One of the best things about using Pinterest for me is that I never know when inspiration for library programming is going to strike. Whether it happens when I’m actually surfing through my feed of pins from boards I follow (and following a diversity of interests is key here) or when I’m combing through my RSS feed in the morning, I invariably find ideas that would make great programs. But how do you use Pinterest when you are actively trying to plan specific programs, particularly with Teen Read Week in mind?

Curating Information

The first use for Pinterest is as a visual board to present pre-curated ideas, one I use quite frequently with my Library Advisory Board when we are discussing possible ideas for special events. When we planned our Night of Writing Dangerously last year (an evening where kids came to do nothing but eat and write in a fun environment), I first projected my Writing Tips & Tricks Board as inspiration for their thoughts. Not only did my students have fun picking out the t-shirts and mugs that would become our prizes, but the infographics and tips had them asking if volunteer teachers could be “grammar police” someone could flag down with a question, or if we could use one of our glass walls to chart the rise and fall of a short story. My Hunger Games Library Programming Ideas Board absolutely made our party when the first movie came out (over half our school came to it) since it enabled students to plan Capitol hair and make up stations, Wii archery tournaments, and a Facebook Profile picture corner with life-size cardboard cutouts of the actors – and I owe it all to Pinterest.

Adding students or other faculty (or librarians) to a collaborative board is a terrific way of putting the power of idea generation in their hands. YALSA traditionally adds members of the Teen Read Week committee to the Teen Read Week 2013 Board and you can see the theme of “Seek the Unknown” played out largely in the areas of science fiction and mystery-related pins, the two pieces the majority of librarians identify as their intended focus for next week. Many minds are usually superior to a measly single mind, so collaborative boards often build off each other, and you can set your account to notify you by email when someone else pins to the board in question. There have been many instances that I see what someone pinned in an email notification and it makes me think of a whole new search term to try, a fact which brings us to our next (and most crucial) point regarding Pinterest. Read More →

Do you remember the first search engine you ever used? Was it Alta Vista? (That dates some of us.) Was it Google? Have you noticed how search has changed over the years? Some search engines no longer exist, new ones arrive on the scene (and sometimes depart pretty quickly) and others change in order to remain relevant. The world of search is not static and Google’s Knowledge Graph that launched recently shows just how true that is.
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Title: Qwiki
Platform: iPad – requires iOS 3.2 or later
Cost: Free

The idea of Qwiki, a search site that recently become available as an iPad app, is to present search results in movie form. (The movies are called Qwikis.) Type in a search, say Hunger Games, and the result is a short Qwiki that tells about the search topic. With Hunger Games, viewers learn about the author, when the book was published, and a bit about the plot. The Qwiki is narrated by a female computer voice and as the information is spoken images change to coincide with topics covered in the audio.
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There was big news in the world of web search over the past week. Google announced new features and the new search tool, Wolfram Alpha, launched. After checking out what’s new, I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact of this search news, particularly as it relates to teens and libraries.

Google’s new features should help teens use the service more successfully. Wolfram Alpha could be helpful, but then again, it might not. I’m very curious to find out what teens have to say about how it works and what it does. Read More →

A few days ago I posted about why it is important to give teens a chance to have fun while learning. In that post I mentioned that in my work I was finding that there didn’t seem to be a “next big thing” to get excited about. It’s true, I am still looking for that next big thing, but that’s not to say there aren’t some good new tools that I’ve discovered that are great for you and teens to know about. These include:

  • unigo logoUnigo is a five-month old web site that uses real-live students to create content about what life is really like in college. These first-hand accounts (primary source really) give teens who are considering college information that is different than what they might receive via a college tour, in a college catalog, or in a brochure. The site has a useful search feature so potential students (and their parents) can look for specific programs, types of students, interests, and so on in order to discover exactly what an institution has to offer. Read More →

Last week Yahoo! announced their 2008 top searches. Number 1 on the list is Britney Spears and number 2 is WWE.’  I found out about this list when listening to a couple of podcasts (Net @ Night and Buzz Out Loud). Both of the podcasts were somewhat dismissive of the list, and stated that the top 10 demonstrates that those who use Yahoo! for search are, as one podcaster said, “nudniks.”

