Lockport Branch Public Library was very grateful to be selected for the 2019 YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant. The Lockport Branch Public Library is one of nine branches of the Lafourche Parish Public Library System. We are located in southernmost part of Louisiana. Our area is largely rural, with nearly 27% of households without internet access, making the library necessary for our patrons’ recreational and educational needs. Recent library programs have shown a marked increase of interest in S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics), but many adolescents and teens lack the resources, skills, and mentoring needed to expand their knowledge to succeed in future career paths and to benefit their communities.

A teen plays with lego bricks.

My Planet Rover w/ Lego Mindstorms

Our YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant focused introducing teens to various aspects relating to STEAM, and generating interest in new technologies for a better tomorrow. With the grant, we were able to provide programs throughout the summer to the central area of Lafourche Parish. Each program theme tied into this year’s Summer Reading Program theme, A Universe of Stories.

A teen plays with lego bricks.

My Planet Rover w/ Lego Mindstorms

In the past, our teen program attendance rate has been lower than our children and adult programs offered during the summer months. To entice teens, we hosted 6-STEAM related programs over a 2 month period. Our teens were able to construct and build a Dobsonian telescope, create original bilingual hybrid media pop-up books, learn coding for web design, build and code with Lego Mindstorms, and learn the importance of clean water and sustainability. One of our main goals was to educate teens on STEAM related careers, as they are mostly exposed to agricultural and oil-field related careers. We strived to provide a safe space where our teens could learn math and engineering skills in a fun and non-formal way. Another main goal was to improve teen program attendance at programs during the summer reading program. Comparing this year’s attendance to last year’s, the Lockport Branch showed substantial improvement in program attendance.

A teen does a water purification experiment.

STEAM Squad: Water Purification

Teens play with popup books.

Hybrid Popup Books

In the future, we would like some of these programs to travel to school events in our parish, such as school job fairs, to reach more teens of Lafourche Parish. We hope to also partner with our local Louisiana State University Agricultural Center (LSU Ag Center, which provides Louisiana citizens with research-based educational information that will improve their lives and economic well-being) to offer more programs about the importance of health and sustainability. 

 

 

Katie Cheramie is the Central Area Administrator for Lockport Branch Public Library.

In the spring of 2019, Cecil County Public Library was pleased to accept a YALSA Teen Summer Intern Grant of $1,000, enabling us to hire a local teen to assist with the 2019 Summer Reading and Learning Program.

While we knew the decision would be difficult, our first step was to recruit and select our summer intern. One goal we identified for our internship program was to provide the intern with an introduction to essential job and career skills, as this program was the first opportunity for many of our applicants to apply for a job. Knowing we wanted to introduce the teen applicants to a real-world hiring process, we created an application packet similar to what we use for adults applying for other positions at the library. This packet included a professional job description, application, essay question, and call for references. Rather than focusing primarily on work experience, we adapted many of our questions to focus on the applicants’ extracurricular or volunteer activities, leadership experiences, skills, and interests.

To promote the internship opportunity, we shared the application with the teen services staff at library branches across the county. Having close relationships with the teens, these staff members were able to share the opportunity directly with teens in their communities. We also leveraged the close relationship we have with the local school district, sharing the application with the school librarians at the area high schools. This word-of-mouth approach was very successful, as we received many applications for the position.

Knowing we could only hire one intern for the summer, we then scheduled interviews. Keeping with our goal of introducing the teens to real-world job standards, we conducted full professional interviews with the applicants. This was the first experience for all of our applicants to participate in an interview process, and while many were nervous, we did our best to keep a light, conversational tone to make them feel at ease. While we included many of our standard interview questions used with all new hires, “Why are you interested in this position?” “Please tell us about your prior experiences,” etc., we also incorporated questions that were more fun for the teens, giving us a better window into their personalities, motivations, and interests. We asked them to tell us about their favorite books, choose three words they or others would use to describe them, and share some of the things they hoped to do at the library this summer.

