Monday, November 12, 2012

The Next Big Thing with Partnerships

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"Libraries build community partnerships." There is no doubt that this is what makes our libraries vital to our communities.  Ms. Kelly Czarnecki discusses this topic on YALSA Blog and shows us some examples of how this could work at your library by giving concrete examples across the US of how partnerships between outside organizations and the library help them extend what they each can do. 

After today's class discussion on how school librarians work and the importance of collaboration with teachers within the school, this connection between what we do in schools and what is done in public libraries is not so different! We school librarians are building school-community partnerships by sharing and collaborating with teachers on many levels which also extends what we each can do by ourselves. One difference however is the fact that we are teachers and we incorporate information literacy skills into the curriculum, as discussed by Carol Doll in Collaboration and the School Library Media Specialist. Just as libraries need to reach out to the community to remain vital, school librarians need to reach out to teachers in their school to remain vital and relevant to what is happening in the school. We also need to remind teachers of how important information literacy is and how it connects with the classroom. By doing this, we make ourselves indispensable to the operation of the school and the education of our students.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Next Big Thing in Teen Spaces

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Modern teen library spaces is one of the themes discussed on YALSA's blog this month. The writer, Linda W. Braun, asks us to consider what our teen library spaces will be transformed into, once the day comes when there will be no need for book shelves or even computer labs. Read her post here. She suggests that with all that extra space, we need to think of creative solutions to use that space wisely, be it new furniture, "Maker" programming, setting up a "Genius Bar", etc.

I think this situation is very interesting to ponder and consider. Some libraries have well funded and supported teen areas but this isn't always the case. If there isn't much space to begin with for teens in some public libraries, what are we really talking about? I've read about libraries having a couple of book cases, a small table and some chairs, and perhaps a simple display that is considered the "Teen section". If you take this away, does anybody notice? If your library admin hasn't given you much space for them in the first place, why would they give it to you now that you don't need it because "everybody has a device".

You also have to look at the culture of your library. If your director isn't too crazy about teens, you may already find it hard to program for them. Having a "bunch of free space" is no guarantee that it'll be awarded to teen services to attract patrons that may not be high on the welcome list in the first place.

Ms. Braun, though she is casting a wide net in posing this question, seems to be making a few assumptions I've alluded to already. One of these is the assumption that all libraries have these large teen book collections that are at risk of being eliminated by technology. Another is that with all that new open space, YOU have a choice as to what to do with it. And a third assumption is that all teens will possess said "technology" that replaces said "eliminated books" and are skilled at using it.

This last assumption should make us realize why we got into this profession in the first place. Our patrons need us because we know how to do stuff with technology or are savvy enough to find out how. Our patrons will probably need us to have technology available for them if we intend on teaching them how to do things with it. Not all teens will have an iPhone that works identically for everyone or be able to afford one. Having a standard library technology helps us find information and teach better. As knowledge collectors and connectors, we librarians are needed to help our teen patrons find answers to their questions, solutions to their problems, and techniques to their creation of knowledge!

We need to be sensitive to all of our patrons' needs when considering what we can offer them as a library. Not all of them will have an eDevice, not all of them will be tech savvy, and not all of them will care what's going on in the library. But we definitely need to do more than to have a bunch of  tables with chairs around them in that nice new empty space we just got.

I have also posted a shorter response to Ms. Braun's post here.

Friday, November 2, 2012

BrainPop and election game GameUp

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BrainPop's GameUp feature is an awesome online game that can be used by teachers and students as an election simulator to teach players how to campaign for electoral votes, raise funds, check polls, and make appearances that will get you"elected". In addition to running mock elections in school, this tool can really get students engaged in the process of what it's like to be a candidate. By offering students a deeper experience, we are helping them understand how things work and giving them additional tools on their path to being educated, active, and productive citizens as well as helping them mature and define an identity. We are also helping to create an environment that fosters positive teen development and participation which is discussed at length in Serving Urban Teens by Brehm-Heeger.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Little Vampire with a Big Problem!

