Our goal is to conduct a community conversation in all ALA conference cities, adopting an issue that is specifically challenging for that community. – Barbara Jones, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Hope-2-570x379This year’s ALA conference will take place later this month in Chicago. It could be said that one issue challenging for this community is gun violence. A‘ recent CNN article‘ reported that homicides are on the decline nationally, but not in Chicago. Last year, a publication from Chicago Northwestern University reported that the city has one of the highest youth crime rates in the country. After many weekends, stories involving youth violence make’ Chicago Tribune headlines.

What if anything, does this mean for libraries? Chances are that many librarians (and not just those in Chicago) work with and develop relationships with teens that might be from neighborhoods with persistent gun-related crime. At this year’s Annual Conference in Chicago, a community conversation about gun violence, ‘ include young people that have been affected will take place on Friday, June 28.

To find out more about this scheduled ALA session, I invited Barbara Jones, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom who wrote an article in the May issue of American Libraries magazine, on Gun Violence, Videogames, and Libraries to answer a few questions. Felicia Shakespeare, a presenter for the program, and the Library Media Specialist for Betsy Ross/Oneida Cockrell PreK-8 School in Chicago, also gave some context for this program that promises to be a ‘call to action’. Read More →

Thoroughly in the swing of things now? Already bored with what’s going on? Happy but ready to add more programming and interest to your services? Whatever the case, maybe some of these innovations, research publications, and other cool tidbits will inspire you.

  • You know your patrons like games. And you may already know of some of the social justice gaming websites and programs out there, like Games for Change or Spent. Now it might interest you to know that there’s a new game out there designed specifically to target your ethics, not just to make you live in someone else’s shoes or support a cause. Quandary is its name, and it was designed by The Learning Network, a collaboration between MIT and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Take a look at the game here, and then consider if your gaming club might attract new members with an interest in social justice, or if your volunteer group might like to try some gaming. Now that so many teens are so savvy at programming, you might be able to get a group together to create a game that tackles a local issue that they find important.
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    My colleague and I were definitely excited to receive a copy of Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games *And What Parents Can Do by Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson when it arrived on the hold shelf. It’s probably not just a coincidence either that the book was released in the same month that Grand Theft Auto IV, the game was.

    Ars Technica has a short review of the book here. The book has got some great information applicable to libraries, especially dialogues that can be encouraged to take place with parents and their kids as well as librarians and their patrons (the section on online games that kids might run across and how to initiate conversation about them).

    Read More →

    My friend pointed out to me that NPR’s Talk of the Nation was having a program today and yesterday in regards to discussing the Virginia Tech tragedy with children. Both audio recordings are archived.

    While the shows were directed more toward teachers and parents, rather than librarians explicitly, it might help to listen since a variety of people contributed to the conversations and a range of age groups were discussed.

    Some highlights in regards to talking with tweens and teens included:

    • create opportunities to talk about how they feel by asking open ended questions and listening
    • talk about examples of the positive heroic stories of people not only helping each other but strategies used to save lives
    • limit screen time, depending on the child’s age
    • focus on the learning experiences such as reminding tweens/teens it’s okay to ask for help from a counselor or teacher (and librarian!) if they notice a friend acting differently or threateningly
    • since teens going away to college the next year might have some concerns about what might happen to them when they do go away, reviewing the resources the school has to keep students safe
    • taking note of and reporting if necessary, behavior changes that might indicate anxiety is showing up such as from skipping class or starting to fight more often

    A recommended resource was the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry with links that range from ‘Talking to Children about Community Violence’ to ‘Facts for Families.’

    Posted by Kelly Czarnecki