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

Last week marked the end of Nanowrimo. In case you haven’t heard of Nanowrimo it is a writing challenge with a name comprised of the condensed words: National November Writing Month. This annual call to write has swelled to include more than 53,000 writers from 6 of 7 continents. This challenge attracts big named published authors like Rainbow Rowell and Carrie Ryan. Fangirl by Rowell is a Nanowrimo book. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan…that’s a Nanowrimo book too. Nanowrimo churns out a fair number of YA literature every year and attracts more and more young adults as participants each year. Since 2005, Nanowrimo has been hosting YWP – Young Writer’s Program – for students in grades K – 12. When users turn 18, they are directed to the main site, where the word requirements jump from 30,000 for the month to 50,000.

As we all know (and to the lament of Nanwrimo writers across the United States), with the end of November comes Thanksgiving and Black Friday. So in the midst of basting turkeys, Walmart brawls, football games and #ThanksgivingClapback dinner conversations, Nanowrimo writers continued to write – and guess what? Many of them actually finished, and then they did something even more awesome — they posted their experiences on Instagram! Nanowrimo writers posted quotes that inspired them, strategies for rising to the challenge, pictures of laptops, and furry writing buddies. There were lots and lots of pictures with coffee! Coffee with swirls, coffee in cute bookish mugs, coffee next to laptops, and then next to laptops and furry writing buddies… There were lots of pictures of food! My goodness, are Nanowrimo writers foodies or what!?

If you missed this year, get inspired for next year, or catch the motivation to start your own writing club. You could give your youth a monthly word challenge! Make it something fun with just a pinch of challenge! Empower your teens. Let them tell their stories, and maybe let them explore ways they can publish their work. Page 3 of the Future of Libraries for and with Teens report states:

“Now is the time for public and school libraries to determine how they can contribute to solving and alleviating the issues and problems that negatively impact teens. Cultural competence preparation for future and current school and public library and information professionals is one place where these issues can and should logically be addressed since many of the statistics cited above stem from structural issues such as institutional racism, classism, and sexism. However, research suggests that some LIS students feel ill-prepared to deliver this kind of culturally competent library service upon graduation. Cultural competence has to do with recognizing the significance of culture in one’s own life and in the lives of others; and to come to know and respect diverse cultural backgrounds and characteristics through interaction with individuals from diverse linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic groups; and to fully integrate the culture of diverse groups into services, work, and institutions in order to enhance the lives of both those being served by the library profession and those engaged in service.”

By empowering your teens to tell their own stories, to start something and see it through to the end. Teaching teens to navigate the process of editing and publishing their own written work fills the cultural competency void, but it also seeks to narrow the #WeNeedDiverseBooks gap. Nanowrimo writers posted memes about the healing power of writing in fighting suicidal ideation and depression. They posted happy face selfies – the seal of empowerment for having met their literary goals for the month against school/work demands, against #ThanksgivingClapback, and family/home obligations. Page 3 of the Future of Libraries for and with Teens report also states:

Accordingly, preparing young adults for the workforce is a major concern in the United States. In the last three decades, the skills required for young adults to succeed in the workforce have changed drastically, but the skills emphasized in schools have not kept up with these changes.34 This has led to a widespread concern that young adults lack the necessary skills for job success and are entering the workforce unprepared. Several recent studies, including Workforce Preparation in the Context of Youth Development Organization35 and Literacy Skills and Self-Views of Ability among First Year College Students,36 have documented this skills gap. Now is the time for school and public libraries to reimagine themselves as 21st-century learning spaces.

Writing is a critical skill quickly being eroded in the age of text, tweets, and emoticons. Nanowrimo is a way for young adults to express themselves in a connected learning environment where they are able to say what they want to say in their own voice. Which brings us to our next point that can be found on page 8 of the Future of Library Services for and with Teens report:

At the heart of connected learning is the idea that young people learn best when that learning is connected to their passions, desires, and interests. This focus correlates strongly with the learning ecosystem and learning needs of the teen of 2020 that Rainie described in his summit presentation. As noted in the CLRN report: The connected learning model posits that by focusing educational attention on the links between different spheres of learning—peer culture, interests and academic subjects—we can better support interest-driven and meaningful learning in ways that take advantage of the democratizing potential of digital networks and online resources.

