Written by Julie Stivers

Is there anyone more equipped to meaningfully speak on the concept of inclusive libraries than our students or patrons? Of course not. Of course not. To leverage students’ experience, perspective, and wisdom—and to create student-driven PD—I worked with three of our amazing 8th grade students at Mount Vernon Middle School to develop student-led training for librarians.

In April of this year, Jaida Morris, Cesar Falcon, Jose Gomez and I unveiled our #LibFive concept—Five Key Foundations for Building Inclusive Libraries—at our district conference, WCPSS Convergence. Several weeks ago, I was lucky to share our ideas at ALA’s National Conference during the YALSA Presidential Program, a Panel on Youth Activism.

My students and I continue to work on crafting this professional development, but we’d like to share the work that we’ve already completed in this forum.

Our project was based on an initiative from the Chapel Hill Blue Ribbon Mentors called the Student Six, which is a student led professional development for teachers centering on six culturally sustaining strategies for educators to use to better connect with their students of color. I had seen the wonderful teens and educator Teresa Bunner presenting on the Student Six and each time, a question came up from the audience of mostly librarians. [You can probably guess what it was.] What was your experience with school libraries? Well, the answers were lukewarm at best and none of the teens in attendance had meaningful, positive stories or experiences with their school libraries or librarians. Which was, and is, heartbreaking.
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I love mistakes. They might not be fun to make, but I sure do learn a lot from them. Take the structure of the volunteer program I am overseeing this summer as an example. I ran it how it has been run for years: like a summer employment opportunity. This meant having interviews and orientations at the very beginning of the summer, the goal being to assemble our “staff,” then have them volunteer on a regular basis for the next two and a half months. So far, it has been successful overall, but not nearly as successful as it could be. I have, however, started to notice a marked decline in overall volunteer availability and general work ethic.

As you can see, the total number of volunteer hours per week is steadily declining. Relatedly, we have experienced about a 28% rate of attrition (of 21 volunteers, 6 are no longer able to volunteer). This causes us to ask more of other volunteers or to go without volunteers.

So, what did we do wrong this year? We expected too much, and we didn’t anticipate attrition. Fortunately, we are still receiving plenty of volunteer applications, so finding new volunteers isn’t an issue. However, I believe tweaking the structure of the volunteer program to make it more agile could naturally preclude such issues. Here’s what we will be doing next year:
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YALSA has two new volunteer opportunities that I am looking for members to appoint to.

  1. Taskforce for 2019 Teen Summit: This taskforce will be responsible for planning and implementing a 1-day teen summit in Washington DC in conjunction with ALA Annual. The summit will bring together 50 teens from the greater Washington DC area to learn their vision of how libraries can evolve to better support their needs and interests. More information can be found here: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/Endowments_AN18.pdf Potential tasks for the include:
    1. Identify Washington DC area partners who can help get teen participation
    2.  Select a summit facilitator who can build the agenda for the day and oversee its
      implementation
    3. Select small group facilitators and speakers
    4. Identify an individual(s) to write the report
    5. Select the teen participants and handle transportation logistics
    6. Carry out the event
    7. Send thanks to teens and partners
    8. Write and distribute the report
    9. Implement evaluation measures
  2. Workgroup to Provide Resources and Tools for Evaluating Materials and Intellectual Freedom in Light of #MeToo: This workgroup will gather resources to help library staff serving teens evaluate materials and balance intellectual freedom. The group will also determine gaps in the information available and create tools to support members in this area. For more information on the discussion that led to the formation of this work group, see Board Item 34 from Annual 2018: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/MeToo_AN18.pdf

If you have interest in serving on either of these groups please contact me at crystle.martin@gmail.com

Respectfully,
Crystle Martin
YALSA President

A group of teens from the New Orleans area participated in YALSA’S Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Feedback Session during the ALA Annual Conference. They each read at least three books from this year’s list of BFYA nominations so far. The teens provided the BFYA blogging team with valuable insight about the “teen appeal” of the books. To reward the teens for their hard work and participation, YALSA generously provided them each with a pass to visit the exhibits and collect as many free books as they could carry! After visiting the exhibit hall, teens enjoyed a pizza lunch with nine popular YA authors. The event was a great success. But don’t take our word for it—here’s what some of the teens told us about their favorite part of the day!

We asked: “What was your favorite part of participating in the conference and what are you reading next?”

“I liked the part where you met the authors, because you got real insight on what they were thinking when they wrote the books.” –Sabian B.

What Sabian is reading next: What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

“I think it was seeing how many people are here and so passionate and [in the feedback session] seeing what books everyone chose to read and how they interpreted them.” –Abigail D.

What Abigail is reading next: “I have no idea, I going to lay them all out and decide!”

“My favorite part was getting to walk around and meet new people.” –Carissa W.

What Carissa is reading next: Dry by Neal Shusterman

“I really liked meeting the authors, because you got to see some aspects of an author’s career. I also thought it was really cool to receive books before they were out!” –Tiyasha C.

What Tiyasha is reading next: Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough or Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer

“The convention was exactly how I imagined heaven. Also, I expected the feedback session to be way more stressful, but it was actually really easy to just talk about the books. It’s so cool that we got the books before the Library of Congress got them!” –Laxmi J.

What Laxmi is reading next: “Well, I read The Schwa Was Here (by Neal Shusterman who I met yesterday!) for school summer reading, and I have to read Chains too, but after that I think I’m going to start Dry.”

This event was truly a team effort and would not have been possible without the collaboration and dedication of many people. Thanks to the teens who participated, the teachers, librarians and parents who prepared teens and arranged for them to come, the authors and publishers who sponsored and participated in the pizza lunch, and the BFYA blogging team for nominating thought-provoking titles and welcoming teen feedback.