However, as I heard these podcasters analyzing the results, I thought something else entirely.’  It seems to me that the list demonstrates the power of teen (and probably tween) searchers.’  Take a look at the list and think about whether or not you agree.’ ‘  Read More →

Over the past several weeks and months I’ve written a number of posts about the world of search and tools teens use in order to locate information. I’ve talked about Twitter, new search sites like Searchme and TinEye, and social news sites like Social Median.’  What I hadn’t mentioned in the past, but need to now, is YouTube.

Just the other day there was an interesting post on ReadWriteWeb that included these two paragraphs: Read More →

As some blog readers know, I’m a big fan and user of Twitter.’  And, as a result of my constant use of the technology, I find that often I need to search out information that I originally saw posted via Twitter.’  As I’ve become more and more of a Twitter searcher I’ve realized a couple of things.

  • First, Twitter is an amazing resource for locating information on current events. If you, or the teens you work with, are interested in news and views on almost any topic, searching Twitter is likely to not only lead to links to news from major media outlets, but also first-hand accounts from people involved in a particular event.’ ‘  Of course, when reading postings on the site that are personal in nature, as opposed to coming from an established media source, the information might need to be evaluated more stringently than information gathered from library databases.’  However, this need to evaluate provides a perfect opportunity for teaching and discussing evaluation skills with teens. Read More →

Over the past couple of weeks new web-based search tools have popped up. These tools are worth investigating as a way to help teens expand their research lives. Two of these search sites use images, in two completely different ways, as a way to enhance the search process:

  • Searchme – When someone enters a search term at Searchme the results are displayed visually in a scrollable stack. The result images are screenshots of the sites that match the search terms. For anyone familiar with iTunes and Apple’s cover flow style of display, the results “list” is very similar in look to that.Along with the visual results display, Searchme also filters results into categories. For example, in the image below, when the search term YALSA is entered into the search box, a list of categories appears for that search – libraries, children’s books, etc. A searcher can click on a specific category and see the results for just that category. Or, the searcher can click on all and see everything that Searchme uncovered. Even if just one category is selected, on the results page the other categories are displayed so it’s easy to switch from one to another.

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The title of this blog post is a quote from the Managing Editor of, Josh Tyrangiel, about using Twitter as a reporting tool. As I read this quote in yesterday’s New York Times I thought to myself, that’s exactly what librarians need to focus on when it comes to teens (or actually when it comes to customers of any age), being one option in their “circle of choice.”

Using the library should be one of the choices a teen might make when looking for materials, space to hang out, programs, technology, web tools, etc. Key in the phrase “circle of choice” is that the library doesn’t strive to be the only option a teen has or will make. The library actually accepts, recognizes, and promotes a variety of choices for teens. Instead of fighting the fact that teens might want to use Facebook, or Google, or Wikipedia for information and interaction, the library can work to help teens understand that the library fits right in the mix with those other tools as a choice to make when in need of information or recreational space and materials.

It is important to think about how the library gets into the circle of choice of a teen. Of course, part of that comes from the recognition mentioned above. But, something else Tyrangiel said also helps to highlight what it takes to get into the circle. He said, “If you tell people how to consume their content, they will ignore you.” Not only should the library not try to be the only choice a teen has for informational and recreational needs, the library also has to provide a variety of content and format options to a teen so that she can pick the right solution for a particular need. The library works to provide interaction opportunities in the physical library space as well as on blogs, wikis, via Facebook or, and so on.

In providing these options and getting into this circle of choice, a library needs to take the plunge. Getting into the circle will never happen if the modus operandi is to wait and see what format/setting ends up being the one teens want the most. Instead, libraries need to give teens the chance to use the tools of the moment in the moment. That’s what Time is doing (primarily for adults of course) by providing readers access to content via their web site, Twitter, the print publication, etc.

Sure, the technology might change, the tools of choice might change, a different generation might want something entirely different. However, if libraries get into a teen’s circle of choice by plunging and not waiting, providing options for content and format, and recognizing and promoting that they are one possibility within a circle of possibilities, once in that circle it will be easier and easier to move forward. This forward movement will happen both in more and more ability to easily update access and content options and in getting support from the community of teens, adults, and colleagues.

What would happen if libraries serving teens used Time as a model? Would that help libraries to be in a teen’s circle of choice? Try it and see what happens.