Having said that, enjoy this homage to the final week of Nanowrimo, and if your library participated in youth writer’s circles and posted on Instagram, maybe you’ll see yourself and hopefully you’ll be inspired to participate next year.

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This is a guest post from Perla Casas, a 2015 high school graduate. She will be part of the panel speaking on Sunday June 28th at 4:30 pm as part of “Empower Your Teens! Civic Engagement Strategies That Work.”

The Youth Leadership Council (YLC) is a youth-driven advisory board for the Oakland Public Library. The YLC creates support strategies to improve its service for patrons and promotes the library simultaneously. The YLC is made up of twelve individuals from the ages of thirteen to eighteen. I was sixteen years old when I first stumbled across the YLC application at the TeenZone in the Main Library. I have always enjoyed reading and I am passionate about libraries, so I thought this group would be a perfect fit for me. After a nerve wracking three month application process, I was finally accepted as a member. Read More →

Fourteen thousand three hundred acres of forested area destroyed. Five hundred nine homes turned to nothing more than ash and rubble. Two lives consumed by smoke. It is still hard to believe that, just over thirteen months ago, the first spark of the Black Forest fire ignited. The flames may have only raged for nine days, but the impacts it left will remain for years to come, not merely due to the fields upon fields of smoky tree limbs it left in its wake, or the barren earth it helped to reveal. Not even because of the hordes of homes it brought to the ground. The impact goes much deeper than the visible–the smoky plume that licked the sky for days inexplicably changed every life involved. Mine included.

4302-black-forest-fire-coloradoJune 11th had started like any other day. It was summer, so I was free to do as I pleased. At around noon, my younger sister, Jess, and I decided to go out for a walk. Being summer, the bees were buzzing, the trees around me were a vibrant green, and the sky was a cloudless blue–so deeply blue, I remember. As I walked through this summer paradise, Jess was next to me talking about something, I don’t recall what.

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Heading into my final year of high school, I realize I have much to look forward to. I’ll be (hopefully) passing my driver’s test in a week and, in addition, have my own car for the year. I’ll be taking many anticipated, higher-level courses that I’ve been thinking about since I was a freshman. I’ll be a leader in many of the clubs and activities I’ve been in for the last three years. Yet, despite all these grand new beginnings to kick off my new year, I know that there is also one grand ending: summer reading.

Having taking honors/AP English for all four years, a part of my summer has always belonged to the written word. Though there are novels I willingly pick up on my own when the warm months roll in, I can’t attest to having always been enthralled by the books handpicked for me. When I first heard about summer reading from my twin sisters, who were just heading into ninth grade at the time, I was appalled. Isn’t summertime designed for children to relax? I argued. To take a break from books and education? Of course, I’d watched movies with characters that had summer reading and even, ironically, read books with this same act of atrocity. But I never thought that I, a measly eighth-grader, would have to suffer through it. It wasn’t even that I hated the idea of reading; as I stated before, I willingly pick up books, quite often in fact. It was more the idea that I would have to read a book that someone else wanted me to read. It was the idea that I couldn’t choose what I wanted to read.