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Interview: Jess Smart Smiley on Upside Down

Though this book is geared toward younger kids, I have to say that it's nice to see a book on vampires that doesn't take itself very seriously. With all the Twilight books and Vampire Diaries out there, having some fun with the vampire genre as a graphic novel does make things more interesting. The author goes into some detail about the story in this interview, and gives a little background on the origins and inspiration for it. Now, it would be nice to see more of this in teen fiction, especially if it's about a vampire who lost his teeth!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Apps for the Election

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Touch and Go: Countdown to an Election
This is a great posting on the latest apps for your e-Device related to the upcoming presidential election. Some of these are general apps that anyone can use, and others are specifically made for teens and younger children to help them make sense of this momentous day in our history. Better still, many of them are available at no charge or for a modest fee.

Now, if you’re one of the lucky ones out there that has a budget to provide iPads for student use, you are luckier still! There are so many apps out there that deal with the election and politics in general, that it seems like you could develop an excellent lesson on the Electoral College or have students do some fact finding on these distinguished historical figures going all the way back to George Washington himself. Not that you couldn’t do something good without the technology, but students sure do get a kick out of using the iPad.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Teen Read Week Ideas: Crafting “It Came From the Library!”, a quick comment...

Image from YALSA blog at ideas-crafting-it-came-from-the-library/comment-page-1/#comment-20435
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I came across this article at the YALSA blog regarding crafting during Teen Read Week and how much fun it is for teens to participate in a program that encourages them to use their hands in addition to their minds. Developing this type of activity definitely has its appeal with teens if done right. Read the article and my reply that follows here.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


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So I just discovered a very cool app called the IMAG-N-O-TRON by Moonbot Studios that is used with the iPad. The app comes with a specific book (The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore) and was designed to work with it. You position the iPad over one of the pages of the book, and the app "augments" the pages with an incredible collection of animated images from the page! Sounds pretty weird, right? You have to check this technology out! Really. I can see this becoming a great way to illustrate Biology textbooks for example. Have a look here or at the Touch and Go blog from SLJ.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What is Our Mission as Youth Services Librarians?

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R. David Lankes is a passionate librarian who cares about what we do and why we do it as librarians. He views us as guardians of knowledge, the builders of community, and the destroyers of ignorance. This is a tall charge, but we must take it on to the best of our abilities, especially if we are working with children and young adults. Our communities are our patrons and serving them needs to be our priority. We must be dynamic and willing to challenge others and ourselves in promoting this mission.

This mission encompasses many facets, and according to Lanke in "What We Do and Why We Do It…", it starts with "improving society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities". What branches out from this would be service that promotes education, reference, access to materials, and youth centered programming like Storytime or Teen Read. See his document here.

YALSA, although very different in approach to Lanke, has its "Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth: Young Adults Deserve the Best"
Area I. Leadership and Professionalism
Area II. Knowledge of Client Group.
Area III. Communication, Marketing & Outreach
Area IV. Administration.
Area V: Knowledge of Materials
Area VI - Access to Information
Area VII. Services

What doesn't come through quite as well in YALSA's document is the need to EDUCATE the school community to address its literacy needs now and into the future. Although they do mention the word "instruct" in a number of the competencies, "educate" should, in my opinion, be very important in the role of a librarian working with youth. We are teachers, leaders, and professionals but we must educate our young patrons. In this list of competencies, "instruct" is listed under Services. If we consider the role that Youth Services librarians play in serving youth, maybe a reconfiguration of the areas could make Education an area, as well as make these a little more dynamic sounding like…

Area 1. Know Your Community
Area 2. Educate Your Patrons
Area 3. Create and Share Your Knowledge
Area 4. Know Your Resources
Area 5. Be a Knowledge Leader and Mean it!
Area 6. Protect Your Knowledge
Area 7. Plan for the Future

I won't go into the reasoning behind these (I'm still thinking about them), but I must say that I felt these competencies needed to be spruced up a bit. What I can say is that there is a closer connection among these competencies and that they aren't completely discreet areas. Also, by making these sound more dynamic rather than static, perhaps we can better engage our communities and make our libraries indispensable in their "knowledge" development. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Reading for All Students- what do we know about our students' reading abilities, preferences, and habits?

