This is the third in a three-part series on serving homeless youth in libraries. Please leave questions, ideas, and comments for us to continue the discussion of this very important topic.

Serving homeless teens is challenging because the line between librarian and social worker is so thin. We naturally want to help, but our skill set does not (usually) include full knowledge of the social services of our region. Therefore, we can only do what we know, what our supervisors allow, and what doesn’t offend the teen.

Homelessness does not discriminate against social class or region, so I was not too surprised what I recognized signs of poverty and homelessness in a small group of teen “regulars”. Poor hygiene, traveling with large bags filled with personal items, staying in a group with their parents, and visiting the library all day (only leaving the library when the nearby family shelter opened its doors every evening) were all red flags. Read More →

One of the reasons I give my time, energy, and money to YALSA is because I cannot do my job all by myself. Without Pinterest, listservs, or webinars and conferences, I would not know what to do with and for the teens that I serve. I would have a few ideas, naturally, but I wouldn’t know what is tried-and-true in Kentucky, or not popular anymore in Ohio. YALSA allows me to give, to take, and learn. Read More →

August has arrived, which means families are wrapping up Summer and preparing for the new school year. They are shopping, vacationing, and scrambling to complete the summer assignments their teens were handed almost two full months ago. (Now where did I put that?) At my library nearly all of the titles on the summer reading list have multiple holds, forcing parents into either accepting their teen’s failing grade or into Barnes & Noble to purchase the over-priced hardcover.’  But seeing as how very few parents are in favor of failing grades, we could encourage them to get the book another way. Read More →

My library is in a community heavy on teen foot-traffic and light on teen activities (outside of the library), so during the summer it is common to see the room filled to the brim with teens escaping the heat, annoyed at the friends they have spent every hour of every day with, looking for something–anything–to do. How can we help them find that “anything” that actually keeps them entertained, and excited to return to do it again? Planning summer programs for a Teen Center is an imperfect art, but if you see it is such – an art – then you won’t feel as bad when things don’t come out perfectly, and conversely you will be astonished when the boring turns exciting. Here are a few passive and active programming ideas that I urge you to try in your own library. With a little money, and as little or as much librarian involvement as you can afford, these programs have the ability to interest the regulars and pull in the new patrons.

Art Gallery: If you have empty wall space, you have an art gallery. Post flyers calling for artists to submit their work, photography, drawings, paintings, computer graphics, etc. Using painters tape (which is safe for the walls and the art), hang the art. Make sure to include their name (and school? Age? Inspirational quote?) so they get credit. If funds and time permit, host an artist reception on the day you hang new art. Anyone whose art is hanging on the wall for that week/month (or however long of a rotation you decide upon) are guests of honor, but of course all library patrons’ can attend the “opening”. Read More →

Recently on a discussion board I follow there have been numerous requests (and responses) for free, unique, or new programming ideas for teens. I have been following these threads quite closely because I, too, am always looking for fresh ideas. Plenty of us find craft ideas on Pinterest (and collaborate on this board), discover great titles on blogs, and hear from experts on webinars. But there are so many more ways to discover programming. In fact, you need look no further than your personal life. Read More →

With the Hunger Games movie premier right around the corner (11 days, folks!), everyone is talking about Katniss and Peeta and their fight for survival. While no one in this country is fighting to the death to feed themselves, their families, and their communities, hunger – and the desperation that goes with it – is a real thing. Some libraries are using the movie’s popularity to bring light to this difficult and often overlooked social problem.


– Some branches of the DC Public Library system are sponsoring “Hunger Action Stations” throughout the month of March. The branches are official drop-off locations for non-perishable food items (to be delivered to the Capital Area Food Bank). They are also handing out information on child hunger in the DC area, with ways to help/volunteer as well as ways to acquire food for hungry children Read More →

I was first introduced to listservs as a circ associate back in 2007. I have since spent at least 2 hours a week posting, responding, and reading posts. I value them so much that registering for Listservs is always my first piece of advice to new librarians. I would like to share with you some discussions I have followed on my various listservs, in hops that you might join the ranks of young adult librarians who can’t seem to stop talking about their job.

1. Hunger Games. Twilight. Are you hosting a party? Need trivia questions or read-alikes? Look no further than a quick search of the YALSA Book Discussions listserv. Browse through the archives or do a quick search and viola! Instant party ideas. I have hosted at least 6 HG, HP and Twilight parties over the past few years, and each time I use this listserv for ideas. Read More →

Tuesday, Nov. 1st (ahem, tomorrow) is the deadline to submit your nomination for Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers list. That doesn’t leave you much time to nominate that person you met at ALA Annual whose efforts caught your attention. Or your co-worker who seems to be ahead of every trend. Or yourself! It may be that you don’t know anyone who fits the strict criteria. Oh, what are the criteria, you ask?

