A continuing trend for colleges and universities is to sponsor a Common Reading Program for incoming freshman. These programs aim to connect new students around a shared experience that promises to build community. Every freshman (in theory) reads the book, so when they arrive in August, they have something to talk about beyond the normal freshman small talk.
Now, this isn’t a new idea and in fact, lots of libraries have done similar programs with their more broader community. We might call it something different, like City Reads or One Book, One City, but the concept is the same. It’s a way to bring people together, create common ground, share diverse perspectives, and come to a better understanding of one another.
The library is a natural partner in these sorts of programs, not only for our ability to provide copies of the book, but also the wealth of resources around the book itself. We are in great positions to provide programming and additional information for those really interested in the book content. Additionally, because the library is often considered a third space, it’s a natural spot for some community discussions on the book.
YouthTruth has recently come out with a new survey, College and Career Readiness, of 165,000 high school students “between the 2010-11 and 2014-15 school years,” and found a vast amount of information that shows that high school students want to go to college, but “most feel unprepared to do so.” High school students also feel less prepared for future careers and are “not taking advantage of support services,” such as programs presented at libraries and more. Along with high school students, middle school students also feel unprepared for college and a future career.
Laura Pitts, a librarian from The Scottsboro, Alabama Public Library shares how “rural, small, and tribal libraries are helping middle schoolers with college and career readiness” through YALSA’s first cohort of Future Ready with the Library funded by IMLS. The program’s mission is to “develop a way, through partnerships with community organizations or educational outlets, to address the issue of college and career readiness initiatives among middle school students.”
In her YALS article, Pitts mentions that “the workforce is moving towards 21st Century skills set that prides itself on encouraging students to look at various career, vocational, and educational opportunities that may be available to them in their own backyard.” Although working in the Future Ready program would be a great opportunity for any library, there are still many things a library can do to help middle schoolers on their own. Part of Pitt’s article discusses how it is important to work with your community, and this is extremely important. Libraries can reach out to local businesses and provide a Career Day program specific for middle school preteens. Preteens could come to their local library and meet local business owners, and learn about their career pathways, and what they do at their job.
March was a month that kept me hopping. I really enjoyed meeting so many people in the community, and hearing their concerns and interests. I met this month with people from the economic development committee, school board, superintendent, our business owners who belong to the Main Street organization, a couple of teen groups, and some interested parents. I still have meetings lined up with the school librarian, PTO, and our state rep who has been working with our manufacturing locations on how to attract more employees.
As I’ve talked with other Future Ready with the Library cohort members, I’ve expressed some frustration with the tendency of people to associate libraries with early literacy exclusively, which is actually my LEAST successful service area. Because of the conversations I’ve had, I look forward to really turning up my advocacy and letting the entirety of the town know what we are up to in serving middle school youth, and other teens too. Part of this will involve taking the library outside the walls for programs. Read More →
On Monday, March 20th, my library hosted our first College and Career Readiness programming roundtable event. Our goal was to find out what our community members feel the youth in our community need in order to be successful. We personally invited community members (including teachers, school administrators, school counselors, school board members, county commissioners and parents) to the meeting, we encouraged youth to attend and it was advertised on Facebook, at the school literacy night and through word of mouth. We had food – I ordered pizza and breadsticks and had water available. We only had five adults and two middle school students attend. It was definitely not the turnout I was looking for – I had a lot more people say they were coming than who actually came – but that is okay. I know the people who attended care, I know they had opinions that they wanted to share and I was there to listen.
I started with a brief discussion on what the Future Ready with the Library project is all about and what the library’s goals are as a part of that project. As each person walked in I gave them a copy of the pamphlet I created that provides information on the project. I also gave everyone an article from Forbes on the top 10 things employers are looking for in employees and an article on the seven skills students need to succeed. Then I opened the floor for open discussion to the public and what followed was a fantastic two hour discussion. Read More →
One of my personal goals is to visit all 50 states before turning 30. After working every single day from January 2 through March 17 (thank you, second job), I took a week off to address this ambition. Off-beat road trips are my favorite–last summer I drove south along the Mississippi River until the road ended; in December, I followed an amazing secondary highway from Sterling, North Dakota down into Nebraska to visit Bailey Yard; this summer, I’ll be in Wyoming, camping in a fire tower–so of course I drove away on March 18 with goals of solo-hiking a very small stretch of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina (plus a bonus detour to South Carolina). I would be lying by omission if I didn’t say I was nervous: I spent my first mile of trail with pepper spray at-the-ready and came embarrassingly close to incapacitating a squirrel that ran out in front of me. But as this fear subsided, I soon found myself enjoying the risk of walking alone through an unfamiliar place. Read More →
From last February through this February, I participated in the Native Community Development Institute (NCDI), an opportunity organized by the Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP). Three northern MN tribes each appointed seven-member teams, and MHP supported each team in planning a community-based project of our choice. The Leech Lake team–with representatives from K-12 education, telecom, HR, gaming, housing, planning, and the library–selected the huge task of building a workforce development center. Over the year, MHP guided our work through six in-person, two-day NCDI workshops where we learned about project management, leadership, partnerships, policy advocacy, and community engagement. When I first read the call for Future Ready applicants, I immediately connected these two projects.
Future Ready has us viewing community engagement from the perspective of librarians; however, for a sliver of time each week, I’m not a librarian but rather a person living in Bemidji, Minnesota. During this time, personally, community engagement happens through music, specifically through playing the oboe in a community concert band. When I first began playing at age ten, a band director told me that to form a proper embouchure, I should whisper the word “home” and close my mouth around the reed just as I reached the M sound, lips curling softly over teeth. I spent years teaching myself oboe, sitting on my bedroom floor with method books (ILL-ed through my public library before I knew what ILL was), awkwardly and repeatedly whispering “home” until muscle memory finally took hold. After high school band ended, I joined my first community band and have found one everywhere I’ve lived since. Without music, I’m not sure how I would create my sense of community, of home. Read More →
What does it mean to be Future Ready? It is a phrase I had not given much thought to prior to applying and the YALSA Future Ready with the Library project. As a member of the very first cohort of the three year project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in partnership with the Association of Small and Rural Libraries, I have been given the opportunity and challenge, if you will call it, to tackle issues in my community that affect college and career readiness for middle school students. I am not alone in this endeavor. Fifteen other libraries, some public, some school, some tribal, are in this pursuit with me. We come from across the United States, from Kodiak, Alaska, to Greenwich, New York, to Chipley Florida, to Scottsboro, Alabama and will work together for the next year to learn about and recognize needs in our communities and the ways in which libraries can assist by creating pathways to college and career success for middle schoolers and their families. Read More →