida, Youth Services Coordinator at the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services and Rebecca Ott, Young Adult Librarian at the Tiverton Public Library in Tiverton, Rhode Island threw their hat in the ring and were thrilled when Rhode Island was accepted as one of five states participating in the pilot. As a team, Danielle and Rebecca attended the first T3 meeting in Chicago during first weekend in October with an outstanding group of professionals from Alabama, Maine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The weekend consisted of activities that were both challenging and fruitful. The cohort spent time working on issues of identity and equity, connected learning, facilitation skills, and ways in which ways in which we’ll help our colleagues statewide recognize and integrate connected learning into daily librarianship, programming, and services to teens.
Why did you want to be part of the T3 pilot cohort?
Danielle: We wanted to be part of this project at the ground level. T3 will eventually be expanded nationwide, but as a pilot state it’s an exciting opportunity to help inform and drive the overall implementation of the project. Rhode Island is unique in its size and library community, so we have a lot to offer. We’re looking forward to trying new things and seeing how our experience and outcomes can help other states who join T3 in the second year of the project.
Rebecca: We felt like we would be able to approach this project in a way that no other state can … simply due to our size! Rhode Island is structured so that there are monthly professional development opportunities for our Youth Services providers in the form of round-tables, working groups, and continuing education opportunities. Our state’s size allows for us to hold centralized or traveling meetings that allow professionals to have professional development opportunities within a 30-minute or less drive from their home or library work-site. In theory (and in an ideal world), we could hold a centralized training and train all of RI’s youth services providers in one day without any geographic barriers to attendance. Due to the connectivity in our state, we are also in a unique position to reach out to community partners and stakeholders in the areas of connected learning. We have opportunities to reach out to train school librarians, after-school providers, children’s librarians, adult services librarians who work with teens … our geographic size allows for our reach to be wide and our impact to be potentially very deep!
What did you expect going into the first T3 meeting?
Rebecca: As learners, this training was interesting because we initially didn’t know what to expect! Yes, we had been provided with an itinerary. Yes, we knew the other states that would be joining us that weekend. But entering a new learning space with other new learners, we were unsure about how being involved in the pilot was going to play out.
Danielle: Last fall I participated in a meeting for the YALSA/COSLA IMLS funded project National Forum on Transforming Teen Services Through Continuing Education. This meeting was incredibly valuable to my work and the larger discussion of teen services, so I went into T3 knowing that wherever YALSA was going to lead us, it was going to be good.
What did you think about participating in the pilot with states that seem so different from RI?
Rebecca: We could not have been paired up with a more excited, engaged, and forward thinking group of librarians to work with. It was interesting to hear about how professional training is done state-to-state and how different states have incredibly different issues to tackle all the while doing the same work. Maine was concerned with their aging population and how physically accessing the northern part of the state provides logistical difficulties. Alabama discussed issues of equity of services across town/county lines and how transportation is also an issue. Minnesota was looking into how they were going to include community partnerships with school librarians and after-school programs into their service. While Wisconsin is undergoing a Public Library System Redesign Project that has a goal of developing and implementing a new model of library service to provide the public with the best public library system services possible.
Danielle: The Youth Services Coordinators at the State Library Agencies communicate often on activities, successes, and challenges. What we don’t often get to do is work together on a common project, so this was an exciting opportunity to dig into what is happening in libraries around the country and think about how I can bring that knowledge back to RI. A big part of my takeaway from our meeting revolves around how to use what is happening in other states to inform our implementation of the T3 project. I’m also thinking of ways RI can model some best practices that may be of help to our T3 colleagues.
Rebecca: As different as we are state-to-state, it was professionally reassuring to see that we are all still dealing with some of the same things nationwide. Access to services, materials, and knowledge for our Teen patrons. Encouraging a population of users to come to the library and feel safe when they aren’t always treated as a desirable patron pool. And wanting to provide safe-spaces where teens to learn, grow, make, and take any and all knowledge and skills that they encounter on any visit to our buildings as possible.
What are the next steps?
Rebecca: We are excited to integrate both connected learning and computational thinking into our upcoming continuing education programs and round-table discussions. And we are excited to see how other states approach their training modules. Rhode Island is a special little case-study for this overall program and we hope to have a deep impact on our community so that our colleagues can be successful in utilizing the skills taught by this program at our 71 public libraries statewide!
Danielle: We’ve already begun planning and scheduling workshops! Rebecca will be leading a connected learning workshop for staff at her library and I’ll be leading my SLA colleagues through a facilitation workshop. In February, Rebecca and I will lead a day-long workshop on connected learning for teen services librarians as part of our Young Adult Roundtable meetings. We’re also planning a child development workshop for April. We can’t wait to report back, so stay tuned!