As a high school librarian, I am constantly tasked incorporating multiple literacies into my instruction. However, it is easy to incorporate technology into instruction, but it is hard to use technology to enhance teaching, collaborating, creating and learning. Sometimes large sheets of butcher paper with colored markers aid collaboration more than a Google Doc.

Library staff have understood this concept for decades. Ever since the first public libraries housed the first publicly available computers, our profession has known how much potential technology holds when planning programming and literacy instruction and learning. When planning an author visit (virtual or in-person), program, maker space, it is important to identify how and why technology will increase teen engagement and experience. Don’t just ask yourself how the technology works and how to troubleshoot. Ask what the teen encounter will entail. What will teens take away? Will it just be a neat 3-D printer model, or will it be something more?

For more information on technology and programming and media literacies, please see the STEM Programming Toolkit,  Making in the Library Toolkit, and

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Access. Access to space. Access to resources. Access to community. Access to supportive mentors and adults. Access to services that aid creation and empowerment.

I think about access a lot in my job. I worry about lack of access via cluttered shelves and websites, and wonder how much weeding and simplifying is too much. I worry about inaccessibility of the space due to the archaic and un-relatable rules that govern the space. I worry about access when adult needs and perspectives are weighted more heavily than that of teens. I worry about access when trying to create circulation rules for an expensive and highly desirable addition to the library (kindle, iPad, etc.). I worry about access whenever I read a new article about the desk-less librarian. Am I really accessible when I spend most of my visible time behind a circulation/reference desk? I worry about access every time other responsibilities put my cataloging duties on the back burner (yes, I catalog. A lot.). I worry about access even more whenever I hear of more and more library staff dismissing cataloging as an unnecessary endeavor. I worry about access whenever I adopt a disciplinary role. Will teens still seek out me and the library’s services after being disciplined? I worry about access when a creative space – whether a high-end makerspace or basic crafting supplies – is only available or “open” during limited time frames. I worry about access whenever we don’t order the 800th dystopian series because we have too many dystopian series and need to de-clutter the shelves…to create more access!

I doubt I am the only one with these worries, and I’m sure many library staff have many more access-related worries than the ones listed above. I know I do. For me, everything comes back to access. I do not despair. The YALSA Future’s Report is really about one thing – access. Increasing quantity and improving quality of access for teens in libraries. This week, I needed inspiration in access. The Instagram posts this week reflect access in all its forms, from dedicated teen space in a public library, to Skype sessions with an author in a school library. From teen friendly library rules to library staff actively participating in the teen community they serve. Sometimes access is as simple as letting teens know that you like to read the same books that they like to read. Regardless, I hope you are inspired to think of makerspaces, collection development, social media efforts, displays, programming, and more in terms of access. Sometimes, it is hard to forget.

For more information, please see ASCLA’s Equity of Access and other documents under the ACCESS TO INFORMATION header on YALSA’s Professional Tools web page.

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Recently, myself and the other library staff at my school are struggling with space allocation. We have space – through weeding, we are even creating space. So, no, having space is not the issue. The upstairs level of our library contains fiction, reference, big tables, some comfy chairs, and is designated for quiet (emphasis on *quiet*) collaboration. The lower level contains non-fiction, DVDs, big tables, more comfy seating, several study carrels, some study rooms, the classroom, and is designated for silent (the old-fashioned kind) study.

Our problem is the use of our library space.

We are slowly building a makerspace, but the only area that “flows” is an alcove on our lower (SILENT) level. Right now, participation is low and noise has not been an issue. As we add more exciting and collaborative materials and programs, how do we reconcile the opposing uses of the space? Myself and my co-workers have spun our wheels on this dilemma for months. We alternate between moving the makerspace upstairs (not as conducive to the layout), to purchasing a free standing partition that will dull the noise and limit its reach into the silent space.

For a public librarian working with teens, space issues might amount to “there isn’t a teen space”, or “we share the space with the children’s section”, or “we share the space with the adult section”. Many of us were not involved in the design and layout of our library facilities and could easily supply a laundry list of space changes we would make. Instead, we work within the space and budget that is available. For broader ideas, I often turn to formal sources like YALSA’s Teen Space Guidelines, as well as informal sources like Pinterest searches and boards. Any library staff working with teens knows that “makerspace” is really just an umbrella term for the programming goals and ideas we have implemented years. The great thing about this comprehensive term is the standardization of language, which of course leads to easier searching and more programming and space resources (such as YALSA’s Making in the Library Toolkit).

What are the teen space challenges you face in your library? What are some creative solutions you can share with others? Please comment below!