Although the decision was difficult, we ultimately selected Hannah, a 17-year-old long-time library user and member of our Teen Advisory Group, to participate as our 2019 summer intern. Hannah’s love of the library, volunteer experiences, and interest in working in librarianship were just a few of the many reasons we selected her as our intern. 

With the hiring process complete, we then worked with Hannah to make a plan for the summer. Having recently completed a book study with all teen services staff of YALSA’s Putting Teens First in Library Services: A Road Map, we recognized the importance of following the principles of the Connected Learning Model and designing an interest-driven internship experience for Hannah. Having talked with Hannah about her interests and skills, future goals, and what she hoped to gain from the internship, we worked together to design a program that would give her opportunities to use these skills in the library setting. 

Hannah holding up a book she reviewed

Hannah holding up a book she reviewed.

Hannah was very interested in teen services, so one of her main responsibilities this summer was in assisting the teen library staff with their programs for the Summer Reading and Learning program. Hannah is an avid artist and photographer, and she was able to assist in programs by running art stations at our Teen Nights, taking photos, and helping to engage younger teens in activities. She is also interested in science and technology and was essential in helping to run the “Drone Pilot for a Day” program, the “Painting with Robots” program using Sphero robots, and the “NASA Universe Discovery” astronomy program series for middle school teens.

In addition to assisting with programming, Hannah put her artistic and STEM skills to work this summer by creating engaging bulletin boards and displays for our Young Adult section and conducting a training for teen services staff on using newly acquired technology for programming, including Nintendo Switch, Oculus Go, and Ozobots. Hannah is also an avid reader of Young Adult fiction, so when she was not assisting with programs, she worked on a project to create staff recommendations of her favorite books to add to the Young Adult shelves and on the teen page of the library’s website.

While many of Hannah’s projects and responsibilities this summer were directly related to her interest in assisting with teen services, we also recognized the importance of introducing her to a well-rounded view of the library, giving her opportunities to shadow and assist with additional departments. In addition to working with the teen services department, Hannah spent time shadowing the children’s library staff and assisting with early childhood storytimes, riding on the bookmobile and helping with outreach visits, shadowing the circulation staff and assisting with customer service, and helping to serve summer lunches. These opportunities gave Hannah practice in many aspects of library service, providing her an in-depth view of working in a library.

Hannah standing with our teen services librarian in front of a bulletin board she made.

Hannah standing with our teen services librarian in front of a bulletin board she made.

Hannah doing a training on Ozobots for our youth services staff.

Hannah doing a training on Ozobots for our youth services staff.

Through the internship program, we hope working at Cecil County Public Library this summer has helped Hannah to grow her customer service skills, communication skills, knowledge of professional working standards, and comfort level working with the public, all of which are essential for future success in whichever profession she chooses. As a library, we have learned through this experience the importance of providing opportunities for teens to contribute to the library in meaningful ways, acting as leaders and using their skills and interests to inspire our patrons and staff. 

 

Katelyn McLimans is the Youth Services Coordinator at Cecil County Public Library.

Children gather near large toy castles.

Memories of “Universe of Stories” with creative aliens including our YALSA/ Dollar General Summer Teen Intern, Angel.

During the 2018-2019 School Year, I was invited to start attending the SAC meetings for a local high school’s magnet programs. As the only adult services librarian of a small library, I certainly did not need more things to do, especially when much of my time is spent doing administrative tasks such as planning a major renovation project, purchasing, managing budget lines, and processing related paperwork. I was honored to attend as I’m a people person and the Community’s Librarian, I feel it is vital to be engaged with the community in different ways.

While attending the SAC meetings, I learned that students in some of the magnet programs were required to do an internship and all students were required to volunteer. Teachers told me that finding paid internships was difficult but necessary for many of the students who need to help their families with a paycheck. I informed the board that I could certainly provide internship opportunities for a few students but was not able to pay for them.  Over 90% of the students in our city limits qualify for free or reduced lunch programs at the neighborhood schools so when I saw the Dollar General/ YALSA Summer Teen Intern Grant program I eagerly applied knowing this would help someone in my community if I received the grant.

