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.

yay TAB!

Sofia, Kealin, Nona, Hannah, Leah and Calista making Valentines for veterans.

On Monday, January 19, the United States honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Legislation was passed in 1983 to commemorate King’s birthday and his legacy, turning the 3rd Monday of January into a federal holiday.  This holiday is to be observed as a national day of service– “A day on, not a day off.”  According to the government’s site on the MLK Day of Service:

“[The day] calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems. The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a ‘Beloved Community.’”

When I kicked off my teen advisory board meetings for this school year, one of the first items I brought to our group was my desire to have the TAB participate in at least one service project.  We brainstormed through a few of our monthly meetings, and in November I introduced the MLK Day of Service as an option.  Our local volunteer hub, Volunteer Connect, facilitates service opportunities on this day; everything from light building projects to park cleanup, creating floral arrangements for hospice patients to sewing up dog beds for the pets of the homeless.  I presented the variety of options, with the biggest caveat: donating your time on a day off from school.  Would the group be willing to do that?

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Top-ten lists and year in review articles abound—it must be December!  Reflecting on the past year in the world of libraries, here are five themes that have impacted our work.

While YALSA members are digesting and implementing The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: a Call to Action, several other reports came out in 2014 that encourage library workers to embrace new paradigms and adapt service standards that can best serve our customers.  There’s the Pew Research Center’s Younger Americans and Public Libraries report, which breaks down library behavior in the Millenial generation.  From the report:  “…younger Americans are also more likely than older adults to have read at least one book in [the past year] (88% vs 79%).”  Hooray!  Another big splash came with the IMLS’s report titled Learning Labs in Libraries and Museums: Transformative Spaces for Teens.   I recently wrote about the new Aspen Report here.  These reports each focus on the importance of community engagement and transforming our institutions into new models of library service excellence.  Lots of great food for thought!

The Common Core
With the Common Core State Standards now in place in the majority of US states, how can library workers serving youth and teens support our partners and contacts in local schools, as well as help out students and their parents?  This question was a highlight of 2014, eliciting a wide variety of articles (1, 2), toolkits and trainings (1, 2.)  Have you prepared for and encountered ways to support the CC?  Let us know in the comments.

After gathering steam (hah!) in 2013, 2014 felt like the year that maker and STEM culture were part of mainstream discussions for library staff.  Beyond the library literature, Pinterest is a fun way to track and share different STEM/STEAM/make programming, reading, and space ideas to your workplace.  Check out this results page for “makerspace library.”

How did this campaign, a highly visible social media trend, get its start?  Check out this FAQ to learn about the origin and purpose behind the movement.  An Indiegogo fundraising effort had great success; the funds raised allow WNDB team members to create outreach programs, partner with other literacy organizations, and support diverse authors.

Crisis Situations and Libraries
In the midst of the Ferguson protests, the story of the town’s library as a community support center and safe haven in time of crisis went viral. Ferguson Library Director Scott Bonner said:  “During difficult times, the library is a quiet oasis where we can catch our breath, learn, and think about what to do next.”  On an international scale, stories are coming from Ukraine about the role of their libraries during a time of violence and instability.  If we can be there for our communities in distress, those communities can then be there for us; for example, destroyed and damaged libraries coming back stronger in the wake of tremendous storms.

What themes and trends impacted your work in 2014?  Do you have predictions for what’s to come in 2015?  Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization with the mission to “foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues.”  The Communications and Society Program  within Aspen dedicates its work to activities that “…focus on issues of open and innovative governance, public diplomacy, institutional innovation, broadband and spectrum management, as well as the future of content, issues of race and diversity, and the free flow of digital goods, services and ideas across borders.”  Among the current projects of the C & S program is the Dialogue on Public Libraries.  Their October 2014 report, titled Rising to the Challenge: Re-envisioning Public Libraries, addresses the need to transform public libraries in the digital age.  The Aspen Report uses three “key assets” to shape the information and recommendations: people, place and platform.  On the heels of a year where YALSA introduced The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action, I was curious to see if and where these two reports overlap in their visions.

