Which young people in your community could be most positively impacted by services that your institution currently provides or could provide?

Are there foster youth, homeless teens, teen parents, teens from military families, incarcerated youth, disabled teens, LGBTQ teens, immigrant teens, teen English Language Learners, or teens from various cultural, ethnic, racial or socioeconomic backgrounds in your communities who could really use the library’s help to succeed?

What would that assistance or those services look like?

My YALSA presidential initiative, “3-2-1 IMPACT! Inclusive and Impactful Teen Library Services,” focuses on building the capacity of libraries to plan, deliver and evaluate programs and services for and with underserved teen populations. It is a call to action to all of our members to take a close look at our communities, identify service gaps and address needs by using or contributing to YALSA resources like the Future of Library Services for and with Teens report, Teen Programming Guidelines, our new Teen Programming HQ and more.

Visit YALSA’s wiki to find and share information about serving diverse teens and building cultural competence. For a list of selected resources relating to building inclusive services for and with teens, check out this flyer (.pdf).

Other activities that we hope to work on this year include collecting stories from members who are reaching out to underserved teen populations and sharing best practices and/or advocacy messages, creating spaces or pathways for members who are focusing on the same teen population to connect with one another, providing continuing education to help members reach out to specific populations and also gain leadership and cultural competence skills/knowledge, and compile existing and/or create new resources to help members serve various underserved teen populations.

As YALSA President, I’m excited about harnessing the passion, energy and activism among all of our members to help create positive, inclusive, impactful change for and with the teens that we serve in our communities. I’m looking forward to working with all of you and to the amazing work that we are all going to do together this year.

The American Library Association (ALA) defines outreach as providing library services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented populations, populations like new and non-readers, LBGT teens, teens of color, poor and homeless teens, teens who are incarcerated.  As these populations are often marginalized and underserved it is crucial for libraries to recognize these populations and provide services and programs to them where they are.

The President of YALSA, Candice Mack, is focusing her year as President with an initiative, “3-2-1 Impact: Inclusive and Impactful Teen Services,” which will focus on building the capacity of libraries to plan, deliver and evaluate programs and services for and with underserved teen populations.  Visit YALSA’s wiki to find and share information about serving diverse teens and building cultural competence.

Each month I will profile a teen librarian providing outreach services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented teens.  The purpose is for us to learn, connect, network and share with each other the crucial work we are doing in this area.

Rekha Kuver,Teen and Children’s Services for the Central Library Seattle Public Library

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Teens strive for independence, branching out to explore new interests and behaviors. They depend on their friends for support and feedback, leaving their parents in the dark about what they’re doing, thinking, and feeling.

Teens with disabilities often don’t have the same opportunities to test their independence. They might depend on their parents or caregivers for help getting around or being understood. Their parents might prefer to stay close, in case their teen has a behavior or needs special medical attention. “Inclusion and integration of children with special needs is based upon a strong collaboration between the parent and the librarian” (Feinberg et al. 20-21). Parents know their children best, and librarians can watch that interaction to learn how to effectively work with teens with disabilities in the library.

As a librarian, you can offer inclusive programming that welcomes all teens, with or without disabilities—and also includes parents! By encouraging family fun, you’re getting families to explore and enjoy the library together, regardless of ability level. You’ll also be giving teens with disabilities a place to let loose and be themselves around peers, but to still have their parents close by without looking childish to others.

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The American Library Association (ALA) defines outreach as providing library services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented populations, populations like new and non-readers, LBGT teens, teens of color, poor and homeless teens, teens who are incarcerated.  As these populations are often marginalized and underserved, it is crucial for libraries to recognize these populations and provide services and programs to them where they are.

Each month I will profile a library staff person who’s providing outreach services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented teens.  The purpose is for us to learn, connect, network and share with each other the crucial work we are doing in this area.  For further information and resources on reaching underserved and underrepresented teen populations, visit YALSA’s wiki.
Nick Franklin is the Coordinator of Transitional Services for the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL)  Transitional Services focuses on providing services and programs for people who are homeless, people who are incarcerated and people who were previously incarcerated (re-entry).

J: What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens?

