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“The greatest service which can be rendered to any country is to add a useful plant to its culture…”’ â€“Thomas Jefferson; Memorandum of Services to My Country, after 2 September 1800

You may have heard a lot of talk lately about seed libraries. In February, NPR ran a story entitled “How to Save a Public Library: Make it a Seed Bank.” ‘ If we put aside the argument over whether or not public libraries’ need‘ to be saved, this story actually highlighted an interesting movement that has been sweeping across the country and libraries are leading the way.

A seed lending library works on the simple principle that you can ‘lend’ out seeds to be grown by patrons who will then harvest new seeds and return them to the seed library to be lent out again.

Hosting a seed library can help you’ connect, create, and’ collaborate with your community, and especially with your teens.

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We’re almost to 2013! Though I know you’re probably busy with end-of-year plans, projects, and tasks, I wanted to tell you about some recent news, research, and innovation you might find informative or inspiring for your library work.

  • A study recently published in the Journal of Educational Computing Research surveyed middle school students on their experiences with cyberbullying and found that those who engage are most often both victims and perpetrators. They looked at reporting behaviors, too, and found that even when students report cyberbullying, it rarely stops. If you’ve been addressing only one end of cyberbullying, you may want to consider changing up your programming to look at why it is that students both engage and suffer from it, and your teen advisory group might be interested in discussing methods that reporting and prevention programs can be made more effective.
    Holfield, Brett, and Grabe, Mark. (2012). Middle school students’ perceptions of and responses to cyber bullying. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 46(4), 395-413.
  • It’s that time of year – rather, it’s been that time of year since before Halloween – when all the ads and commercials you see have a Christmas twist to them. Have you seen this viral video that parodies the Coca Cola bears to draw attention to the harmful health effects of drinking too much soda? Called The Real Bears and sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the video features a song by Jason Mraz (no doubt to hook people who don’t know what it’s about) and shows a family of bears slowly getting sicker and sicker as they make soda more of a part of their diet. Have your teens seen it? With a lot of strong reactions in both directions, the video might make for a great conversation starter in one of your advisory groups, or it could prompt some programming or displays on health and nutrition. Read More →
  • When it comes to advocating for teen services, many of us have had to justify the importance of our role to our communities, library boards, and sometimes even fellow staff members; the unfortunate reality is that we will need to continue doing so for the unforeseeable future. With cuts to staffing and operating hours affecting how we do our day-to-day jobs, it can be easy to put advocacy on the back burner instead of keeping it at the forefront of all that we do. As we rush from program to program, patron to patron, we could all use more help advocating on behalf of the teens we serve. What better resource than the teens themselves to help promote libraries and, more specifically, teen services! Read More →

    As mk notes in her CoveritLive post about yesterday’s awesome Innovations in Teen Services panel, I was scheduled to speak on the panel but was grounded at the airport for an unplanned six additional hours. While that’s a whole blog post in itself, and probably not even the worst flight horror story of the conference, I’d like to share a bit here what I did plan to present. Special thanks to my colleague, Catherine Haydon, ALA Emerging Leader, who stepped in at a moment’s notice and shared information regarding using outcomes with teens.

    While defining outcomes for your teen programs and services, isn’t necessarily something new, we’re probably seeing a lot more on our radars in terms of the importance of telling our story as libraries, particularly because of limited resources that we’re competing for in our communities. Being able to share that we’re making a difference in the lives of teens, is one way that we can show as a library we’re bringing value to the community. At my library in Charlotte, NC we have a teen intern program where teens learn to create with digital media and teach others how to do this as well. Read More →

    As professionals who work with youth, we understand that volunteering is one way that teens can increase their social and academic development while giving back to the community at large. With many high schools instituting service credit criteria for graduation, teens are in need of opportunities to fulfill these requirements. What better time to evaluate your library’s volunteer opportunities for teens than at the beginning of a new year! What better place than the library, the hub of the community, at which to volunteer! Here are just a few of the ways that libraries can help teens make a difference: Read More →

    I am about to finish my first year as a real full-time librarian. ‘ While my education was invaluable in starting my career as a YA librarian, it definitely did not prepare me for everything. ‘ I have learned a lot this year and am looking forward to applying these skills to next year.

    First off, kids have too much energy. ‘ They like to be sassy towards authority figures. ‘ I expected some of this, but not to the extent I experienced it. ‘ I now have a very solid set of rules displayed and all of the kids and adults are subject to them. ‘ No matter what. ‘ I let one kid bargain with me once and it ruined the next two weeks. ‘ I know when to be lenient and when to be harsh. ‘ Most importantly, the teens now know exactly what my rules are and that they will be kicked out if they don’t follow them. Read More →

    I’m back with another month’s worth of interesting research and writing on scholarly and popular topics related to teen culture, literacy, and library services. I’ve decided to expand from just summarizing research to also linking you to fascinating articles, blog posts, or other more easily-accessed tidbits that might spark meaningful conversation, programming, or reference/advisory transactions. As always, if you have a topic you’d like to know about, or if there’s a journal you miss having access to, comment here and I’ll do some digging for you.

  • The Lilith blog, an online supplement to the Jewish feminist magazine, reports on a “freedom ride” in Jerusalem protesting the ultra-Orthodox custom of requiring women to board and sit in the rear of the public bus only. Sound familiar? If you’re looking for a way to allow your diverse patrons to connect with each other, try bringing this up as a topic and talking about the similarities with the freedom rides in the American South.
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    I’ve heard some talk lately about how teens seem completely ambivalent to the world around them. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that teens care about nothing but their own self-interests. Simply put, I don’t believe that. I believe the real problem may very well be the lack of a forum to express their ideas. It seems to me that as youth advocates, this may be something we want to provide. You could simply give them a time and space (and snacks) for discussion and only act as a facilitator, or you could have a full-out debate. Let them decide what they want to talk about, and encourage deeper subjects than TV, music, movies, and the opposite sex. Ask them questions. Be interested in what they say. Show them how to find more information. Show them how to research and find materials that support their arguments.

    They may not be interested in the things that we as adults think they should be interested in or have the views that we think they should have, but teens should be given the opportunity to freely express their opinions. If they don’t get that at home, and they don’t get that at school, that can be something we provide at the library. It might seem like an uphill battle, but if we’re not trying to connect with them, what reason do they have to trust and connect with us?

    And since it’s District Days, is there any reason not to encourage teens to talk to their representatives? Many of them are only a few years away from voting, after all. While we’re trying to get our elected officials to recognize the importance of libraries, what better success story to hit them with than an ambivant-turned-advocate group of teens?

    How are you giving your teens a forum? Leave your answers in the comments!

    I am the librarian at a school for 6th through 12th graders. Every year we try to make our TRW activities bigger and better. It is easy to lure the young ones in for the games and contests, but the older ones are a bit more jaded. Since the library book group is only for high school students, they are the ones who help plan and assist with all the fun. Often they will bring in their friends to participate, so this is one way to get the older students to be a part of TRW. Read More →

    The kids at my school are little activists.’  New research by the Girl Scouts Research Institute supports tendencies among today’s youth towards getting involved.’  Click through to read about the particular initiatives I’ve seen and more about this study.

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