For more information on the future of library spaces, please check out the Shift for Libraries and Teen Services section of the Futures report.

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A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.
At the start of the 2015/16 academic year, my library committed to the creation of a Makerspace. This fall we catered to a very specific clientele – we serve as the satellite work space for our Science Olympiad team (the team has outgrown their official workspace over the past few years). As that program grew, myself and my fellow librarians started investigating other low-investment activities intended to attract a wider variety of students. We settled on an origami program, and with the upcoming holiday season, we decided to incorporate a festive twist. Instead of displaying origami on shelves or the circulation desk counter, we purchased an inexpensive, pre-lit, fake white tree. Standing about 3.5 feet tall, our students (and teachers!) quickly filled the tree with colorful origami creations. The circulation desk did end up with its fair share of decorations when the the tree became too full.
Several students, teachers, and administrators commented on the stress-relieving benefit of the program, and many simply loved contributing to the festive tree! Last week, Meaghan Darling wrote about the Finals Fairy in academic libraries. Without meaning to, my library ended up providing a source of stress-relief  during not only the intense end-of-term crush, but also the holidays. We try to remember that we serve faculty and staff just as much as students, and the holiday season can be enormously stressful for many adults. We hope the appeal will remain after the holidays, particularly with upcoming Term 1 exams.
Have you found duel benefits in programming that coincides with exams and the holidays? Are you able to put a holiday twist on programming during December, or is this something your library avoids? Please share in the comments below!

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Unsurprisingly, this month’s searches of #yalibrarian, #schoollibrarian, and #teenlit turn up two main themes: Teen Read Week and Halloween. I sought a sub-theme that could neatly demonstrate passive programming, but it felt forced. Instead of fabricating a unifying theme of the week, I decided to zoom out and identify some October trends.

  • Displays are easy and plentiful in October

Between Teen Read Week and Halloween, teen services librarians and library workers easily come up with some of the most creative displays of the year. Fall is also a prevalant theme. Additionally, book awards begin announcing finalists (hello National Book Awards) that can be incorporated into displays.

  • Book talks – also easy

“Easy” meaning “lots of bookish ideas to work with”. (If you are like me and get stage fright, book talks are always a *gulp* moment and never “easy”.) Summer blockbusters are finished and we are approaching the season of franchise and Oscar-bait films. Considering how many book-to-film adaptations just left theaters, are in theaters, or coming-soon, librarians and library workers are more likely to find a common ground with teens. I tried pushing The Martian several times in the past, with marginal success. Now, it can’t stay on the shelf.

  • Passive and active programming – plenty of options for both

The school I work for does not allow for tons of “active” programming time. There are challenging months that don’t mesh well with passive programs. However, the features of October mentioned above allow for creative passive programming ideas. If you are a school librarian with little time for active programming, or October is too busy for involved programs, peruse the Instagram posts below for excellent passive program ideas.

I hope your October was busy and fun. Please share your programs and book displays/talks below!

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A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

As a school librarian, I cannot resist the opportunity to feature a “snapshot” of school libraries across the country in the midst of the opening weeks of the 2015/16 school year. I remain hopeful that this will be an exciting year for school libraries. This week’s storify montage features makerspaces, exciting academic tech, and various types of literacies (research, reading, digital, media, etc.). Exploring what other school librarians are up to can help inform your own 2015/16 school year goals. Do you want to take your makerspace to the next level? Establish more collaborative relationships with teachers? Incorporate yourself into an oft elusive discipline? Up fiction reading? Amp up your book club? Revitalize research literacy instruction? Establish self-checkout? Create a lego wall?

Sometimes it’s hard to see the opportunities available in the school library because of budget and staffing issues; however, I challenge all school librarians (including myself) to choose a small innovation that can be achieved regardless of available money, time, or man power. If you need ideas, check out some of these resources to get started: AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning and Maker Ed Tools & Materials. Please leave your ideas, goals, and questions in the comments. And of course, good luck this year!

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A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

While the most popular of public library summer programs, Summer Reading/Learning is only one of many activities that benefits and serves teen communities. Tapping into the various motivations within your own teen community are crucial to creating and implementing a well-received passive or active teen program. Are there other creative and publicly available spaces in your community, or does your library provide the only opportunity for free creative exploration? Does your library serve teens who seek to advance themselves academically during the summer months? Is there an independent maker space in your town or city, or is the library the sole source of maker activities? Do the teens in your community attend magnet schools or schools with advanced tech programs? Do those schools offer opportunities for summer tech projects, or does the library have a unique opportunity to provide the space and tools for coding, movie-making, and more? Exploring what teens already have free access to (and use!) and identifying what service and material/supply vacuums exist in your wider community will teen services librarians create and implement effective programming.