I was thrilled to be chosen and created job ads for the positions. Knowing our library would be closing down for renovations in the end of July, I decided to create two positions for the first busy weeks of the Summer Reading Program. Not only did we post the job at the front service desk but I recruited students at the high school during their “Dress for Success” job skills event. I collaborated with our HR and Finance Departments and the teens had to fill out the same application that we have for any job openings at our Village. I conducted interviews for the position following the same types of questions and scoring guidelines as I do for our part time circulation clerk position. Two teens stood apart from the group which attests to great mentoring by library staff as both top candidates had been part of our youth volunteer programs and one was an officer of our Teen Advisory Board. Both students were able to answer the questions clearly and articulate their answers by describing their experiences working with people or technology. Both were dressed to impress! The young man had even shined their shoes!

The interview process led me to begin a Youth Leadership Series for the summer to teach job preparation skills and introduce teens to the public library and its services. The two YALSA Summer Interns participated in this series that covered aspects of differences between public libraries, Library Advocacy, local government, the importance of getting to know the organization when one starts in a new job as well as many tips about how to fill out an application, creating a resume, and preparing for an interview.  

YALSA/ Dollar General Intern, Sofia, reading to the Preschool Storytime Class.

YALSA/ Dollar General Intern, Sofia, reading to the Preschool Storytime Class.

 

Angel working with children, caregivers and other Youth Volunteers during the craft he planned for the class.

Angel working with children, caregivers and other Youth Volunteers during the craft he planned for the class.

In addition to the Youth Leadership series and assisting patrons to sign up for the Summer Reading Program, the YALSA Summer interns had a special project during the Summer Reading Program with the Children’s Librarian. They each were given a book and a craft they were responsible for presenting during Bilingual Preschool Storytime. They engaged the attendees in activities by asking questions and allowing interaction with the book. Both interns learned about early literacy education, the reasons for: placement of furniture/ items in the room and why there is social time in the Children’s Section of the library prior to storytime as well as the importance of routines for early learners. Interacting with preschoolers can be a challenge and both learned flexibility and how to “think on their feet”. In addition to storytimes, they assisted our Children’s Librarian with several other summer library programs such as our PAWS-to-Read with a Delta certified Reading Dog. 

Working with the interns and other teen volunteers was definitely the spark I needed this summer! 

Sofia overseeing a Youth Volunteer and the PAWS-to-Read program with Village of Palm Springs Summer Camp children and other patrons.

Sofia overseeing a Youth Volunteer and the PAWS-to-Read program with Village of Palm Springs Summer Camp children and other patrons.

 

Suvi Manner is the Library Director at Palm Springs Public Library, FL. You can contact her at smanner@vpsfl.org. To others interested in this project: I am available to provide feedback about working with teams with other staff when mentoring teens/ youth volunteers as well as any insight about working with HR and Finance Departments when administering a grant. Our library is also very active in community outreach and partnering with other organizations to serve the community.

The Charlotte Mecklenburg library system in a large library system with many teen volunteers across twenty branches. Our focus for the grant this year was to choose a branch that does not have a high recruitment and retention rate for teen volunteers. Our Sugar Creek branch is in a low-income and widely served area in our county, and in the past, we have had teens not complete the summer volunteering program at this branch.

Three teens pose in the library.

Our teen interns were integral to making some of our summer programs a success. Summer Interns assisted with our Summer Reading Kickoff at the beginning of summer. Each intern operated a STEAM station and helped the Children’s Department with various projects such as, prepping Summer Reading materials, Summer Reading registration, book displays, and programs. They maintained weekly shelf-reading assignments which included pulling duplicate copies from our fiction and nonfiction collection as well as processed Book Sale items, and they have assisted the Circulation Department by pulling morning holds and processing daily delivery. 

