Recently on a discussion board I follow there have been numerous requests (and responses) for free, unique, or new programming ideas for teens. I have been following these threads quite closely because I, too, am always looking for fresh ideas. Plenty of us find craft ideas on Pinterest (and collaborate on this board), discover great titles on blogs, and hear from experts on webinars. But there are so many more ways to discover programming. In fact, you need look no further than your personal life. Read More →

It seems that almost every library-related news article I read talks about the de-funding of libraries or how amazing it is the Library X is doing so much with so little. ‘ The 2011 State of America’s Libraries report from ALA and’ Library Journal’s 2012 Library Budget Survey‘ confirm that budgets are still trending down. It can feel impossible to be innovative when you are barely able to cover costs for summer reading programs.

I don’t know about you, but occasionally I must force myself out of a pity party that generally starts with the thought, “If I had more money/time/help, I could do so much for my patrons.” In order to combat this leeching, downward spiral, here are some ideas to beat the blues and come up with your next innovative idea.

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What do the following tweets have in common?

Okay, they’re all tweets by me, obviously, but there’s something else: all three are tweets that were favorited by one of my students.

I’ve written before about teens at my school defying prevailing wisdom that teens don’t tweet, about my initial freakout when I discovered students were following me and my ultimate decision to keep tweeting publicly. Since then, things have really exploded: more than a quarter of my 546 followers are current or former students.
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You are a failure bumper stickerWhen I was growing up failure was not an option. It’s not that my parents told me that. It was just a general mindset in the world. People didn’t think that mistakes were something that promoted growth and learning. Trying something and not succeeding just wasn’t done. If someone or something failed it wasn’t talked about, or if it was, it was discussed in hushed tones as if something truly terrible had happened.

Today we are fortunate to live in a world in which mistakes and even failure are OK options. Failure is even looked at as a way to learn and to be able to take an idea or initiative and make it even better. This is a great opportunity for librarians working with teens. We want to accept that failure is OK and be willing to try something new with and for teens even if not sure that it will be 100% successful.
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Ever since I joined the school library world, I’ve been amazed at the ways in which seemingly similar professions (book publishers, booksellers, authors, English teachers, for example) know little about one another and maintain rather separate professional development lives.

In a past life, I occasionally attended the Association for Writers and Writing Programs annual conference (AWP). When I revisited this conference in my librarian role, I found stark differences. Where we celebrated new YA author panels, AWP had panels with authors defending their choice to publish in this area. Even vendors displayed a different side of themselves when surrounded by these literary academics. Then when I went to the Book Expo America (BEA) the following year I noticed that small publishing houses that had huge booths at AWP were hidden in remote aisles far from the glitz of larger houses. At ALA, a completely different view of topics, panels and vendors revealed themselves. The shifts intrigued me, and it got me to thinking…am I discovering all I can when sticking with my own profession’s resources?
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I work in an academic library. ‘ We find that the most effective way to encourage students to use the library is to go into their classroom and have bibliographic instruction. ‘ As we’ demonstrate how to access our library virtually from the classroom, we try to expand our students’ perception of the libraries. ‘ A library is not a physical brick and mortar building but a resource ‘ available all day long from anywhere. ‘  Although these sessions are certainly effective, we only go into the classrooms twice a semester. ‘  We are beginning to try new ideas to try to replicate the benefits of our classroom instruction to demonstrate ‘ that library and librarians are not contained within the walls of our building. ‘ To do this we are changing the idea of where and how reference assistance happens.

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As I write this, I’m more or less barricaded by book carts at my desk. The culprit? A reorganization project in the literature section, started by my term three student intern. Term four began on Monday, which means if I want the project finished, I’m actually going to have to do some work myself. The goal of the project? To reorganize much of the 800s so that students can easily walk to the stacks and find both works by a particular author or poet and criticism on that same author or poet, all in the same place.

There’s been much debate on my state organization’s listserv about “neighborhood” shelving (sometimes also called “bookstore” organization) versus Dewey or Library of Congress. Staunch DDC and LOC defenders insist we must prepare teens for academic libraries and teach them how to use catalogs efficiently. Where’s the authority control in a neighborhood system? Who determines the genres? What about books that might arguably “belong” in more than one place? What happens to a new librarian who inherits inscrutable rules and neighborhoods?

And, more importantly, who cares?
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My first school librarian’ position was in a library located in the very center of the school. It was literally in the middle, of the middle, of everything. So it is no wonder that I think of libraries being the center or the heart of a school. Libraries are a central place for learning, reading, technology, but they can also be’ the central location of arts and arts integration’ in a school as well.

There are so many ways that the school library can be used to showcase the arts. The libraries’ walls are perfect to feature student art, the shelves are fantastic to display student projects, sculptures, and other standing designs. If your library has open space, students have a location where they can perform music, theater, and dance. Along with all of the cool sites out there that can also be integrated, its pretty easy to bring the arts into your library. Below are a few examples of arts-based websites that you can use as well.

1. Odosketch: Students can create gorgeous charcoal style drawings on this site. Feature student art on library computers.

2. Flockdraw: This collaborative drawing tool lets students create art pieces together.

3. Storybird: Combine storytelling and art with this site. Have students create stories and then share them with their peers.

4. Vokle: Share live events with Vokle. Performances, concerts and more. (Know that this site is for older students. Broadcasters must be 13 years or older)

These are only a few sites that incorporate arts and technology. There are many more.’ They can be used as’ exciting new learning tools in your library. As a librarian who featured the arts in her library on a regular basis, ‘ I can tell you that having art, theatre, poetry, and more in your library is wonderful. It’s another way to show the library as a central focus point of the school. It offers librarians another way to collaborate with their peer educators and the students love seeing their work featured where everyone can see.

Because of my job I get to travel around to conferences and meetings and talk with librarians all over the place. Wherever I am I spend a lot of time discussing advocacy and the importance of helping members of a community understand the value of teen services. We frequently talk about the image that people have of librarians and how that image is often not based in reality. We also discuss how hard it is to change how people see librarians and libraries.

During these trips and in these conversations, it often feels a bit strange because I’ll be talking to someone about library and librarian image and that person will be wearing a book t-shirt with a cute saying, or book earrings or necklace (or both), or a book themed-watch, or….. you get the idea. I don’t believe I can say during these conversations, “Have you ever thought about the image you portray by wearing book related clothing and accessories?” Even though I really really really want to.
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Do you ever feel like you’re just treading water, rehashing your tried and true programs, recommending the same books, reusing the same lessons? Do you feel like a broken record as you try to manage your space or get teens’ attention? Now’s the time for spring cleaning, and not just the physical kind.

For the month of April, YALSA bloggers will be highlighting innovation in all its forms. Whether it’s rethinking the way you organize the stacks, finally giving your library a social media presence or allowing food in the teen section, innovation in your library doesn’t have to mean you’re trying to change the world–but why not change your world?

Each day bloggers will tackle a new innovation topic to help you take the first step in creating your new teen services. So stay tuned and don’t be afraid to jump into the comments section. Who knows what innovation your words will inspire?