As mk notes in her CoveritLive post about yesterday’s awesome Innovations in Teen Services panel, I was scheduled to speak on the panel but was grounded at the airport for an unplanned six additional hours. While that’s a whole blog post in itself, and probably not even the worst flight horror story of the conference, I’d like to share a bit here what I did plan to present. Special thanks to my colleague, Catherine Haydon, ALA Emerging Leader, who stepped in at a moment’s notice and shared information regarding using outcomes with teens.

While defining outcomes for your teen programs and services, isn’t necessarily something new, we’re probably seeing a lot more on our radars in terms of the importance of telling our story as libraries, particularly because of limited resources that we’re competing for in our communities. Being able to share that we’re making a difference in the lives of teens, is one way that we can show as a library we’re bringing value to the community. At my library in Charlotte, NC we have a teen intern program where teens learn to create with digital media and teach others how to do this as well. Read More →

As a summer project we read Steven Johnson’s book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. It’s a book that while not at all focused on libraries, gave both us a lot of really good ideas about how librarians working with teens can be innovative and work towards innovative practices in their libraries. Below you can read about some of our favorite ideas and how we see connections between them and teen library services.

Error = Insight
Error as key in innovation comes across loud and clear in Johnson’s book. He asks readers to consider that it’s possible to “transform error into insight” and that “innovative environments thrive on useful mistakes.” Read More →

I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways in which people – librarians and others – seem to think in terms of either/or. For example:

  • We ask if teens like to read or not.
  • We ask if teens like digital books or physical books.
  • We ask if teens use Twitter or not
  • We ask if teens …..

But, I think that deep down we all know that these aren’t either or questions. It’s not that: Read More →

Last week I had the chance to attend meetings of the Hennepin County Library Media Mashup project. Media Mashup is an IMLS funded project that looks at how innovation and change happens in libraries. The way that’s being investigated is through the use of Scratch software with teens in libraries in Hennepin County and around the country. Last week’s meetings were inspiring and I left with several words bouncing around my head: Read More →

Going to conferences inspire me. Hearing about the fantastic things other libraries are doing, then getting together with my colleagues to exchange these tidbits over dinner is one of my favorite parts about the conference experience.

“How awesome is this?”

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that?”

While I’m always flooded with new ideas, it seems like every year there’s a stand-out message or theme that sticks with me…one that inspires me enough to become my mission. Last year it was gaming (flash forward one year later: we offer video game programs in most of our 34 branches and will—fingers crossed—be implementing our circulating collection this fall).

This year, it’s a little loftier, a little harder to measure. The word that kept resonating with me this conference was innovation. Burned brightest into my brain: innovation happens in times of crisis. I know that many libraries right now are experiencing crisis due to budget woes, and we are no exception: while we’re more fortunate than some, we are feeling the familiar belt-tightening that I’m sure many of you are.

So, this is my thing. Innovation. It’s time to get creative, find ways to get things done in unorthodox ways. Open my mind to outlandish suggestions and abandon those tired practices that just aren’t working. I’m thinking this will keep me busy for a while.

What’s your thing?

As an instructor in a library school I’m always excited by the ideas and innovations that students bring to class discussions. The students I teach are great thinkers and are ready to advocate for teens through library programs and services, as well as within the communities in which they work (or may end up working some day.)

But, sometimes I wonder, what happens to that excitement and energy when a student goes from the somewhat insular world of library school to the world of real live libraries. It seems that once out in the real world the day-to-day policies and procedures of a library hinder, and sometimes even kill, what I was able to catch a glimpse of in the library school classroom.

So, that makes me think librarians that are in the world of real-life libraries need to better support students, both when in library school and when just out of that rarefied environment. What can we “old-timers” do? We can:

  • Give students and new librarians opportunities to try out ideas that might be outside the box of what is typical or traditional in the library. Instead of saying something like, “We tried something like that once but it didn’t work.” What about saying, “That sounds like a really good idea, let me know how I can help you make it happen.”
  • Work with library schools to make connections with students and find out what happens in library school classrooms of the early 21st century. Then begin to figure out ways to integrate those ideas into teen services today.
  • Just like teen librarians need to talk with teens about the programs and services teens want and need from the library, librarians need to talk to library school students to find out what those students want and need. Also, it’s important to find out what current library school students envision for the job they will end up in when out of library school.
  • Put yourself in the role of a student by taking classes either in a library school, through YALSA, or through another institution that focuses on teens and/or libraries. Find out what new ideas are out there. Get energized by the ideas and possibilities that current library school students are being exposed to.

Don’t forget that YALSA has a Student Interest Group that is geared to supporting the needs of library school students. The group can also provide a way for “old-timers” to connect with students and build relationships for the future.

Anyone interested in the Student Interest Group can contact me,, for more information. Students if you have ideas about how current librarians can help you as you start your new careers working with teens and in libraries feel free to comment here. Let us know what your thoughts are.