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The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has released their Policy Research Brief "Reading Instruction for All Students" that discusses many aspects of students' reading and how we as teachers and librarians need to be aware of the different instructional strategies to make them better readers. The part that I am interested in is the reader preferences and abilities, plus the types of texts they select to read. The NCTE found that...

"What we know about our students as readers:
- Students come to reading tasks with varied prior reading experiences,
or prior knowledge, which can support their reading of complex texts.
- Students who are engaged and motivated readers read more often
and read more diverse texts than students who are unmotivated by
the reading task.
- Students who develop expertise with a particular kind of reading—
science fiction or online games, for example—outside of school may
not think this kind of reading will be valued by their teachers."

This underscores the wide range of student reading abilities and preferences that we encounter as librarians on a daily basis. It also draws attention to the fact that we need to provide a diverse, engaging, and up-to-date collection that draws in readers with these varied abilities and appeals to their tastes in books and other reading material. As school librarian, we should value all reading as a means to an end and not judge the materials that students pick as either "good" or "bad" for them. This last point is extremely important because of diverging reading patterns between boys and girls, where boys are perceived to be reading less than girls, but may actually still be reading materials that are not judged as "appropriate". Encouraging all reading will likely remove any stigma attached to reading texts in different formats or genres and hopefully increase overall reading among boys and girls.

"What we know about the texts students read:
- In and out of school, the texts students read vary significantly, from
linear text-only books to multimodal textbooks to online hypertexts,
each of which places different demands on readers and requires different
strategies and approaches to reading.
- Students read texts from a variety of disciplines, so
content area literacy is important.
- The level of difficulty or complexity in a text is not the
only factor students consider in choosing texts; interest
and motivation also matter.
- Readability or lexile levels can vary significantly
within a single text, so it is important to consider
other dimensions of textual complexity."

To continue the previous thought in relation to the texts themselves, to get students to read more and read better, one should have reading material that is varied in format and should provide the interest and motivation a student needs to read it. Each student is different and our collections need to at least attempt to address these differences. Since we are not the classroom teacher, we as librarians, have more leeway in offering students more reading material that appeals to them, can be challenging or easy, and that can fill a need not addressed by the classroom collection/textbooks. Some questions that come to mind however:

1. How do you know what a student wants to read?
2. Do you push a student to read material that is more challenging? How do you do it?
3. How much effort should you exert in getting students to read challenging texts?
4. How do you develop a collection around your users if you have a collection that isn't what your students really need in terms of reading difficulty?

These are some of the issues, but there are certainly many more to address when discussing student reading abilities, tastes, texts. What do you think?

Read NCTE's policy brief on "Reading Instruction for All Students" (pdf).
Read Peter Gutierrez's comments from Connect the Pop blog on NCTE policy brief here.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Transmedia and School Libraries

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So what is transmedia and what does it have to do with Youth in Libraries?

Well, I was walking along the Internet one day, when all of a sudden I stumbled across a blog posting on School Library Journal's blog Connect the Pop called "Convergence", DIY Transmedia, and Librarians. Now this blog describes itself as being "At the intersection of pop culture, transliteracy, and critical thinking" so they tend to dedicate themselves to some pretty cutting edge developments that can affect our kids, libraries, and education. As it turns out, "Convergence" is a transmedia conference at the New York Film Festival and the post's author (Peter Gutierrez) was talking about the possibilities of transmedia within the school library. But I have to say that I didn't know what they were talking about with this transmedia stuff. It sounded like another hyped up term that I am sick of hearing (see the cloud), so I was a bit wary of giving this post much notice. But I glanced at it, skimmed it, read it, and read it again to find that it does make sense for the right reason: it gives kids a lot of creative control in determining what the medium will be in creating a story. They may not be able to publish a novel or use broadcast tv, but they sure can shoot a video, animate a story, record a song, shoot photos, or perform a play while at the same time connecting it all to their smart phones.