The teen interns were asked which experience this summer was the most meaningful, and each of them gave a different view of why libraries are so important for teens. One of our interns, Treyson, also volunteered to be Clifford the Big Red Dog as part of the Summer Reading Kickoff. As Treyson was dressed as Clifford the Big, Red Dog in the summer sun, he said that even though it was a very hot costume, he “didn’t have to wear it” and that he “wanted to”, especially seeing how happy it made the children to see him.

Three teens pose in the library.

Aleah shared about a moment when she was shelving in the children’s department, there was a child who told her she did not have anyone to play with. So, Aleah started coloring on the chalkboard with her, and she commented that she enjoyed spending time with the child, instead of leaving her alone. Aleah also stated that volunteering “gave her an excuse to read”. She never put books on hold before this summer, and now has a large stack. She also discovered ebooks and audiobooks and sometimes requests them at the same time!

Kaliyah has goals to become a graphic designer, and during this internship, she spent time with a staff person who is also an artist. The staff member gave her tips for her art and showed her how she can market her art as well. This internship gave her a connection she may have not made before.

Three teens pose in the library.

Giving the teens several opportunities to work and collaborate with each other and library staff really benefited Sugar Creek. They were able to shine through their different personalities and have a fun experience, while learning how a library operates. This experience showed growth in each of the teens as well. By giving them a variety of tasks, they were able to find their niche, and they had a very positive impression of the library. By making the tasks fun and diverse, the teens committed 229 hours this summer, and there was no concern about retention.

 

Hayley Burson is a Teen Librarian at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Ashe County Public Library (ACPL) was awarded the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant. With this funding, I designed a three-month-long program for and with teens broadly called Life Literacy at the Library (LLL). LLL was designed around the county’s most recent community health needs report, which identified three key areas of need for Ashe County residents: “mental/behavioral health, substance abuse and misuse prevention, [and] physical activity and nutrition” (CHR). Through both teen advisory councils and surveys, the teens voiced their desire for programs and collection development geared toward mental health, physical health and nutrition, and structured educational programming, all of which corresponded with the health needs report.

My department began researching ways we could provide teens with programming focused on these needs. We knew that partnerships with community organizations were going to be important, but it was in my reflection on LLL at the end of the summer that I realized how crucial partnerships are to creating a robust summer program.

Programming through partnerships benefited LLL in several ways. First, we were able to offer more variety in program options for teens. We held cooking and nutrition classes, dance classes, writing workshops, mental health classes, etiquette classes, and art classes. This variety worked well because teens could select classes based on their interests and comfort level. Additionally, the variety attracted teens who do not attend regular teen programming.

Programming through partnerships also connected teens with resources in the community of which they were not aware. A large percentage of our teens are home-schooled and utilizing partnerships helped broaden their knowledge of community resources and opportunities.

Teens gather around a table filled with food.

Teens learn to cook!

It also served to initiate new relationships and strengthen existing relationships between the library and community partners. Advertising our programs and our partners brought increased awareness of teen programming at the library, and I had several community members contact me about potential future collaborations.

The other partners I discovered through existing personal relationships. For example, my sister is an accomplished choreographer and gave the library an excellent discount to lead a dance class. The instructor who led etiquette classes is a friend of library staff. The published poet who led the writing workshops is a former English teacher of my department supervisor. A Safe Home for Everyone (A.S.H.E.) led the mental health classes. A.S.H.E. is a local non-profit that provides services to individuals who have experienced domestic and intimate violence, and the library had an existing partnership with A.S.H.E. Utilizing the social connections staff members have within the community is an excellent way to bring new opportunities to the library. The benefits of partnerships also extend to the partnering organizations. Several of the organizations we partnered with have community outreach goals, and the library can help meet those goals. For example, both the Ashe County Cooperative Extension and the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts seek to conduct community outreach as part of their organization’s goals. Ashe County Cooperative Extension led the cooking and nutrition classes, and the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts led the art classes. After researching the organizations’ missions and goals on their websites, a friendly phone call was all it took to secure these partners. I would advise contacting potential partners as early as possible, since both of these specific organizations fill their calendars quickly. I contacted them in January, within the same week I found out we had received the grant award. I continued to correspond with partners via email throughout the year, answering any questions they had and offering help or assistance when possible.