Carolyn Vidmar is a Teen Services Librarian at the New Orleans Public Library.

At this point, most of you who are planning on having teen volunteers help you out with Summer Learning Program have probably already started working with your volunteers. It’s never too late or too early to start planning for next year. In this post, I’ll go through how we promoted our Summer Learning Program volunteer positions and how we handle applications.

Promotions

We were hoping to attract 20 volunteers this summer. So far we have had about 40 applicants, and we are still fielding applications. It’s always hard to pinpoint causes of success when it comes to dealing with the public, so I can’t say that we received more applicants than we hoped for because of how we marketed the positions. Our marketing approach, however, doesn’t seem to have failed. The two approaches used were personal contact and flyer distribution.

Word of mouth is an effective way to promote any event. Quite a few of the teen volunteers we have this year are individuals whom I or other staff members personally recruited. These were teens who showed some of the traits we look for in volunteers (work ethic, passion for reading, interest in the library, looking for things to do), and seemed to be a good fit. We also reached out to teens who volunteered in previous years. We keep contact information for all of our volunteers on file. Then, when an event like Summer Reading is on the horizon, we reach out and invite them to return. This has the added benefit of padding a volunteer roster with experienced volunteers.
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When someone wants to start their own garden, there are a lot of things they have to think about–location, climate, soil, and maintenance to name a few. It is important to know what kind of soil you are dealing with before you start cultivating the ground. Determining the quality of your soil allows you to utilize the ground to produce the best crop possible.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”  -Audrey Hepburn

What does this have to do with having a teen presence and programming at the library? I have found the same principles and practices used in having a successful garden can be applied to cultivating a teen presence at your library.

I am the director of Bolivar-Hardeman County Library in Bolivar, Tennessee. We are a small and rural public library serving a diverse community. When I started nearly two years ago our teen attendance at our programs were at an all-time low—basically zero at our library. The demographic of our patrons is increasingly getting older. It was and is my passion to revitalize the library into a place where teens want to come. Shortly after I started, I became of a member of YALSA (Young Adult Library Service Association) and ARSL (Association for Rural and Small Libraries). You can become a member by going here for YALSA and here for ARSL. I was starting from ground zero on developing any type of teen programming at the library. YALSA and ARSL has and continues to provide invaluable information and resources regarding teens and young adults with little to no budgets. One example is the Future Ready with the Library grant I received to be a member of the second of cohort. Future Ready with the Library provides support for small, rural, and tribal library staff to build college and career readiness services for middle school youth. I highly encourage you to read more about Future Ready with the Library. The past several months I have been very busy with gathering information about my community, schools, and youth for the Future Ready with the Library project. Because of my recent research and community engagement it has given me a fresh perspective on Bolivar. One thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was the lack of teen involvement in the library.

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As the YALSA ALA Liaison, I communicate with many different groups whose member composition varies. One of the many benefits of working with so many diverse groups is being privy to the latest developed resources created by them that are also relevant for a library staff member serving teens. One such excellent resource I want to share with YALSA members comes from the Accessibility Assembly. The Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) heads the ALA Accessibility Assembly, which is comprised of many liaisons from other ALA divisions and round tables as well as ASCLA members.

Several months ago, ASLCA updated their online toolkits that target easy ways in which library staff can make their places and services more accessible to “populations that are underserved such as those with sensory, physical, health or behavioral conditions, those who are incarcerated and more.” There are fifteen toolkits in total and many of the recommendations are applicable to teen library services. As April is nationally recognized as Autism Awareness month, the Autism Spectrum Disorders toolkit might be a good place to start in improving library services to your community’s youth and better meet their needs.

Consider this resource share as an opportunity to improve your status and knowledge in Competency Area 1: Teen Growth and Development and move further through the stages of Developing-Practicing-Transforming.

Amanda Barnhart is a Teen Librarian for the Kansas City Public Library and the current YALSA ALA Liaison.

(Image courtesy of American Library Association)

This week (April 8th-14th) is National Library Week. Celebrating its 60th anniversary since its inaugural year in 1958 with the theme “Libraries Lead!”, libraries across the nation will be observing the week with activities, programs, and more. This week also celebrates National Library Workers Day (April 10), National Bookmobile Day (April 11), and Take Action for Libraries Day (April 12).

To lead the celebrations is Misty Copeland, author and American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer, who serves as the 2018 National Library Week Honorary Chair. As described on the American Library Association page about National Library Week, Misty Copeland, an advocate for “youth to pursue their dreams regardless of what challenges they may encounter”, invites everyone to “discover your passions and achieve your goals at the library.” (American Library Association).

(Image courtesy of American Library Association)


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The theme for this year’s Teen Tech Week is “Libraries are for Creating,” and an important aspect of creativity is failure and the ability to embrace trying something new to see what happens. Programs based around improv games and experimenting with recording video can give teen and youth patrons an opportunity for low-risk creation. Read More →

Teen Tech Week is finally here! “Libraries are for Creating” is a good theme for to introducing teens to Steampunk. Steampunk is not “punk” at all; the science fiction author, K.W. Jeter made up the word in the 1980’s. Think of it as science fiction meets Victorian Age. Jeter coined the word to describe some of his works, such as Morlock Night and Infernal Devices. It is not only a genre of literature, but also a style of clothes, video games, movies, and more. Steam-powered technology was prominent in Victorian times, when there was no electricity. Steampunk is a fun and creative way to get teens excited about reading and get them thinking outside the box. Not only does Steampunk inspire reading, but it also fosters creativity and encourages recycling. Read More →