A M&S is a “leader in the library world” who is “innovative, creative, and making a difference”. Previous teen services-related winners have kick-started teen services in their branch, library system, and community. (One winner got gaming systems in all 20 branches in her library system!!) Others began a project on a small scale only to have it adopted by their surrounding community. Let me highlight a few previous winners so that you might be inspired to nominate someone or strive to be a contender for next year’s award.

Read More →

You have the support of your library management, but you have no time, money, or space. How can you finally creating that teen space/center/area/room that you have been dreaming about?

Well it won’t be easy. As a matter of fact, it will be dusty and heavy and time-consuming. But all good things are worth the effort! Once you have secured approval from your boss the planning process can begin. Review the following ideas and mix-and-match to your heart’s content!

Idea #1: Ask the folks in Circulation for more shelf space for YA books. With their approval, shift adult books (or whatever is keeping you from expanding) away from the YA collection, giving yourself space to work with. Even if you don’t need the shelf space, you can use the more spread-out shelves to hold program flyers, set up book displays, hold bookmarks, display teen art work, and more. (Or perhaps the Director will walk through one day, notice the empty-ish shelves, and want to fill them? Or better yet, build you a Teen Center!)

If the idea of empty shelves scares you, ask a maintenance worker to help you take (some or all of) the actual shelves out of the shelving unit. Use that space to publicize events and put up larger displays.

Short on time?: Use volunteers! Teen volunteers are probably (hopefully?) the same teens that will be utilizing the Teen Space. Therefore, use them to help you shift. Offer volunteer/service hours or library card fine amnesty in return for their time.

Idea #2: Have a Teen Center that pops up wherever you have space. If you can’t have permanent space in your building, plan a weekly pop-up in your library’s meeting room or children’s storytime room. Bring TVs and gaming systems, laptop computers, a cart of new YA books, craft supplies, etc. Move the day and time around as it suites the needs of your teens, but try to do this on a regular basis.

Idea #3: Take that pop-up Teen Center to a local community center or school. Load up your car with all of the necessary equipment and set up shop in the non-library space. Plan this alongside a school’s afterschool tutoring program (maybe to begin immediately after tutoring sessions) and watch your attendance sky-rocket. While the teens play games, tell them about the library and invite them to visit and say hello to you next time they visit. *Have a special treat to give to the teens that do visit the library and seek you out. If possible, give them a teen-friendly tour of the branch and maybe even introduce them to a couple co-workers. Prove to them that they are welcome.

Idea #4: You know all those computers and comfy chairs in the adult area? Teens like those, too. Move a couple of each closer to the teen shelves. This encourages the teens to be comfortable in their own space, even if it’s a mere 20 feet from the adult area. Put a sign over the computers and chairs informing customers that they are for teens only (during non-school hours). *This will likely result in angry adult users once in a while. The “my tax dollars” fight will begin, but if you and the entire staff stand your ground this won’t continue forever.

Idea #5: If you have a bit of spare money (or receive a grant? Or win the lottery? Or acquire a millionaire benefactor?) purchase teen-friendly furniture and computers (Macs?) instead of just taking away from the adult area (a la idea #4). Put a plaque on the wall near all of this new stuff describing the area as a teen space and thanking those who supported it (Board, director, etc.). That way the teens and the adults who scope out the area know who it is for and why it is there. *Using private funds such as a donation or grant for these items will allow you to say, “These were not purchased with tax dollars,” which is a great way to put the kibosh on the ol’ “my tax dollars!” argument.

Idea #6: Display YA books and program flyers in the places where the teens are (i.e computer banks, study carrels, etc.). Maybe the teens don’t know you own entire shelves of YA books, magazines, and audio books. A sign pointing them in the right direction will not only inform them, it will inform your community that your library cares for teens and wants to provide services specifically for them. Be creative with your displays (tape arrows to the floor to literally guide them to the materials).

Idea #7: Even if you cannot shift books, set up a teen-only computer station, or buy comfy furniture to put near the teen stacks, you can make the teen stacks stand out. Cover the shelving units in bright colored paper. Have the teens make posters to tape to the shelves or hang from the ceiling over the shelves. The possibilities go on and on. Paint the walls nearest to the stacks, even! Delineate the teen center from the rest of the library.

Whatever you choose to do, try to do it with a few teen volunteers. Making them a part of the library gives what you do that much more meaning.
Previous YALSA bloggers have posted great articles on teen centers/spaces. For more inspiration, read these:

Whose Space is it? By Linda Braun

Trading Spaces: visiting each other’s libraries by Erin Daly and Gretchen Kolderup


For those of you who couldn’t make it to NOLA for ALA’s Annual Conference (which, by the way, rocked!), here is a wrap-up of the Membership Meeting and President’s Program held Monday afternoon.

2010-2011 YALSA president Kim Patton hosted an inspiring program. Her first order of business was to ask members to speak briefly about recent success in YA librarianism. The speakers included: Read More →