Finally, programming through partnerships saved the library and library staff enormous amounts of time, effort, and money. Eight of our nine LLL programs were led and co-sponsored by partners. My department and I were solely responsible for one program, a Teen Spelling Bee. Because of the time saved through partner collaboration, I was able to devote more time to planning this event. The teens loved the Spelling Bee and based on their feedback, our county librarian even suggested making a summer spelling bee one of our recurring events. Programming through partnerships for summer learning also served to maximize the grant award. We saved an enormous amount of money by working with our partners, most of whom gave us a discounted rate because of our relationships. With our savings, I was able to purchase more collection items and offer more programs. I wanted to stretch the grant award as far as possible and provide the teens with a full summer learning program with varied learning opportunities, and partner collaborations, along with the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Resources Grant, made it happen.

Molly Price is an Adult Services Librarian at Ashe County Public Library

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The Auburn Public Library, northeast of metro Atlanta, currently serves a population of about 8,000 city residents, but is located in one of the most rapidly expanding areas in the state. Our small library draws in an average of 1,000 patrons per month just for its free programs, and is planning to expand later this year. As one can imagine, this number doubles or even triples during the summer months, and being able to hire interns to help handle the workload is a lifesaver!

Summer intern Christina Miller.

Thanks to Dollar General and YALSA, we were able to hire a part-time Summer Intern for eight weeks. We advertised the position for about a month via social media and at the two local high schools before conducting interviews. We received over 20 applications and interviewed 17 teens before deciding on Christina Miller, a 16 year-old rising high school senior, for her first paying job. Christina has grown up in our library, volunteering with us since she was 12. She came to the interview incredibly prepared with pages of notes and dressed more professionally than we had ever seen her, a sign that she was taking this opportunity seriously. We knew that she was the right choice for this position.

Summer intern Christina Miller.

Christina helped us with a little of everything over the summer. We offered a program every day of the week, including a free lunch program for youth 18 and under. She helped hand out summer reading prizes, take pictures, shelve, and interact with patrons at the information desk. But where Christina really shone was in helping lead teen programs. Our teen programs, for teens aged 12-19, took place on Thursday nights. One of our more popular programs that we repeated several times is Virtual Reality. We have a 40-inch TV set up in our teen section and an Occulus Rift system hooked up to it. Christina assisted with the setup of the device and by the end of the summer, she could operate it better than any staff member! She helped download updates, choose games, and we stepped back and let her run the show with the other teens. She was fair, making sure everyone got turns and keeping the audience engaged in the fun. She also ran her first-ever Dungeons and Dragons campaign sitting in the Dungeon Master chair to a group of seven very excited teens (we almost had to throw them out of the library at closing time).

 

Having an extra person to help during the summer was amazing, but seeing Christina step up and lead programs was an extraordinary experience. We provided her with tools and opportunities, and she performed beyond our highest expectations. We labeled our teen summer learning program a success for many reasons (higher participation, higher attendance), but watching Christina bloom with confidence was a highlight of the summer. Thank you, Dollar General and YALSA, for allowing us to be a part of your program – it changed lives. 

 

Bel Outwater is the Library Manager for the Auburn Public Library, part of the Piedmont Regional Library System serving Banks, Barrow, and Jackson counties in northeast Georgia. Working in a library combines her two passions: reading and helping people. She is obsessed with penguins, sloths, dinosaurs, and too many fandoms to count. 