Nick: Outreach Services here at Brooklyn serves a wide range of marginalized men and women of varying ages and we focus on bringing a wide mix of books both hi and lo, adult books that would appeal to teens, urban books both adult and teen and classics to the jails and shelters that we work with.  Brooklyn operates four mobile satellite libraries located at the Brooklyn Detention Complex, OBCC, AMKC and VCBC facilities. BPL partners with The New York Public Library’s Correctional Services to assist their library services at four additional jails. Each week librarians visit these facilities to hand deliver recreational and educational books, magazines and newspapers to hundreds of men and women.  Brooklyn also works closely with New York Public Library (NYPL) in their jail and juvenile justice centers work and we partner on the visits to the juvenile facilities as well.

J: Describe a day in the life of you providing outreach

Nick: If it is a day that I’m going to the jails I wake up early, pack up my two bags filled with books and make sure they are in a clear plastic bag to be seen by security going in, I get on a bus and then transfer to another bus that goes directly to Rikers Island.  The books I bring in are recreational and are most often direct requests from the inmates.  Brooklyn has a program called TeleStory where dads who are in Rikers can read stories or have their children read stories to them through a live video feed set up in the Central Library to a feed at Rikers, so I will also bring in children’s books for some of those dads.  I will spend about 3 hours a week when I go to Rikers sharing the books and engaging with the inmates.  Some of the inmates we serve are teens and also through our work with NYPL we work with teens in Passages Academy.  Passages provides educational instruction and counseling to teens ages 18 and younger in secure and non-secure placement settings.  If it’s a different day I may be meeting with shelter organizations to talk about setting up mini libraries in their shelters and going there to stock the books and meet and engage with families and teens in these shelters.  One of the big things we do when we do this outreach work is collaborate with the Brooklyn Public Library librarians in the neighborhoods of the shelters we are working with and have those librarians come out for visits to further connect the families to their libraries.  It’s important for the families to have a face they meet that they will then see in their library.  We are also doing the summer reading program in the shelters we work directly with.  Another thing BPL is doing is training the public services staff to understand sociological ramifications of poverty, incarceration and homelessness so we as a system can better understand and serve these populations.  We work with the Center for Urban Community Services to help provide some of these trainings, they are a team of social workers that are really able to provide context and a comprehensive understanding of the ramifications of homelessness and incarceration.

J: What resources would you recommend for someone new to outreach to look for ideas for inspiration as well as best practices?

Nick: Working in New York City I feel my resources are very New Yorkcentric.  One of the big ones I use frequently is the New York Connections Guide and it focuses on providing a guide for formerly incarcerated people in New York City.  Another is the new book by Marybeth Zeman Tales of Jailhouse Librarian and the other is the New York Reentry Education Network

J: What are some of your favorite things you have heard from teens while providing outreach services?

Nick: It is always so great to hear people say they are lifelong library users and they are so happy to see me and the other librarians providing these services.  It’s also great to hear someone learn about all the great things the library has and now that person wants to be a regular library user.  I’ve heard things like “seeing you is the highlight of my week” “I have been counting down the days till I see the library next”.  Another has been when guys will have their friends go in line to get them more books and those friends see things they want to read.

Nick

The American Library Association (ALA) defines outreach as providing library services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented populations, populations like new and non-readers, LBGT teens, teens of color, poor and homeless teens, teens who are incarcerated.  As these populations are often marginalized and underserved it is crucial for libraries to recognize these populations and provide services and programs to them where they are.

Each month I will profile a teen librarian providing outreach services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented teens.  The purpose is for us to learn, connect, network and share with each other the crucial work we are doing in this area.

Amanda Bressler is the Youth Outreach Librarian for the Boston Public Library.  Amanda provides outreach to youth; children and teens for the Boston Public Library system.

