Outreach seems to be the library word-of-the-year as library programs, articles and even job duties add terms like outreach, marketing and community engagement. This past year fellow YALSA bloggers even developed two blog series breaking down outreach in teen services and highlighting how our colleagues are providing outreach services, but how do we connect outreach to teen programming?

While reading YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines I noticed “outreach” wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the first two points about creating programming that reflects teens in your community and aligning these programs with the community’s and library’s priorities; but how do you do this? Through outreach!

Back up. What is outreach? Straight from The Future of Library Services Report, the “envisioned future” of outreach is the:

“Year-round use of a variety of tools, both digital and physical. Includes connecting with stakeholders throughout the community in order to develop shared goals and an implement a comprehensive plan of service that reaches all teens throughout the community.

Librarians leave the physical school library or public library space regularly and provide services to targeted communities of teens (e.g. those who are incarcerated, homeless, in foster care, or in classrooms and other in-school locations) where they are, rather than waiting for teens to find a way to get to the physical library space.”

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Back in October 2014, I wrote about a report entitled: “America After 3 PM.” The Afterschool Alliance was writing about how students spend their time after school. In it, I raised the point of libraries as hubs for after-school activities, a free spot for teens to come if they don’t have the resources or access to other after-school programs. At the end of January, Alia Wong from Atlantic wrote an article called “The Activity Gap,” which discusses the access issues students from various socio-economic classes face with participating in after-school and extracurricular programs.

Wong begins the article by comparing two different students, Ethan and Nicole, whose family backgrounds contribute to two different lifestyles and life paths. While their names have been changed, these two students do exist and were case studies in a study published in Voices of Urban Education. This national study was conducted by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute of School Reform.

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Little Libraries on the Big State’s Prairie

The South Dakota State Library has seen some wonderful advances in teen services across the state in the last year after our summer Library Institute (June 2014) focused on teen services and programming.’  Our Library Training Institute is designed for directors and staff of our medium and small libraries.’  Our definition of medium and small is very different than the standard definitions – we’re talking libraries that serve populations of 5,000 – 15,000 for a medium and under 5,000 people for small libraries.’ SD Our curriculum is on a four year rotation – one year is on children’s & early literacy, one year is on teens, and two years are spent on administration, reference, grants, and technical services.’  For 5 days in June of 2013, 30 librarians from 26 libraries came together in Aberdeen, South Dakota and took part in intense learning about teens in their libraries.’  Topics covered included teen advisory boards, social media, programming ideas, booktalks & displays, book discussion groups, and how the teen brain functions.

As a result, we have not only seen an increase in programming for teens (annual report numbers are still coming in), but three libraries that had never done much for teens than purchase YA books started teen advisory boards and teen programming!’  For a state with only 111 public libraries, This. Is. Huge.’  At the 2013 Institute we featured the books Cinder and Scarlet, and we were even fortunate enough to Skype with Marissa Meyer! SQUEEEEE!!!!!’  Recently, one of the libraries that started a brand new teen advisory board also reported getting an 80 year old grandma hooked on Cinder!’  How awesome is that?

Two other statewide teen library initiatives have also seen wonderful growth over the last several years.’  The South Dakota State Library has focused more time and energy on promoting teen summer reading in our summer reading program workshops.’  Thanks to the amazing teen summer reading manual from the Collaborative Summer Library Program, teen summer reading numbers climb every year, with over 3,000 teens participating in summer reading in 2013!’  Also, in cooperation with the South Dakota Library Association, the South Dakota Teen Choice Book Award – YARP – has also seen increases in teen voting for the last 5 years.’  Over 2,000 teens voted last year across the state!

We can’t wait to see what happens in 2014!