This past summer, adolescent participants in the Santa Ana Public Library’s Teenspace committed to tackling the deep subject matter of Angie Thomas’s book The Hate U Give. It was an 8-week program held every Saturday, with the final session culminating in a screening of the acclaimed film adaptation following discussion of the final chapters. The program was coined “Bibliomaniax,” and utilized a connected learning model where teens shared their experiences and thoughts to analyze the themes of the novel, and discuss how they might act to implement change in their own community.

Each week the students had a few chapters assigned that they would come in to discuss, facilitated by staff for and with teens. The Hate U Give was chosen because the teens that we serve often face severe learning gaps exacerbated by the summer slide that occurs over summer vacation. This book is both high interest and accessible, written at about 4th grade reading level, allowing the students to be successful in the reading and comprehension of the novel. Discussing the novel with staff and peers was motivational and reinforcing for participants. 

One of the subjects the book touches on is “code switching”. This is where a person changes languages and cultural customs depending on their environment and social group. The protagonist of the book, a black American teenage girl, encounters code switching every day as she lives in a predominantly black neighborhood yet attends a predominantly white prep academy. She is perpetually in a struggle between being herself at home and feeling the need to alter her behavior as not to stand out, or feel alienated from peers and teachers at school. Teen participants identified with the struggle as most were Latino students who speak Spanish at home and English at school. Much time was spent discussing this, and it helped them identify with the book and provided insight into their own lives.

The subject of racial profiling and the senseless killing of an unarmed black teen by a police officer also hit home, as real stories are unfortunately brought to light in the news and through social media with disconcerting frequency. The protagonist has to cope with the aftermath of the trauma she has faced. The participants were highly engaged in the discussions of these topics as they are very real, and helped participants gain empathy and insight to the sensitive, but important subject matter.

Pizza was offered at each session to encourage program attendance, which incidentally helped offset the heavy subject matter of the book, and fostered an inviting social environment for teens. Additionally, In-And-Out gift cards were offered at opportunity drawings held at the end of each session. The library promoted the program by sharing a press release with local news outlets, distributing flyers at outreach events and on social media, promoting the program to leaders in the school district, offering volunteer credit to participants, and providing eye-catching bookmarks.

It could be easily stated that the Bibliomaniax program at Santa Ana Public Library Teenspace was a runaway success this summer. On the surface, it was a fun time to spend a couple hours every week with peers talking over pizza and sodas, but ultimately each and every student went away with a deeper understanding of current societal issues with a seed planted for future community activism and civic engagement. Teens expressed interest in coming back for future book club discussions and some had ideas about what books they would like to discuss. Teen participants definitely became card carrying bibliomaniacs. Knowledge is power, and this was a very powerful program that connected teens with both ideas and each other. 

Teens engaging in a lively discussion over pizza in the Santa Ana Public Library’s TeenSpace on the themes and content addressed in the novel.

Teens engaging in a lively discussion over pizza in the Santa Ana Public Library’s TeenSpace on the themes and content addressed in the novel.

 

Kelli Sjule is a Library Assistant at Santa Ana Public Library.

At the Ford Memorial Library we are striving to provide tech education and resources to teens and young people in our rural area. With the recent expansion of our building we have been able to implement more tech infrastructure including a much faster network and internet connection, as well as our new mobile tech lab (pictured). This summer we have run a number of programs and activities to facilitate the goal of increasing tech literacy among our local youth.

Teens sit in a classroom for a presentation. Teens work on laptop computers.

Our teen intern, Harrison, was a key part of that process this summer. We hired him initially based on his previous customer service experience and interest in technology. We believe he shares our vision for bettering tech infrastructure in the area, and in addition to helping us with programs we also allowed him space to pursue his own projects. He created a video for our YouTube channel, taught a class on iOS, and did a considerable amount of research and outreach to help us bring an electric vehicle charger to our new parking lot.

