In the last month, I’ve visited libraries in CA, MA, and WA in my workshop travels. Everywhere I go, I make a point of checking out the teen area. What does it mean when your teen area is located remotely–in the back corner, say–and there are no signs to indicate where is it?

At one library that is a unique public and academic building on the campus of a university, I looked on three floors for the YA area. Finally, I went to one of several information desks and asked (much like a regular patron, I hate to admit helplessness).

“Where is the young adult area?” I inquired.

“Oh, the teen area?” clarified the staff member behind the desk.
“Yes!” I said.
“Hm. I’m not sure…” responded the man. At my look of incredulity, the staff person explained that he was a university librarian.
“Maybe it says on the website?” he suggested, and opened the library’s homepage.

The fancy spin-around monitor revealed a link for teens on the webpage (note: if you don’t have a link to information about teen services on your webpage, this is another message that they don’t matter–your webspace is an extension of your facilities) but nothing about the space. I thanked him and went to the children’s room. Of course, the staff there knew where the teen area is. Once I found it, it was a nice space, if small (compared to the footprint of the whole library, and compared proportionally to the children’s room) and unstaffed. A sign indicated patrons should to go to the reference desk for assistance, which is fine, but again… another message that teens are not important enough to warrant a full time staff member – or even one dedicated to their space in the afterschool hours.

Do you have a YA space? How easy is it for teens to locate? Is there a web presence for teens?

Please share links to photos or websites in the comments field!

On February 15, 2006 at 6 p.m. SL (9 EST) the ALA Washington Office will hold it’s first event in Second Life, a 3-D virtual world. R. David Lankes from Syracuse University will give a presentation on a paper
commissioned by the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) entitled “Participatory Networks: Libraries as Conversation”, the paper that David presented this paper at the Midwinter Meetings.

OITP commissioned this paper from the Information Institute at Syracuse in an effort to provide an understanding of intersection of libraries and Web 2.0. This lecture will be an opportunity for everyone to hear what web 2.0 is and how they can use this new technology to engage their patrons.

The ALA Washington Office is pleased to be able to reach out to members, librarians and library supporters via this new communications medium. Represented by avatars, librarians from around the world will be able to view this presentation from the comfort of their homes or offices. The presentation will be held at the Info Island Amphitheater. Please let OITP’s Mark Bard (AKA Galen Noltenius in SL) know if you need a teleport to the amphitheater.

To create a free Second Life account to view this event, please go to

David’s paper can be found at

As I flew into Seattle today I had a conversation with the gentleman seated next to me. He is a native of Seattle, business owner, and proud reader, but not library user.
He expressed a concern about the Seattle Public Libraries main building not being functional. He stated that there wasn’t enough room to sit and comfortably read, and the lighting wasn’t conductive to reading either.

This has me thinking about all of the different needs of the libraries different patrons. As stated in the OCLC report about the bash between boomers and gamers, libraries have a demand by two highly diverse groups of patrons.

In 2007, I encourage you to focus on how to provide a balance between the need of both. How can you use technology to enhance your current services? How can you help the older generation access technology, and not be intimidated by it?
Consider how you can divide space to provide both reading quiet areas, and group spaces. Lastly consider how you can use the services you currently do to enhance technology?

Serving teens in libraries has never been more exciting — or challenging! Join in a best practices discussion on Second Life, Thursday, January 25, 5pm slt (PST)at the Open Air Auditorium, InfoIsland I, 130, 98, 272. Library consultant Beth Gallaway / Cerulean Vesperia about how normal brain development impacts teen behavior, Library consultant Linda Braun / Lucy Theeuwes will focus on the literacy aspects of teen behaviors and how some of what teens do that might seem strange is actually fantastic in terms of literacy, and Teen Librarian, Kelly Czarnecki / BlueWings Hayek will talk about ‘creating spaces of their own’-between home and school that can foster building developmental assets and healthy relationships for teens.

While the discussion will take place on the grid for adults in Second Life, it will be streamed in to Teen Second Life on Eye4You Alliance Island. To set up a free account, go here or for more information.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

Say I was 14-15 years old, maybe even a bit older in the late 1990’s and attended Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. Also say I was in Ms.G’s English class and it felt like ‘home’ to me because it was a place where I could be myself and learn about things and people that I would never have had the chance to before. And one day I was told that this class was no longer available to come to because they decided to close their doors so the teachers could do their jobs-which clearly, was to teach and not to babysit.

I think I’d give up hope real fast. Hope for me, my friends, and even Ms. G whose class was the greatest there ever was, because she cared about listening to us and finding out what it is like to live like we do. And once you lose hope, you don’t have much to give to anyone anymore.

Miep Gies in the movie Freedom Writers, based on the true story about
teacher Ms. G (Erin Gruwell) visited the students at Wilson High since they were learning about the Holocaust. She had a line in the movie talking about no matter whether you are a housekeeper or whatever-you always have the opportunity to be a light in a dark room for someone. I think librarians area lot like that.

An excerpt from a diary entry written by teens in The Freedom Writers Diary (Broadway, 2001) reads, “Bad things have happened because people hold back information. Women get beat up by their husbands and no one can help them because they never say who did it. Children get abused and we sometimes think that everything is normal because they act as if there is nothing wrong. The Germans knew what was going on in the camps, but the world found out too late because they held back that information. There are many tragedies that could be stopped if only we spoke up more often. From this point on, I will not be silent.”