The Aspen Report’s first key asset, The Library as People, focuses on building community relationships and cashing in on the “human capital” of the population that any given library serves. Library staff are encouraged to use outcomes-based reporting, to build strong relationships with those who create and provide content, and to act as navigators rather than gatekeepers.  The report refers to an “entrepreneurial learner,” one who is capable of “finding resources anywhere and using them to read the world and teach themselves.”  This reflects the paradigm change presented in YALSA’s report: moving toward a kitchen-type model where library staff can mix resources “in order to empower teens to build skills, develop understanding, create and share, and overcome adversity.”

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After the publication of a recent School Library Journal article, I had the pleasure of speaking with three members of ALA’s REFORMA about the group’s Children in Crisis Project.’  Oralia Garza de Cortes and Patrick Sullivan spearheaded the project and we were also joined by Silvia Cisneros, current REFORMA President.’  Cisneros had made a donation drop off at the McAllen, TX detention center on September 10th.

Silvia Cisneros

Silvia Cisneros with donation drop off at McAllen.’

I asked the trio about how easy is it to make a donation or offer support to the refugee children being held in these centers.’  All of them very quickly noted the level of difficulty; contracted defense workers will not allow the general public any individual contact with the children.’  Health and Human Services are allowed to accept two types of donations: blankets and books.’  As library workers we know the benefit of personal touch, but at the centers this is not an option.’  Cisneros notes that during her drop-off visit she delivered 225 books and these were received by Border Patrol Processing. ‘ ‘ A second donation drop-off occurred on October 17th at the Karnes City, TX distribution center.

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Creating and sustaining a partnership between your library and another community organization can be a feather in your professional cap; both the entities meet their goals, you get to shine in the eyes of administrators, and future possibilities seem endless.’  Then…Something changes.’  Communication fades.’  The project that went so smoothly one week/month/year ago seems to suddenly be covered in obstacles.’  Cue hair-tearing and a bevy of emotions connected to what we think should be happening.’  Should I have written more email?’  Less email?’  Should I have set different goals?’  Should I just wait and see if things get better?

Regardless of the answers to these questions, guilt or fear of failure needn’t keep you from an eyes-wide-open assessment that could lead to the end of the partnership or project.’  Linda Braun’s recent YALSA Blog article on how to fail offers particular insight: “…at the end of the process look at what worked and didn’t work and then decide next steps. What were you looking for in the partnership and did you achieve that – why/why not?”

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With the end of summer reading and learning programs on the horizon, thoughts turn to the quickly approaching school year (perhaps with a well-earned vacation in between…). ‘ For front-line public librarians, it’s a new year full of opportunities to make connections with area school library staff. ‘ Perhaps you’ve tried this type of outreach in the past with minimal success; maybe there’s been a staffing change at a school where you’ve had a continuous presence but now you’re not sure how things will go. ‘ If you’re lucky enough to have excellent relationships that will pick up right where you left off…well, leave us your advice in the comments!

This is not a time to be retreating, this is a time to sell your incredible and unique services and support for both students and teachers. ‘ Stepping outside your comfort zone and making a tough cold call, email, or in-person visit can yield amazing results. ‘ Here are some ideas on how you could get started:

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In these days of budget cuts and less than optimal school libraries and school library staffing, what can a public library system do to help?’  Many of us front-line youth and teen services librarians work diligently to make and foster connections with teachers, administrators, and school media specialists with varying degrees of success.’  Nearly ten years ago in 2005, my employer, Deschutes Public Library (DPL) ,was ready to take the next step: enter Library Linx.

As stated on DPL’s website,

“Library Linx is a partnership between Deschutes County schools and Deschutes Public Library. It provides the opportunity for students and teachers to place holds on public library materials and have the materials delivered to their school. The materials are then checked out in the school’s media center by the media manager/specialist. It creates library users out of students who might not otherwise be able to visit a public library, and allows for teachers to have quick and easy access to materials that supplement what they have at school.”

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