  1. What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens?

I work primarily with two organizations that serve teens; an alternative high school for teens in drug and alcohol recovery called Ostiguy High School and the agency Department of Youth Services (DYS) that serves teens who are incarcerated in seven units in the Metro Boston region.  I’ve also begun a relationship with a program at Children’s Hospital called the Young Parents Program that serves young parents and their children, but this is still forming.  For DYS and Ostiguy the program is similar; I provide monthly outreach by bringing in a collection of high interest and wide variety of books, booktalk them to engage with the teens and talk about library services and programs for teens in the Boston Public Library locations.  We also provide supplemental or one off programs with the teens like last year the author Patrick Jones came and spoke to three of the DYS units about his books and his writing process.  The library purchased books for the teens participating in the visits so they had read one of his books and then they were able to ask him questions.  Each year we also provide a summer reading program for teens in DYS to read a book and write a review and they can receive a movie pass.  For the Young Parents Program it’s structured differently; it’s a clinic setting and I bring in free children’s and teen books and give them away to the young parents and kids, provide library card signups and try and connect them to library programs and services in their neighborhoods.  As this is a newish program I’m still in the process of developing this relationship.

  1. Describe a day in the life of you providing outreach-

There really isn’t an average day.  There is a lot of time that is spent cultivating the list of books I bring into DYS and Ostiguy each month, I want to bring in books the teens want and provide them with a variety.  I spend time prepping for those visits by writing booktalks and then also doing the backend stuff like checking the books out, making sure those accounts are updated.  I also try and connect with outside organizations and foster those relationships whether it’s a connection for the library as a system-wide connection or I may be connecting the organization to a branch library.  Then I’m out in the community, connecting with those organizations and those teens.  For each of these organizations I meet with them each month.

  1. What resources would you recommend for someone new to outreach to look for ideas for inspiration as well as best practices? I follow The Outreach Librarian blog which is a mix of public and academic library outreach. I also like to read books about underserved populations, not necessarily library related, so that I can learn more about those populations and their needs. Recently I have read a couple of Nell Bernstein’s books about incarceration – Burning Down the House and All Alone in the World – as well as True Notebooks by Mark Salzman about a teacher volunteering in a juvenile detention center. Knowing the populations you serve and the adversity they face can help you serve them better, and I find that these stories inspire me in my outreach work.  I would also say that there isn’t enough written about outreach services.  I also try and consult other librarians doing this type of work.
  1. What are some of your favorite things you have heard from teens while providing outreach services? We do a survey each year for the teens in DYS to get direct input from them what they think of the booktalks and the books we bring in for them.  Some of the feedback from the teens has been really helpful in shaping the booktalks as well as the type of books we bring in.  I think a lot of what I have heard from teens has been things like they didn’t know the library provided services like this or they are extremely grateful for the library providing them with the books they want.

Amanda DYS

 

Whether you know the teens that frequent your library or not, disabilities can be hard to see. If you’re lucky, teens and their parents may be open about disabilities and how you can help them get the most out of their library experience. And if you’re not lucky, well, sometimes you’ll deal with behaviors or unsatisfying encounters that make you wonder if you helped the patron at all. Thankfully, making your summer reading activities seem inviting to teens with disabilities is easy to do. With just a few tweaks to what you already have in place, your program can be inclusive! This way, it doesn’t matter if you know what disabilities you’re dealing with, or if you’re just taking a wild guess. Check out these tips, and share your ideas and notes on what works and what doesn’t in the comments.

  1. Have a visual sign-in sheet.

Hang a poster in a prominent place that shows teens what to do to sign up for summer reading. List the steps in simple terms, like: wait for the librarian; sign your name; pick your challenge. Have visual aids printed next to each step, like a photo of the librarian in charge of summer reading and a pencil signing on the line. Make a similar poster to show how to log weekly progress. This will help teens with disabilities be independent when they come to the library to participate, rather than feeling like they always have to ask for help.

  1. Divide tasks by reading challenge rather than by age.

Instead of having elementary aged kids sign up for a certain challenge, and having teens sign up for another, let everyone pick their own challenge. Read three books a week, read for an hour a week, listen to two audiobooks a week— the possibilities are endless! This empowers teens with disabilities to challenge themselves on their levels, and also shows other patrons that reading can take on a variety of appearances!

  1. Expand your program to be a learning challenge.

Instead of a straightforward summer reading program, some libraries are hosting summer learning challenges by partnering with city attractions to promote learning and interaction all summer. Some learning challenges have a theme, like Explore & Roar at Chicago Public Library focusing on animals and the environment. Reading is still important, and patrons can read anything they want, but there is also an aspect of taking that knowledge and discovering things in the city’s museums, zoos, and historical sites. The City of Memphis offers free days to many city attractions to encourage involvement with the summer library program Explore Memphis. All of these experiences can tie back in with Makerspace programs at the library or other community centers.