What research do you do before implementing a new program or innovating an existing program? Do you research other offerings in your town/city to prevent overlap or identify potential collaborative opportunities? How does the summer closure of schools affect programming opportunities in your pulic library? Please discuss in the comments below!

For more information, please see the Summer Reading/Learning section of the YALSA wiki, as well as the YALSA Teen Programming Guidelines.

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A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

During the summer months, some librarians and library workers experience a lull or even an entire “break” (I use the word loosely, fellow school librarians); however, many teen services librarians are in the middle of a whirlwind of programming. It would be appropriate to save the summer reading wrap-up for the end of the summer, but this is a great time to check-in with programs and other services. If you work with teens during the summer months, how do you maintain your enthusiasm for programming? How have teens responded to non-summer reading programs and events? Please share tales of your own programs – successes and failures, highlights and lowlights – in the comments below!

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A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

My school celebrates the conclusion of another school year with graduation tomorrow (by the time this is posted, it will be “last Friday”!). We have been celebrating our teens all week with awards, farewells, yearbooks, and more. Since I am in the celebratory mood, I thought it would be appropriate to close the academic calendar with a celebration of teen contribution to their libraries. We know that teens contribute in a myriad ways, but one of my personal favorites is with artwork and crafts. Nothing livens up a school library or teen section of the public library more than art created by the very teens we serve.

How is teen art incorporated into your space? Is it commissioned through official programs and their participants, or is it a casual collection of work given by various teens? If you are looking for new ways to incorporate teen art into your space, look at the ‘grams below for ideas and inspiration. If you have a fun and creative way to get teens (and their art!) into the library, please share in the comments!

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When my supervisor set me the task of planning and developing a makerspace for our library, panic set in immediately. I am a school librarian at a relatively well-known independent school in New England. While my school has successfully turned out students with the ability to think and create creatively and critically for decades, it is sometimes slow to adopt major innovations. And why should it? Why mess with a formula that works? Myself and my fellow librarians know the formula provides a sound foundation for our students’ learning; however, we think it is time to replace the roof and the windows (so to speak).

I began with the research, of course. I put together a Google Doc of all the major articles and blog posts I could find about makerspaces in libraries, and specifically school libraries. I re-visited Buffy Hamilton’s fantastic series of posts on the topic, which led me down the rabbit hole to a wealth of resources I am still shifting through. My panic quickly turned to excitement as I encountered idea after idea, happily looking through programs for high school and middle school students (we serve grades 7-12). I am in the middle of distilling the research and ideas down to a single page document that will convey the goal and purpose of a makerspace in my school library. Although I have had conversations with my supervisor and a couple of teachers, we have yet to approach our tech department or administrators. When we do reach that stage, I don’t want to present something overly complex (especially since makerspaces change and adapt so quickly), and would rather distribute a “facts and goals sheet” that gets to the point quickly.

I firmly believe that it is best to see something in action whenever possible. My supervisor is planning a visit to one of our peer schools to see how they designed their makerspace and how it is being incorporated into the school’s curriculum. The latter is our biggest concern – design and equipment is the exciting part – and we only have a few leads so far. Right now, our firmest plan is supporting and hosting the Hour of Code during National CS EdWeek from December 7 – 13. We also feel confident that we can reasonably convince our 7th and 8th grade Science teachers to incorporate maker projects into their curriculum, as it is already hands-on and full of projects. The final lead is an English teacher who hopes to make writing for the online sphere a core component of her writing-based 11th grade course. While this will not use “maker” equipment, we feel this project could fuse collaboration and creativity and be considered a maker-like course unit.

At this time, everything feels thready and disconnected. I am having a hard time visualizing the future of our makerspace and how it can meaningfully impact the curriculum at my school. For better or for worse, independent schools do not align with common core standards and curriculum development is not nearly as structured between departments and throughout grades. This feature of my school is simultaneously freeing and frustrating – how can we garner collaborative support when there is no standard or requirement that students learn these skills? Is this better, as we can experiment and shrug off failure more easily? Will we even find teachers interested enough to experiment? Will students want to film their stop-motion animation videos in front of our planned green screen, or would they rather retreat to the familiar (yet ill-equipped) media lab in the arts department?

Does your school library have a makerspace? What was the most frustrating part of your planning and implementation? What was the most exciting part? How would you measure your meaningful impact in your school community? Please respond in the comments below!