See the movie if you can and may it inspire you and others to speak up about whatever it is that we can do to not let teens give up their hope.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

Often I wonder why it’s so hard for adults to talk to teens. Is it that adults are afraid of teens? Is it that adults don’t know what to say to teens? Is it that adults just don’t like teens? Or, is it that adults don’t want to be reminded of their own adolescence so they stay away from teens in order not to remember how hard the teen years were for them?

Different adults would probably answer yes to each of those questions. Some adults probably have completely different reasons for not wanting to (or liking to) talk to teens. But, in a library in which teens are at least a portion of the customer base, then there’s no getting away from it. Adults have to talk to the teens and not only talk to them but listen to what they have to say.

I’m writing about this because I’m always amazed at how often I talk to librarians and they tell me that the program they just had or the service they just implemented didn’t work. I ask them if they talked to the teens about the plan and they usually say something like, “Yes, I told them we were going to do such and such.” Or, “Yes, I asked them if they thought it was a good idea and they said yes.” In most of these cases teens aren’t involved in the actual planning and implementing of the program or service. The idea might come from the teens, the teens might like the idea, but they have not role other than one-time yes-sayer.

The true path to success in teen library services is to talk and listen to the teens before, during, and after planning. We can’t assume that we know what teens want because we see them doing certain things in the library, on TV, or on the street. Teens that are involved in all aspects (and I mean all) of program and service development will have ownership over what goes on in the library and will work hard to make sure library programs are a success.

It’s time to get over fears. It’s time to get over history. It’s time to talk to teens.

Welcome to winter, when it is normally cold outside, people spend more time with families, and businesses make most of their yearly profits. No matter what faith you are, this is the time of year when many people celebrate various holidays.
Libraries are institutions for information. The resources belong to the community and reflect their interests as much as their needs. So how does an informational institution celebrate the holidays? Do you put up a display of all of the various religions balanced to equally represent all faiths, do you decorate with commercial symbols, or do you in fear of offending someone simply ignore the time of year.

This is an issue faced by every library, school, and government organization. Teens are also caught in the midst of this, not allowed to openly celebrate Christmas in many schools but rather it is called Holiday or winter celebrations. Teens are also the ones who will be working in the retail shops as well as possibly requesting all of the latest high tech gadgets as gifts from family and friends.
So what programs do we offer teens at this time of year? What books do we display for them to read? Moreover, how do we develop relationships with our teens?
I encourage you to focus on kindness. This time of year traditionally is about thinking about others. Stores and other commercial organizations made it more over the years, but giving without receiving(little things like time, candy, or trust), thanking and complementing for what they have done, and even smiling are all things you can do outside of a religions faith to celebrate the holidays.
I guarantee you will offend people during the holidays by something you did or didn’t do, and that is the hardest part of this time of year many times. Like with everything else you do in your job your strength will always be the support of your director and board, the reasons behind your policies, and your goodwill towards your community.

I spent all day today at a retreat for Teen Services at my library. Since it is a large system, we make new discoveries each time we are together. Social networking tools such as blogs, Flickr, and wiki’s keep us communicating and sharing. Presentations on gaming, pop culture (I should probably turn on my tv once in awhile for more right answers), book talks, programs, hands on activities, and of course sharing YALSA schwag, were some of the things we did.

What do other libraries do to work together as a system to serve teens better and celebrate the way that you are serving them now? Does your system encourage Teen serving librarians (and other teen serving staff) to be YALSA members?

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

I was surfing the web today and I came across a new search engine, or at least I think it’s a search engine.

Meet Ms. Dewey, the impatient, ego-centric animation that makes user interface seem so one dimensional. The site uses Flash to combine a search for information on the web with a personality.

It may not be that stunning but there is an interface from most Sci Fi television shows, reminding me mostly of Blue from Mutant X. The next set would be to store basic animations and be able to recall the indexed animations with sound, so she could talk.

I do find it interesting that the person who serves as the actress is very ethnicity neutral. She does speak in English, but that is in a sound file that could be re-recorded for any language.

I am always on the lookout for good books to recommend to teens – although I read a lot, there’s no way to keep up with the flood of good books, especially when you think of the broad scope of teen interests and reading levels.

Of course, YALSA does a great job with all of their booklists – I always find great things to recommend (and read!) there. But for a different perspective, it’s a good idea to take a look at things like this – the “Ultimate Teen Reading List”.
Compiled by users and staffers, it’s a broad-based list with lots of nonfiction and adult books with teen appeal. Check it out!

Also in the “recommmended reading” vein (and threatening to make my “to be read” pile downright mountainous) is this list of “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die” Of course, not all of them are teen-friendly, but I’m certainly wishing I’d read a few of them as a teen – maybe then my list wouldn’t be so small! It’s interesting to see what others have read and recommend – if you do a Technorati search for “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die”, you’ll see lots of different responses to the list – great reading for those people like me who are always peering at other people, trying to see what they’re reading.

What do you use to find book recommendations – for yourself and your teens?