  1. Collaborate with the school system.

Reach out to the school system, especially the special education department, and find out what books are required reading for the upcoming school year. Make sure your library has plenty of copies available, and ask how you can make this reading easier on students with disabilities. The library could host a book club meeting during summer reading to talk about one of the required texts, or plan a program based on a book or elements from the story. Reading the book in advance and being able to talk about it with others or relate to it in another way could help teens with disabilities stay on track in the upcoming school year.

  1. Make your program known.

After your library collaborates with the school system, make sure promotional materials are handed out to students before the school year ends. Make it clear that everyone is welcome to participate in summer reading so the special education teachers and students know they should join in! Also consider sending promotional materials to summer camps for teens with disabilities, therapy centers, and intramural teams, as well as any day centers for people with disabilities in your area.

  1. Encourage teen volunteers.

When teens are signing up for summer reading, ask if they’d like to volunteer to help with any aspect of the program. (This goes for teens with or without disabilities!) Teens can help their peers sign in or update their progress. Teens with disabilities might not want to be in the spotlight, so they can work behind the scenes, helping set up for programs or cleaning up after parties.

  1. Work in small groups.

A lot of Makerspace activities are individualized, but can easily be adapted to work in small groups. A teen with disabilities who might not be able to make something on their own can be part of a team and still participate. Break the activity into steps where the team has to plan their project before they build it, and then can present it to the entire group. Circulate often so you can offer help to everyone, without seeming to focus on the teens with disabilities, while making sure they know you’re available if they need you, and that it’s ok to get help. Check out YALSA’s Maker & DIY Programs for ideas.

  1. Eliminate distractions.

Let’s be honest, it’s easy to get distracted regardless of your age or attention span! Depending on their disabilities, some teens may get more distracted than others, and some distractions can quickly lead to disruptive behaviors. Teens with autism might not be able to focus on spoken words if there is also music playing, even if others just consider it background music. It can also be distracting to hand out too many items at the same time, or give instructions all at once. Start by talking slowly and outlining what’s going to happen at the event; it’s helpful to make visual charts, as mentioned in the first tip! This way teens know what’s going on and in what order, and can look back to it often, without interrupting the program flow.

  1. Schedule breaks.

Even if the program doesn’t seem long, taking a few short breaks will help everyone stay focused. Put these on the schedule so attendees will know they when they can go to the bathroom or grab a drink without having to interrupt the program. These breaks can also give teens with disabilities time to process what they’ve done and prepare for what’s coming next. It’s also a good time for you to check in with them and make sure everything’s ok, and see if anything can be done to help them engage more easily.

  1. Roll with the punches.

We know that nothing ever goes according to plan, but when you’re including teens with disabilities, things could get derailed easily. Instead of throwing away your whole schedule, make sure you have substitutes for each part of the program, and even changes you can make individually for the teen who needs a little help. If the music is too distracting, turn it off, even if it means scrapping a part of the event that involved dancing. If the art supplies are too messy, have some alternatives (or even gloves!) so all teens can be involved in the program in their own way. It can be a bit tricky when you’re adapting a specific activity for teens with disabilities: you don’t want to seem like a pushover, but you do want to be accommodating and helpful. For more information on this balance, check out YALSA’s resources on Serving Disabled Teens.

 

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between May 1 and 7 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter. Read More →

Girlvolution_Web LogoLast spring, a couple of coworkers and I did some outreach at an event called Girlvolution. It was a completely youth-led conference, with sessions on social justice issues ranging from foster care reform to sexual identity. The teens leading each session mixed statistical and factual information with their own perspectives and experiences.

It was the best conference I had ever been to. I was blown away by how poised, informed, and prepared the youth were. But I wondered: how did they do their research? Had they been visiting our libraries every year without us even knowing it?

Our Youth and Family Learning Manager looked into it and found out that this was exactly the case. Although Powerful Voices (the organization that hosts Girlvolution)  had a “Library Day” as part of their program each year, the library had not been providing direct support.

PV

What an awesome organization.