Submitted by Jasmine Rockwell
Youth Services Coordinator, South Dakota State Library

Recently, the Daviess County Public Library has seen an increase in teen participation as well as teen programming.’  As the person in charge of teen programming, I am astonished with the progress we have made.’  The success our library has experienced with teens is a result of several factors:’  A staff that truly embraces the idea of “teamwork,” a supervisor who is willing to allow her employees to express their creativity, and a group of teens who are willing to share their ideas and spend time making those ideas come to life. Read More →

One of our successes in Nebraska has been to find ways librarians can share their accomplishments with other librarians.’  NCompass Live, a weekly one-hour webinar sponsored by the Nebraska Library Commission, is one way to do so.’ Nebraska Recently, Teen Librarian Rachelle McPhillips of Columbus Public Library presented an NCompass Live session on January 22, 2014.’  Titled “Passive Programming for Tweens and Teens” she shared a number of ideas for reaching out to youth in the library.

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b696_edge_robotic_arm_kitFor the past five years, I’ve been running an after-school technology program with teens in grades 6- 8. We’ve done lots of different projects like READ posters, stop motion animation, digital art, photography, and podcasts.

This spring we’re trending into a a very different territory for us: robotics. I’m excited and scared about this venture and it will be a learning experience for both me and my staff and the teens. While our session doesn’t officially begin until February, I thought I would share some of the robotic kits we are considering purchasing.

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A few months ago, I wrote about one of the YALSA Excellence in Programming Award recipients, Teen Fashion Apprentice at ImaginOn. ‘ This’ July, we hosted an entire week worth of fashion workshops — Fashion Week at ImaginOn — ‘ in preparation’ for a fashion show.


The teens had explicit instructions for the creation of their fashion masterpieces:’  they must adhere to the theme, “Fashionably Ever After,” and their creations had to be made from 100%’ recycled materials. ‘ Both the literary or fairy tale theme and the challenges of working with unconventional materials lent itself to the creation of an extensive resource guide.’  Read More →

We have held this program four years in a row, and it is always a hit. We’ve worked out most of the kinks. Like the quote art program, this program is designed for teens who love customizing their world. Many businesses like Nike and RedEnvelope allow customization of mass-produced items, and almost every social networking site and electronic game is set up for users to define themselves via customization, so our library tries to plan a few programs a year that work on the same premise. While this is a gender-neutral program, most often this program draws more guys than girls.

713 Design TShirt

t-shirts of various sizes and colors
iron-on t-shirt transfers
wooden cutting board


Step One: Teens design their t-shirt in Microsoft Publisher or another graphic design program. I always stress that the teens can not sell their t-shirt if they use any image from the web.

Step Two: Teens print their image out on t-shirt transfer paper. It is critical to follow the t-shirt transfer directions. Our Library’s white t-shirt transfers images needed to be reversed (If you’re using Publisher, you can handle this in “Printer Preferences”) while the Library’s color t-shirt transfers did not.

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This program was inspired by the overflowing amount of quotation art on Pinterest, and it is one of the few of my programs that actually follows the cooperative summer reading theme “Beneath the Surface.” The program is very easy, but it does involve spray paint, which is always nerve-racking.

613 Teen Quote Art

Supplies needed:
acrylic paint (if using plain canvas)
paint brushes
cups of water
plain stretched canvas (wait for a sale. JoAnn Fabrics had theirs 50% off) or thrift store canvas paintings
spray paint in various colors (who knew glitter spray paint existed?)
vinyl letters of various sizes and fonts


Step One: Paint the plain stretched canvas a variety of colors with your acrylic paint to create a completely covered base layer of paint. It can be a sunset blend or dabs of a variety of colors all over. The base should be strikingly different than the chosen spray paint. Let the paint dry (takes approximately an hour). If you are starting with all thrift store paintings, skip step one.

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For those of you who don’t already know, the Collaborative Summer Library Program‘s teen theme for 2012 is “Own the Night”, which calls to mind all manner of creepy, fun programs.’  Also, a lot of the books on this year’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list lend themselves to these creepy, fun ideas. Here are two “Own the Night” themed programs for the 2012 BFYA pick, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. Read More →