From Harrison:

In my time at the Edith B. Ford Memorial Library, I have gained a plethora of knowledge. While participating as the Teen Intern at the library I took part in activities associated with our Summer Reading/Learning Program. During this endeavor, I managed time that involved setting up, cleaning up, as well as managing start and end times with the movement of youth groups. I also developed science-related activities for youth groups regarding astronomy. Further, at the end of the Summer Reading Program, I creatively displayed literary works and coordinated their movements on our shelves. Additionally I set up and moved technological equipment such as those used for photography, videography and gaming. Likewise, I put this equipment to use while taking photos, recording videos, and setting up and logging gaming equipment for patrons. In conjunction with technology, I assisted patrons using their devices as well as those owned by the library. Additionally I assessed the uses of technology both from a modern point of view as well as from an archaic point of view. Furthermore I gained insight into consumer relations and customer service. This was achieved by taking phone calls from patrons and local libraries and completing actions that are required to assure a seamless experience among our surrounding communities. 

My personal project was to bring an electric vehicle charging station to our area. This project was something that was of interest to not only myself, but to some of the other library staff. This involved researching options as to the companies that would make both logistical and practical sense to work with for our current plans for what the end product to this project would be. After assessing companies to work with, I chose one and began our endeavor towards a solution to this lack of a charging station in our centrally located area. It started with an email to the company, which led to an organized business call with the company to assess costs as well as rebates which our non-profit library could benefit from. This led me to discover the tasks of a business in operating alongside companies to gain a desired outcome. This led me to contact the director of the library and start the process of getting a quote as to the installation of a charger in the parking lot of our library. This was a great learning opportunity for myself in order to gain insight as to the operations of a business.

 

Luke Hodde is an IT Specialist at Edith B. Ford Memorial Library. 

32 percent.  That is the number of students ages 15-17 that say they don’t read during the summer according to Education Weekly (Jones).  Of those teens who do read, they average two. Why? Distractions and lack of access to relevant and diverse reading materials during the summer months.  While I didn’t have the concrete proof of statistics that indicate teens weren’t reading over the summer, I knew in my heart this was true. The good news, 53 percent of youth readers from ages 6-17 state that they get the majority of their reading materials from the school library (Scholastic).  This speaks volumes about the importance of school libraries and their roles in preventing the “summer slide” even at the high school level. My goals through our summer reading/learning program is to encourage students to continue to increase their literacy skills by providing them with diverse, relevant and high interest materials over the summer.  Not an easy task with a shrinking budget and a lack of a diverse culture at our school. However, due to the generosity of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YASLA Summer Learning Resources Grant that I was able to provide my students with access to a diverse and relevant summer reading program that provided each of them with a book to take home and read over the summer.  

As a high school librarian in Barre, Vermont, a socio-economically struggling school, I see everyday the decrease in student engagement surrounding the various literacy initiatives meant to decrease the achievement gap.  One of my biggest frustrations has been how to reach all students and help them to expand their summer reading and learning opportunities despite their own personal challenges in, and out of school. As a former History teacher, I recognized early in my career the importance of including multiple voices in the study of history. It is through this lens that I evaluated our school library collection and our summer reading program.  What I found was a program that was started with good intentions, but lacked student voice, relevant selections, and was more adult focused than student focused. By working with my teen advisory group and the English Department, we revamped our program and included a variety of voices meant to reach as many teens as possible.  

I love my student library advisory.  While they are typical teens and not always focused on the task at hand, they were instrumental in developing the summer reading collection to include a variety of choices.   Though our student body is majority white, we do have students of color and many LGBTQ students whose experiences need to be validated. My student advisory researched online, asked their friends and even looked over my professional magazines in order to identify various books that they felt best expressed the diversified experiences and populations found in our school.  I also put up a white board asking for suggestions in the library. Student input was invaluable in building momentum for the summer reading program this year. By allowing my teens to identify and suggest books, we created a summer reading collection that is diverse and encouraged even struggling readers to find a book of their choice. Surprisingly, one of the most popular selections for our struggling readers was the non-fiction book Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge.  It proved that given a book based on interest, even the most reluctant readers can become excited by a book.  

