Any teen librarian who is fortunate enough to work with a talented children’s librarian knows that the possibilities for collaborating on innovative programs are endless, providing youth from birth to young adulthood with programming that meets their developmental, social, and educational needs. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to work closely with your children’s librarian on a project, there’s no better time than now to do so. Why collaborate? Here are three good reasons:
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How many times have you wished you had the power to change your school’s summer reading program? Well, maybe you do! I had all but given up on making major changes to the long list (250+ titles) that had been in place for years, but when there was a shift in the English department leadership, I jumped at the opportunity to suggest some significant changes in the list and the program.

In my first few years here, I had only managed to add a few contemporary YA titles. I also tried to move away from the paper-consuming process of printing a multi-page list for every one of our 700 students by creating a goodreads account with just the summer reading titles. It was a well-received shift and created a better visual impact – especially the “cover view” option – and also allowed for students to search for a book by genre and other tags. The paper version had been sorted alphabetically by title, with no other information except the author given. Goodreads was an improvement, but seemed like a tiny one. What I really wanted was to give students and teachers a place and time to talk books; for students to see that reading is a lifelong habit; that reading can actually be fun; AND that teachers read things that they don’t necessary teach about! To me, the writing prompt that had been used for years as a schoolwide assessment was unnecessary at best, and a hindrance to getting kids to read for pleasure, at worst.

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As part of our 30 Days of Back to School series, we’ll be interviewing other professionals who work with teens in and out of school. How can we collaborate to better serve our teens? Where do our services overlap, and where can we pass the baton to more effectively meet young adult needs?

First up: Molly Gesenhues. Molly is a guidance counselor with Chicago Public Schools who was also gracious enough to participate in YALSA’s full-day pre-conference in Washington DC.

mk: Thanks for joining us! Can you start by telling us a little bit about your job description?
Molly: Well, I’m a high school counselor. I work with students grade nine through twelve on their academic, social-emotional, and post-secondary goals. I get to see teens on an individual level as well as in groups and, if I’m lucky, in the classroom.

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Each year, I try to drum up interest in poetry by creating displays and talking to teachers about National Poetry Month. The displays have sort of worked (one teacher transported the whole display to his classroom to use with his 8th grade English classes), but I wanted more. The problem (common to teen and school librarians everywhere) is that whenever I create “programs” they are often tons of work and poorly attended in the end. So this year, I started talking out loud about my ideas. I had planted a few seeds last year, by sending a copy of a VOYA article to the English faculty. The article was about a school librarian who had created something called “Random Acts of Poetry,” where topical poems are posted all around the school in celebration of National Poetry Month. That was the starting point. English teachers loved the idea, but most had little time to help me plan and I really wanted to create something that had some faculty buy-in. Thankfully, the 12th grade English teacher who is always game to try something new had handed over two of her classes to her student teacher and offered to help. Read More →

The program’  below is one of many featured on ALA’s online clearinghouse for school/public library cooperation managed by the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation.’  Visit the clearinghouse to learn more or share your own exemplary partnership!

Title of Program: Great Library Card Adventure/Get Carded
Type of Program: Library Card Campaigns
Age level: Elementary & secondary
Description of Program: The Great Library Card Adventure is a library card campaign for kindergarten classrooms in Multnomah County, presented by the Multnomah County Library School Corps. Read More →

The AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation is updating its clearinghouse of information about school/public library cooperative activities. The list of programs submitted in 2004 is located on the ALSC web site.

Also via the ALSC web site you can submit your successful school/public library partnerships. Your partnership story will be added to the clearinghouse and possibly shared at upcoming ALA conferences. Currently, the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation is planning for the AASL Conference in November 2009 and the 2010 ALA Annual Conference.

Thanks in advance!
Teresa Walls

on behalf of the entire committee: Connie Champlin (Chair), Sabrina Carnesi, Karen L. Egger, Ellen Jepson, Elisa McClain, Erika Thickman Miller, Cindy Pfeiffer and Tanya Tullos

Long before the book (and way longer than cell phones), information was shared through music. Chuck D’s now-famous statement that hip hop is the “CNN of the streets” takes its cue from ancient texts like the Samaveda and the epics of Homer.

A recent New York Times story showcased how teens are carrying this forward at the annual convention for the Organization of American Historians. Teens used dance and singing to communicate the history of their communities, as well as their place within that history. Another recent story featured the teens at the Howland Public Library, who engaged in “creative conversation” through a teen drumming circle.

When libraries sponsor drum circles, online music collaboration (through sites such as eJamming, Kompoz, and Indaba), or showcases where teens have an opportunity to perform songs about their favorite book, they give teens the tools to carry the creative conversation into song–a place where public knowledge has existed for millennia.

In today’s New York Times there is an article titled, Sorry, Boys This is Our Domain, that focuses on the ways teen girls are using technology to create and collaborate and even to make names for themselves in the greater world.

Teen girls highlighted in the article include:

  • Martina Butler who was the first teen podcaster to receive national sponsorship for her podcast, EmoGirlTalk.
  • Lauren Renner and Sarada Cleary who started the web site A Girls World.

It’s exciting to read about what girls are doing as content creators and collaborators. Obviously, technology provides expanded opportunities for teens of both sexes to make their ideas, art, music, and so on available to a world-wide audience.

At first when reading the article I thought, Wow, this is a great way to help teen girls succeed in the area of empowerment as outlined in the developmental assets by the Search Institute. Then I thought, I wonder how this translates into the technology-based programs and services libraries provide all teens (boys and girls)? Are libraries giving teens the kinds of opportunities to create and collaborate that they want and need? Then I wondered, what would it look like if the library did provide these programs that were very specifically focused on content creation and collaboration? Would it mean simply making sure all teens have the ability to create and collaborate on library computers? Does it mean the library should definitely host blogs, wikis, and such that teens can add to? Does a library give all teens the chance to teach younger children about online content creation and collaboration?

Probably all of the above, but I also wondered, what does this article mean to libraries in terms of the gender preferences outlined? Do we need to think about different programs and services for the different genders? Should programs about creating online video – which is said to be a format/activity with more boy participation than girl participation – be geared to boys more than girls? Should blogging workshops – which are said to be of more interest to girls than boys – be geared specifically to girls?

The answers of course can only really come from talking with teens. Check out the article to find out what research seems to show about gender preference related to content creation and collaboration. Then see what your teens have to say about things. If they say the article is all wrong, or if they say it’s all right, maybe you can have them create content by writing their thoughts in letters to The New York Times.