I just did a search in the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff document on the word “policies” and found 13 results. That’s not surprising since it’s essential to make sure that a library’s use and customer related policies allow for high-quality teen services. However, have you looked at the internal staff policies and procedures your library has in place that might hinder developing the skills needed as outlined in the Competencies? For example.

  • Are there internal policies that make it hard to get out of the building in order to become skilled at developing relationships with community members, partners, families, and even teens? What policies are there about desk time and/or how you are supposed to spend your time while at work? Do these make it hard to succeed in areas related to Community and Family Engagement?
  • What about professional learning polices or procedures that focus the Continuous Learning you can engage in in areas that do not allow for the skill and knowledge development covered in the Competencies? Read More →

CC Licensed Image via Google.

Techbrarian Confession Time: I really, really, really want to try Google Glass. Back in February, when they were choosing betas to “give” them to (read: offering folks with a compelling enough reason the chance to fork over $1,500), I threw my ring into the hat and prayed my mother would never find out I was willing to pay that kind of money to covertly cosplay as Georgi La Forge and freak people out in public places.

Half-mad with tech-lust, I pulled the “I’m an educator– you guys love us, right?” card: “I’d find the ABSOLUTE BEST educational use for them,” I wheedled, lying through my lying little teeth. “I’d teach with them on and integrate them into my classroom work.”

(Lies. Deceitful, awful lies.)

Shockingly, Google saw through this facade, and the closest I’ve come to Glass has been trying on a friend’s, and watching cooler folks than I smugly wearing them around Brooklyn. There’s a dilatory part of me that thinks this is all for the best. Bringing a technology like Glass into a school library is a bullet that Lazy!Clair would like someone else to bite first.

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image from florida keys public libraries of tennessee williams library cardAs friends and some colleagues know, recently I moved. This move gave me the chance to rethink a lot of things I take for granted. And, it also made me realize that there are a lot of things we do in libraries related to teens, that staff often take for granted. Maybe we need to look at policies and the way we do things from the vantage point of someone who is brand new to the community and the library. One of the areas that probably could at least use a review, if not a re-envisioning, is the library card application process.

Think about the traditional library card. It’s changed over time. When I was a kid it was simply a piece of paper – probably something a little stiffer than regular paper, I don’t exactly remember. Then, when I first started working in libraries it was one of those cardboard cards with the metal plate in it (as shown above) to work with the check-out machine. Now it’s a plastic card and/or key fob and I can even add my bar code number to an app like CardStar so the physical card isn’t even really necessary when I want to check a physical item out. And, it’s definitely not necessary for a digital item.

library card image courtesy of Paul Stanthorp on FlickrThe physical library card has changed but have the policies and procedures that we have related to cards done the same? How long has it been since you reviewed those policies with the teens you serve in 2013 in mind? I know for some of you the answer might be that you’ve done that review in the last year or so as digital content has taken center stage. But, I would guess, that for others it’s been a really really really long time.

Below are two scenarios to consider when thinking about teens, the library card application process, and related policies.
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Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had conversations with library school students and colleagues about teens and libraries that have made me want to scream and cry simultaneously. But, really what these conversations make me most want to do is speak out for the importance of serving teens in libraries, and in the community overall. Here’s what’s happened:

  • I’m talking with a group of librarians and one of them recounts the story of a conversation she had with a colleague. The librarian noted that the conversation went something like this, “I wish the library in my town provided better services to teens.” The response, “Maybe they don’t need to, the teens in that community have a lot of other resources, activities, etc. that they can take part in.” I heard this and just wanted to scream, I may have actually done that. Would a librarian say that about adults or children? What’s the message that the library sends to teens when it has a host of programs, resources, and services for every other age group?
  • While talking on Twitter with some library school students about library services to teens the conversation turned to the way teens are treated in some libraries. Students recounted stories of librarians taking away chairs so that the teens wouldn’t be able to sit and therefore would not stay in the library. Or, library staff saying negative things about teens when talking with other library staff. These posts made me want to cry and I felt like some students and library staff take for granted that this happens in libraries. It felt and feels like staff diss the teen age group and it’s just to be expected. But, how can that be OK? Would it be OK to do that with any other age group or group within the community? Read More →

Frequently I talk with librarians about advocacy in teen services. We talk about what it means to be an advocate. We talk about how to get started in advocacy efforts. We talk about how to find time to advocate. We talk about a lot more related to speaking up and out about teen services to a variety of audiences including colleagues, community members, and government officials.

I recently realized that for some librarians there is a concern that if they talk with government officials – legislators and such – in order to advocate for teen services, that they might actually be lobbying. And, for some, lobbying is not allowed within their job description. This got me thinking, what is the difference between advocacy and lobbying? Read More →

Last week, we talked about evaluating your library’s policies and determining whether they were appropriate and reasonable for teens. If you concluded that some changes are needed, it’s time to think about how to make those changes.

  • ‘ You will want to proceed carefully and thoughtfully. Policies are not written in a vacuum, and there will have been reasons behind every policy or procedure. If possible, find out what those reasons are. Find out the background of the policies—is this a new policy, or a time-honored one? Read More →

With all of the talk about the banning of Angry Management by Chris Crutcher and the removal of the ban on The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, it seems like it’s a good time to talk about policies. I hope that everyone has a Policy for the Reconsideration of Library Materials, or some other similarly titled policy. If not, the time to form one is yesterday.

Check out ALA’s resources at http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/challengeslibrarymaterials/index.cfm. There you’ll find a sample form to give to patrons challenging materials, and tips for how to talk to the patron with the challenge. Everyone, not just those who would ultimately handle a challenge, needs to know what to do when a patron wants to ban a book. At my library, circulation staff are instructed to immediately refer the person to a manager or a reference librarian and to not say anything in defense of the material or the library. Because our circulation desk is right by the front door, circulation staff are most likely to have first contact with the patron, and they need to know what to do.

When a patron has a challenge, you should be ready with the form for them to fill out, as well as copies of your materials selection policy and selection procedures. If they still want to proceed, make sure your library has a process for reviewing the material and making a recommendation to administration, and if the patron is still not satisfied with the decision, make sure that the appeal hearing is made public. ALA also has tips for talking to the media during the challenge process.

Depending on your library’s procedures, you may be involved a lot or very little in the challenge process, but considering that YA novels make up most of the top ten of the most frequently challenged books each year, we as YA librarians need to be aware of how to handle these challenges effectively.