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By: Carolyn Chen

As we move into the middle of summer and the stirring thoughts of the upcoming school year, libraries become ever more important as resources for students to take advantage of. In this blog, I want to specifically address two aspects of student life, namely summer work and college prep, that local libraries can assist in. Although most schools do not start until August, almost all students generally have some form of summer work, parts of which include book readings that they must finish beforehand. Usually, summer reading books are fairly popular books or classics, and thus can be found at local libraries. Although some teachers require that students buy a copy of their summer reading texts so that the students can annotate or highlight within the pages, many do not. As a student who generally borrows her summer reading books, I think that librarians can help out in the book-finding process. For example, it may be useful for the library to get a list of summer reading books beforehand from nearby school districts, and then put all of those books that the library has in a certain area. That way, librarians will not have to be constantly finding books for teens that cannot find them right away, and rather can direct them to the summer reading books area. Furthermore, teens can come into the library and find their books much more efficiently. In terms of college prep, I know that some teens do not have the resources to buy all the different prep books for different standardized tests (SAT, ACT etc.). Sometimes, this discourages them from attempting to study much for these tests at all. It would be very useful for these teens if libraries can have more than one copy of SAT or ACT study books, as summer is generally the time when upcoming juniors or upcoming seniors have any time to really study or review at all for standardized testing. Just having the chance to borrow and look over the practice tests on one test prep book is definitely better than seeing the test for the first time when taking it, and these books also include some valuable test-taking strategies as well. These two ideas are just something librarians can keep in mind and students can take advantage of. I hope I can address more resources that libraries can provide over the summer into the beginning of the school year in the next installment!

By: Camille Batiste

A young girl was once told, “Defy the impossible. The word itself says I’m Possible.” This quote would mold and shape her into an inspiring and innovative teen she is today. Simone Batiste (16) a Bay Area native spent the majority of her younger years in the great scientific halls of Chabot Space and Science Center and her local libraries. Since the age of five she has been amazed and intrigued by all of the information she has learned. Inspired by the proverb, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” she spent her spare afternoons reading books and learning new things. In the summer of 2013 she had the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong advocating for Chabot’s International Sky Program. Recently, Simone was one of two teens in the nation selected to become the Great American Museum Advocate 2014. Simone and her family were sent to Washington DC to advocate on behalf of all museums, parks, libraries, and public organizations on the West Coast for robust funding from the government. “It was an honor to travel to D.C. and an experience of a life time that I will never forget. I’d like to thank my local libraries and museums for inspiring me when I needed it most and always supporting my education,” said the young advocate in a recent interview. With hard work, deep dedication, and the support of others Simone was able to accomplish more than expected.

As you can see local libraries, museums and other organizations influence the minds of young children that shape and mold them into something inspirational.


What better way to launch the library of the future than with Star Wars characters and a robot ribbon-cutter at the opening ceremony?

The aptly named 21st century Library recently made its grand debut in Colorado Springs on June 23rd. Nicknamed the “library of the future”, this contemporary’ athenaeum boasts sewing machines, 3D printers, and sophisticated computers. Not to disregard the written word, 21c Library has also laid claim to hundreds of fresh new books for curious minds—many more than the closed Briargate branch 21c was upgraded from. Having personally been inside the spacious new building, I can attest to the glowing modernization.

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Hello, upcoming Juniors! You’ve probably already heard the horror stories. And no doubt your parents and older siblings and guidance counselors have already instilled within you their endless mantra of “Junior year is the most important year”. This may be freaking you out a little about what is to come. It’s true, Junior year seems intimidating. It’s full of standardized testing and AP classes and lots and lots of college preparation. But don’t fear. As a rising senior myself, I offer my sagely wisdom to you.’  I will address topics from how to prepare for this upcoming school year to how to end the year ready to tackle the college application process; all from a student’s perspective. I hope you may find my blogs and advice useful to you. As summer is just beginning, this first installment will be about how to best prepare for the year ahead and also be productive this summer. ‘ Let’s begin!

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As a teenager, I often receive the label of unable: unable to make a difference; unable to make an impact; unable to make important decisions. Yet when I see two teenage girls start a non-profit organization dedicated to developing robotics programs in their community and beyond, I know the unable labels are wrong.

Stumbling across Robot Springboard was somewhat of an accident: I was actually looking into starting a non-profit organization of my own geared towards robotics community service. When I found their startlingly professional and passionate website, I knew my plans were about to change. Rather than founding a similar foundation of my own, I decided to reach out to junior fraternal twins Hannah and Rachael Tipperman and join forces with them.