So this year, we collaborated. My coworkers and I met with their staff to hear more about their organization’s mission and goals, and to learn how we could help. We arranged for me to visit Powerful Voices on a Thursday afternoon a couple of weeks ago to talk to the youth and their adult allies (mentors) about research. It was a great conversation about everything from whether all the world’s information is available on Google (heck no) to evaluating resources.

PV survey results

Results of a survey asking participants to rate the effectiveness of Library Research Day.

That Saturday, the girls and their allies all came to the library. We settled down in the computer lab and got SERIOUS about research. I showed them how to find books in our catalog, and how to decode Dewey. We dug into databases to find the most up-to-date information and the best statistics. We ended the day with pizza, which is never a bad idea.

Powerful Voices ends their sessions with a gratitude circle. That Saturday, many youth and adults mentioned finding out about all the great resources the library has to offer, and how helpful librarians can be. I was grateful for all I learned from them, and to be part of the support network for such talented and engaged young women.

They were pretty excited about the new library.

They were pretty excited about the new library.

For the past six months or so, my fellow teen services librarian and I have been building a partnership with a local drop-in center for homeless youth. We began by meeting with staff several times and taking a tour of their facility to get a better sense of what they do, and how we could help. Then we moved into outreach efforts, like tabling at an on-site job fair. We even revamped their on-site library.  Read More →

“Mrs. Thompson, why we only got two Bluford High books?”  “We need more manga.”  “I like that Sharon Draper lady.  We got anymore of her books?”  These were just a few of the questions and statements directed at me about our high school media center’s collection when I became a media specialist.  Through day-to-day direct observation and through results of a student survey, I quickly realized areas of our collection that were being underserved – manga and urban fiction.  There were groups of students who were all clamoring for the same few titles that we had of a certain genre or series and our “hold lists” were growing longer by the day.

Several reasons may attribute to underserved groups in a library program.  Community dynamics change.  Our small suburban school system has seen tremendous growth in the 18 years that I have been here – 400% growth.  That translates into a graduating class of 78 in 1998 to a graduating class of 478 in 2015.  In the same time period, our minority population grew from 5% to 30%.  Our media center’s collection does not reflect this growth.  Another reason for underserved groups is the rapid growth in new styles of writing, like manga.  It can be difficult to know whether new styles of writing are going to be accepted by your patrons, and we hate to waste money on books that are just going to sit on the shelves.  We started out with three different manga series to test the waters.  The popularity of these titles exploded!  They rarely made it back onto the shelves as students would grab them from the “re-shelf” cart as soon as they were checked in.  They also became our most stolen titles!  (We do not currently have a book security system.)  There were titles that our students desperately wanted to read, so why wouldn’t I listen to them to continue to foster their love of reading.

As a reader, I cannot stand to read things in a series out of order.  Many of my students are the same way.  Why did we only have some of the Bluford High series?  Why were #1, 4, 6-8 of Full Metal Alchemist missing?  Our database showed that we had owned, at one point, #1-15 of the manga series BlackCat, but several of the titles were now marked “Lost”.  I set filling in the gaps of the asked about series as my first goal in strengthening our collection for our underserved patrons.  In the urban fiction section, we went from two Sharon Draper titles to all 10 of her young adult titles.  We were also able to fill in the missing Bluford High titles, which serve our urban fiction fans as well as our Hi/Lo students.  For the manga patrons, we filled in all of the holes in the series we already had and aimed to include four new series a year.

Another strategy for building our collection for these underserved populations was to get input from the students.  In adding more manga, we allowed the students who were most interested in these series to help us with the selection of new titles.  They perused catalogs and looked online for reviews and suitable content (as some manga is aimed at a more adult audience). My African-American girls, who were devouring the urban fiction, asked about adding the Drama High series.  They loved looking for new authors to tell me about as well.  With the addition of the new titles, plus the marketing of the items through displays, our circulation increased 67% in one year!  Allowing students to assist in making our collection stronger for them gave them a sense of ownership and pride in our media program.

YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines states that librarians should “create programming that reflects the needs and identities of all teens in the community.”  Many media centers and libraries run into the problem of having an underserved population, and it is the duty of the librarian to recognize the needs of all patrons and work to strengthen the weak areas.  Investigate your collection for missing titles and allow your teens input.  These practices can go a long way in reflecting the needs of the communities we serve.