Isn't it all about telling stories anyway? These are new tools being used for an old concept: how do you make a compelling NARRATIVE? How do you get kids to tell a story that gets other kids and adults interested, and at the same time teach them how to use the tools and thought process to execute this story? Being in an elementary or high school library presents us with some opportunities and challenges. We might have some of the technology at our disposal (school computers, students' iPhones, etc.) but do we have the expertise? We may have willing students, but do we have a supportive administration, staff, and parents? Do we have a clear vision for what we are trying to accomplish on a given project? Can you pull off a sophisticated story project on your own or do you need the structure of collaboration with another faculty member to really get the kids engaged and legitimize your curricular goals? How can you tap in to the integrated way kids perceive media?

The school library is in a unique position to help students not only be consumers of media, but also be the creators and critics of media as well. We have a responsibility to facilitate literacy for our students in multiple formats and methods, and by teaching reading and writing with technology and narrative in mind, we can address many of our learners' needs and enhance their learning experiences. We can probably have some fun in the library, too!

See also transmedia on Connect the Pop.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Don't Save Libraries! Transform them!

I think I stumbled across this blog by accident while I was searching a graphic novel blog. What piqued my interest here with the blog Virtual Dave...Real Blog by R. David Lankes was the title of the blog posting "Beyond the Bullet Points: It is Time to Stop Saving the Libraries." He's asking us as librarians to not be victims of the almost pervasive notion that libraries are doomed. Keeping a victim mentality may not be the best approach to pushing for the things that benefit libraries and their users. 

My interpretation of this would be to promote the library in such a way that reinforces the idea of libraries as the center of community, the center of learning, the center of discovery, and the center of literacy for the family. For example, by focusing our attention on our Youth Services areas in our public libraries, we can instill the notion that libraries are indispensable to the community through outreach programming like Storytimes, Book Buddies, Teen Reads, research help and trainings, and other services that can connect the library to the family. Although budgets for almost all public services are getting squeezed, pushing for these programs and advocating for them through contact with the community stakeholders and politicians. Mr. Lankes posted a very good quote as an abstract  for “Library as Platform: Unlocking the Potential of Our Communities” SCRLC Leadership Luncheon Webinar explaning this relationship between the library and the community:

"Our buildings matter. Our services matter. But they don’t matter on their own, and we do not determine their value – that is a job for the community. It is only in the advancement of those we serve that we find our impact. It is only in the potential realized that we can measure our contribution. Our buildings, our books, our services, our catalogs must not be channels of assistance we provide, but part of a powerful platform that enables our communities to succeed. This platform is our infrastructure, but it is also the infrastructure of the community – co-owned."

This is compelling and a call to action. Libraries are not doomed.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Civic Engagement for Teens

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So, I just finished writing a response to Mintz's Preface to Huck's Raft and how it relates to Youth Services. In it, Mintz discusses ways to "reconnect children to a broader range of adult mentors and to expand their opportunities to participate in activities that they and society find truly meaningful". Well, as I was looking at YALSA's blog and there I found a post regarding civic engagement for teens, specifically related to events surrounding both political conventions being held over the past 2 weeks. This is a perfect way to expand opportunities for teens to get involved in activities that broaden their experiences and break down some of the "age-appropriate" barriers between what teens should or should not be doing. In this case, civic participation by the young is an important issue that doesn't often get a lot of attention. No matter that they can't vote yet. They will soon be able to, and they should be developing opinions on things that affect their lives.

The blog posting goes to great lengths to discuss how they approached getting teens to be more civicly minded. The main examples included developing reading lists, as well as content creation by teens which can mean anything from a Teen Fashion apprenticeship to developing digital content through videos of their political beliefs. One of the critical ideas here was the partnering with another organization to help in areas where the Library may either not have the resources or the expertise to carry out an activity completely from start to finish. By hosting all or most of the components of these activities, the Library still makes itself indispensible in making the connections young people need to learn new skills, deepen understanding of things they have learned in school, build on emerging abilities like reading and comprehension, and develop many of the social skills needed to succeed in the worlds of politics and work. And I think these activities sound fun too!

This definitely bridges some of those gaps that Mintz mentioned earlier regarding "age-appropriate" activities for teens, but I still can't help but feel there's something we're not talking about. Are there any risks involved in exposing these young people to things they may not have had access to in the past? Should their parents know what they are doing? How do we protect ourselves in the rare chance that something goes wrong, assuming that we are not at fault with a given troublesome situation?