Yet the Tipperman twins haven’t needed much help so far. Robot Springboard has been underway for over three years now, starting off in the summer between their ninth and tenth grade year. Most young people at this age are spending summer days lazing about in the sun by a pool but not Hannah and Rachael. In just thirty-six short months, these two ladies have managed to transform a simple idea into a fully functional non-profit organization. In 2013, the Tippermans launched a week-long robotics workshop for middle-school girls at Drexel University. After receiving an AspireIT grant from The National Center for Women and Information Technology, Hannah and Rachael contacted the computer science head at Drexel University. To their delight, the entire engineering department at Drexel was ecstatic at the idea. Within a few weeks, the camp was successfully launched.

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I look at my inbox and click on the new mail that has arrived from my high school. What must this be regarding? I wonder. The page flashes open and, before I even read the whole email, I immediately see three letters strung together, three simple little letters that I have been dreading for months: ACT.

The ACT—American College Test—and the SAT—Scholastic Assessment Test—are the two tests juniors across the nation will be taking in the coming months. If you’re not breaking out the number two pencils and heading to learning seminars, adding more study time onto that already busy schedule and familiarizing yourself with the exams, you should be. It is, after all, the single most important test you will ever take in your life.


Aren’t these standardized tests more important than any other English essay you’ve ever written, than any other difficult mathematics test you’ve seen? Don’t all adults look back on their years and see this test as the single turning point in their whole life?

My guess is most adults will say filling in the right bubbles had no significant impact on where they stand now. That’s not to say all juniors should push the ACT and SAT to the side and head to the movie theater instead. There is no doubt that these assessments play a key role in being accepted to college; nearly every university website asks for scores in their admission guidelines.
But how important are these scores? I have a senior friend who scored a 34 on the ACT early in her junior year; come fall, she applied to Stanford, sending in a résumé that had impressive accomplishments beyond that high score. Two months later, she received a rejection letter in the mail. Another colleague of mine, who also applied to the great halls of Stanford, procured a scored of 720 on the mathematics subject test and received that very same rejection letter in the mail. An MIT application with an 800 in mathematics, a 33 on the ACT, and all the required leadership and extracurricular activities was deferred.

Why is that? Why is it that when someone makes a perfect score on these tests, the ones we hold in such high regard, they are still deferred? I heard through the grapevine at my high school that a senior was accepted into Yale based off of superior gymnastics skills—not her academics, not her GPA, and not even her standardized test scores. She was simply exceptionally good at something. With thousands of students taking exams every year, and hundreds meanwhile scoring well, is making high marks exceptional anymore? Are the applications pouring into the doors at Harvard and Stanford and Yale all riddled with 36’s and 2800’s?

It’s hard to see why they wouldn’t be (and they aren’t). The ACT and SAT are designed for all juniors across the nation to take—meaning they aren’t of the highest caliber. Sure, there are difficult questions dotted throughout the test, but it is, after all, standardized. Students with brains will have no trouble obtaining a score in the thirties. Take, for example, that MIT applicant. Sixty minutes are allotted for the math section of the ACT, and she finished the entire test with thirty minutes to spare. I recently took a practice test of my own, and the writing portion felt like a joke only I was in on. While there are kids who find the test exceedingly difficult and get scores in the low 20’s, even in the teens, a large portion of the population—those being the ones that apply to the top schools—will get these scores. Making scoring high unexceptional.

Why than do juniors continue to pour sweat and blood into these tests?

Easy: scholarships. Both of my sisters received scholarships based on their high school GPAs and test scores; in fact, many universities boast financial aid directly related to a set GPA and score. Not everyone is planning on heading to the Ivy Leagues, and that’s why the pores start working and the veins start pumping when those three little letters are strung together. But even if it isn’t Ivy League, I still question why such high emphasis is placed on these two tests. Why such weight is positioned on English, mathematics, reading, and science when there are careers with such vaster fields. Why a scholarship is awarded for knowing the rules of grammar and logarithms rather than a greater accomplishment.

I haven’t figured out the answer to these questions, and I probably never will. Instead, I’ll take these standardized tests like all the other juniors and I’ll study hard. But as I do so, I’ll remember this: it is only a test. It is not the sole deciding factor in your future. It cannot gage your creativity or your character, your full talent or all of your smarts. Getting a perfect score will not make you perfect, and it certainly won’t guarantee a perfect future.