Cover of Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree.

As James Patterson is noted as saying, “There is no such thing as a kid who hates reading.  There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books.”  

While the jury is out on whether students will actually read the books we selected this year, I am hopeful that when our school wide book discussion activity occurs in September, more students will be ready to participate and be excited by their choice.    

Because of YASLA’s Summer Learning Resource Grant, I am able to provide our students here at Spaulding High School with a relevant, diverse collection of summer reading materials to choose from that not only encouraged enthusiasm for our program, but allowed student choice to increase engagement. 

Additional Resources:

Jones, S. (2019, May 08). Students Increasingly Are Not Reading Over the Summer, Poll Finds. Retrieved August 13, 2019, from https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2019/05/student_increasingly_do_not_re.html

Miller, D. (2019, June 17). If Kids Can’t Read What They Want in the Summer, When Can They?: Opinion. Retrieved August 12, 2019, from

https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=if-kids-cant-read-what-they-want-in-the-Summer-when-can-they

KIDS & FAMILY READING REPORT. (2019). Retrieved August 14, 2019, from https://www.scholastic.com/readingreport/summer.html

https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=if-kids-cant-read-what-they-want-in-the-Summer-when-can-they

 

Christine Smith is a high school librarian in Barre, Vermont.

Through the Dollar General and YALSA Internship Grant we were able to create an internship program at our public library this summer. This was the first time we were able to offer a summer internship and it was very well received, both by library staff members as well as in the community. With the help of additional funding, we were able to hire three interns who each worked a total of 75 hours over the summer months.   

Our teen interns were juniors and seniors in high school, who had all participated in youth programm

ing at the public library for many years. It was helpful to have teens who were library users, participating in our internship program, because they already enjoyed many aspects of the library and blended easily into our work culture. Since we recruited library users, it was easy to find youth who were interested in participating, both through our teen programming and through word of mouth. It was also easy to keep them interested in the job throughout the summer, because they had invested interest in the tasks that they performed.   

A teen stands behind a table at a Summer Maker Fair.

B.F. Jones Memorial Library Summer Maker Fair

Because all of our interns had other commitments, such as jobs, activities and summer vacations, it was helpful to have three interns that could be rotated on our operating schedule. Rotating three inters meant that we could be more flexible with their scheduling, which worked well for all of us. It also gave us the opportunity to connect with several youth and gave them the chance to earn money, learn about their community and find out more about their public library.  

B.F. Jones Memorial Library Summer Maker Fair

B.F. Jones Memorial Library Summer Maker Fair

Since we expanded our funds, we were able to have our teen interns on site throughout the summer. This gave them the chance to really be a part of our Summer Learning program. This also gave us extra help for larger programs and provided the teens with the opportunity to collaborate on special programs, such as our end of summer Maker Fair. Our teen interns worked closely with our library staff on outreach programming as well as programs and events that we offer through our Summer Learning program. Some of the things they worked on were prepping STEM challenges and craft projects, assisting youth during programming, creating advertisements for events, shelving and organizing the collection, and assisting with special collection projects. They were also available to help with our Summer Food and Fun program, which we facilitate through our local YMCA and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. This is a free meal program that provides youth, ages 0-18, with a daily snack and lunch in our children’s department, during our Summer Learning programs and events. 

B.F. Jones Memorial Library Summer Maker Fair

B.F. Jones Memorial Library Summer Maker Fair

All of the tasks that our teens performed gave them a chance to experience a cross section of how our public library operates, as well as a glimpse into the community that we serve. We also gave our teens the chance to express their opinions about the projects they put together for library programs. These things all helped to keep their interest sparked throughout their internship. 

 

Kristen Janci is a Youth Coordinator at B.F. Jones Memorial Library.