Last November, armed only with a copy of Teen Spaces by Kimberly Bolan and a budget of $1,000, I set out to create a teen space in my library. The budget actually seemed huge to me at first, but after looking up the price lists for a number of nice contract furniture companies, I realized it was almost enough to buy a chair. Woo. Hoo.

Undaunted, I expanded my search to include residential and school furniture, until I found something with an acceptable balance of quality, versatility, and price. During the process, I learned a number of things I wanted to pass on to anyone else in the position of choosing furniture for a teen space without the benefit of a consultant or even the advice of a furniture company.

  1. If you don’t have access to floor plans for your building, you can make ones using free online tools. I started out with a tape measure and graph paper, but I ended up using The best part was that after I created an outline and entered the dimensions of the shelves I was working with, I could drag and drop them anywhere and get a 3-D simulation. I think my coworkers were more impressed with the 3-D simulation than anything else I’ve done this year. Read More →

Frequently I have conversations with librarians that go something like this:

Me: Have you tried out this great new web-tool?
Librarian: No, I don’t have the time to try new things like that.
Me: I’ve been using it with teens and they love it. It’s a great way to connect with them outside of the library and a good way to keep in touch about programs, activities, and such.
Librarian: Yeah, that’s great, I really wish I could use it too, but really I don’t have the time to try out something new.

This week when having a similar conversation all of a sudden it came to me, why not talk about learning and using these new tools in the same way that I usually talk about developing library collections for/with teens? In order to build collections that meet the diverse needs of a teen population librarians find time to read reviews of materials, and tend to read many of the actual materials. Well, can’t we do the same with technology tools that teens want and need to use? For example, don’t we have to try out Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picnik, Pandora, etc. in order to put them in our collection of tools/resources/materials that we suggest to teens so to give them what’s required in order to fit a particular homework or recreational need?

If we start to look at technology as a collection item, in the same way that we look at books, CDs, games, etc. as collection items, doesn’t it then become easier to make time for the learning and collecting? In our physical and virtual spaces we need to collect an array of resources to fit the needs of the teens who use library services. We need fiction and non-fiction. We need homework materials and leisure materials. We need Wikipedia and Google. We need Flickr and All of these items should be a part of the collections we build.

When looking at technology in this way it’s no longer a question of “Oh my gosh I don’t have time to learn something new.” Instead the technology becomes part of what librarians already do – collect materials and resources of all types that meet the needs of the community.

I’ve just returned from the American Association of School Librarians National Conference in sunny Reno, Nevada. While there, I attended a number of great sessions of interest to YALSA members. Here are some highlights:

The opening general session featured speaker Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation, and a contributing editor of Wired magazine. His take-home message was that the world now needs and values adults who are artistic, empathic, and inventive. It’s no longer sufficient to (merely) be skilled in logical, linear, and analytical thinking to achieve economic success. Pink was a dynamic and entertaining speaker. He described how his attendance at law school permanently and profoundly improved his earning power – because law school was where he met his wife. His less than stellar academic performance there “made the top 90% of the class possible.”

I attended two very good sessions on Web 2.0 tools in school libraries, one by Annette Lamb and the other by the team of Shayne Russell and Sophie Brookover (Sophie was unable to attend in person). Annette emphasized that it’s not necessary to use a lot of new tools. Rather it’s more important to use new ways of thinking about the tools. We should think in terms of moving from e-learning to c-learning – using Web 2.0 tools for connection, cooperation, collaboration, and so on. She suggested that we give Second Life a couple more years to become easier to implement before we really see its potential in school settings. Shayne’s presentation made me impatient to get home and try out some things now. She shared concrete examples of using resources like Flickr,, blogs, and wikis to transform and improve student learning. Shayne and Annette both emphasized the benefits of using free and open source applications whenever possible. I wasn’t able to attend Joyce Valenza’s inspirational presentation on Web 2.0 and information fluency, which was so oversubscribed that a second session was arranged for the next day.

YALSA’s own Francisca Goldsmith did a stellar job presenting ideas for how to celebrate the upcoming Teen Tech Week (TTW) in school libraries. She took a low-tech approach to the event, reminding participants that we need not be limited in our celebrations by a lack of expensive technology. Even paints, pencils, and hand-cranked ice cream makers involve forms of technology. A few members of the audience described their own programming from last year’s inaugural Teen Tech Week. One participant sagely advised the group: “If you are going to plan a graffiti wall, don’t tell your principal in advance.” Others were concerned that the upcoming TTW, to be celebrated the first full week of March 2008, would be taking place during peak standardized testing season in their schools. As a member of the TTW committee, I assured them that TTW was bigger than its assigned week and could really be celebrated at a time most convenient for their schools.

A major event of the conference was the release of AASL’s new Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. The four standards are prefaced by a set of common beliefs. Each standard is accompanied by a set of skills, “dispositions in action,” responsibilities, and self-assessment strategies. I went to one of the sessions given by task force members Cassandra Barnett and Barbara Stripling, who walked participants through several examples of standards implementation. The new standards replace the standards for student learning published in Information Power, published in 1998.

For more coverage of the AASL conference, check out the AASL blog.